lily gilded, 161 Hudson Street loft sells after deep price cut

what a difference a million dollars can make

One way to measure the difference between the seven weeks that the “2,314 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2B at 161 Hudson Street spent on the market in the Spring of 2016 and the five weeks that it spent on the market in the Spring of 2017 is by time (seven being, you know, greater than five); another way is by asking prices ($5.75mm then being much greater than $4.95mm more recently); but the most significant difference is result, with the more recent marketing having succeeded in generating the contract that closed on May 24 at $4.8mm.

Only the insiders know what was going through the owners’ minds last year, but that brief marketing suggests that there just wasn’t any market response (perhaps, few showing appointments). It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the owners blamed their 2016 agents for the lack of response, as they not only changed prices dramatically when they came back to market around the same time of the year this year, but they changed agents.

The happy result (for the former owners, recent sellers) is that they got a deal only 3% off their asking price. Almost a million bucks off the first ask of 2016, but who’s counting? And they got that deal after only 5 weeks on the market, and closed only 10 weeks after starting. It is hard to get a more successful asking price than that.

they bought a beautifully renovated Tribeca loft in 2013 and sold a very different beautifully renovated Tribeca loft in 2017

People with sufficient financial resources can adapt even a beautiful Tribeca loft any way that they like, of course. These recent sellers bought a “beautifully designed and renovated … Architect’s residence” in April 2013 for $3.7mm. That iteration featured “exquisite custom mahogany built-ins throughout, stunning walnut floors [… , a] chef’s kitchen … completely customized and featur[ing] Poggenpohl cabinetry, with SubZero and Miele appliances”, as well as custom closets, central air, and Crestron home automation. They made significant changes to the overall look and feel of the loft, and to that chef’s kitchen, probably none of which generated many additional dollars in value on resale.

When they sold last month, the loft was fairly (and enthusiastically) described as “perfectly renovated and light-filled […,] the epitome of chic downtown style[, e]xpertly blending the grand industrial scale of Tribecas best architecture with a warm material palette”, featuring “extensive built-ins, high ceilings, central HVAC”, an “entry hall … with a built-in bench crafted from vintage wood and painted diagonal wall panelling”, (the same) “monumentally scaled original columns [and] wide-plank Brazilian walnut flooring, [and new] beautifully crafted exposed copper pipe lighting, electric solar shades”, and a master suite “featuring walls clad in reclaimed wood planks, which are also repeated on the ceiling of the en-suite bath”.

The partly-old partly-new kitchen

features top of the line appliances including a Viking range and hood, and a Sub-Zero fridge. Integrated into the Poggenpohl cabinetry are a Miele dishwasher, microwave, and espresso/cappuccino machine, as well as a Gaggenau wine fridge and a roll-up door appliance garage. Open wood slab shelves provide additional storage and complement the handmade aesthetic of the white-glazed Dutch tiled walls and the encaustic tile floors.

It is impossible to say from the two sets of broker babble whether the coffee machine or appliance garage is new, but it appears from the photos that the Viking range and hood came with the loft in 2013 (uncredited in that babbling?), yet we know that the Poggenpohl quotient is much reduced and the overall look completely changed, without changing most appliances (at least) or the footprint.

full Poggenpohl with same lower cabinets, same counter, and (dare I say) restrained lighting (thanks Warburg, on all Before pix)

new tile work *everywhere*, new ceiling, and open shelves (thanks Compass, on all After pix)

Aside from the functionality change from upper cabinets to open shelves, these are cosmetic changes. A great many cosmetic changes, swapping out expensive well-crafted elements for different expensive well-crafted elements. (Whether the Poggenpohl color changed, I can’t say for sure; but it certainly looks from the cabinet contrast with the old white floor as though the recent sellers replaced the remaining cabinet fronts to bright white.) It’s a free country, and people with money are free to demolish lovely cabinets and tile work, and to replace those elements with a style that suits them. I just don’t see any added value here, from the 2013 kitchen to the 2017 kitchen.

I won’t beat this horse further, but will add two more pairs of Before and After photos, each involving very different aesthetic judgments and some money:

such dark materials! and a completely different lighting scheme

opposite angle, but same area … just completely different cosmetics, with “beautifully crafted exposed copper pipe lighting”

let’s call this lighting ‘dramatic’, from back in the day, in an otherwise conventional master suite

a different sort of idiosyncratic choice: “walls clad in reclaimed wood planks”

Just to highlight two elements in the After pair, above … I consider the copper lighting in the public area of the loft and the wood walls in the master suite to be Love It Or Hate It elements, in terms of appeal to the broad potential buyer pool. The sort of choices that the Conventional Wisdom strongly argues against if (a) resale value is a consideration the owners care about when they renovate, or (regardless) (b) the owners think they might want to sell within three or four years. And neither of these elements came cheap.

performance against The Market runs slightly in favor

If the StreetEasy Manhattan Price Index is the best single-number proxy for the overall Manhattan market (as I continue to think that it is), the overall Manhattan market is up 22% from April 2013 (when these sellers bought) to April 2017 (they sold in May, but April is the most recent month reflected in this iteration of the still-awkwardly-located chart; select “Manhattan (All)” and hover carefully!), having risen from $817,151 to $993,592.

That implies that had the 2013-buyers-turned-2017-sellers done nothing to the space other than keep it well maintained, the loft would have been worth more or less $4,514,000 when they sold it, instead of the $4.8mm observed value. That’s not a bad outcome!

It is, of course, impossible for an outsider to know what those folks paid for the wood-clad walls, all that new kitchen tiling (and demolition), and custom copper lighting, etc, etc, etc, but it is unlikely they spent as much as $300,000. But if their budget approached $300,000, the entire affair approaches break-even status compared to overall market expectations.

I would typically add here a comment along the lines of ‘it doesn’t matter so long as they got enjoyment out of the loft, and they evidently could afford it‘, but for one niggling fact: they were asking $5.75mm for the ‘upgraded’ loft in April and May of 2016. That suggests to me that they (or their first agent team) believed that their renovation added significant value to the loft. (The increase in the StreetEasy Price Index to April last year was only 20%, implying an ‘unimproved value to that point of more or less $4.44mm.)

It is inconceivable to me that they spent anywhere close to a million bucks doing the ‘improvements’, but that first asking price is evidence that somebody thought the loft had undergone a 7-figure improvement. Granted, they didn’t hold that belief for very long, but still ….

we’ve been to this corner of Hudson and Laight before

Because the Intertubes never forget, you can ready the post I wrote way back on May 28, 2013 when these recent sellers became buyers. The big story then (you’d have to see 161 Hudson Street loft to hope to know why it sold 53% above 2009, 9% above ask) was how brave that 2009-buyer-turned-2013-seller was in buying as The Thaw was beginning following the Nuclear Winter that chilled activity and dropped prices after Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. (Anyone remember those days??) A second story was that the loft had changed relatively little in an architectural sense, if not a cosmetic sense. The more things change ….

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Mike Myers doesn’t care about super luxury Tribeca loft market, because (money)

yes, Virginia, the rich are different from you and me

Lots of people, when faced with the choice to live in a newly purchased spectacular loft in Tribeca or losing well more than a million bucks by selling right away, would avoid the monetary loss and accept their fate by living in luxury, while awaiting a more propitious time to sell. But people who have to sell might not have that option, and people who don’t care about money … don’t care. I’d put Mike Myers in the latter rather than the former category, as exemplified by his noteworthy resale of the the “4,241 sq ft” oh-so-lovely oh-so-luxurious Manhattan loft #5A at 443 Greenwich Street.

Thus, I don’t think The Real Deal got it quite right last week:

Comedian Mike Myers can’t be laughing now. The “Austin Powers” star just sold his never-lived-in Tribeca condominium for a loss.

Not laughing, probably; not crying, certainly. He volunteered for this, beginning over two years ago:

Sept 29, 2014 new to market $14.25mm
Oct 9 contract
Der 6, 2016 bought $14,675,019
Jan 11, 2017 new to market $15mm
Feb 7 contract
March 16 sold $14mm

Obviously, this was a new development purchase. Obviously, in the 26 months between signing the contract and having to close, Myers changed his mind. Or maybe his accountant told him he needed to take a loss somewhere.

