Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, Same Ol' Building, Same Price: 26 St. James Place

Here's a lovely brownstone in the heart of residential Clinton Hill, close to the C train, the G train, Choice, Pratt, and all kinds of amenities on Myrtle. 26 St. James Place was once listed for this same price of $1.35M with Brown Harris Stevens in the Fall of 2008, just after the crash. It was featured as one of's Open Houses of the Day. After a little hiatus (surely, it's taken us all a while to recover) suddenly it's back & vague-er than ever! A different broker we're not familiar with has the listing, and isn't giving us what's really needed: clarity on the occupancy status. The Certificate on Occupany has this place listed as a 6-Family. The listing calls out 6 bathrooms. It's unclear whether there are still tenants. Like yesterday's listing, we have lots of questions. Unlike yesterday's listing, the price isn't reflecting the issues the property has. And yesterday's listing was in a WAY more desirable neighborhood for some $150K less.

We have to give it up to 26 Saint James Place, though, for its great curb appeal and original details:

Throw in the huge block full of housing projects that starts right across the street from the property...

And there are certainly some pro's & con's to weigh. Everyone who's interested in this property will need to understand the occupancy issues, because it affects everything. We wish the agent would have addressed what's going on there. Lots of homework to be done for prospective buyers. That's where we come in!

Pro's: curb appeal, location, original details, lots of bathrooms (but at what price? =)

Con's: huge potential issues with occupancy, might need a commercial loan

Ideally: the agent can provide a little clarity and the issues aren't deal-breakers. Remember, there are some gorgeous 6-Family's over here than can't close at $800K!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Killer SRO Opportunity: 138 Prospect Place

You want to live here: around the corner from the B/Q trains at 7th Avenue, on a cute little block in Prospect Heights at the cusp of Park Slope and Prospect Park. Even as an SRO, this house has value all day. There's all kinds of $2M houses crawling around over here, this will be one in the near future. $1.2M isn't even that crazy an asking price. 138 Prospect Place is a 20' wide brownstone building that's got a Certificate of Occupancy (and listing) talking about a 1 Family duplex and 7 furnished rooms on the other floors. What has us confused is how there are only 2,725 square feet if the building is 20' x 55' and four stories with the garden level. Perhaps not all floors are as deep?

Who knows if it's delivered vacant, with tenants (potentially hostile), with a Certificate on Non-harrassment filed or not? These are unknowns that have real effect on the value, and are worth looking into, but this property will move regardless. There are only so many place like this on these blocks.

Not much can be expected of the interior, but as often is the case, we get a few janky pictures of the original details like marble fireplaces:

The owner seems to have had this house for decades, but faced numerous Lis Pendens in 2003, 2006, and 2007 for tax liens on what are relatively miniscule amounts. Property Shark is even showing a foreclosure auction that was scheduled for 11/18/2010 for those tax liens. It's unclear to us whether the auction happened and now someone's flipping it, or if the seller still has a chance to get out from under it. The listing appeared about a month after the auction was scheduled for. Call the agent, get the scoop, there's something juicy here!

Pro's: curb appeal, 55' deep, proximity to trains, park and many neighborhoods, tree-lined block

Con's: lack of clarity on SRO status, hefty renovation may be in order, tenants may be hostile

Ideally: there's room well below asking price to satify both buyer and seller.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

4-Fam' in Cobble Hill is Calling: 82 Butler Street

Listed just above the borough-high average of $1.54M for Cobble Hill homes, at $1.595M, 82 Butler Street is a 4-Family brownstone in PRIME Cobble Hill that's worth a look. Unlike some of the more lofty price points or janky joints running around these parts towards outer Carroll Gardens, this looks like a turn-key rental operation. It would seem the apartments are set-up as large 1BR's, but if 2BR's could fit on any of the floors, given the 25' width of this building, the rent per floor might be more optimal. We love that the listing even calls out the gross rent roll of $94K/year, the fact that each unit has its own washer/dry (great ROI there), and that tenants even pay their own heat & hot water.

