250 Mercer Street penthouse a true trophy, sells quickly with very valuable terraces

caution: a no-snark alert
I am usually quick to snark about the foibles, ellipses and general awkwardness of broker babble, but comparing the relevant text to the photos and floor plan of the “2,500 sq ft” Manhattan penthouse loft #B1603 at 250 Mercer Street in Greenwich Village generates more appreciation than sarcasm. The Market agreed, as it came out on April 10 at $3.998mm and found the contract by May 30 that closed on August 14 at $3.94mm. For the sarcasm- (and calculator-) deprived, that’s a 1.4% ‘discount’ that may just have been a more polite response by the sellers to a reasonable offer than a "no counter" would have been.

This penthouse was combined long ago out of #B1603 and #B1604, with the current master suite (with laundry room and [still] separate entrance) at the east end of the lower level evidently having been separate from the rest of that level in the original floor plans. (How the upper level was allocated back in the day is impossible for me to guess.) The current floor plan has that transitional media room on the way upstairs, and then 2 small bedrooms, a library and the first terrace above, with an upper terrace still one flight higher, on top of the bedrooms and library. I will let the babble do its work in describing that arrangement (hint; that’s where the trophy is kept):

A wall of glass leads to the spectacular terrace that spans 37 feet and is ideal for alfresco dining, entertaining, sunbathing, relaxing and looking at the gorgeous views. A spiral staircase leads upstairs to the huge second terrace which has 360 degree views of New York City.

how big is that cherry on the sundae?
We need to know how big those terraces are if we are to try to figure out how valuable they are. Using the dimensions on the floor plan, that first tier is easy: a balcony of 24’6” x 5’6” and a lower terrace of 37’8” x 13’8”, or 37’8’ x 19’2” in total; let’s call that 722 sq ft. The upper tier is an irregular shape, 32’3” at its widest and 22’2” at its longest; let’s guestimate that at 478 sq ft to make the math easier. “1,200 sq ft” in total outdoor space. We will riff with that soon….

more babble, less snark
The interior space is in “mint condition” after an “extensive renovation” of the no-detail-overlooked variety. Details include

  • Brazilian walnut solid-wood floors
  • central air conditioning
  • “gourmet kitchen” with top-of-the-line appliances and Silstone countertops
  • a wood paneled dressing room with custom closets in the master suite
  • a master bath with oversized steam shower and honed Vermont Verde countertops
  • on that transitional media level, a “state-of-the-art screening room” with Stewart Firehawk Screen, a Bose Surround Sound System, custom seating
  • on the bedroom / library level, 1.5 baths and a wet bar

Clearly, this space has been laid out to maximize the impact and utility of the multi-tiered outdoor space. With so many levels and so many rooms, one could quibble and wonder if the space really feels ‘spacious’, but the walls of windows and 11 ft ceilings should satisfy all but the most critical quibblers.

are you ready to riff?
I am going to give this outdoor space a top grade for utility and views, even though that upper level if pretty far from the living room and master suite. In The Miller’s starting range of valuing outdoor space between 25% and 50% of the interior space, that would be 50% as a starting point. That leads to a ballpark (adjusted) value for the penthouse loft of $1,271/ft (2,500 interior + half of 1,200 exterior / $3.94mm market value).

Miraculously, we have a comp for interior space in the building that is not only recent (within weeks of the #B1603 sale), but in similar condition (“architecturally-designed … in triple-mint condition”), and is the same size and utility (at “2,500 sq ft” with 3 bedrooms, 3 baths). Seriously, loft #C614 is a miraculous comp to set a building value for comparable interior space. That loft sold for $2.965mm on September 4, having gone into contract just 3 weeks before the #B1603 contract. As you probably already noted on the StreetEasy listing page, #C614 comes to $1,186/ft.

are you ready to quibble?
It is hard to ignore with that $1,186/ft as the baseline from which to analyze the #B1603 penthouse sale, though a quibbler might try. You should adjust for the 10 floors that the penthouse is above #C614, surely. But my read of the pictures is that the triple mints went farther in #C614 than in #B1603; that #C614 is in better condition. And I would value the simplex layout of #C614 more highly than the tri-level interior of the penthouse. Net-net, I am going to stick with that $1,186/ft as the baseline for interior space.

This baseline implies that the penthouse outdoor space is even more valuable than the simple riffing exercise ballparked. At “2,500 sq ft”, the penthouse interior was worth exactly what #C614 got: $2.965mm. That means the “1,200 sq ft” terraces were worth the balance of the penthouse’s sales price, or $975,000. And that means the exterior space was valued by The Market at $812/ft, or 68% of the interior, well above the top range of The Miller’s standard analysis.

Remarkable as that may be, the logic is compelling. Even if you quibble.

a short trip down memory lane
The last time I was on this block I was wondering if NYU’s expansion plans across the street had anything to do with the disappointing sale of a pretty sweet loft, in my September 12, “noted architect” will be disappointed that “incredible” 200 Mercer Street loft went for $939/ft (answer: probably not!). Now look at these 3 numbers: $1,186/ft, $939/ft, $812/ft. Those are the interior and exterior values for the 250 Mercer Street penthouse bracketing the value of the architect-designed #3F at 200 Mercer Street. That was only 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, but at “2,400 sq ft” and selling on August 16 (in between the two 250 Mercer Street sales), that loft looks like a good comp. But it ain’t.

The Market valued large beautiful loft space at 200 Mercer Street at roughly a 25% discount to large beautiful loft space next door at 250 Mercer Street.

Of course you can quibble that 250 Mercer Street has a doorman and common roof deck, while 200 Mercer Street is a no frills building, but maintenance for #C614 is $4,579/mo compared to (only) $3,200/mo for #3F without the amenities.

Did I mention (today) that comping is hard?

a longer trip down memory lane
For a very big loft building (274 units!), I have hit 250 Mercer Street pretty rarely:

fun fact from a century ago
Well, not quite a century ago, but in the last century, the combo penthouse #B1603/#B1604 sold for $600,000 on August 9, 1999, according to the Corcoran listings data-base.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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