Obviously, he’d have lost money even if he had sold at his resale asking price of $15 million, as he was set to pay his agents (5%, according to our system) and city and state transfer taxes (1.825%). At the $14 million resale price, those transaction costs reduced his cash (increased his realized loss) by nearly a million ($955,500), to $1,630,519:

paid $14,675,019
received $14mm
commission ($700,000)
transfer taxes ($255,500)
net $13,044,500
loss (big picture) $1,630,519

That’s a lot to not laugh about, but remember: he volunteered.

he probably saw it coming (too late, of course)

A click or two from the Active Listings tab on the StreetEasy building page shows that the same loft on both the second and third floors took until at least November 2016 to get to contract (they haven’t closed yet), while the Past Sales tab shows many more sponsor discounts than full asking price sales, including the sad fact (for our Canadian comedian) that loft #4A didn’t find a contract that stuck until May 2016 and then sold in September 2016 for $13,753,000.

The writing, as they say, was on the wall, long before Myers finally bought #5A from the sponsor for $14,675,019 three months ago.

new development sales can be weird

File this one under The New Development Market Is Different Than The Resale Market. This project (443 Greenwich Street) looked a lot better in the Fall of 2014 than it did two years later, or now. Perhaps the story is the simple one, oft repeated in the media in the last year: softness in the luxury market. After all, at least ten lofts were sold at 8-figure prices in this single project (a quick scan of the Past Sales tab on StreetEasy tells you that). Apparently, the supply of $10+ million buyers is finite. (Go figure.)

But I think there is another aspect of this (emphasis on I think): the new development Manhattan loft market is (I think) more susceptible to emotion-based swings than the resale loft market. (Call it herd mentality, if you prefer.) In part, this is a commodity thing.

Lofts tend to be sufficiently different from each other, even within the same building, that they can more fairly be given the over-used broker babble label “unique” than typical Manhattan “apartments”. Even lofts with the exact same footprint in mature residential loft buildings tend, over time to look very different from each other, as owners with different tastes and resources change. Not so for the four “A” line units at 443 Greenwich Street, all with the exact same “unparalleled combination of space, luxury finish, location, and privacy”, as the Sponsor Babble put it, on the exact same footprint.

The only difference among them is whatever different angle of sun or rooftop the different floor heights might afford.

Sometimes the proverbial early bird gets the proverbial worm, and original (early to contract) buyers do better than original (later to contract) buyers. Not here, not for our Canadian. His October 2014 contract price was $922,019 more than the May 2016 contract price for the exact same unit, one floor below. At this dollar level, so many dollars (nearly a million) is only a difference of 6.3%. Still: $922,019 is a lot of dollars.

efficiency is in the eye of the beholder in Manhattan residential new development sales

Sponsors have tremendous advantages over buyers of new development properties. They are looking at the big picture (total sellout), but more critically, they know what demand is like, including what prices all buyers are willing to pay. I am very curious to see what the second and third floor “A” lofts go for. In contrast to our Canadian (again, $14,675,019 on a long ago contract) and loft #4A ($13,753,000 on a May 2016 contract), these two lofts didn’t find contracts that stuck until 2017 (long after #4A had closed). If those two (late) buyers paid anywhere near $13,753,000, they probably overpaid. Time (and ACRIS) will tell.

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5 years later, Tribeca loft adds $1 million to building values

crude measurements of value are still measurements, right?

The “2,068 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5S at 459 Washington Street in extreme northwest Tribeca just sold for $3.625mm in a somewhat newsworthy transaction. (“Somewhat newsworthy” in the sense that the Luxury Listings wing of The Real Deal media clan reported it last week because the new owner runs a “healthy cafeteria chain” (!!).)  The big picture detail of interest to Manhattan Loft Guy, however, is that this is the first sale in this small (12-unit) residential loft building in nearly five years, following a three year period in which four units sold (Past Sales tab on StreetEasy, here), the last of which was not quite a million bucks short of the recent sale.

Before breaking that down further, let me take a swipe at the Luxury Listings part of the Manhattan Media Division of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. The only thing reported as a listing history is that the loft had been “asking $3.8 million in 2014”, which suggested to me that this was a private sale. Nope! Had Luxury Listings gone to StreetEasy, the reporter would have seen that the loft had, in fact, been offered for sale from May 2013 to April 2014 for from $3.95mm to $3.875mm, but that it had also been offered for sale beginning in May 2016, the offering that resulted in the contract that the cafeteria guy signed in January.

Here’s the full listing history from StreetEasy:

May 1, 2013 new to market $3.95mm
Sept 26 hiatus
Nov 5 $3.875mm
April 17, 2014 off market
May 5, 2016 new to market $3.95mm
Sept 19 $3,799,500
Jan 20, 2017 contract
Mar 8 sold $3.625mm

A couple of things …. These sellers really wanted to sell at $3.95mm. These sellers learned that $3.95mm was too much for The Market to swallow in 2013 and in 2016, but they also learned to make a bigger price cut to find a buyer.

It’s odd that Luxury Listings didn’t find this full price history, because they grabbed listing photos from the 2016 marketing campaign. Weird!

Look at the first six listing photos in the Luxury Listings piece: they all have the Douglas Elliman watermark. The next set of listing photos is a slightly different size, with no watermark. Go to StreetEasy for the explanation: the latter set is from the (successful!) Sothebys marketing effort. In other words, Luxury Listings went to the trouble to find more listing photos from 2016, without noticing that there had been a marketing campaign in 2016. Sad!

past sales history history is instructive, if not determinative, in a small Tribeca loft building

There’s no shame in asking more than The Market wants to spend, of course, as (repeat after me) comping is hard. Especially for small building old school Tribeca lofts (which tend to be unique), and especially where there hasn’t been recent sales activity in the small building.

The last sale in the building was #6N, slightly smaller than the “S” units at “1,945 sq ft”. With one major exception, however, it sounds much like #5S, with an unspecified but “gourmet” kitchen, and classic loft elements. The light sounds better on the top floor facing north (“three sunny exposures”) but the element that breaks this unit as a comp is the private roof deck, over 400 sq ft. So the $2.65mm clearing price in October 2012 needs more adjustment than is easy to make to be very useful as a comp for #5S. (I’m gonna ignore it, as there are easier ways to skin this cat.)

The two prior sales in the building were the fourth floor pair, with #4N selling for $2.2mm in January 2011 and #4S for $2.6mm in July 2010. Not a lot of bragging in either listing description (same agents on both, with same generic descriptions), so it is hard to appreciate the stark difference in value without having seen both units.

If you take #4S as the most appropriate comp for #5S, we’d adjust for time and condition (#5S is much nicer, based on broker babble and listing photos). No need to adjust for light or view, even though #4S claimed “spectacular water views” and #5S only “an abundance of natural light”: obviously, they have the same exposures, and since 2010 the 10-story rental building at 456 Washington Street has gone up just across the street (see the living room “view” that leads the #5S listing photos … brick!). So the former (presumed) premium for a water view has been lost, while #5S enjoys a much higher level of finishes than the #4S listing implied for that unit. Let’s ballpark those differences as a wash, if only for lack of principled ways to be precise (and because it makes the math simpler!).

If you take the StreetEasy Manhattan Price Index as a useful proxy for the overall market (I do, but its become a long story), the overall market is up 33% between July 2010 (you gotta hover, $737,336) and December 2016 ($984,463). The observed #4S sale price of $2.6mm in July 2010 thus implies that #5S would be worth about $3.47mm in the just-observed market report from the most recent StreetEasy report.

Pretty darn close to the $3.625mm observed price (4.5% feels PDC, especially given the assumptions made about evening out the former premium for the water view in the #4S sale and the condition premium in the #5S sale).

my favorite listing photo is a classic Manhattan loft element, ready for its close-up

Before leaving northwest Tribeca, I’d like to comment on two listing photos. First, the good news:

love the way the beam is secured over the column

This is something I would marvel at if I were in this space, likely making a nuisance of myself by standing in front of this column, looking up, with a silly grin on my face. Your mileage may vary.