Don't forget the back yard and deck:

At these current rents, the max FHA loan amount might not get all the way up to the 4-Family loan limit of $1.4M. But market rents might be estimated even a little higher, so ask around. From what we can tell, the owner's had it for years and is sitting on a great monthly rental income check and tons of equity. So probably no hurry to drop the price there, but also perhaps room to negotiate without any heavy loan to get out from under.

Especially with foolishness like this going on, a garden-level condo closing a few blocks away for $700/sqft+, at $479/sqft, 82 Butler is almost a play as a condo alternative. Or, given its great condition on the interior, it's not even a far cry from a condo conversion play.

Pro's: prime Cobble Hill, steps to usable trains & amenities, great rental income potential, totally turn-key, 25' wide, backyard & deck

Con's: currents rents can't get up to $1.4M loan limit, 1BR's rentals?

Ideally: look into it and keep an eye on it. This is a good buy for many at this asking price. It becomes REALLY interesting anywhere closer to $1.4M.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Great Potential in Clinton Hill: 238 Lafayette Avenue

238 Lafayette Avenue is 3-Family brick building in need of renovation that, at $1.05M, is priced like they actually want to sell it. There are a few renovations popping up in Clinton Hill like the SRO 187 St. James Place, but there might be even more potential here. 238 Lafayette is a compact 19' x 35' building on the corner of Waverly and Lafayette. It's basically right in between Choice and the Brooklyn Flea, across from a little park/playground. The G train rumbles underneath and a bus route zooms by, up across the street from some lovably-edgy (at least to hipsters & Pratt students) housing projects. No backyard, but check out the parking space:

Maybe those windows could be reclaimed or more put in on that unattached side? When compared to 310 Lafayette, you gotta figure the price has to come down here on 238. And there may be room to come down afterall. With a Lis Pendens that was filed on 10/29/10, and the owner owing some $400K (from what we can tell), there should be room to relieve the owner and still get a deal. Keep in mind, the renovation could be extensive and costly no matter how you cut it:

Unless you're going for that Ladies Man look & feel to the living room:

Lots of pro's & con's to weigh. It's steps from the G train, but that's also only the G train. And it's right on top of the noise of the G train too. So it's a toss up...

Pro's: corner lot, curb appeal, parking space, hip location

Con's: in need of renovation, small, no backyard, 1BR rentals, noisy transportation around

Ideally: there's a move to be made that nets the seller enough and leaves the buyer enough left over for the renovation

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tiny 2-Family's Keep Coming: 444 Sackett Street

"Why Go To Manhattan?" this listing asks. Hmmm, good question. Maybe because we don't wanna overpay for a narrow, not-that-great house that hardly even stacks up to condo's on a price-per-sqft basis? $689/sqft for a 2-Family that's on a block toward Gowanus? We're not seeing it. 444 Sackett has got some explaining to do.

This makes the also-tiny 473 Union around the corner (now "On Hold") look like a steal. We like the backyard:

But we don't know what we like less: the fakey floors or the tiny, dated kitchen:

As great as this general neighborhood is, you can't charge this much for a small house and lousy finishes. Something's gotta give. The listing boasts, "Freshly Painted." Yeah, so are $900/month studio apartments in Queens. What are they talking about? The only thing this listing has going for it is they took pictures and put it on an MLS. In what is unfortunately a rare move for income properties, they also called out the $1,500/month rental income. Ooh, and they have the condition listed as "Vintage". Aren't real estate euphemisms the best? Ya win some, ya lose some.

Pro's: Carroll Gardens-y, price-point seems low, close to the train, curb appeal

Con's: Gowanus-y, relative price, tiny, 16' wide, dated and/or cheap finishes.

Ideally: spend this dough on something larger. If this goes for more than a million, we'll be astonished.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Short Sale Time: 290 Greene Avenue

As these Brooklyn properties go, we've been up & down Greene Avenue in Fort Greene & Clinton Hill. 175 Greene Avenue sits in our hall of fame. We covered 103 and 105 Greene earlier this week, 347 Greene last week. 147 Greene had the fire damage. Our buddy in Yeasayer even chimed in for 232 Greene. An agent wouldn't even show us 312 Greene last year without the understanding that it would be "not a penny under $1.5M" - closed this summer for $1.275M. Our offer of $800K in April on 298 Greene was scoffed at, then it turned around and closed months later for $825K on 9/9/2010.

