Thursday, September 30, 2010

Small & Do-able in Carroll Gardens: 473 Union Street

$895K sounds like a very do-able number for a brick 2-Family in Carroll Gardens. Especially after seeing this would-be McMansion today in South Florida that sold for $825K in 2007, now listed for $252K:

A case can be made for 473 Union Street. Even though it's only 16' wide and 34' deep. Even though the layout looks like a floor-through 1BR on top and a 1 or 2BR duplex on the bottom. There's nothing special about it, but the condition is clean, presentable, rentable space. Snatch that little green astro-turf off the back deck over the yard, and you're in business.

The real play here is you get into Carroll Gardens, by just hopping over a few doors past Hoyt. Sure, you're down the hill and towards Gowanus, and it loses most of the neighborhoody feel, but a quick walk the F train and all the Court & Smith Street amenities. We love the wine bar right there on the corner too.

We like the brick exterior, for what it's worth, too. Wondering why the agent didn't put up a nice exterior shot on the listing - nothing to hide there either! Nice play here as a condo alternative with a yard & with a little rental income to boot.

Pro's: location, potential value, just off the beaten path of a great neighborhood

Con's: size, not much rental potential, starts to lose the Carroll Gardens feel on this block,

Ideally: We've seen bigger, but we've also seen worse fetch more. Compare to 354 Degraw, which closed in April for its $925K asking price. $895K sounds steep over here, but if condos that have high maintenance can fetch $500-$600/sqft, why can't this place?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If Scarface Lived In Gowanus: 128 2nd Street

Okay, ordinarily we don't cover single-family residences, but this one was too cute to pass up. 128 2nd Street is a 20' wide stucco building that's been beautifully (read: gaudily?) renovated from head to toe. From the Brazilian cherry wood floors, to the central heat & A/C, to the "imported Italian Snaidero kitchen cabinets" - this place has it all! And just a hop, skip, and a jump from the lovable likes of Smith Street - or a few short steps from the EPA's Superfund Site, the Gowanus Canal.

As we've said before, it's always better to be the last janky house on a nice block than the first nice house on a janky block. This may take the cake, though. The contrast between the quality of the renovation and the tragic block that it's on is intense. We're not sure who the intended audience was here. Although there's new condos to your left, there looks to be an on-going/stalled project to your right.

It's no wonder this house, first listed in May 2009 for $1.6M, has hung out to dry for over a year, even with the price drop to $1.42M. (Note: PropertyShark still has the place listed as a 3-Family, hmmm...)

All that aside, take a moment to marvel at this blue kitchen with us...

Or this marble-looking tile & table...

We're going to go ahead with this listing and technically designate this "Carroll Gardens" for the purposes of our headings, but in full disclosure this is Gowanus in anybody's book.

Pro's: top-notch renovation, fireplace, backyard

Con's: neighborhood, price, Superfund, renovation vs. neighborhood contrast

Ideally: We'd go for one of those ultra-renovated on the inside vinyl-siding places in South Slope before we hop on over here. Too many concerns about the Canal. Gentrification is a powerful force, but it can't cure hazardous toxins or their lasting stigma.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Mad At Ya, Fort Greene: 176 Adelphi Street

We love Fort Greene as much as anybody else. And 176 Adelphi Street offers a lot for a small little house too. But the asking price here is obviously a stretch. It's okay - we're not at mad at ya, Corcoran, for trying to fetch top dollar for a crisp, clean space in a lovable neighborhood. As points out, the same dough might even be better spent on "the deeply-flawed but larger and better-preserved 204 Clermont". We couldn't've said it better ourselves!

Past Willoughby is a bit off the beaten path for top dollar in this neighborhood too. Makes us miss 258 Adelphi Street.

Pro's: nicely renovated, nice layout given the size, Fort Greene

Con's: 14' wide, high-end price without being all that high-end, not much rental potential in 2-Family

Ideally: Even $1.2M might be on the high end. There's just better ways to spend this kind of money out there. But this will be a nice house for the right owner at the right price.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Newly Listed Deep in Carroll Gardens: 8 4th Place

8 4th Place is a nice-looking brick 3-Family building on a nice-looking block, deep in Carroll Gardens. There's a front and back yard, 2 rental units, on a quaint block filled with adorable, manicured front lawns. The neighborhood-y feel of even deep Carroll Gardens has an appeal. And we've already documented some of the rents that have arrived here. However, the walk to the train and the desirable amenities of this neighborhood are a bit far from this house. And you're almost in the shadows of the BQE, down the street AND around the corner, on this outer edge of the neighborhood. Unless, that is, you enjoy jaunts to Ikea being almost more convenient than the walk to the F-train.