On the other extreme, the photo of “the spacious chefs kitchen” irks me. Nothing undercuts the “spacious” part like a wine fridge outside the kitchen:

most people won’t care, but …

The reason the wine frig looks a bit out of place is that it is a bit out of place, having been plugged into an outlet just outside the kitchen. What a difference it would make in integrating the kitchen if the wine fridge had the same cabinetry on top as the Sub-Zero. Alas.

Manhattan Loft Guy loves loft owners who love lofts

Luxury Listings reports that the cafeteria guy who just paid $3.625mm for his new loft in northwest Tribeca owns a penthouse loft at 130 Barrow Street. That would be this “1,103 sq ft” duplex penthouse loft with a terrace and private roof deck that was marketed as a bit of a project (“awaits your golden touch”) when he bought it in April 2014 for $1.785mm. The cafeteria business must be good!

Now the guy has twice as much space, though he lost his private outdoor space. And he’s about as far (as close, really) to the Hudson, moving all of about ten blocks due south from the West Village to northwest Tribeca.

Manhattan Loft Guy loves loft owners who newly love lofts

One more and I’ll stop, promise, but that deed record leads me in another direction. The cafeteria guy was renting this lovely prewar 1-bedroom with a great view in the West Village in 2014. From there, to that Barrow Street loft (a move of nearly ten blocks due south), and then to the much larger Washington Street loft. Business must be very good!

Perhaps he will stay for a while.

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simple, right? don’t measure Market Trends by asking prices

but the NY Post doesn’t know that

I did a quick hit on my Manhattan Loft Guy Facebook page after reading this November 28 puff piece from the NY Post, Apartments experiencing the ‘fastest market adjustment ever’, because I’m a skeptical guy (in addition to being a Manhattan loft kind of guy) and because it constantly irritates me how much attention is paid in the real estate press to opinions and anecdotes rather than market facts (actual apartments or lofts actually sold). But this particular piece has irked me enough to re-read it and try to figure out the story behind the single closed sale used (among three other examples of too-high asking prices dropping for still-unsold properties) to ‘prove’ the provocative claim in the headline (fastest market adjustment ever). So now I’m even more irked, irked enough to write more than anyone should on Facebook ….

the premise about the Manhattan real estate market might be true, but the NY Post has no way to know

The provocative quote follows the set-up paragraph:

The overpriced Manhattan real-estate scene has left some homes lingering on the market for more than four years, prompting huge price cuts that make them ripe for the picking, according to experts and stats compiled for The Post.

Before getting to what provoked me most, note how two things are combined: an “overpriced Manhattan real-estate scene” (“scene” must be JournoSpeak for the Manhattan market), causing “huge” price cuts (my, how I hate that word!) for listings now “ripe for the picking” (not sure what that means with over-priced listings, but still). Note that the Post claims two sources for this intelligence: (1) experts and (2) stats compiled for the Post.

While three agents are quoted by name, the only “stats” offered are (with the one exception addressed below) about price drops and days on market. Oddly, while reference is made to other statistics, none of them are provided. There’s this pregnant sentence:

There also have been extreme price drops in the much more affordable range, according to statistics compiled for The Post by real-estate Web site StreetEasy.

This is followed by a single example of a small coop that has been on and off the market for three years, with an asking price that dropped in the last year by 40%. (That’s more an example than a stat, no?)

But here’s what provoked me, and offered the headline for the NY Post, and the social media linkage that inevitably follows this sort of drama:

“Historically, we are now in the midst of the fastest market adjustment ever,” said [the] president of the city real-estate giant Compass.

Fastest. Market. Adjustment. Ever. (Remember that guy.)

If you were an editor of a newspaper, what sort of proof would you like to see to support this provocation? I’d think StreetEasy (or others) could do a chart, showing the velocity of market changes measured by (pick one) median prices for Manhattan coops and condos, or by median prices for just the tippity-top of the Manhattan market, or maybe by changes in days on market overall, or by sales volume compared to inventory (i.e., absorption). We don’t know what the actual “statistics” that were “compiled for The Post by real-estate Web site StreetEasy” are, but we’re told about

  1. Robert DeNiro’s old duplex penthouse at 165 Perry Street, which is asking $19.8mm 18 months after asking $38mm
  2. that small coop at 575 Park Avenue, on and off since 2013, asking $500,000 last year and $300,000 this month
  3. “a buyer [who] got a seemingly incredible deal when a[n unidentified] Village town house sold for $6.8 million [recently, presumably], even though it was listed for $13 million just last year” [remember that townhouse, those numbers], and
  4. an apartment at 150 Charles Street, on the market for 233 days, originally asking $8.99mm and now $7.95mm

That’s it for data, let alone stats. Four over-priced listings, overpriced as long ago as three years, 18 months, seven months, and since last year some time.

Remember The Provocation? Fastest. Market. Adjustment. Ever.

Is that what you conclude from these four factoids? Some notes…

  • only one of the four has actually found its market clearing value
  • we have no idea, from this limited data, whether any of them was actually worth more at some earlier point than it is today

Maybe I am not as smart as the average bear, but I can’t tell anything for these four factoids other than that the sellers and their agents have had difficulty figuring out what The Market for each listing is (has been over its listing history). In other words, without any further support: Dog bites Man. Long-time readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know that I have often noted sales that were a long time coming, and/or that cleared only after significant price drops. Among examples far too numerous to mention:

(As Casey Stengel might have said, you are likely to find at least one such post in every single month in which there are more than a few Manhattan Loft Guy posts since 2006.)

once provoked, Manhattan Loft Guy may push back

Obviously, one thing that irked me right off is what led me to that quick hit on Facebook: using drops in asking prices to demonstrate what The Market is doing, without also considering changes in clearing values, is (a) the wrong way to measure market adjustment, (b) lazy, (c) (as I said on FB) “just another puff piece, as the Manhattan Media Division of the Real Estate Industrial Complex fluffs the Manhattan Sales Division”, or (d) all of the above.

Once irked enough, I will try to find more backstory, as regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know. The one closed sale offered to support The Provocation is curiously unidentified in The Post, but I am pretty sure I found it. And it is very odd, for a couple of reasons related to that puff piece. Again, this what we’re told by the Post:

This month, a buyer got a seemingly incredible deal when a Village town house sold for $6.8 million, even though it was listed for $13 million just last year.

But “the house was totally overpriced starting out,” noted Steinberg, who was the listing broker when it sold.

Wouldn’t you think that the smart guy who sold the townhouse for $6.8mm was not the agent who listed it last year, “totally overpriced”? Joke’s on you, it appears.

You can trust me on this, or you can go to that smart guy’s agent profile page and scroll through both closed sales and pending listings. You will find only one listing that matches “townhouse” and “Village” and was brought to market last year and sold this year, and that conceivably fits a sale at $6.8mm off an original ask of $13mm. It’s listed as In Contract both there and on StreetEasy, but it has to have since closed (no deed yet recorded, not yet updated on the agent profile page). Here’s the full listing history from StreetEasy:

Nov 3, 2015 new to market $12.3mm
Dec 2 $11,995,000
Jan 21, 2016 $10,995,000
May 11 $9,995,000
July 1 contract
July 29 back on market $8.95mm
Sept 11 contract
Nov __? sold? $6.8mm?

This isn’t a perfect match for the ‘facts’ recited in the Post, but is convincingly close for me. The principal factual discrepancy is the starting price was $12.3mm instead of $13mm, but I’ve seen enough puff pieces like this to know they either are not fact-checked against public records or use generously rounded figures. Plus, there is no other listing in this agent’s lengthy profile that matches “townhouse” and “Village” anywhere near the right dates or prices.

As the guy said, “the house was totally overpriced starting out,” even though the Post implies it was not “totally overpriced” by him.