Today we take a look at 290 Greene, which we stumbled on in an interesting Trulia talk thread about how there's no real multiple listing service for brownstone Brooklyn - the pet peeve that spawned this blog. 290 Greene is a 4-Family building on the corner of Classon and Greene, heading towards Bed-Stuy from Clinton Hill. The building's only attached on one side and has a bus stop right in front of it (can you say, BEEP BEEP BEEP 24/7 as the bus toots and the airbrakes huff & puff over that little 2 inch accomodation the bus makes when it stops?). The building was purchased in May 2007 for $850K. We're not sure of the condition inside then or now, but it sounds like it could've been a reasonable buy, even if it happened during the boom. But a Lis Pendens was filed 12/31/09. Shortly afterwards, this listing appeared for $475K. How could this building not go for that price, almost regardless of condition? We're not sure if this listing is still active, even. But we couldn't imagine much has changed, since the owner's still in the same position on this property. See the inside, make a play!

Pro's: 23' wide, 4-Family status, price!, outer Clinton Hill for deep Bed-Stuy prices

Con's: off the beaten path, curb appeal, condition inside unknown, bus stop in front

Ideally: this place needs less than $200K in work and is a nice pick up for somebody with the time and cash for a renovation.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Prospect Heights: 463 St. Johns Place

Listed two days ago, it's a Christmas Miracle!! Okay, not really. It's more like a little too far and little too pricey and a little too overly-yet-jankily renovated. It's 463 St. Johns Place. The Streeteasy listing even has more info than the broker's site itself.

There's definitely been a renovation here. Some of the highlights include:

The owner picked it up in 2003 for $250K, and might've put the same amount into rehabbing the place. But the kitchen and bathroom remain dated-feeling in their style and don't really match the rest of the house. We wish we'd see this kind of wood, windows, and fireplace in something that wasn't so far away. We don't mean to be scrooge-like about it, but with the 2-Family loan limit sitting squarely at $960K, there's way better places to put 20% down on. That said, you can pick up a fine house if they'll go to $999K. There should be plenty of equity built in with which to do so, but that doesn't always translate to seller capitulation.

Pro's: renovated, backyard, deck over yard, great wood floors & original mantles, close to the train, museum, and Prospect Park

Con's: date-feeling kitchen and bath (even if they're recently renovated), 17' wide, price

Ideally: $999K

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Soaring Prices: 345 Sackett Street

Just a few doors down from 341 Sackett, the unfortunate fakey brick place we held a Hater's Ball for some months before a fire half collapsed the joint, comes a solid 3-Family that can hold its head high: 345 Sackett Street.

We're pretty sure we've seen this signage up outside the building and the listing up for a few months, but Property Shark, Zillow, and the all just got hip to it this month. Streeteasy knows nothing of it, mind you. The group that has the listing, Vespa, specializes in pricey properties in this area, many above $2M. Indeed, the average list price on these blocks is the highest in the borough at $1.54M. And you can't argue with the location. Just in from Smith Street, by the corner where Bar Great Harry is, the walk to any amenity and the F/G trains is super convenient. But does a rising tide actually lift all boats?

345 Sackett was purchased in October 2005 for $1.35M, and would get snatched up at that price today. Even around the neighborhood average of $1.54M, we're not sure you'd see too much resistance. The listing would have us believe, "this is a great opportunity to own a property in the neighborhood for under $2M," which is quite a paradigm shift in price-point.

Let's see what we have. The exterior looks great:

The inside of the one apartment they show looks livable, nothing special, nice mix of orginal details & freshening up. Nothing that 159 Luquer doesn't offer just a few blocks deeper and for much less money:

Don't forget the yard!

So what justifies this going above $1.5M again? Rental income? Funny you should ask. Rents are high over here & we don't see that changing any time soon. But how fast are they rising? The listing on the broker's website claims, "collect over $9000/month in rent, or move into one level and still collect approximately $6000/month from the rents." While the NYTimes listing claims, "Fully rented, the building yields just shy of $10,000/month in income for an investor. Take one apartment and still receive nearly $7000/month from the other units." Sounds like a fish tail to us. Check back tomorrow to see if it's making $11K/month.

