Thursday, October 21, 2010

We're going on vacation...

Nature calls!

We'll be back in action November 1st.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2's a Family, 3's Not a Crowd: 414 Park Place

414 Park Place is an 18' wide limestone building on one of the nicer blocks in Prospect Heights. It's a very pretty renovation, it's got a deep yard as the house sits on a 131' lot. It's close to Prospect Park, the delights of Vanderbilt Avenue, and the Eastern Parkway trains. A little exposed brick and decorative fireplaces don't hurt. Although, one of the kitchens is a bit dated and blends too much into the living space for this price. We especially love the 3 skylights on the top floor.

The professional pictures were just put up the other day, but check out this impressionist, worse-than-a-camera phone pic they started with:

Which looks more like Van Gogh's "Garden Behind a House" than the work of someone prepared to make as much as $84K in commission:

Ya gotta love Brooklyn real estate! The rub here is the "Legal 3 family used as a 2 family" situation. If the bank actually lets you close with this house as a 3-Family, there's a range between the FHA loan limit and the list price to make some moves. If not, why on earth wouldn't you be spending this same money on the far superior 54 St. Felix Street that Prudential also has listed? From the looks of the small, hard to read layout on the website for 414 Park Place, there are only 2 kitchens, which indicates the bank won't let you close with more than 2 units, since we're told current use is how these are treated.

Pro's: curb appeal, handsome block, location, deep lot, yard, a few nice details

Con's: price, 2/3-Family status, not the best 2nd kitchen for this price

Ideally: The bank lets you close with this a 3-Family, but that's doubtful. If you've got the dough for this as 2-Family, go to 54 St. Felix Street and get yourself a better, cooler house.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Great Canvass: 109 Lefferts Place

109 Lefferts Place is a huge 3-family brownstone with lots to offer - just like its listing says. Who doesn't want a handsome, 4-story, 3-Family brownstone in need of a little fixing up for under a million? We're digging the front garden, the back yard, the original details...

This is the quintessential kind of place, only if it weren't on this block. We're still trying to get our heads around this block. You've got some foreclosures, some reasonably priced listings, some jankily put together condo conversions with high-end materials - it's a total grab bag. Sandwiched between the Franklin and Clinton-Washington stops on the A/C trains, the block is quiet, but also kinda deserted. We don't know what to make of it. We're not here to hate on this 'hood, though. The house is worth a look, but it may be that the same money is better spent on a renovation that's been long-finished, like 64 Lefferts Place.

Pro's: 4,200 sqft size, curb appeal, front & back yards, malleability, long-term upside

Con's: the current disorder of the block, expensive renovation in order, not many amenities within reach

Ideally: This will certainly be a great long-term play for someone with a longer time horizon, budget, and feel for this neighborhood than us. If that's you, take a look!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quiet Block in the Heart of It All: 472 Carlton Avenue

472 Carlton Avenue is one of many 3-Family brick rowhouses all built in 1996 on this stretch of Carlton and Cumberland just north of Atlantic Avenue. We'd like to offer a more original listing than another selection from Corcoran, but it's hard to seperate the wheat from the chaff in this Wild West environment. There are so many dead or not-contactable listings, it's hard to analyze them with a straight face. Corcoran finally just added a few pictures to this listing, as we've come to expect from them. As expected from newer construction, there's a nice clean space inside to work with.

We can't find any comparable sales in this row of buildings recently. Maybe someone more savvy than us could fill that in. There's pretty clear upsides to a place like this. Although often generic in style, new construction has way fewer maintenance issues than these hundred year old buildings running around with old pipes and electric. Likewise, the layout and use of space is usually better in these modern buildings, without completely losing that rowhouse feel. Buildings just like this, with 3BR rentals, have closed for $1.34M in East Harlem.

Some buyers will have hesitation being this close to Atlantic Avenue and the project across the street. Although that doesn't stop houses on Lafayette and Washington Avenues, there's a more of a barren feel in this pocket between Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. However, maybe one could see this as a great play, a quiet little block just within striking distance of so much. Atlantic terminal, the stadium, Brooklyn flea, the nicest stretches of Fulton and DeKalb and Vanderbuilt are all within reach.

Pro's: new construction, interior condition, low upkeep needed, 2BR rentals with great rental potential, fair curb appeal, location

Con's: cookie-cutter feel to this row of identical houses, projects across the street, not a neighborhoody feel, proximity to Atlantic ave?

Ideally: This asking price is totally legit, although it'll have to come down. With the way things are selling, this shouldn't last long. It will be a good buy for someone for whom the pro's outweight the con's.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Meditative Oasis": 108 Underhill Avenue

First listed back in the Spring of 2008 for $1.5M before the crash, 108 Underhill Avenue has now reappeared this Fall for $1.195M and just recently dropped to $1.145M. With all kinds of closings going down in the past month, including 124 Underhill Avenue going for above asking price at $1.4M, we imagine this price has to be close. This 20' brick building (still unattached?) is being pitched as a "meditative oasis" with such features as a "Zen style multi level garden". You gotta love Corcoran. I mean, really. Between the quality photos they take, the layouts they provide, the actual write-ups they do, and the marketing angle they take sometimes, they go that extra mile to really pitch a place. Sure, this building's got 1BR rentals and a quirky, trapezoidal kind of shape to it. But we also see nice interiors, nice floors, exposed brick, decorative fireplaces, and a straightforward, turn-key building.