Back to my (now-irksome?) point: this sale might be an extreme example of the truism that over-priced properties take a long time to sell, always, and in every market, or it may simply be another example. Either way, I don’t see it as supporting the proposition that the current market is the result of the Fastest Market Adjustment Ever. Not without seeing macro data about trend lines now being much steeper than in comparable periods and/or micro data suggesting that this listing was actually worth a great deal more than $6.8mm at some recent date (micro data such as highly relevant comparable sales histories).

what macro data about Manhattan residential real estate market trends can look like

Unless StreetEasy is pissed at the Post for not using the data compiled for the article (missing, apart from the three still-pending sales), it might have volunteered to run some market trend graphs for the Post. StreetEasy actually makes it easy to visualize broad market trends. You could, for example, go the the StreetEasy Third Quarter 2016 Market Report, scroll down to the graph, and click so that the only monthly trend line you see for the StreetEasy Price Index is for “Manhattan (All)”. But you can tell that the Post didn’t do that, because the trend doesn’t support The Provocation. In fact, looking at StreetEasy’s Index (which uses same-unit paired sales, plus secret sauce), you see that this Index has been flat throughout 2016 (varying by no more than 0.1% from January through September).

Fastest?? Market. Adjustment. Ever. ???

(If you look back into 2015, it gets worse, for the Post: slow and steady monthly increases, totaling 4.2% year-over-year, January 2016 to January 2015.)

What if there were a way to look only at high-end properties?

I have to believe that the Post has quoted The Miller about Manhattan real estate market trends about as often as everybody else, which is a gajillion times. So they know how to reach him. Or, they could have saved the time needed to call and consulted his Third Quarter 2016 Market Report to see (on page 4) that the Luxury niche median sales price (the top 10% of all sales) in Manhattan was up 3.1% quarter-over-quarter and 23.9% year-over-year. You could argue about new development sales skewing this data, as their typically extended periods between contracts and closings may not reflect real-time market conditions very well, but if you are going to assert the opposite (say it with me: Fastest. Market. Adjustment. Ever.), it might be sensible to have some hard data, instead of anecdata.

Let’s leave for another day lamenting (or trying to explain) the fact that The Miller’s trend line for the overall Manhattan residential sales market looks a little different from the StreetEasy Price Index trend line, as for present purposes his trend line (on page 1) shows a modest quarter-over-quarter decline in median prices in Manhattan (-3.1%) but a countervailing year-over-year increase (7.6%) in median prices. Stick that in your provocation.

another odd thing about that unidentified townhouse in the Post

We are now officially at the Manhattan Loft Guy stage of quibbling, a stage that long-time readers are familiar with. It’s simply odd that no address was given for the sole featured sale, while for the other three market factoids, addresses were given. More odd still, the address is, in fact, 150 Charles Street (see the StreetEasy link above), which happens to be the same building as another of the examples:

An apartment at the Village’s 150 Charles St., where rocker Jon Bon Jovi and actor Ben Stiller live, has been on the market for 233 days. Its original $8.99 million asking price is now down to $7.95 million.

That one is this unit, one of five units offered for sale but not in contract, asking from $35mm to $6.95mm. So two of the four data points are from the same building, and three out of the four (along with the former DeNiro penthouse at 165 Perry Street) are in the far West Village.

Only the reporter knows why she didn’t list the address for the mystery townhouse (or even if she knew), but it might be expected to limit the power of “market” data if three of four data points are within a few blocks of each other.

a quick stab at what some micro-data might look like

I’m not going to do this for each of the four factoids (that provocative horse is dead, right?), but there are some relevant data points for two that are close at hand. The unidentified Village townhouse is, as you know, Unit #M8 (where “M” is most likely for “maisonette”, aka “townhouse”). The LLC that just sold #M8 for $6.8mm bought it only in October 2015 … for $8,814,552. Looking at the listing history way up top, the LLC was trying to immediately flip for a 50% gain, and we now know that worked up much worse than badly.

For market trend purposes, these new development sales are difficult to factor. Mainly, because of the (long) lag between contract and closing, which in this case was 29 months or more. Secondarily, as I have often suggested in looking at resales by new development buyers, sometimes the new development buyers overpay, at least as measured by the later resale. This maisonette would be one example, as the overall Manhattan trend from October 2015 purchase to resale is up slightly (at least) and from 2013 contract to sale up significantly, while this reseller’s experience is the opposite. Sh*t happens, right?

This might be something of a building issue. The townhouse next door, Unit #M9, was bought from the developer in September 2015 for $9,611,214, but when that buyer tried to flip it immediately at $12.8mm and then increasingly lower prices, the listing sat, until being taken off the market ten months later, still asking $10,595,000.

Infuriating both these original buyers, their neighbor in #M7 sold two months ago in what looks like a private transaction, and an odd one at that: after paying $10,480,165 in August 2015, that guy sold in September 2016 just over $12mm. One really wonders what that September 2016 buyer of #M7 thought to not buy either #M8 or #M9 and saved more than a few million bucks.

But that micro data, as variable and perhaps difficult to interpret as it may be, suggests that the reason #M8 (my poster child for The Provocation) didn’t sell is not because “the market” suffered a broad and fast (fastest evah!) adjustment, but that one specific and highly motivated seller sold into a market that was not very deep with buyers at the 8-figure level, at a time when hyper-local inventory was relatively flush. In contrast to the time the developer was offering these three maisonettes in 2013, when there were three buyers willing to pay $8.8mm, $9.6mm, and $10.5mm, in 2016 there was exactly one buyer, and he preferred #M7 to the other two, for reasons no outsider will ever know. The seller who didn’t have to sell (#M9) retreated, while the one who did, sold #M8 at a significant loss.

That’s my top-level hypothesis, offered with a good bit more hard data support than the Post article that provoked me (to this great length!).

The testing of that hypothesis would be an interesting article to read.

finally (really) … there may be other facts, but the Post doesn’t know them (either)

The agent who sold #M8 at 150 Charles Street and who offered the provocative quote is obviously a terrific agent. More importantly for this piece, he has a team that does way more transactions than I do, including many at this price point, where I have done none in this rarefied atmosphere. He follows this market niche; I don’t. He may actually have market facts that support his view that there has been some general (and fast!) adjustment, but if so, (a) such facts are not apparent from the macro level stuff I see, and (b) were not shared with the Post to support his colorful claim.

It is interesting to see his acknowledgement of #M8 (in hindsight) as being “totally overpriced” at the start of the resale marketing campaign, but he wasn’t the only agent who made that mistake in this building, at about the same time.

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31% gain in 20 months for small Soho artist’s loft with charm but no walls

if The Market doesn’t make mistakes, how to explain this Soho oddity?

It is a truism that the sales price of a publicly marketed Manhattan loft is The Market, assuming there is the classic willing buyer and willing seller, neither operating under compunction. Hence, the funky, lovely, weird Soho loft #3R at 140 Sullivan Street that sold a month ago for $2.1mm was, in fact, worth exactly $2.1mm. By that immutable law, the same loft, in (almost) exactly the same condition, was worth exactly $1.6mm when it sold in January last year. In that instance, the loft didn’t take very long to get to contract (7 weeks, and then again 2 weeks after the first one failed, if you can believe StreetEasy; our listing system doesn’t have either contract date), at a price slightly above ask. More recently, the loft might have failed to find a buyer in two months at the end of last year (asking $1.91mm then; again, the inter-firm data-base has gaps, alas) but sailed through The Market when offered on May 4 at $2.15mm, finding the contract by May 20 that closed October 6 at $2.1mm.

That increase (computed in the title) dwarfs the change in the overall Manhattan residential market over the same time frame. Obviously.

But here’s the support: the StreetEasy Price Index for all of Manhattan was up only 5% in those 20 months, now $990,805 (at the end of the Third Quarter of 2016), up from $944,086 in January 2015 (start here, and scroll down to the interactive chart, because StreetEasy is not making this stuff simple). (If you look only at Downtown Manhattan, the market gain was even less.)

the loft is definitely quirky

If the floor plan dimensions are accurate the main part of the loft is less than 600 sq ft, and the rest of the loft is smaller still (400 sq ft?).

two squares, one smaller than the other

two squares, one smaller than the other

Yes, “all dimensions are approximate”, but yes, the arithmetic sum is less than 1,000 sq ft. The loft could be used differently, with a true bedroom added to the layout. But the listing photo show that two owners in a row used the front area as an unenclosed sleep area rather than breaking up the larger square.

the most recent owner

the most recent owner

the prior owner (still no books, different art, same arrangement)

the prior owner (still few books, different art + rug, same arrangement)

You do see one change by the most recent seller in these side-by-sides: a lighter finish on the floors. If you look at the other listing photos, you’ll also note that the loft was painted. No surprise, as the first sellers had an affection for words that most people don’t share. But there’s no indication in the photos, the floor plans, or the respective broker babble that there were any other changes to the loft from one seller to the next. Hence, my slight modifier in the opening paragraph that the loft sold both times “in (almost) exactly the same condition”. Again, check the listing photos and I think you’ll agree that even the window treatments are the same.

it takes only one buyer to break The Market

Fans of the efficient market theory hate data points like this pair of same-loft sales. Fans of the Manhattan loft market niche just shake their heads.