Also note, Property Shark lists the building as 19' x 40', while the broker's listing generously has it standing at 19' x 56' (but with the same square footage). "The camera adds ten pounds"??

Pro's: curb appeal, great block, close to trains and amenities in one of the best neighborhoods, high rental income potential, turn-key condition, backyard

Con's: high price, listing inconsistencies, same price point gets much more house than this

Ideally: for this price you get yourself one of the nice 4-Families we've covered, or see if this place has room to move closer to $1.5M

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Clinton Hill Neighbors: 105 Greene Avenue

Kind of in that lovable no-man's land between Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, right across the street from Prospect Drugs, comes 105 Greene Avenue.

It looks like the current owner's got it in '05 or 06 for $1.5M-something. They quickly went into Lis Pendens by 2007, which would make them a short-sale candidate at this point. Now listed for sale at $1.65M? Does anyone throw that kind of money around lightly? They could at least show something on the inside for that inflated price. At least 107 Gates from earlier this week could do that. Especially since there's any number of over-priced 2-Family homes out there, such as:476 DeGraw, or the equally-mysterious but way better situated 228 Cumberland, or 61A South Elliot Place.

They're barely even showing us the outside of the place. The picture on the listing shows signage and scaffolding:

However, we were able to uncover some shots of the inside from an expired Corcoran listing - who else, right? Even when they don't have the listing anymore - and it was only a rental listing to begin with - they're still more on top of it than the current listing broker is! That's like doing your job better than your co-workers, long after you've quit.

But Corcoran doesn't quit. Right next door they have 103 Greene Avenue. The good sister. The pretty one. Owners paid $2.1M a few years ago and are probably just looking to move on, even though they may still be over-priced at $2.35M - which can buy a heck of a lot of house in all kinds of neighborhoods these days. The listing is another pro job for sure by the agent and Corcoran's group, but we don't see any rush at this price with what else is out there.

Lots of things are holding 105 back here too, but we'd love to see the whole current inside and find out if there's a price where it's interesting.

Pro's: around the corner from Brooklyn Flea, curb appeal?, "look at the lovely $2M home next door!"?

Con's: 2-Family status in the first place, no pics of the inside, price isn't competetive at all for the 2-Family market

Ideally: the price action moves down agressively and we get some idea of the interior.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another Good Buy Deep in Carroll Gardens: 152 Luquer Street

Right across the street from 159 Luquer, which we covered a few weeks ago before it quickly went into contract, we noticed the recent sale of 152 Luquer Street. The sale closed for $1.15M at the end of October and was recorded last week.

159 went into contract quickly with a decent interior and a not-too-high price point. We expect the final number to be close to asking price.

152 looks to be an estate sale and we're not sure where or if it was every publicly listed for sale. If it were, we imagine it might've fetched more.

Pro's: neighborhood, curb appeal, relative price point

Con's: a little off the beaten path, boxed in by the BQE edges of Carroll Gardens, condition?

Ideally: there's a few more plays like this at a nice entry point to a good neighborhood.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another Nice 2-Family: 107 Gates Avenue

In the heart of residential Clinton Hill, at the corner of St. James and Gates Avenue comes 107 Gates. According to Zillow, this place was picked up on 4/20/05 for $1.1M, listed with Corcoran on 9/11/09 for $1.499M after a great renovation, quickly dropped price by $100K, and now listed with Prudential for the same $1.399M. Property Shark has the original list price in 2009 at $1.575M.

While being on a corner is great, the exterior is not what it could be. We appreciate the renovation being clean & shiny, even if it's kind of dinky. We're not sure how much was spent here, but the flip certainly hasn't panned out.

We think the Zillow listing reveals what the problem over here has been all along, "Once lived in as a four unit but now gut renovated to house two units." Two units is obviously not the ideal use for this space. Nobody needs a five-bedroom triplex and one bedroom rental. And who wants to compete against these gorgeous 2-Family's? If they had simply converted this to a 3-Family and done essentially the same renvation, someone could have bought this for $1.3M-$1.4M a long time ago. Instead, this barely competes with 64 Lefferts at this rate. The 3-Family loan limit approaching $1.2M could have kept this sale in the game. This place just shoots itself in the foot. Sure, the backyard is great; but who's gonna pay this much for an owner's triplex, and not even get access to their own backyard??