The price is looking a bit steep to us considering this house just listed last weekend, amid activity on two other properties closer to Court Street, also on 4th Place. With 77 4th Place listing for $1.5M and closing for $1.05M last month, it's not likely a 35' deep building further off the path could command the full $1.45M. We also have yet to see where 43 4th Place closes.

Pro's: neighborhood-y feel, yards, curb appeal, 4 floors

Con's: distance from trains and amenities, proximity to BQE, 35' depth

Ideally: someone will value the home-y feel of this place and will make due with the downsides, but for this price?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back in South Slope: 443 11th Street

There's a few of these small 3-Family buildings in South Park Slope out there in this price range. 443 11th Street is an 18' footwide 3-Family brick building listed for $1.295M on a nice block between 6th and 7th Avenues. You've got the F and G trains just two blocks away. The listing says the building is "in need of renovation", which is the trick to this place. Even in moderate condition, this building might not command this price in this market. But only the true ballers are ready for the $100K-$200K downpayment needed AND the $100K+ that's likely needed in renovation. Probably not the best place to devote $300K in our book.

Anyone interested in this one should compare to properties such as 345 13th Street, which happens to no longer be available as of last month. Ok, so that comparison might not be the best now. But it's even worth a look at 286 10th Street. There's a few others out there.

Pro's: location, transportation, curb appeal, Slope-appeal

Con's: width, needs renovation, probably 1BR rentals

Ideally: Depending on the condition, there could be value here if the price comes down 10-20%. Although with some pretty heavy equity taken out on the place in 2006, there may not be that much room lower.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Post-Slope"-ing it in Clinton Hill: 232 Greene Avenue

Yesterday we took a look at a small 3-Family building in Park Slope for $1.15M in a neighborhood so beloved that it might make up for the building's size.

Today we've got a small 2-Family in Clinton Hill that started at $1.175M, now listed at $1.05M

232 Greene Avenue is a 17' wide building set up as two duplexes.

Where is $1.1M-ish better spent? Transportation's tough for some in Clinton Hill with the G train closest and only the C train a few blocks further.

When we ran into our boy from Yeasayer having coffee outside of Choice a while back, he weighed in, "All those strollers in Park Slope, man. I feel like they're judging me. Clinton Hill, this is like the best neighborhood in Brooklyn."

You got Pratt straddled up next to the projects and it's just a blend some can really go for. As always, it's easy for us to day-dream of waking up to Choice bacon/egg/n'/cheese breakfasts. One could make a case for this place for sure, at the right price.

The Lis Pendens from July 2008 has us a little thrown too. There should be plenty of equity in the place from what we can tell. Hmmm...

Anybody diggin' the blond brick? We're flip-flopping on that one. Spike Lee's Absolut Brooklyn venture has kinda killed the mood for us on the look of certain Brooklyn exteriors.

Thanks a lot, Spike!

Pro's: location (for some), curb appeal (for some), "Post-Slope" neighborhood

Con's: transportation, narrow at 17' wide, not much rental income potential

Ideally: Compare it to neighbors like 72 Downing Street and hall of famers like 175 Greene Avenue and there should be room below $1M.

Affordability in the Slope: 360 6th Avenue

If you love the amenities, proximity to Prospect Park, and strollers of Park Slope, but don't have the $2M to spend on a huge brownstone, it's pretty slim pickens. Luckily, there are a few options. 360 6th Avenue is a small, vacant, 3-Family brick building on a great, quiet little stretch of the Slope. The building's pretty thin at 16' wide, though the lot is deep so the backyard is an ample 30'. We like that the "renovated laundry room" is on the laundry list (pun intended) of features this building has to offer, while there's clearly a LAUNDROMAT next door in the photo. Any vacant 3-Family building offers a certain amount of versatility, but with such a small floorplate in a narrow building like this, it's hard to imagine having much to work with for living or renting. Currently set-up as an owner's duplex with 2 floor-through rentals above, there's only so much those rentals can ever fetch. Besides, Slope rents aren't what they used to be.