Here’s my theory, and I am sticking to it …. With more cookie-cutter ‘apartments’ (even spectacular apartments), a prior arm’s length sale has a greater impact than with lofts, especially with quirky lofts. While it is true that sellers often over-price their property in reliance on the aphorism “it only takes one” (buyer), sometimes that single buyer is out there, and highly motivated.

In the case of loft #3R, the recent buyer at $2.1mm must not have been looking at the end of 2014 when the loft was offered at $1.595mm (and sold at $1.6mm), and must not have been looking when (if??) the loft was offered at $1.91mm at the end of last year. Had he been out there at either of those prior time periods, he’d have saved himself a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or more.

The recent clearing price does not suggest a bidding war, more like an offer that the seller reacted to as though a preempt. I.e., there does not appear to have been a second bidder, meaning that the buyer went to $2.1mm by himself, suggested by the asking price and (possibly) seller resistance to a significant discount to ask.

Oh how I would like to have been a fly on that wall! We know the buyer was represented by a professional and experienced agent (see the deed record page) so it must be that the buyer knew of the January 2015 sale price. And it must be that the buyer knew that there were no overall market trends to support the increase of half a million bucks in that short time frame. No matter! He had the money, he wanted the loft, and he paid what it took. Manhattan Loft Gu might think that he “overpaid”, but if that is what he had to do to get the seller to agree, that’s The Market, dammit.

I have to wonder how surprised the seller was to get this deal ….


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‘architect-designed’ Tribeca loft does modern well, The Market is not as impressed as Manhattan Loft Guy

you could have fooled me

Perhaps I am just a sucker for lovely photos, but I found the listing photos for the “1,600 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2E at 16 Hudson Street to be fairly drool-worthy. I love the combination of old and new, the clean lines and the old timber, the shoji-like screens and the weathered white brick. I was nodding right along with the broker babble:

architect-designed 3-bedroom loft …. one is impressed by the level of finishes and soaring 12-foot beamed ceilings. *** Floors are reclaimed wide-plank oak throughout, perfectly complementing the history of the property.


(drooling ...)

(drooling …) (pic from Sothebys)

The charms of the interior aside, what makes the loft special is what you see out that arched window above: the “1,400 sq ft” terrace that truly expands the living area for as many months in the year that you care to use it.

the terrace is nearly the size of the interior

the terrace is nearly the size of the interior (again, Sothebys)

The floor plan hints at one of the issues that the loft may have In Real Life: the rooms are not very big, so even with 12 ft ceilings and those (lovely! arched!) french doors, the living area pictured up top may not feel spacious. Is the kitchen proportionately too big?? For a great room that’s nearly 600 sq ft, it didn’t take a lot of furniture to fill the space up.

As I said, I love the look of this loft, and initially thought The Market must have loved it as well, given that it came to market May 2 at $3.775mm and found its contract by July 1 at the $3,662,500 at which it closed on September 26. That’s fairly quick work, at a fairly small discount to ask, notwithstanding the 4-month effort in 2015 to sell at $3.995mm.

we have a (very) close-by comp

The folks upstairs that sold the “1,965 sq ft” loft #4C did better, I think. They came to market on March 2 at $3.65mm and were in contract by April 2, closing on June 28 at $3.75mm, one hundred grand over ask. A lovely loft in its own right, but rather traditional as opposed to architect-designed, with a palette that (one blue wall aside) let’s the eye focus on the massive (rather primitive) columns and beams and the 13 windows. The loft looks perfectly lovely, especially the kitchen, but there’s probably a reason there was not much bragging in the broker babble.

The math for #4C works out to $1,908/ft, likely enhanced by a layout that is very efficient, easily yielding 4 bedrooms, only one of which is rather cramped.

the kitchen is not part of the 600+ sq ft great room, so it's no suprise that it feels bigger than #2E

the kitchen is not part of the 600+ sq ft great room, so it’s no surprise that the space feels bigger than #2E (thx Halstead!)

Isn’t this much more roomy than the top photo above?

the two exposures help it feel 'spacious', as do the many windows (again, Halstead image)

the two exposures help it feel ‘spacious’, as do the many windows (again, Halstead image)

The #4C floor plan is not without problems, as efficient as it is. The plumbing lines the east wall, separated from all the bedrooms by the entry hall (er, gallery). So there’s no en suite bath. Market had no problem, of course, offering $100,000 more than the seller asked.

Loft #4C has some advantages over loft #2E: the sense of space, the actual additional space (and 4th bedroom) even though only “365 sq ft” larger, and the open views (including the World Trade Center). Ah, the beauties of even a 4th floor open view in Tribeca! Without doing a lot of bragging about the interior finishes, we know that #4C was valued by The Market at $1,908/ft.

how much was that terrace in #2E?

But #2E has the terrace, an uncommon feature in a Tribeca loft. And, possibly, a higher level of finishes (that “architect-designed” thing). If you were to net out the space and light advantages of #4C against the interior finishes of #2E, maybe you discount the interior value of #2E implied by the #4C sale just a little, say to $1,850/ft. That leads to a (to me) startling conclusion about how The Market valued the huge #2E terrace.

-> at $1,850/ft, the interior of #2E should be worth just about $3 million

-> #2E cleared at $3,662,500, leaving (only!) about $662,500 for the “1,400 sq ft” terrace (= $473/ft) (= 25% of the value of the interior)

Granted, that relative valuation fits within The Miller’s rubric for valuing outdoor space (see my uber-post of May 6, 2010, riffing with The Miller on the value of Manhattan terraces, decks + balconies), but just barely. And I would generally give the #2E terrace a premium for being so usable, so directly accessible from the living space, and for being so nicely finished (with irrigation and cooking gas). But that’s not how The Market looked at it.

The Market either discounted the #2E interior space more than I would have expected based on the oh-so-recent oh-so-nearby #4C sale, or The Market discounted the terrace more than I’d expect. (Maybe a little of both; we’re extrapolating.)

Color me surprised.

or maybe the architect-y thing in this Tribeca loft  is dated

Does everyone’s mind work this way? When I see broker babble bragging about finishes and claiming “architect designed”, I assume (I know, I know) the loft was done fairly recently, and by these sellers.

You wouldn’t know differently from StreetEasy, which reflects only that the recent sellers bought in 2005 for $2,511,000, without any link to that listing. But our data system contains the listing description from 2005, which is highly suggestive that the architect at issue was retained by the folks who owned the loft from 2001 to 2005:

Architecturally designed and stunningly renovated, this 2-bedroom + office/nursery, 2-bath home has it all. The top-of-the-line Chefs kitchen features custom walnut cabinetry, basalt counter, Wolf range, Viking oven, 42 Subzero refrigerator, Dacor microwave & convection oven, Bosch dishwasher, and storage galore. The design and execution of the interior space is nothing short of spectacular, with 12 ceilings and exposed beams, 23 custom 10 steel doors, antique walnut wide-plank floors, walnut closet interiors, huge windows in every room, beautiful finishes throughout, enormous utility room with washer/dryer, central heat and air conditioning, and more! Then there is the Terrace! – 1,400sf of fenced and finished space, with direct access from the living/dining room, beautifully decked with Japanese Ipe wood and fully land [the thing just ends there, likely having hit some ancient character limit in our system from 2005]

I can’t be certain without photos (not retained in our system, alas), but it certainly sounds like it. And The Market back in that day treated the loft as fresh, as it went into contract within two weeks $116,000 above ask. That Market also credited that seller as having significantly improved the loft in four years, as that 2005 seller paid (only) $1.15mm in June 2001.

