Thursday, September 29, 2011

Open House... It's a Co-op!: 125 Eastern Parkway, #1A

Much like the modern 475 Sterling Place, #4F we covered a few months ago, 125 Eastern Parkway, #1A is a great look at a sleek apartment in Prospect Heights. Our very first co-op, this 3 bedroom - 2 bathroom apartment, right across the street from the Brooklyn Museum, was picked up as Brownstoner's Co-op of the Day. Listed at $929K, you know we ordinarily look at this kind of money on a multi-family, but this pre-war building from the historic days of Eastern Parkway cleans up pretty nice with this modern renovation from architect Rafael de Cárdenas. Cárdenas is known for even more colorful projects, but this penny-tile gives a nice, bright look to the bathrooms & the built-in frosty-glass shelf unit is pretty neat-o too:

There's even a little interior courtyard right out the window:

If you are going for an apartment, getting 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms probably offers the best value. Having the 2/3 train, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and Brooklyn Museum literally right outside your door ain't too shabby either. And the maintenance looks fair compared to what things in the $700/sqft price range cost. We can see someone who wants Prospect Park in their lives, but at a value over Park Slope prices, snatching this thing up. And with two opens houses this Saturday and Sunday from 1:00pm - 2:30pm, seeing the place is easy.

This block is currently undergoing an $18M re-vamp, adding trees, a bike lane, and improving the median - which should add value and restore some of the old charm Eastern Parkway had when it was almost like living on Park Avenue or 5th Avenue across from the Met in Manhattan. This "Theodore Roosevelt" building, in a row with the "Martha Washington" and "Abraham Lincoln", date back to old-time Grand Army Plaza, where President Roosevelt was the keynote speaker at the unveiling of the Civil War monument there. The architecture of the Roosevelt and Washington buildings was dubbed by one commentator on Brownstoner as "restrained neo-Georgian".

(The "Theodore Roosevelt" is attached to the Turner Towers in the middle background.)

Pro's: great location, modern renovation in a historic building, high ceilings, good value as co-ops go

Con's: ground floor apt might not be for everyone, we usually go condo over co-op

Ideally: if you're in the market for an apartment, come by the open house

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Topics: The Buyer's Broker

The New York Times covered the topic of using a buyer's broker for your housing search and we couldn't help but notice. Their "in a nutshell" summary of why it's worth using a buyer's broker pretty much captures it:

"to protect his or her interests in an expensive, often complex purchase that can become even more complicated by the labyrinthine co-op approval process in New York City.

A buyer who relies on the seller’s agent to handle both sides of the deal may not hear about problems with the apartment or the building, or have a real advocate during contract negotiations."

It's important to distinguish that this isn't like paying a broker's fee for finding an apartment rental, where the renter typically pays the agent. In purchasing, buyer's brokers are usually cost-free for the buyer. And as the article goes on to point out, the seller's paying the commission, but the proceeds to the seller come from the buyer. So since the BUYER is basically paying the commission, why not get someone on their side looking out for their interests for the transaction? As the executive director of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents points out, "You’re paying for it, you might as well hire someone to represent you.”

This topic is on the brain often because we've had such dreary experiences with most buyer's brokers ourselves - and really many brokers in general for that matter. Many readers complain to us about brokers too, and even about their own buyer's brokers.

Does anyone have a positive buyer's broker experience to share? Anyone have a recommendation for some good buyer's brokers? We have a few stand-up brokers in mind if you need some suggestions. Contact us for more info...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Park Slope FSBO: 35 St. Marks Avenue

You've seen us cover properties up & down the lovable St. Marks. Today's pick, 35 St. Marks Avenue, sits on the northern corner of Park Slope between 5th & 6th Avenue. The location is so clutch, which is what makes us lament the 96 St. Marks debacle and commend the buyer of the nextdoor neighbor 33 St. Marks Avenue for $1.6M this time last year. 33 St. Marks also turned around a killer renovation with a killer mark-up. 35 St. Marks Ave is for sale by its owner who gives us 2 interior photos and a floor plan for the footplate. And for the $100+ it costs to list on for two weeks, they don't even let you put very high rez photos up:

Note, it took Corcoran a ton of fancy pictures to sell the very-presentable 57 St. Marks Avenue for over $2M in July 2011.