Throw in how much we love this neighborhood as more than just "the poor man's Park Slope", and we see this place only hanging out for a little while longer.

Pro's: interior, price, turn-key, neighborhood, yard

Con's: attached?, floor plate shape, 1BR rentals, bit of a hike to the train, curb appeal's a toss-up

Ideally: Offer $999K and work your way towards the middle.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Only the Good Die Young: 691 Sackett Street

You've heard the story a million times. Young talent that falls tragically before its peak. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and now... 691 Sackett Street.

Obviously, the analogy is tongue-in-cheek. This property didn't die; it just went to someone else before us. We're told this property was listed for one day before going into contract. When quality property hits this market at the right price, it doesn't last long. Some 2008 left-overs might be apt to learn the lesson: price right or rot.

In a normal universe, with a search engine for all properties, we'd see something like this coming a mile a way and have a chance (although slim) to snag it. A fighting chance. But somehow a huge opportunity can slip through the cracks.

To snag a 20' feet wide red brick building in prime Park Slope just down from all kinds of goodies on 5th Avenue, around the corner from the Union Street stop on the D/N/R trains, with nice original details, a backyard, in need of only moderate renovation for less than a million? Slam dunk.

We think the listing's call for condo conversion is getting a little ahead of ourselves, especially in this market, but this is the kind of owner-occupiable building that savvy property hunters would die for. 2008 left-overs, eat your heart out.

Pro's: speak for themselves

Con's: none worth mentioning

Ideally: Call up the listing agent and tell 'em you're in for $50K more than whoever's in contract.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another Price Drop Candidate: 120 3rd Place

Some houses have list prices that are still stuck in 2008-mode. Others choose to sell. Sales have picked up in these areas, but for those willing to get realistic. We've documented a few places in this neighborhood that have fallen some $400K+ from list price to sale price. We see little exception here on 120 3rd Place. Originally listed at $1.95M during pre-crash 2008 according to Zillow, and seen here north of $2M as an "Open House Pick" on in 2008.

Brown Harris Stevens snatched up the listing in 2010 and put up some nice photos and a layout. They also dropped the price to $1.795M. We like what we're seeing, for maybe 25% less. They're not showing the exterior, 'cause there's not much to see there. The mumurs on brownstoner talk of a developer that meant to super-size the place and was thwarted, along with tenant issues that were allegedly mishandled. Property Shark says it was purchased for $1.73M in 2006, and then involved in some kind of $3.2M mortgage. Someone's gonna have to cut some losses.

Pro's: 4-family, nice floors and interior in available pics, proximity to Court Street, neighborhood

Con's: curb appeal, price, 1BR floorplan

Ideally: This place makes like the rest of the neighborhood and sells in the $1.4M range, tops.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Missed Another One in Cobble Hill: 440 Henry Street

A few months ago we tipped our hats to whoever put 49 Douglass Street under contract. Way to snag a 4-Family in good condition in a great neighborhood right around the FHA limit. Buildings in need of gut renovation in this area went for that much during the boom. Now, before we could even say this listing for 440 Henry Street at $1.995M would be great around the FHA loan limit, we see that it sold in July 2010 for $1.442M. Nice pick up for sure!

According to Property Shark, the price dropped to $1.65M in March 2010. That must've been the catalyst for the move to the right price. Property Shark also has the C of O as a 3-Family, it's worth noting, although the listings say it's used a 4-Family. Zillow has a few interior pictures that show large rooms with nice wood floors, lots of a original features, and a work-able backyard.

Although a bit of a hike to the trains, the almost-Brooklyn Heights-y feel of this stretch of Cobble Hill might compensate - if you go for that kind of thing. We're not sure what came of the Zillow listing throwing the Rent Controlled tenant curveball, "Priced below market to accomodate elderly RC tenant."

Pro's: curb appeal, 20' wide, neighborhood-y feel, nice interior with original details

Con's: far from trains, Rent Controlled tenant, 3-Family?

Ideally: We'd found this sooner ourselves. Prices are high, but as we see here and on 77 4th Place, some of these low bids on nice places are sticking.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lovely Limestone in Clinton Hill: 64 Lefferts Place

64 Lefferts Place has been around for a while. Originally listed for $1.729M in July 2008 before the crash, it had fallen to $1.495M by the time a Lis Pendens was filed in October 2008. The price has come down to $1.25M by now and we're wondering if we're getting close to the right price. This 3-Family ("used as a two") limestone building has great curb appeal. What pictures we can see show a clean renovation. The back deck looks cute. Although 17' wide, the building is deep enough for a nice floor plate. This price matches the building, but not the location.

Purchasing over here is more of a growth play. We believe the Clinton-Washington C train stop surroundings have potential as people get priced out of Fort Greene. And proximity to Pratt retains value. The Lefferts blocks have their charm, but this stretch of Fulton street starts to get kinda barren. However, there's gotta be a price where this could be the right trade-off for someone.

Pro's: curb appeal, renovation, back deck, growth potential

Con's: off the beaten path, location doesn't offer many amenities, pricing

Ideally: There's a price the seller can still come down to that works for someone who wants this limestone more than the numerous $999K brownstones in the area.