Assuming (reasonably) that the 2001-buyer-turned-2005-seller renovated as soon as buying, the finishes would be close to 15 years old at the time of the recent marketing and sale. Lovely photos aside (drool!), maybe it just doesn’t show as well In Real Life as the photos suggest. So maybe the 2016 Market discounted the interior of the space more than my notional $1,850/ft, above.

what happened to my feet? and what do they do to my riffing?

Did you notice one significant thing different in the 2005 listing description than my earlier description of the loft? I’ve used “1,600 sq ft” for the interior here and in my Master List of downtown Manhattan loft sales under $6mm because that is what our listing system says, and our system tends to be based on an offering plan. The 2005 listing says “1,500 sq ft”. I’m not going to get into (today) how frustrating it is that this sort of discrepancy occurs all the time about something as basic as the actual size of a loft (my uber-post on that is probably my November 2, 2010, the square footage dilemma: REBNY “leads” by protecting brokers, not buyers), but let’s play with the smaller loft size for a minute….

If the interior that the old architect designed is really only “1,500 sq ft”, the interior valuation for loft #2E (implied by the sale of #4C, discounted mildly to $1,850/ft as above) drops to about $2.775mm, bumping the exterior portion of the observed market value to about $875,000, or $625/ft, which is about one-third of the interior value. Not a dramatic difference to my discussion above using The Miller’s rubric. Never mind … resume normal activity ….


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my Master List of downtown Manhattan loft sales has changed, just a bit

it’s still hard to track The Market, especially in a niche like downtown lofts

Time for an update about my efforts to follow the downtown Manhattan loft market by tracking weekly (ahem, often weekly) newly filed deeds; more precisely, about how my efforts have been made more difficult (though not thwarted!) by mega-decisions by the StreetEasy front for the Zillow empire; even more precisely, about how the result is not (yet?) as reliably comprehensive as the former iteration, but the current version of my Master List is pretty darn good (with a new color!) and still the only game in town for folks who are specifically interested in the loft niche of the Manhattan residential real estate market.

Let’s break down that multi-bite mouthful. In my October 6, ain’t easy keeping track of Manhattan loft sales, and getting harder, I described the changes that StreetEasy made to the way they present data and permit it to be searched, and how they removed a wonderful way to track only newly filed deed records in bite-sized (and customizable) time periods. The only bit of good news from the StreetEasy front is that the Sold search is now reachable from the Sales homepage, under the Comparables link toward the upper right corner.

The bad news is that there is no work-around, no way to run a search that will deliver only fresh information (newly filed deeds, without regard to how long ago the sales closed). Alas. And alack.

The other bad news is that it will be rather more difficult to discover sales that take a long time to hit public record (i.e., when a deed is not filed for 60 or more days after closing), so the risk of me missing the not-so-fresh sales is now greater than it was.

Because of that risk, I will occasionally put “sales” in the Master List even if I don’t have a clearing price. To take one example, if you had looked at the Master List last week, you saw the “1,830 sq ft” Tribeca loft #7D at 260 West Broadway (American Thread Company) reported as sold on October 11, though there was no price in the “cleared at” field. That was because when I added to the list there was no public record (yet) link on StreetEasy. I reported it without a clearing price because I didn’t want to take the chance of losing track of it in future searches. As it happens, when I checked the listing today for purposes of this post, the deed was filed October 20, so the full price sale is listed.

Same thing with the Greenwich Village mini-loft #1010 at 77 Bleecker Street (Bleecker Court), which was reported as “sold” on StreetEasy as of October 13, although there was (when I first saw it) no “Sale recorded” link to a deed record. Again, that deed has now been filed (also on October 20), so I filled in the sale price of $587,500.

where did I come across “sales” that had closed but had not yet been filed?

In trying to see if there was a back door in StreetEasy’s data set that might be an easier path than the oh-so-cumbersome Comparables searches by neighborhood described in my October 6 post, I tried a Sales search. (Skip to the next sub-head unless you are intensely interested in the intricacies of StreetEasy’s data set and search capacities.)

  1. On the Sales home page, I clicked “All Downtown” in the “Location” box (as I used to do) and set the price parameters as $500,000 to $6 million
  2. Still on the Sales home page, I clicked the “+ Advanced Options” link to pull down a ton of other parameters or features by which to search, but was interested in only one: in the “Status” box I discovered you could filter for “Include only sold listings” … boom!
  3. The results are a ridiculous 30,070 sales (when I just did this), which would be even more ridiculous if they couldn’t be sorted
  4. The “Sort by” box up top is your friend (my friend!), especially as it defaults to “recently updated” (possibly my best friend) so, in theory I just have to keep going until I find deeds recorded when I last updated

I say “in theory” as the results I got today looked great, until this rather ancient sale popped up between sales recorded on October 21: yes, folks, the Noho coop loft on the 5th floor of 710 Broadway sold on March 1, 2011 (two thousand eleven), which led me to think the deed sat unfiled for five and a half years, but no; the deed was filed on March 19, 2011 (no typo). I can’t imagine what it was about this record in StreetEasy’s data set that made it as “recently updated” as deeds filed yesterday, but there it is. (Maybe it is the inherent unreliability of search results with 30,000+ records.)

The upshot is that it doesn’t inspire confidence, but may be usable, with patience.

Then I noticed another way to “Sort by”, and selected “Newest”. Not to try your patience much longer, I got some results that StreetEasy thinks have sold (presumably, because of a brokerage firm feed) that don’t yet have deed records (i.e., no official sales price). Hence, my addition of #7D at the American Thread Company and #1010 at Bleecker Court as placeholders (now completed). But there were, again, anomalous results: it was immediately obvious that the “Newest” results were not sorted by date of the sale at all (results can flow from July sales to September sales to August sales). Maybe they shouldn’t call it “Newest”??

StreetEasy was very responsive when I reached out by email for an explanation, and to see if there was another way to do what I really wanted to do. Unfortunately, there is no better way, and the explanation is weird, in a way that only a data-base manager might love. “Newest” doesn’t sort by what you’d assume it meant (most recent sale date) but by when the listing was first created in StreetEasy (trust me, the email explanation is “‘Newest’ is sorted by the date the listing was created in our data base, with the newest listing created in our database appearing at the top – this is why the Listed At and Sold Date are out of order”). This function is more a measure of days on market, though not even a direct one at that.

Again, I was referred by th helpful folks at StreetEasy to the Comparables report, explained on StreetEasy’s blog. Alas.

But if you see a listing on the Master List without a clearing price, you’ll know I have been playing around with StreetEasy, but not having much fun.

putting some red on the Master List

Since it had been so long between updates the the Master List, I really breezed through the results. Whether I ever get to full (full!) Manhattan Loft Guy treatments for many in that long set (I added upwards of 150 resales a bit more than a week ago), I noted two numbers that jumped out at me. From here on in, when you see a number in red, that is something I thought strange (or wonderful, I guess) and a candidate for a future post. But because there are so many lofts and so little time, many won’t make the cut.

You might want to find a red datum listing record if it is not obvious why I found it … weird. In the case of the July 26 sale of the “2,384 sq ft” Soho loft 139 Spring Street #7A, the closing price of $3.6mm got the red because of the healthy premium over the ask ($3mm). For the “2,802 sq ft”Greenwich Village loft 65 West 13 Street #7A [The Greenwich], it’s the On Market date in red, because it was so damn long ago.

I will try not to overdo it. Maybe I will stick with adding some red highlights, and maybe it was just a passing fancy when I did a bulk update. Time will tell; it always does.

Did the seasons just changed today, or what??