We're told 35 St. Marks Ave commands "a rent roll of approximately $180K per year, when fully occupied," which breaks down to a bullish $3,750/floor. As great as this area is, we're not sure if this interior and these numbers quite match up so far. And even then, investors can find $180K gross income in larger, cheaper buildings. We visited this question of gross rental multiple & cap rate a bit on two mixed-use buildings last year. We have to agree with the listing, though, that the expenses will be relatively low here compared to some of the other buildings that can command that cashflow. We have to reiterate that a cashflow of $180K here is very pro-forma in our book.

Another investment angle we're given is condo conversion. To that end, the "property has just received acceptance for filing of its Condominium conversion plan." And, indeed, there's a listing in the same building for Unit #2 as a $775K 3BR/1B condo. Which really threw us off when we compared it to the building listing's claim, "The owner is willing to forgo the higher sale price of the 4 individual units for a quicker sale of the entire property." Because last time we checked, 4 x $775,000 = $3.1M.

So unless one (or some combination of the other 3) of those apartments is worth $400K more than this one, what higher sale price is being forgone? Also note, the condo has an open house this Sunday, but the building is by appointment only...

To be sure, this is a quality property with lots of value, but we fail to see how it commands $3M with what else is out there, or if these condos are in condition to command ~$750/sqft individually. There are bunch of other giant 4-Family's for much less (in arguably better areas) that we'd take over this. We've got a few in mind...

Pro's: deep building, 4-Family, great location, high rental income potential, "just received acceptance for filing of its Condominium conversion plan"

Con's: we don't get much look at the inside, pro forma rent roll, fuzzy math on the "higher price" being forgone on the sale of the entire building, better things available for this price or much less

Ideally: we can't see any upside at this price, but maybe there's a happy medium here for someone at a lower price, or there's some secret, insanely well-renovated condo or two out of these four to justify the price

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Open House Now: 130 8th Street

It's really hard for us to call this Park Slope. 130 8th Street is between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. However, the proximity to the train, the presentable interior, the backyard, and the relatively do-able price point makes us look at this 22' wide 3-Family. There's even an open house today from 1:00 - 3:00pm, sorry to tell you so late...

An owner's duplex with a yard and 2BR rentals above is the ideal layout for the kinds of plays we like. One of the bedrooms is suspect at 7' wide, though. The price might be a tad steep and the building shallow, but the owner bought in 2003 for $710K, so there should be a little flexibility if you want a Gowanus/Park Slope charmer without taking South Slope past the BQE.

Pro's: ideal layout, 22' wide, totally turnkey, backyard

Con's: not really Park Slope, only 25' deep, quirky block, price is high

Ideally: if the location and size aren't a dealbreaker, figure out the price

Friday, September 23, 2011

Prospect Heights Flip: 678 Dean Street

678 Dean Street is a four-story, 25' x 25' 2-Family that encourages you to "bring your architect, your contractor and your imagination and turn this great house in the town house of your Dreams." The price & location grab you. It's not everyday you see a building in Prospect Heights between Vanderbilt and Underhill for $999K anymore. Just look at 154 Underhill Avenue that came out for $999K, went into contract in a couple of weeks, and just closed for $1.05M.

Corcoran would show you nice photos if there were anything to see, so it's clear lots of work is needed here on Dean Street. Maybe someone will modify the garden apartment with triplex above configuration on do something nifty with the cubic space.

Being just off an up & coming avenue has it pro's and con's, but will always have a certain value. That must've been what the current owners were thinking when they picked this place up in back in May 2011 for $680K. A nice buy for them, maybe a nice opportunity for someone else, and a much less encumbered play than yesterday's flip. Depending on the renovation budget needed, there's a lot of value potential here. If this were in the middle of a rowhouse block, this price would probably do it in a flash. If the renovation on 678 Dean Street is steep, why not just step over to the enormous 71 Irving Place?

