FSBO loft in unusual location offers artist provenance + park views

a possible jewel, squeaking through the Junk folder
On a typical day, i get anywhere from 100 to 250 e-flyers from real estate firms touting a new listing, a price reduction, an open house, "spectacular views", or simply an AMAZING deal (sometimes "priced below market" 😉 — a ridiculous barrage that undercuts the utility of any of these individual messages. In order to keep my email handling at all functional, I filter nearly all of these things by ‘offending’ senders so that they never get to my In-Box, but collect in a Junk folder, which I scan quickly every so often to see if there is anything I really should look at. (Hint: that would be rare.)

Unique or first time ‘junk’ mailers get through, until I identify them as Junk for my filters. Hence, the email that came in Friday afternoon from a for-sale-by-owner went into my In-Box, with a subject line that caught my eye: "FIFTH Avenue TROPHY LOFT ** PARK VIEWS ** 4BR ** UNDER $1,000 PSF ** Open House SUN 1-3" (abbreviated as a subject line on first view as "FIFTH Avenue TROPHY LOFT ** P", still enough to be catchable).

Yes, I am a sucker for trophy lofts, and how many lofts of any kind (in Manhattan, at least) have park views? "Under $1,000 psf" is not so catchable these days, of course, but there was enough for me to click through.

major park to view
I found a fascinating loft with all the elements as advertised, offered by an owner willing to pay 4% to an agent who brought him a buyer. The pix show the green trees of "park" and the address tells you that is no ordinary park, but Central Park. How many "lofts" have Central park views? Precious few, making this a "loft in ‘other’ neighborhoods" entry.

Just as there are not many "loft" buyers who want to live on East End Avenue (though there are a few real lofts there), there are relatively few "loft" buyers who will prefer living on Fifth Avenue at 107 Street unless something really makes it worth their while to do so.

This loft is a combo unit of "3,042 sq ft", 1255 Fifth Avenue #3CDE (the link may expire, but will be updated if the owner replaces it), and the principal candidates for that something to lure buyers to this area are those Central Park views (including the Harlem Meer) and the fact that it had been owned by Annie Liebovitz. The other lures are more typical of trophy lofts, generally: 15 foot ceilings, high end finishes (granite kitchen counters, Venetian plastered walls), that general feeling of ‘space’ and ‘volume’ from a loft with these dimensions, all in a condominium building with amenities to shock the downtown snobs (doorman + concierge, health club, roof deck and live-in super).

Whether pricing below $1,000/ft is enough of a something to lure buyers here depends on whether the whole value package works for a particular buyer (after all, it only takes one buyer).

they say that comping up is hard to do
(And they are right.) Pity the buyer, agent, lender or appraiser who has to consider a (truly) "unique" property (or seller, for that matter). The multi-variant calculus of adjustments to finding any useful comp to this property will make most heads split.

Because this is a 3-unit combo, there is no similarly sized building past sales data. Because there are so few lofts anywhere near here, general loft pricing does not easily apply. Because this is above 96 Street, it is within the borders of East Harlem, according to StreetEasy (their building page is here). (Actually, I am pretty sure that some of those new condos east of Second Avenue in the 100s and 110s are probably at least ‘loft-like’, but 107 Street and First Avenue is in no ways comparable to Fifth Avenue and 107 Street.) How many apartments of any kind above East 96 Street have Venetian plastered walls? (I know what it cost for the 7 coats of Venetian plaster applied to a townhouse apartment I marketed last year, which involved an artist living in the space for a week, and working at night.)

The single best comp that I can find for this space is a year old, lacks the high end finishes promised in #3CDE, and requires adjustment for having a (250 sq ft?) terrace. It happens to be next door to #3CDE, and is the combination #3AB, with those same 15 foot ceilings, which sold in December 2007 for $1.897mm; said to be "1,720 sq ft", that is just over $1,100/ft before adjusting for the terrace. On the one hand, that $1,100/ft was at a lower level of finishes (it appears to me; the Corcoran listing did not do any bragging about that), would require renovation to be more than the 1-bedroom it sold as, yet it found a buyer within 3 months (within 4 weeks of a price drop from $2.25mm to $1.995mm).

On the other hand (there’s always another hand, isn’t there?), that was December 2007, and #3CDE — even under $1,000/ft — is asking another million bucks above what the neighbors got. Staying on that hand, this unit was offered together with the neighboring #3AB (by Corcoran, for $5.29mm) before #3AB found its buyer, and alone by different PruDE teams for $3mm as #3CDE and for $2.55mm for the "1,866 sq ft" of just the #3CD portion — without selling. (The complicated listing history is available on that StreetEasy building page, above.) So it has already been professionally exposed to The Market.

the power of one comp
The December 2007 sale of #3AB at $1,100/ft provides some hope to this seller of #3CDE, trying to sell a (nearly) "unique" Manhattan loft in a non-loft neighborhood. Any buyer will want to beat him up about the difference in The Market from one December to another, to which the seller will respond by beating the drum of his finishes, his space, his views, his provenance.

One one year-old comp is an awfully thin reed on which to set a price, but in the absence of more useful (or current) data there’s a justifiable (if arguable) logic to it. Whether it works is up to The Market, in combination with the motivation of the seller (about which I know nothing).

props to the seller
Since this is not a current listing by a REBNY firm, I would not have my April 9 problem in commenting on it, but I emailed the seller after getting his flyer to ask if he would mind if I blogged about his listing. I referred him to this blog to see my MO and we spoke yesterday. I gave him no editorial control other than the courtesy of saying whether he wanted the exposure at all. He agreed, for which I give him props. And props, too, for his beautiful pix on the e-flyer.

I don’t know if there are enough unique buyers for unique lofts in unusual neighborhoods who have the $$$$ needed for this loft. No doubt, it is a very cool loft with many attributes. No doubt, The Market will determine if he can sell off this price. Let’s wish him luck….

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

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