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new 44-story hotel in Chelsea to crimp some loft views

that’s what (sometimes) (eventually) happens if your sightline goes over a Manhattan parking lot [updated]

Another day, another new hotel announced …. The Real Deal had the news yesterday that a parking lot at 144 West 28 Street that sold two years ago for $42.8 million will become a 40-story hotel, with 528 rooms and a restaurant and bar on the ground floor. That means that open sky like this, from an 8th floor loft one block directly south, will no longer be quite as open:

most of the buildings in the block directly north of these windows were lower than this 8th floor loft; soon, no longer (Halstead pic, obvs)

The photo is from the “2,400 sq ft” loft #8F at 144 West 27 Street, which sold way back in 2013 for $3mm. There’s probably not enough of a loss of view to (much) impact value, but I hope the 2013 buyers didn’t simply assume that the view would remain as open as it was when they bought it.

[Update later that very same day … I should have used the Google maps photo from The Real Deal article to also illustrate the line of sight:

pretty sure that is 144 West 27 Street at the rear, right in the middle of this photo; the tall beige building with 3 windows across]

It’s a small Manhattan Loft Guy world sometimes …. It turns out that I mentioned the loft right below the one above (#7F) in my March 2, 2011, since that $458/ft loft sale at 144 West 27 Street …, and another loft a few floors below (#4F) in my September 10, 2012, price discovery was long + hard for 144 West 27 Street loft with 2 kitchens, 3 dishwashers. It’s good to be back!

it pays to be diligent

I’ve often hit the issue of looking at what you’re looking at outside windows. (How long might that nice open view remain open?)

Perhaps my favorite such post was my October 9, 2011, diligence due + negligence committed as West 15 Street lofts + East 15 Street apartments lose views. That post links to six (count ’em!) Manhattan Loft Guy posts going as far back as 2006 about how ‘open views’ are often at risk in Manhattan. To quote myself quoting myself:

Part of the charm of living in loft neighborhoods (in Manhattan and elsewhere), for me and I suspect for many people, is that they may be ‘developing’ neighborhoods, with a certain vitality missing from more staid (mature) residential areas and (often, at least early) a discount from the overall market because the ‘developing’ neighborhood may be a little more gritty than mature residential areas.

Part of the risk of living in loft neighborhoods (in Manhattan and elsewhere) that are ‘developing’ neighborhoods is that they … uhhh … will continue to develop.

That post is also a favorite because it pivoted off of a New York Times article about a fairly large coop that was asleep to the potential development behind them that turned out to impact almost 200 shareholders and then an effort (once awake) by these shareholders to pressure the city to reduce the size of a public school. From my perspective, NIMBY-ism at its worst.

More recently, my August 6, 2015, did rising tide eventually sell huge 141 West 26 Street loft (with rising hotel)?, featured a second floor loft with a long wall of north windows over a parking lot. The selling agents didn’t have (give) a lot of information about the development potential of that lot when I visited with buyers, but we found out a great deal about a hotel that would fill the entire lot by clicking around various city agency sites.

In short, there would be a one-story structure in the southwest corner of the new hotel and a ground floor “rear yard” across the remaining two-thirds of the hotel width, with the flue for kitchen exhaust somewhere near the middle of the hotel width, probably opposite some of the windows of the second floor loft at 141 West 26 Street.

My clients passed on that buying opportunity, but someone eventually bought the huge loft (“4,050 sq ft”) that required a total renovation for $938/ft; it took nearly a year for the original asking price to attract a buyer (there’s another story there about an asking price being wrong, wrong, wrong, until [one fine day] right; but that’s another story).

(Ironically, the to-be-built hotel behind 141 West 26 Street is directly next to the lofts mentioned up top at 144 West 27 Street, whose open views are now threatened by a to-be-built hotel to the north of that address. It is a very small Manhattan Loft Guy world sometimes, but this issue is not limited to the West 20s between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.)

what’s a buyer to do?

You’ll find ideas in the two posts above about public sources for information about potential development outside the window you may be interested in buying, but here’s a spoiler alert: the local Community Board and your city Council Member are your friends.

In the case of the 141 West 26th Street loft my buyers were interested in, the publicly available information was both relatively easy for even a real estate agent to find and easy to interpret by me and my clients. Things aren’t always so straightforward, of course, and I’ve gotten quotes over the years in the one to two thousand dollar range to retain an architect or expediter to check development rights outside windows.

Just last week, however, I got an email from a title company (a source I hadn’t before considered as useful to this issue) identifying a (new to them, I think) “sightline” service (“[w]e analyze FAR calculations and numerous other factors to determine unused development rights so buyers can understand the potential for change in the properties adjacent to their purchase”) that sounds awfully helpful. For as little as $500 (I think, but I can’t find it now), they generate a report that includes 3D schematics.

Maybe others have offered this sort of product before and I’ve simply been unaware, but this sounds like a very good idea. (Assuming it is truly comprehensive, and as reasonably priced as I recall.)

It’s not rocket science, but it does involve Latin: caveat emptor!

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sometimes a stair is just a stair, but in some Manhattan duplex lofts ….

you want it straight, bent, or rounded?

For some folks, the need to get from Down to Up in a Manhattan duplex loft is a bug, for others it’s a feature. A stair shrinks a space (eats into the floor plan on both levels) but having two levels provides wonderful separation between ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces. Few people are indifferent, and it’s kinda sorta a chocolate or vanilla thing. But how you get from Up to Down, and back again, presents some choices.

I looked at about a couple hundred closed loft sales last week in (finally!) updating my Master List of downtown Manhattan loft sales. It’s funny what jumps out at you in scanning so many listings, so quickly. In this case, I was struck by a sequence of stairways, each a different solution to a problem endemic to duplexed lofts. Let’s look at some pictures, and floor plans….

This L-stair (with a single landing) dominates a relatively small duplex loft (“1,083 sq ft”), but it is pretty stylish:

white as it is, it still looms

It takes quite a bite out of the floor plan, especially upstairs:

not sure there is room for a bed up there

Here’s a stair with two landings in a slightly larger loft (ballpark it at “1,400 sq ft”), a much lighter feature with the open rails:

put a bar under the stair, for crying out loud!

If you could use the nooks or crannies created by such a stairway, the bite out of the floor plan isn’t quite as great:

upstairs, that’s a void of about 8 x 8 ft (Elliman again)

I’m not sure this one is even legal (no railing!) but it is certainly lighter still, in footprint and in feel, in another small loft (“1,000 sq ft”):

friends don’t let friends … drink and climb

Same building as the one above, this somewhat larger loft (“1,284 sq ft”) uses a common type (the spiral stair) but stretches it to an artistic level:

it “floats” doesn’t it? (pay no attention to the stairway [fire escape] in the window) (an Elliman photo, btw)

(I’d show you how on the floor plan this ‘stretch spiral’ takes up less room than all but one of the above stairways, but the floor plan doesn’t do this stairway justice.)

This is all too often the ‘default’ stairway, to be avoided (IMHO) unless there are no better options:

I’ve never seen anyone navigate this sort of thing without a hand on the rail.

If the treads are only 28” wide, that’s still a box of almost 25 sq ft taken out of each level. And with your standard (tight) spiral stair, it is rather awkward to carry anything that requires two hands up or down. An infant, for instance.

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ain’t easy keeping track of Manhattan loft sales, and getting harder

the behemoth’s business model runs over Manhattan Loft Guy’s

If I had to select one thing as the most publicly beneficial thing that Manhattan Loft Guy has offered the general public since March 2006, that Most Best Thing would be my Master List of Manhattan Loft Sales, currently between $500,000 (ha!) and $6 million (my original upper limit was $5 million, but that’s so 2014). You’ll see a bunch of information for every downtown Manhattan loft sale that I could find, from sale date and price, to size (if I have a reliable size, then price per foot), to dates on the market and in contract (if all there, then Days on Market), to original price, and past sales of the same loft.

I’ve broken my Master List up chronologically to keep the size of the file from being too unwieldy, but the current iteration is here, from 2014 to present. The ‘current’ iteration still says “resales a/o 7.23.16” even though there are resales as current as September 29, which is a long story. Brace!

Longtime readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know that the source for most of this data has been StreetEasy, sometimes supplemented by or contradicted by the inter-firm data-base (particularly as to prior sales from the distant past, or size). To say that StreetEasy has been indispensable to my effort is an understatement. But their business model no longer includes making it so easy for for me, or for anyone else who wants to stay really current on recorded sales on any gross scale, to track new information while it is fresh.