And the listing doesn't do the house its full justice either. For example, if the place has parking, we'd love it if the agent would come out and describe it. Instead, we get the uselessly playful, "PARKING anyone?" Even poor old 204 Clermont might get sold before this place does.

Pro's: corner lot, decent renovation, great neighborhood-y block, close to the train, backyard

Con's: layout, price, 2-Family status, backyard goes to the 1BR rental?

Ideally: they had converted to a 3-Family in the first place. If you consider how much money they paid, when they bought, and what they'll get now, it's just shame so much money was put in without adding that much value.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Huge 4-Family Relisted in Outer Clinton Hill: 347 Greene Avenue

We first noticed this listing last fall when it was going for $1.495M (with Brown Harris Stevens, according to Street Easy). Now 347 Greene Avenue has been relisted for about a month at $1.64M. This huge, 25' wide 4-Family brick building is 65' deep providing a huge floorplate that can fit 4BR's and 1.5 bathrooms. The layout and photos from the previous listing indicate this is fitting that much per floor is very do-able:

(photos to small to include)

The old listing says the rentals were getting a very believable $2,700/each, which puts the gross rental income for this place above $10,000/month. That would justify its original list price, but not this one. The location is pushing it a bit too. The block is a little odd. There are Pratt student rentals for sure, but the trains and amenities aren't all that. The little garden next door is a nice touch. The construction project on the other side is probably finished. Who can argue with 8,000+ sqft?

If 312 Greene could ever consider $1.5M, this place certainly might fetch close to that.

Pro's: huge size, 4BR rentals, more than 1 bath per apartment, rental income potential

Con's: off the beaten path, what's with the price jump?, what's going on on that block?

Ideally: there's something to justify this price leap, but we're not seeing it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Contract SRO: 280 Park Place

On one of our favorite tree-lined blocks in Prospect Heights comes 280 Park Place. When you're right next to Prospect Park, around the corner from the ever-more-awesome Vanderbilt Avenue, and on one of the most stately blocks around - that's gold, Jerry!

The bottom two floors are a huge 20' x 72'. The SRO status is what's killing the price here, because the condition looks great with lots of original wood details:

There's been lots of activity on this block recently in this price range, including right next door. 282 Park Place closed for $1.8M on 4/28/10. But don't even get us started on that lovely estate sale that just closed on the other side of Vanderbilt. We never even saw it hit the market, but 209 Prospect Place closed for $1M on 9/2/10. According to Zillow, this listing for 280 Park Place was removed in the spring of 2010 after first hitting the market on 8/25/2009. And it's still sitting in contract?

We're not sure if a condo conversion is the best play, as the listing indicates. And whether or not they can provide a Certificate of Non-Harassment is huge too. Throw some Norah Jones windows on the unattached side, and you're in business!

Pro's: delivered vacant, size, proximity to park, trains, and amenities, great block, condition looks great compared to most SRO's

Con's: curb appeal compared to rest of block, priced like a non-SRO, time and money needed to change SRO status

Ideally: can't wait to see what it closes for. Could be a great buy if played right, but too rich for our blood.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Clinton Hill SRO: 187 St. James Place

We jumped at this nice-looking brick building on a quaint little block in Clinton Hill with a modest list price of $879K. However, when you look closer, 187 St. James Place is an SRO. Which our lawyer says is 6 months and $50K to convert to a multi-family, nevermind the renovation. Our contractor's saying that making more than strictly cosmetic changes can be more than $50K+/floor. It's looking a little raggidy inside...

A bigger, better canvas to bury that kinda money into might be 109 Lefferts Ave. At this price, in this area, you're probably better off putting a little more down on a finished place. In other areas, even 473 Union still stands tall compared to this place.

Pro's: curb appeal, nice block, price point

Con's: SRO status, needs total renovation, only ~2000sqft?