Pro's: just off of a great avenue, down from the park, vacant canvass to personalize, 25' wide

Con's: curb appeal, could be a hefty renovation needed, not the most residential-feeling block, 25' deep

Ideally: someone will make a stab at this

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Park Slope Flip: 131 St. Johns Place

135 St. Johns Place has been one of our most heavily-viewed pages since we covered it a few weeks ago. Now 131 St. Johns Place hit the scene last week on Zillow with a "Make Me Move" price of $1.6M set by the owner. Now this is a pretty good feature Zillow offers, where owners who might only have a passing interest in selling get to list for however much they want and by-pass the whole traditional listing process entirely. Which actually doesn't seem that bad in a climate of postage-stamp blackberry pictures of the exterior for buildings trying to fetch $2M. Buyers can put pictures up and everything, but this one chose not to. Heck, we wouldn't mind moving either if we just picked up the place from what looks to be an estate in ~$25K tax liens for just $999K on 9/7/11. $600K profit wouldn't be a bad flip at all.

Just who is eager to make this person move at this price, with no indication of the interior condition and no resolution of the SRO status also seen on 135 St. Johns - is beyond us.

Pro's: curb appeal, prime location, on a block with buildings like 158 St. Johns Place that just closed for $3.2M last month

Con's: SRO status, no interior pictures, 17' wide, sloppy 2nds on the flip, this is what nice places cost just a few blocks from here

Ideally: we'd never do it at this price, but maybe contact the owner and see how it stacks up to 135 St. Johns Pl

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Clinton Hill Shine: 59 Cambridge Place

Corcoran has a handful of listings fresh out the past few weeks in the areas we cover, and we'll get to them in due time, but we try to also bring you things that are a tad harder to find, especially in this Wild West that is Brooklyn real estate.

And now that Corcoran let this is one go, we didn't want to let it slip through the cracks. Corcoran had listed 59 Cambridge Place in May for $1.775M. Per their usual playbook, they quickly dropped price to $1.695M. In exchange for fancy pictures, solid marketing, and actually servicing their listings professionally, they always give the heavy hitters first dibs on over-paying for a place. This immaculately renovated legal 3-Family then went over to Century 21 for $1.598M. It's still hard to pinpoint this price, but if 116 Willoughby just got $1.585M, we've gotta figure 59 Cambridge is in range.

Even at 17' wide, we might ordinarily go with something like 59 Cambridge Place over the 14' wide 1-Family 14 St. James because of the 3-Family status. Getting a decked-out owner's duplex and having two rentals on top is one of the best value propositions in our book. These plays often come down to what kind of renovation the buyer wants to pay for. So it's nice to see when the listing focuses on some of those unique details the place has to offer. This fireplace is particularly neat-o:

But if it's not quite your taste, it might not make sense to pay up for someone else's renovation. If you want to pay for your own renovation, just down the street, 107 Cambridge Place is a much cheaper canvass to work with --> for $400K less. It sure seems like this $1.5-$1.75M range is getting tested by more & more properties, it will be interesting to see which ones pan out...

Pro's: curb appeal, location, totally turnkey, owner's duplex with backyard

Con's: pricing's tough, 17' wide, the renovation may not be everyone's taste

Ideally: there's lots of options out there in this price range, so anyone with the funds to swing a play like this should be very selective

Monday, September 19, 2011

Turnkey 4-Family in Bed-Stuy: 1226 Bedford Avenue

We can't help but love the cap rates you can find if you just poke a few blocks further east from where we usually look. 1226 Bedford Avenue is a turnkey 4-Family listed at $949K. This is pretty compelling price for something so close to the train that's grossing $80K/year in rental income and could conceivably be purchased with 5% down. Much like our last pick in Crown Heights, this Bed-Stuy play is just over from Clinton Hill but offers lots more value than you'd normally find in Clinton Hill proper. As gentrification continues to sweep east, this sort of move could look better and better.

It's worth noting that this interior, while turnkey, doesn't have the "original details" that people get so weak in the knees over, and often run to Bed-Stuy looking for value in that. The pretty generic, rental-grade interior isn't going to make anybody's knees weak, but the chance to own for the kind of downpayment many people spend in one year's worth of rent is compelling.

