Monday, February 28, 2011

Saint James is in the Place: 125 St. James Place

We don't usually cover the 8-Family game (and we're still not quite sure how you fit 8 units into buildings that usually barely fit 4 units), but 125 St. James Place has the look, the price, and the location we go for. Oh, and it's a real listing! From a real company! With pictures and decriptions and financial breakdowns and everything.

This here is a great block in Clinton Hill, and you can almost see why the two free market units are paying $1,375 and $1,475/month for just under 400 sqft. The other 6 units are rent stabilized (all the same size) with no unit paying less than $918/month. Compare that to rent controlled tenants in neighboring 234 St. James Place, some of which are paying less than $600/month for 1,300+ sqft 3BR places. A recent NYTimes piece on the rent controlled/rent stabilized debate shed some light on the matter. But given every anecdote we've ever heard, and the others in the article, we're astonished at how sour the founder of Property Shark turned on the process of destabilzation considering what a relatively easy time he had with it.

This listing frames the scenario at 125 St. James Place as such:

"There are 6 Rent Stabilized units and 2 Free Market units, which leaves the opportunity for an owner occupier to convert the building to a one-family."

Which is much easier said than done. The number at which these units supposedly automatically destabilize ($2,000/month) isn't a number even the free market units can get, so don't bank on destabilizing that way.

Pro's: curb appeal, nice block, close to the C train, rent controlled units aren't as below market as many neighbors

Con's: commercial loan needed (30-35% down), small units to owner occupy, expensive buyouts and renovations (and that's best-case scenario)

Ideally: If you know what you're doing and have lots of time and cash, even then there's no guarantee that this is worth taking on at this price. Why not take 26 St. James with just one tenant?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slim 2-Family with Thick Price: 157 Willoughby Avenue

As we've noted, the 2-Family game is all over the map. 157 Willoughby Avenue looks like a pretty house. Corcoran came out with the listing for $1.639M in October 2010. They price dropped in December to $1.595M, then Realty on the Greene relisted it on Valentine's Day for the same price. Can't imagine what that listing contract was like, or what the rationale for leaving Corcoran was. They seem to be getting things done, and the only hold-up on this well-renovated place is price.

Oh, and it's only 15' wide. Oh, and it's a 2-Family. But you already knew that. Look inside:

Nothing to hide here. And there are lots of original details, exposed brick, good utilization of the space with the interior staircases and layout. Although, maybe not as top-notch as one might expect for this price-point. We like the rental getting $1,800/month. Looks like the last mortgage on this place was for $1.5M just before the crash. So you can see why the owner is clinging to that number. At $1.3M or so, we'd say jump in.

There's an open house tomorrow from 1-3pm. Go take a look.

Pro's: 50' deep, great renovation, lodged right between Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, back yard & deck, separate entrances for both units

Con's: a bit of a hike to the train, around the corner from some major housing projects, 15' wide

Ideally: if this could get even close to $1.6M, then recent picks 285 Park Place could have too and 407 Sterling would have been gone already.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Skinny Slice of Beautiful Prospect Heights: 285 Park Place

We told you on Monday that the 2-Family game was crazy! 285 Park Place is a 17' wide limestone on beautiful, tree-lined Park Place in one of the under-appreciated neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Prospect Heights. We love these blocks. They have even more character than much of Park Slope, to us. And Vanderbilt continues to impress as a commercial avenue. Yet there's a familiar fly in the ointment: price. We don't quite see $1.6M over here for this.

A wider building like 368 Park Place couldn't fetch this much before the crash - and that was with Corcoran!

We like that they call out the layout of the owner's triplex and its rent of $4,500/month. But that also means it's rented. Unless that's month to month with the understanding that the owner's moving in upon sale, who's dropping 20% cash over here ($320K) to take over a garden 1BR?

Don't get me wrong, the pics inside have something to be proud of:

But ultimately feel kinda narrow & oddly shaped compared to what else this kind of money can get you. As we noted yesterday, the likes of 82 Butler Street and 645 Baltic Street.

There's some great wood details in here, but we might mosey on over to the recently-reduced 407 Sterling Place for a better hunk of building.

From what we can tell, the owner should be sitting on mostly equity, so don't let this crazy price fool ya. Get in there and get yourself a decent house!