Ideally: you'd have to have plenty of time and some deep pockets to make it worth it at this price.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Finally Found Ya: 310 Lafayette Avenue

We've honestly been asking this agent for months to tell us where this place is. We saw the listing, the exterior picture, and now interior pictures; but for some reason the addresses of all the great Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bed-Stuy listings this agent has were revealed to us, except this one. So we took matters into our own hands and tried a little trick we stumbled on. On some listings, if you right-click and save the picture, the default file name the picture will look to save as will contain the address of the property. Guess agents who can't be bothered to tell you the address of a place also can't be bothered to change the file name when they save the picture. Either way, check out what we uncovered!!

310 Lafayette Avenue is a 3-Family brick building 4 doors away from our beloved Choice Market.

Can you smell that yummy bacon, egg & cheese cooking? The price might be a tad high considering the neighborhood's pricing and the noisy block it's on. But then we see a bit of nice, bright interior with wood floors and original fireplace...

And it starts to compare favorably to the corner property up the way, the gut reno 238 Lafayette.

According to Zillow, the property was purchased in 2006 for just $309K. Not sure if this owner did the renovations or took out more equity.

Pro's: location, curb appeal, original details, wood floors, high ceilings,

Con's: pricing, not that much square footage, Lafayette is a busy avenue with a bus route going down it & G-train underneath

Ideally: there's a play to make in the $1.05-$1.1M range!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Slice of Queens in Prospect Heights: 698 Dean Street

A paved, gated front yard with a drive-way? Welcome to Queens.... errr... Prospect Heights, that is. On a quiet, little block between Vanderbilt and Underhill, comes 698 Dean Street. Only a 2-Family and less than 40' deep, with a nice-but-dated interior, we're not sure about the pricing. Even though it's within the FHA loan range for 2-Families, the layout is odd with a basement studio and a "4BR" on top. Check the layout. With $900K-ish getting a decent amount of brick or brownstone house just off the beaten path, we're not sure one has to compromise so much over here unless the price comes down significantly. It looks like the owner's cost basis is really low, and only a little bit of equity has been taken out. So maybe there's room to move if the play works for someone.

Pro's: proximity to Vanderbilt Avenue, down the hill from Prospect Park, at least it's not a million

Con's: curb appeal, dated interior and finishes, more house could be gotten for same price

Ideally: check out if 468 Carlton's worth its price or 473 Union.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

By the Park, With a Store: 188 Underhill Avenue

We don't usually cover commercial properties, but this one's too juicy to resist. 188 Underhill is a new listing by these jokers at Myspacenyc who don't appear to have any real sales listings on their website (including this one) and only specialize in a ton of rentals. Any building that has a store is considered "mixed-use" and needs a commercial loan, which nowadays requires 30-35% down. But that's about the only downside over here. Very few properties in this area go for $1M or less. The closest might be 108 Underhill, which is much further down the hill, small, and oddly-shaped. Here on 188 Underhill, instead, we've got a huge building that's 19' x 57' making for an ample floorplate. There's a store on the ground floor with a large backyard to work with, in addition to two 3BR rentals that look like they're in decent shape:

This interior is nothing special; clean white walls and handsome wood floors. That does the trick. The pictures aren't as informative as they could be, but at least they're there. We LOVE using this large floorplate for 3BR rentals. That's the ideal lay-out for this kind of space in terms of rental value. We imagine $800/BR would be the lowest one could expect to fetch over here. Who wouldn't want to be situated on a quiet block right by the library, the museum, the park, Grand Army Plaza and the trains there?

The property is very comparable to 692 Washington, another mixed-use place that is slighty smaller, not as well-situated, and a little less expensive.

The retail space offers interesting options, but nobody's done anything with it yet. Property Shark has a listing by the same myspacenyc group that's been up for 245+ days to rent that space for $3,500/month. Probably a little too steep for this area, but who knows what they're paying over there on Vanderbilt? This block might not be too far away from a similar renaissance.

Pro's: size, location, 3BR rentals, price, proximity to Prospect Park

Con's: needs a hefty downpayment, commercial space can be tricky

Ideally: we don't see how this doesn't fetch this price or higher, to a buyer with that commercial loan kind of downpayment. Very few places in this price range have the potential to gross $9K-ish/month and offer this proximity to the park