That said, this place is probably priced pretty well. Massey Knakal generally doesn't like to dick around. The property compares favorably to a few others we've covered like the nearby 505 6th Avenue. With only a few properties in this price range on these blocks, it's easy to compare apples to apples, even when it's apples to oranges.

("Jewish Edition" no less!)

And getting into an undeniably-nice hood at a low price point always has value. As a wise man once told me, "You'd always rather be the last crumby house in a nice neighborhood than the first nice house in a crumby neighborhood."

Pro's: location!, deep yard, vacant, potential value, easy to know what you're getting Slope-wise

Con's: width, not much rental potential, condition unknown

Ideally: If the size isn't a deal-breaker for you, it's worth a look. Stack it up to the other hodge-podge properties in the Slope around this price. And, as always, avoiding the mansion tax would be a nice plus too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friendly Frame House: 193 Washington Avenue

No real, public MLS in Brooklyn makes things hard. However, there are deals to be had when you really turn over all the stones in the neighborhood. Clinton Hill is no exception. 193 Washington Avenue is a 3-Family frame house at a do-able price and with lots to offer. There's no "For Sale" sign and it won't show up in most searches, but this is a great property. Although the listing doesn't tell you, there's a huge, lovely backyard, an owner's duplex, and two legit-2BR rentals above. This house is in great condition and needs only a modest amount of fixing up. The listing even says the price is negotiable!

The block this building's on is quite cute and some might even like the look of the frame construction over the abundance of brownstone out there. Plus, there's nothing wrong with being right next to all kinds of amenities on Myrtle, Pratt, and the G train. Not for the must-be-close-the-C-train camp of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill - but there's a buyer out there who will love this property.

Pro's: nice owner's duplex, spacious backyard, 2BR rentals, unique look

Con's: location's off the beaten path for city-bound trains, frame house has its concerns, some small repairs needed immediately,

Ideally: It's hard for this house to command over a million given its rents, location, and competition. However, below a million this becomes an interesting place, depending on your downpayment & renovation budget.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Classy Clinton Hill 2-Family: 8 Lefferts Place

Great listing here, as Prudential is apt to do, for a great-looking house. 8 Lefferts Place is the kind of place we like to see. The listing has a variety of pictures, a layout, and a full write-up. The list price of $1.27M may be a little steep for a 2-Family, but there's a great combination of original details and renovations here. We don't begrudge them this price at all. Often times we get snarky while slicing & dicing these buildings, but we love to give credit where credit's due too and ya gotta love when ya see a place like this.

Location-wise, the neighborhood's still on its way up. This stretch of Fulton is one of the last main commercial avenues to really make the most of itself. But the C train is close-by. This isn't the no-man's land stretch of Clinton Hill at all.

Pro's: curb appeal, great condition & details inside, train access

Con's: off the beaten path for good amenities, 35' deep makes for a skimpy floor-plate

Ideally: It's harder to peg a price on something this nice. Someone who falls in love with it will probably pay a premium for it. And gosh-bless 'em for it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Still Standing in Deep Carroll Gardens: 121 Rapelye Street

We don't like to bring you stale listings like these, but in an effort to be comprehensive, we'll take it on. Besides, it's a fairly interesting case & is typical Brooklyn real estate in action. 121 Rapelye Street is a semi-attached 4-Family brownstone deep in Carroll Gardens. Orginally listed at $1.45M sometime before the crash in 2008, then dropped to $1.3M sometime after a Lis Pendens was filed in September 2009, then re-listed still at $1.3M with a different broker in February 2010. First of all, a price drop of 10% hasn't traditionally been enough for most pre-crash prices - just ask 204 Clermont Avenue. Second of all, we can't imagine what this Lis Pendens is all about. It appears the owner paid $160K in 1992 for the property, satisfied the mortgage in 2007, and hasn't taken out any additional money on this property. The document type on the Lis Pendens is "Specific Performance", but we can't imagine what kind of debt that'd be that couldn't be refinanced and paid off using the equity in the property. And, finally, even the re-listing can't be helping much. The property is still pretty undercover, and the agent hasn't responded to our telephone calls or e-mails. If you stood to make a $75K+ commission on one deal, would you be GONE FISHING?