We have to caution here that we still don't have the skills necessary to truly seperate the wheat from the chaff in Bed-Stuy, as we're still making our first sneak peaks into the neighborhood. And, that sales prices have been known to get ahead of themselves in borderline areas, evidenced by the most recent purchase of this property for $975K in May 2009 after a Lis Pendens for $432K in 2008.

Pro's: close to the train, turnkey, rental income potential, 4,300 sqft

Con's: generic interior, no original details, rents haven't fully arrived yet, we might pick around Prospect Heights in these prices first for more park proximity

Ideally: we still think there's a few better buys left to be uncovered in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, but the push towards Bed-Stuy is inevitable

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our First Foray into Crown Heights: 623 Park Place

Just east of Classon, a few doors down from Prospect Heights proper, 623 Park Place seems like it might have some relative value potential. This 4-Family brick building is close enough to commercial avenues on the rise like Franklin and Washington. It's close enough to trains and Prospect Park. This isn't the no-man's land that comes to mind when many hear Crown Heights. There's a healthy blend between Prospect Heights and Crown Heights on these blocks. It's nice to see a 4-Family, under a million, at $200/sqft, that boasts "a new roof, boiler and hotwater tank, large bedrooms with lots of closet space, [and a] backyard". If all the of the units are actually legitimate 2BR's, it's hard to see how this place doesn't cashflow right off the bat unless the condition of the interior is completely unlivable. Unfortunately, we get no interior pictures. But with Fillmore, that's not necessarily an indication good or bad.

Granted, there are houses with better artchitecture in Crown Heights proper for this price, but the play here is more about the value in its location and proximity to Prospect Heights. We'll be interested to see how it stacks up as we delve further east...

Pro's: 2BR rentals, price point, 3,700+ sqft, strategic location, more Prospect Heights than Crown Heights

Con's: curb appeal, no details on rental or tenancy, no photos, technically Crown Heights

Ideally: worth a look, and probably a great play to be made

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Open House This Sunday: 14 St. James Place

We don't usually cover single family homes, but there's some sleek, modern renovation going on in 14 St. James Place. This 14' wide 1-Family brownstone is truly spiffed out. There's plenty to show off at the open house this Sunday from 1:30pm - 3pm from the "wall-to-wall Calcutta marble steam room" to the "beyond sexy garden with a built-in barbecue grill, hot tub and stunning waterfall".

Conspicuous in its absence is any photo of the exterior on the Corcoran listing. There are lots of positives to accentuate, but the 14' width can't be ignored. We can't help but think how much further this amazing renovation would go on a 20' wide building.

What do we think of the current list price of $1.759M? If we had this kind of money, we'd much rather have 287 Dekalb Avenue, that closed around the corner for $1.8M. We'd also would have rather gone with 536 Court Street for $1.69M for a killer renovation.

You've seen us cover places up & down Saint James Place. As we saw on the same block with 26 St. James Place, there's tall housing towering over you across the street.

Compare it to close neighbors that fetched high prices with great renovations too, like 116 Willoughby. Someone will love this renovation and want to pay a premium for it. We hope the whole is greater than the sum of the parts for the owner and they see the value back for their amazing renovation. What's the angle, though? Maybe this is a nice condo alternative to someone who can handle $735/sqft?

Pro's: top-notch renovation, backyard space, right by Pratt

Con's: 14' wide, not the most residential block, a hike to the C train

Ideally: it's a matter of taste, but we'd probably go for something else at this price

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Large Prospect Heights 4-Family: 245 Prospect Place

When it comes to finding the sweet spot in Brooklyn real estate, Prospect Heights is where it's at in our book. Pricing has gotten out of hand in BoCoCa and Park Slope for the most part, but Prospect Heights is where great housing stock, proximity to the park, and good value still all manage to align. Accordingly, 419 Sterling Place didn't last long even with the damage to the roof & ceiling. Today's pick looks like it has potential too. 245 Prospect Place is a large 4-Family building just off of Vanderbilt Avenue. With this extra deep lot, you get a 5,000+ sqft building AND a deep yard. This $1.65M price might seem a tad high at first, considering we get no look inside and the listing mentions the bathrooms and kitchens need updating. But the price per squarefoot ($317) and legit 2BR rentals are pretty compelling. Decent cosmetic updating isn't expensive at all, relatively. This broker usually posts some pretty nice pictures, though, so those are probably on the way. Afterall, they did sell 407 Sterling too. We recommend trying to get a look ASAP, because this might not last...