Pro's: location, tree-lined street, close to the park, deep yard, great wood details on the interior

Con's: curb appeal is a toss-up to us, narrow 17' wide, price, would-be owner's duplex is rented out

Ideally: the triplex is month to month and there's a move to be made much lower.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Other Side of Myrtle Again: 86 Clinton Avenue

86 Clinton Avenue is a HUGE 4-Family brownstone just listed in the same area as yesterday's pick. $1.759M is the kind of price we might find in Carroll Gardens or Park Slope for a 4-Family. Two of our favorites, 82 Butler and 645 Baltic Street both went into contract quickly for LESS than this 4-Family on Clinton Avenue. Both of those buildings were closer to the train and in better neighborhoods with better rents.

So where is this price coming from?

Well, a closer look reveals the owner took out a mortgage of $645K upon purchase in 2004, and then pulled a ton of equity out with a $980K mortage in 2005. Then a Lis Pendens was filed on 6/9/2009 to foreclose on the house for that $980K. A few years later, here we are with a listing with nothing but a Property Shark pic of the exterior and a whopping price.

Now the listing assures us more photos and a layout are coming soon, and Prudential usually does a good job with these. But still! Something amazing has to be going on with the interior to command this price. Otherwise, take this same money and spend it in a much better area, like on 297 Court Street.

Pro's: 20' x 65', curb appeal, 4-Family, owner's duplex

Con's: price, far from the train, rental values are top notch over here

Ideally: Let's see the inside, but so far your money's better spent somewhere else. That said, we'd love to pick this up, but $1.3M-$1.4M sounds more like it

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brand New in Fort Greene: 121 Vanderbilt Avenue

121 Vanderbilt Avenue is a fresh new listing in Fort Greene. Billed as "Bohemian Chic", this 2-Family comes turn-key with some nifty details and a pretty maximized lay-out for $1.499M.

We don't toot Corcoran's horn just for the sake of it, but they sure do put out a polished product. They give you pictures, a layout, a write-up, an open house. It's as if they actually wanted to sell these houses - which is more than we can say for most of the other guys. You can always count on their agents to actually service their listings too.

Note that while we love Fort Greene, this location is off the beaten path on the north side of Myrtle. While Myrtle has lots of offer, you're closer to the Brooklyn Navy yard than you are to a train that'll take you to the city. People have paid more for worse outposts, though. 137 Adelphi really should be ashamed of itself.

The 2-Family game is an odd market anyways. There's everything from 397 Grand that barely deserves the 20% downpayment it'd take, to 215 Gates which could be acquired with 5% down. 121 Vanderbilt is cheaper, not as well located, but almost just as modern/hokie as 70 2nd Street. Over-priced in our book, but they're sure taking a stab at it.

Pro's: curb appeal?, terraces, back yard, laundry rooms, maximized layout, nifty details all over

Con's: well off the beaten path, 35' deep, pricey, 2-Family status holds it back a bit

Ideally: Corcoran gives this place the best shot it's gonna get.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Back At It in Carroll Gardens: 432 Clinton Street

Back from a 2 week hiatus, still frazzled from the 96 St. Marks debacle, we're at it again in Carroll Gardens. 432 Clinton Street is a legit listing by legit agents who know the area and pegged their listing at a legit price. This 4-story 3-Family is going to be a good buy for someone with some funds for a little renovation. We're sure some fancy-pants pictures are to come of at least the renovated rental unit. The rest needs to be updated, but with janky places like 511 Clinton Street fetching $1.17M and there not being too much product in this area, total shells have gone for this price.

Just 2 avenues over from the F/G trains at Carroll Street, in the heart of nice stretches of Smith and Court streets, and with that Brooklyn Heights-esque feel that even lower Clinton Street has - there are lots of reasons to pay the premium over here. One Manhattan agent recently tried to convince us that Columbia Street by the water is "the heart of Brooklyn Heights", but those who really know Brooklyn know what we mean by the Brooklyn Heights feel of these blocks on Clinton and Henry Street. One of the only drawbacks is the 16.5' x 40' floorplate only giving 660 sqft per floor, but overall this could be just the blank slate opportunity the listing claims.

Pro's: curb appeal, neighborhood feel, renovated garden rental, close to trains and amenities

Con's: needs potentially-hefty renovation, and little narrow and not that deep, floorplate can only fit 1BR rentals

Ideally: take a look and see if the renovation fits your budget. Compare to a slightly larger, way-pricier neighbor like 496 Henry Street.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again: 96 St. Marks

We covered this place at the end of the summer, right around the time it went in contract. 96 St. Marks was a killer play, and we knew it. That's why we offered $1.1M on it back in July. When it was in contract with an all-cash offer, we thought we'd gotten outbid.


The darn thing closed for $1M on the dot just a few weeks ago on January 12, 2011. The seller and the listing agent could have net WAY more money by going with us, but they got snookered by the all-cash offer that was supposed to close in 30 days, but took months longer than our financing would have taken.