Two things:

1 Damn.

2 And, they don’t owe me anything and, of course, they can run their business any way they see fit. But I’m not sure they appreciate the impact of what is (probably) a simple change on their part to how they manage and present data. Any chance this is reversible? Let’s find out…. And one more thing:

3 Damn.

4 OK, one more: as notable a real estate data nerd (meant in the most complimentary way possible) as The Miller was surprised and (reading between the tweets) disappointed by this change by StreetEasy.

for fans of ‘inside baseball’, Manhattan Real Estate Industrial Complex edition, only

In the old days (as you may know fi you ever used the wonderful facility to search Recorded Sales), if you were on the “Sales” side of the StreetEasy home page there was a button to search “Recorded Sales”. You could search by neighborhood, by price range, by property type, and by two types of date ranges (sale date, or date the deed was recorded). For both the date ranges, you had a wide range of options, from “last 7 days” to much longer and, critically for my usage, you could specify “any” in one date range and customize the date range in the other.

My standard search, performed every Saturday when I was a really diligent Manhattan Loft Guy, used the price range $500k to $6mm, neighborhood “Downtown Manhattan”, sale date “any”, and a custom record date that selected the dates of the last seven days. (The benefit of specifying the dates instead of selecting”last 7 days” in the dropdown menu is that if I didn’t finish my review the same day I started it the search results were fixed; using “last 7 days” ran the risk of the results changing if the page refreshed.)

As I’ve said before when describing my method, the results from this search were very over-inclusive, and I relied on my knowledge (intuition?) about which addresses were “lofts” and ignoring those that were “apartment” buildings. Not a prefect system, but there was none better that I was aware of.

Again, the benefit of searching by “recorded” date was that I picked up all sales that had recently passed through the City’s ACRIS data, whenever the sale actually took place. As you probably know, deeds filed in a given week may be for sales the closed as recently as ten days or as long as … whenever. Many sales don’t get recorded for a month, and some take ridiculously long to hit the public record (I’ve seen deeds filed more than a year after the sale).

In this system, the only reason I would miss a downtown Manhattan loft sale was if I didn’t recognize an address as a loft building (of course, I often checked the listing when I was uncertain). And every search with a different date range for “recorded by” would have no overlap with any other search; this made the process pretty efficient, if time-consuming.

In a given week, the entire data set was usually between 40 and 100 sales, which might yield as few as ten loft resales, rarely more than 20. Which I manually enter (address, unit, date, price, etc.) on the Google Drive spreadsheet that I’ve made ‘public’ so that anyone can see it. The current Master List begins on January 1, 2014 and has well more than 1,500 downtown Manhattan Loft resales and (on Sheet2) more than 300 new development sales, and counting ….

I’ve been Zillow’d

If you’ve paid any attention at all to the data side of Manhattan residential real estate, chance are that you’ve used StreetEasy hundreds if not thousands of times. And you know that the folks who created StreetEasy left over time after StreetEasy was acquired by Zillow. Possibly even that Zillow acquired the former Buyfolio product, only to end it. (No one has ever presented a better consumer-facing agent communications interface, alas, which suggests there’s no [big] money in such a product. Alas.) Well, not “only to end it” (Buyfolio); most likely, the smart folks at Zillow wanted the smart folks at Buyfolio on their (new) team for StreetEasy.

Zillow is, as you probably know, a national site with ambitions to rule the consumer search industry, with a revenue model (it seems to me) heavily dependent on advertising and other fee-for-services from agents and brokerage firms. Let’s leave most of that alone for the moment and focus on “national”. National data firms need national standards for data collection, presentation, and search. (Economies of scale, blah blah blah.)

My guess is that the way Recorded Sales now work on StreetEasy is the same way they work on other Zillow sites across the US. And that StreetEasy, overall, is losing the Manhattan-specific things that the founders struggled with, and found solutions for. I’d bet you a quarter (my typical limit; I’m cheap, not uncertain) that in “America” deeds get filed on a timely basis, and staying current with The Market on a date-sold basis is pretty easy.

The fact that ‘New York is different’ is a multi-faceted problem for Zillow, whose geography-based ‘Zestimates’ tend to rely a great deal on a given house being surrounded by houses that are more or less similar, instead of an environment in which the same block might have condos and coops with widely varying amenities and values. That’s a discussion for another day, but for today the point is that Zillow probably sees it as important for data to be collected, presented, and searched in similar ways across all platforms in all markets it serves. (You don’t see “Zillow” in New York because they recognize that the StreetEasy brand is too well-known to abandon, at least for now.)

old man Guy wishing for The Good Old Days

Nothing stays the same (especially not in New York ForCryingOutLoud!). The old StreetEasy was really good at some only-in-NY things, with a management team that was pretty visible and, I would add, transparent about the challenges of presenting NYC residential real estate data. New management is relatively unconcerned about explaining changes. To take the current example, I found nothing in the StreetEasy blog or other social media streams referring to the removal of Recorded Sales from the Sales home page. Instead, I bounced a question via Twitter on July 31 after being unable to do that which I’ve always done to update my Master List (alas) “is it possible you’ve removed the NYC Search Closed Sales function?? or, am I missing it on yr homepage?”; the reply came next day “See it via comp report on closed listing pages: Registered agents via Recorded Sales Hotshots“.

The Comp Report is kinda sorta hidden in StreetEasy. I have no idea what the pages look like for a non-subscriber civilian, or if there’s a quicker route for me, but in my paid StreetEasy account I get to the Comp Report through home -> Your Account -> Settings -> Comparables. The tortured route is just a small indignity, but indicative of a StreetEasy belief that this is not a very important tool. Alas.

If you get to the same sort of page that I get to, you see you can search by (1) Neighborhood / Address / Building / Key Word or by a list of addresses or by a custom boundary, (2) by Sale or Rental, (3) by property type(s), (4) by price range, including “any” at either or both ends, (5) by bedroom, bath, and square foot counts, and (ta da!) (6) by “Show recorded sale from the last …”, where the choices range from 30 days to a year.

The results show up in various categories relevant to doing a traditional “comps” report (a) Active listings, (b) In-contract listings”, (c) Unavailable listings, and (d) (ta-da!) Recorded sales. While you can toggle off any of these categories, these are the defaults. Most critically, the data hits reported in any category is limited to 100; after all, who would do a comps report with more than 100 data points??

Not to be selfish, but to use my search effort as an example, running my standard search ($500k to $6mm, downtown) with the smallest possible date range (last 30 days) generates something more than 100 results in each category, so that doesn’t work. (And I don’t care at all for any category but Recorded sales.) Doing it today by the same neighborhood but changing the dollar ranges yields less than 100 Recorded sales if I use $2mm to $6mm, from $1mm to $2mm, and from $500k to $1mm, but that’s not very useful to me, as there are almost certainly a significant number of sales older than 30 days with a deed that was recently filed. I could play with dates, but my working assumption is that I need at least “past 90 days” to be reasonable assured of being reasonably comprehensive.

Alternatively, I could search by smaller neighborhoods, in my regular price range, using “past 90 days” as the sale date. That’s what I did yesterday, generating fewer than 100 Recorded sales in Tribeca (yay!), which I’ve now added to the Master List. I’m halfway through Flatiron. That leaves me only … 13 other neighborhoods downtown (without counting sub-neighborhoods such as West Chelsea or NoMad).

Trial and error will lead me to discover which combinations of neighborhoods will most efficiently get me close-to-but-not-reching 100 Recorded sales results, but for now … 13 neighborhoods to go. Then, if I stick to updating the Master List weekly (as in The Good Old Days), my repeated search will likely have only a few new records, but I will have to cross-check frequently to be prudent.

What used to take me an hour or two on Saturday, and yielded a very high certainty that I found all the newly filed loft sales, will take me some serious multiple of that, with a much lower certainty that I will have found all the newly filed loft sales (because of the 90-day limit).

First World Problems, perhaps. But a huge pain in the butt, nonetheless.

I’m an eternally optimistic fellow Guy. Perhaps I can convince StreetEasy that there’s merit in adding a “Recorded By” field to the Comps functionality, with limits either customizable (yay) or much shorter than 30 days. A Guy can dream ….

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