Pro's: location, curb appeal, size, 4-Family status, 2BR rentals, price per squarefoot

Con's: no look inside yet, "Units In Need Of Updates"

Ideally: even assuming a modest renovation budget, this is a very interesting play

Monday, September 12, 2011

Open House Wednesday for Vinyl Siding in the Slope: 392 Dean Street

We don't think there's too much to see here, but it's hard to neglect a multi-family house in Park Slope for $949K. Mind you, this isn't South Slope either. 392 Dean Street is a small, vinyl siding 2-Family "used as a 3" in the far north corner of Park Slope between 4th and 5th Avenues. Obviously, vinyl siding isn't optimal, and we get no indication of the interior condition from any photos. We do, however, get a picture of the rents, expenses, and number of bedrooms. The gross rental income of almost $6,000/month is there to justify this price. Financing, however, can be tricky when you've got 3 rents on a 2-Family.

This pricing and recent sales in the neighborhood start to make the price drop on the same block 414 Dean Street interesting again. While 392 Dean Street definitely beats the value proposition of the vinyl siding you see out in South Slope, Windsor Terrace, and beyond - there's still a handful of brick & brownstone plays in these parts we'd go for before we do this. Although, with the celler level of this place looking brownstone, we're wondering how much an exterior facelift to all brownstone might cost (and whether it's feasable).

With the New York Times Real Estate listing claiming an open house on Wednesday, September 14th from 1pm-2pm, it's easy to stop by and see if there's something worth nibbling at here.

Pro's: location, gross rental income, price point, financial details

Con's: vinyl siding, no look at the interior, "used a 3" trickiness, only 34' deep

Ideally: still not the best play actively listed under $1M in our book

Friday, September 9, 2011

Open House This Sunday: 107 Cambridge Place

After the 121 Cambridge Place debacle, it was exciting to see a 2-Family on Cambridge Place for $1.2M that WASN'T an SRO. This is huge. We wouldn't be mad at 'em for listing higher, but this seems like a relatively decent price. 107 Cambridge Place even has an open house this Sunday from 1pm - 2:30pm.

Big, bright interiors with original details & a double duplex for this price ain't too shabby:

This property is definitely worth a look and might not last long.

Pro's: curb appeal, nice block, location, not an SRO, original details, garden

Con's: due for some updating

Ideally: there are deals to be made on these blocks, but this one's worth paying up for

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Re-listed in Fort Greene: 13 St. Felix Street

13 St. Felix Street is a 16' wide brownstone near the park in Fort Greene. For the current list price of $1.29M, you'd think maybe there'd be something to see. However, the listing agents couldn't be bothered to put up any pictures of the interior and have provided only the Property Shark photo. We'll have to pass by and see if the exterior's been fixed up.

Our last pick was a 2-Family on the same street, closer to more trains, with pictures, for $1.075M. The case for 13 St. Felix isn't compelling yet.

While the property is a legal 4-Family on the Certificate of Occupancy, there's been an illegal conversion to a 6 family. The listing points out, "The four story brownstone consists of 2 floor through apartments and 4 studios."

13 St. Felix Street sold for $1.15M in 2005, listed for $1.6M for a year after the crash in 2008, re-listed for $900K for 4 months last year, now re-listed again last week for $1.299M. We know the market's turned since last year, but we'd like to see a little more evidence of the "tremendous investment and owner-user potential" for the $400K price boost. There's not much to choose from in Fort Greene in the affordable range, so we wouldn't be surprised to see some one pay up for less than ideal properties, but is this the place or the price to do that? Pricing feels steep and unjustified.

Pro's: would-be 4-Family, not much product in Fort Greene, close to the park

Con's: 16' wide, price increase, "illegal conversion", cost to renovate, need to see something to justify price jump

Ideally: if you can handle $1.3M for a project, 135 St. Johns Place is a WAY better play

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fort Greene Steal: 111 St. Felix Street

A long-time reader sent this in to us, and from what we can tell it's a total steal. You will be thanking her later...