We officially give up (for the moment...)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Carroll Gardens Coattails: 496 Henry Street

A few blocks west of the lovably-loaded Court Street in Carroll Gardens sits 496 Henry Street. This 4-Family brick building is in that upper price range of things we cover, but not nearly the nicest interior, exterior, or location we cover. So we wonder what we're paying for over here. It looks like a property that's just riding Carroll Gardens' coattails, as if anything decent over here can command close to $2M. We're a little more discerning when it comes to that kind of money.

There's some nice spaces inside & out:

But nothing about the bathroom or kitchen shown knocks our socks off.

82 Butler is still a better buy for sure. 297 Court Street might even be a better bet too. Let's face it, 440 Henry Street was the best buy of all over here.

Pro's: 4-Family, close enough to Court Street, rental income potential, small backyard

Con's: steep price, kitchen looks a little small & dated for this price, towards the BQE, 6' wide 2nd BR in upstairs rental?

Ideally: Wouldn't overpay over here for this. Even if you wanna overpay, there's better places to do it. There should be plenty of equity there for the owner to make a stab at a lower price.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Open House in C-Gardens: 70 2nd Street

A brand new listing, 70 2nd Street is a tiny, well-renovated 2-Family in Carroll Gardens. We like to think of it basically as the cousin of 476 Degraw, which wasn't out there long before going into contract. The same thing might happen here. Someone might do what someone did there, over-pay for renovation & location. The owner here bought in 2006 for $1.288M and we wouldn't pay more than that today for something this size almost regardless of condition. But the market for these is more similar to the single-family market and $1.645M doesn't sound out of this world to us anymore, although we'd much rather spend that same money on something like 82 Butler or 54 St. Felix (even with its odd price increase).

We always like to see nice, sleek, modern renovations (even if some of the details aren't quite our style):

These rooms say "2008". But the rest of the molding & color scheme says "1988", which might hold this place back. At these prices, as modifiable as these details are, we imagine buyers are looking for a more cohesive style throughout the house.

We can't help but think, "No Corcoran stager would ever let them put that living room together like that." And they especially wouldn't put it as their headline picture of the place. This listing agent should show an exterior photo on the listing too. 70 2nd Street is gorgeous from the outside, but you might never know it. We do give them credit for providing a lay-out, a well-written description, and having an open house this Sunday from 2:30pm-4:30pm.

Pro's: curb appeal, renovation, 2BR rental with lots of income potential, pro listing

Con's: pricey, tiny, mismatched styles on the interior, better ways to spend the same money

Ideally: we're curious to see what happens, but this isn't for us.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Real Estate Bloopers: 419 Classon Avenue

I have officially seen it all.

Your boys over at Fillmore have this 6-Family in Clinton Hill, 419 Classon, listed for $599K, right?

No broker is listed on it. A broker over there we know couldn't tell us whose listing it is. But whoever's it is, this joker couldn't even take a screen shot of google street view for the exterior (which would already be lazy enough). They simply took a picture of their computer screen with their camera, 4 times, horizontal AND vertical!!

We think you should know how to press "Print Screen" on a computer (or find someone who does) before you expect to collect as much as $35K in commission on a sale. In less renegade markets, even in the hubs of the foreclosure meltdown like south Florida, a $599K listing typically has pictures and a description like this.

We would love to see pictures, rent rolls, lay-outs - you know, hear a little bit about what we're dropping half a million plus on.

Pro's: price to rental income potential ratio might be great, but who knows?

Con's: Classon ain't the best, G train is closest, 30%+ downpayment on 5+ family, no clarity on contents

Ideally: what will they think of next?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gowanus-y "2-Family": 452 Sackett Street

The listing for 452 Sackett claims "Country in the City". This legal 2-Family (used a 1) looks great on the outside, has a yard, wide plank floors, and the only full bathroom sure looks cute:

But it's priced a little high for 16' x 35', or over $750/sqft at the current list price of $1.295M. That pricing isn't too crazy for Carroll Gardens, but this location is a little too Gowanus-y to charge that much. A close neighbor, 444 Sackett, was almost identical and listed for $1.15M for just about a month and a half. It makes us miss 473 Union Street.

We have to give them credit for a legit listing with a floor-plan, transperancy regarding the 2-Family vs Single-Family status, pictures, and an open house last weekend. Someone's gonna nibble, but we see a lower price making it happen.

Pro's: curb appeal, interior, backyard, mantles & exposed brick

Con's: small, used a Single Family, teenie-tiny kitchen area, Gowanus-y

Ideally: 10% off would still be too high for us, but probably not for somebody else.