Either way, something smells fishy. The property's vacant - wouldn't you wanna collect some $6,000+/month in rent while you're awaiting foreclosure? Rents are decent in this area these days. Some of our friends priced out of Park Slope and the East Village have made their way over here, and it ain't cheap either! These owners have to have seen some ballpark offers in the past 2 years, and no bites? What do you think?

Note, semi-attached buildings have their advantages and disadvantages. We like to imagine some Norah Jones-style windows punched into the west side property.

Pro's: vacant, wide, some original details, rents have arrived here

Con's: off the beaten path, close to the BQE, price, odd situation

Ideally: Take a closer look, give a low-ball offer a stab, but good luck even getting in touch with this agent.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Too Good to be True, IS: 358 Carlton Avenue

Imagine our surprise when we saw a handsome brick, presumably 3-Family building on one of the cutest blocks in Fort Greene, close to all amenities, the park, and the C-train, listed for less than a million! Too good to be true? Well, it is. The listing for 358 Carlton Avenue touts 3 meters (hence our assumption of a 3-Family status), 8 bedrooms (just the way we like 'em), and 4 full bathrooms. On paper, even with extensive TLC needs, this place has no business listing for less than $1.3M.

Hmmm, that's funny, because word on the street is it's actually an estate sale and the listing appears to be intentionally low-ball to create buzz (and bids) and that the first round of bidding was already up to $1.3M. We even hear that the "impossibly good looking" (as one ready deemed him) Vinny Chase was there at one of the showings.

E's been doing his homework, we presume. One of our favorite details is the listing's call to arms that "TODAY IS THE DAY TO MAKE A CHANGE." As if we were twiddling our thumbs in our $989K building in Brownsville without realizing we should be in the heart of Fort Greene for the same price. Still, the "Man in the Mirror" reference isn't lost on us.

Status-wise, also note that Property Shark has this as a "Two family Converted (From One Family)".

Pro's: curb appeal, location, 8 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, width, price!

Con's: estate sales are messy, lengthy, and the price will escalate, C-of-O might be an issue

Ideally: You get a look-see, suss-out the C-of-O issues, put in a reasonable bid, and cross your fingers. With comparable properties in this area fetching upwards of $1.5M, there's room to bid yet. Someone will probably over-pay for this. But they'll also be happy. A well-documented effect in economics known as "the winner's curse".

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prospect Heights 3-Family/Mixed-Use: 692 Washington Avenue

692 Washington Avenue is a nice-looking three story building in a budding stretch of Prospect Heights. For those of you as in love with the Prospect Heights stretch of new & improved Vanderbilt Avenue as we are, it doesn't take too much vision to see this place having some upside. However, there's a little devil in the details with its 3-Family status. While Property Shark has it as a 3-Family residential building, it's being advertised as a mixed-use property because there's a vacant commercial space on the first floor. This difference can be crucial.

In case you don't know, there's a major distinction between residential loans and commercial loans. Namely, commercial loans require 25% down or more these days (30-50% down often times, depending on circumstances and where you go...). FHA loans on residential multi-family properties (the backbone of this website and our investment approach) can still be obtained with 3.5%-5% down. If there is one store in a building, even a 3-unit building like this one, it is considered "mixed-use" and requires a commercial loan. Run this by your mortgage broker, but if there's a currently an empty store on that first floor and the C-of-O is a 3-Family residential, perhaps you can just use it as an apartment and go FHA. They tell us banks want to close with whatever the current use of the place is. The listing has only a thumbnail, but there looks to be a cute-sy commercial space in place there:

Pro's: budding neighborhood, curb appeal, price point, "modernized" 2BR rentals getting $1,400/month already

Con's: a little off the beaten path, uncertainty about mixed-use vs. 3-Family status, not the best time or neighborhood to rely on commercial tenants or to try and put 30%+ down

Ideally: One could close this property with a residential loan. There's an opportunity here for sure, and down the road this might be a property with a lot of upside.