111 St. Felix Street is a 2-Family on a nice, quiet block tucked in the shadows of Hanson Place. This is about as good of a place as you're going to find for $1.075M within 10-20 blocks of here. Even fancy condos are jealous of this $400/sqft gem! Let the bidding war begin...

After the open house next Tuesday, September 13th, this will be pretty much locked up.

Pro's: abound

Con's: we defy you to name one

Ideally: get your offer ready, this will go above asking price

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Prime Park Slope Brownstone: 135 St. Johns Place

When we showed you a seemingly-underpriced $1.35M listing in Prospect Heights, it looked like there might be a catch. When a closer look revealed "$40K tops" in renovation would be all it took remedy all problems, it was no surprise to see the thing go into contract within weeks.

Now for a look at another seemingly-underpriced $1.3M listing in prime Park Slope, 135 St. Johns Place. What's a 4-Family on a beautiful brownstone block between 6th & 7th Avenues doing for $1.3M? What's the catch?

Barney Rubble went into contract for $1.3M pretty quickly and that place needed plenty of updating.

Corcoran usually shows interior pictures, and you'd expect if they were only gonna show the exterior that they could do a better job than Google Maps Street View:

This is a gorgeous block, there's gotta be a catch, right? It's got us wondering, "Where's the beef?"

Oh yeah, it's an SRO. We've seen how SRO status can be a huge deal breaker up & down Brooklyn. Especially with the listing declaring the property "currently, is partially occupied", that can be a huge road block beyond just SRO status. The listing also acknowledges, "The house is being sold as is, and will require an all cash purchaser." Some other houses on similar lockdown, in much less preferable locations, are trying to fetch $1.2M. 135 St. Johns Place stacks up favorably to that. But, if you're not married to Park Slope proper, 544 Pacific is a better play for a pure investor, just across 4th Avenue, but still well-situated. We can see something happening around this price if the obstacles are surmountable.

Pro's: location, curb appeal, great block, priced where many shells sell for quickly in this area

Con's: partially occupied, renovation needed, need more clarity on tenancy and condition, takes an all-cash buyer

Ideally: tread cautiously unless you have the funds and really know what you're doing, but there's a couple scenarios where this is a great buy. Might not last long.

Friday, September 2, 2011

On the Edge of Carroll Gardens: 117 Nelson Street

Carroll Gardens, and the entire BoCoCa quadrant for that matter, continues to suprise us with how breath-takingly bougie it's gotten and somehow continues to get. Once upon a time we called it "hipster grad school" in comparison to Williamsburg being "hipster middle school", but the neighborhood has long outgrown even that sort of nomenclature. Now it's undergoing a legitimate spillover from Brooklyn Heights in the north, which has propelled Cobble Hill atop the borough in average sales price, forcing value-hunters & those who find edgier authenticity in warehouses to flee towards Red Hook, "Columbia Street Waterfront District", and Gowanus. Some folks will never go that far out of BoCoCa proper, which will thrust values within up even more. However there's still relative deals to be made and we're astonished at some of the apples-to-apples comparisons out there within the neighborhood.

117 Nelson Street rests in that little pocket we've covered before at the very edge of Carroll Gardens, where Hamilton Avenue & the BQE overpass serves as a pretty effective cut-off. Around here, there are deals to be made, not unlike South Slope, yet for places that are even more in striking distance of prime Carroll Gardens than the outer rings of the Slope are to Park Slope proper. However, is $1.495M the price for a turnkey-but-dated 3-Family on the edge?

At least we have a decent listing on our hands here with a bunch of pictures and a layout of the interior. Yet with only 1BR rentals, a vinyl-siding building attached, and a view of the BQE out your front window, what's the value proposition here again? Why wouldn't you just buy 552 Clinton Street for much less money? Or, if you have this kind of money, for just a tad more you could get something immaculately nice like 536 Court Street.

Pro's: technically Carroll Gardens, turnkey, 3-Family

Con's: 1BR rentals, dated interior, very quirky block with BQE overpass and no residential feel, priced like it's nicer

Ideally: get a better value for less, or a better place for the same price or a touch higher