Thursday, May 31, 2012

Open House in Lefferts Manor: 68 Midwood Street

On the other side of Prospect Park from fixer-uppers pushing $2M, there are quaint streets lined with relatively affordable mansions. If you don't know, you owe it to yourself to at least stroll by sometime. Perfectly timed during the House Tour in Prospect Lefferts Gardens this Sunday, an open house at 68 Midwood Street should attract plenty of attention. Filled with original details, perhaps a bit over the top for some, it's the stuff many drool over...

The list price of $1.795M is a steal compared to what this would cost on the other side of the park, yet also higher than the average $406/sqft price of comparable homes closed in the past 6 months in this neighborhood. However, it's an above-average house. The backyard speaks to us...

As well as the sliding door to get out to it. But of course they went with the 'granite & friends' kitchen upgrades that feel more like something out of Country Home Magazine. But we hate to bicker over such minutiae...

We'd rather buy 1142 Dean Street all day, but that's just us. Check out this house if you think you can handle the other side of the park. Prepare for the crowds, though, 'cause you won't be alone.

Pro's: gorgeous block, killer original interior, relative pricepoint, backyard

Con's: single family, not everyone's taste, not everyone's ready for PLG

Ideally: totally worth a look, but we'd lean towards two cheaper places over here with more value first, one of which is the next shoe to drop Brooklyn-wide for its pricepoint

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Prices Up in Boerum Hill: 51 & 53 Dean Street

Not on your StreetEasy or your New York Times, another straggler from 2009 finally finds its price. Still listed for $3.75M in the Fall of 2011, 51 & 53 Dean Street bumped up to $4M because the owner wanted more. And he's getting more! The properties are now in contract, even though the agent was very touch-n'-go recently about whether the seller wanted to sell at all. $2M per building might sound steep at first, but two adjacent 25' x 40' brick buildings on 90' lots around the corner from Bar Tabac and the F train at Bergen in prime Boerum Hill? What they lack in character and original details, they make up for in width and clutch location. Acquisition price may sound high to the undiscerning eye, but if you know this neighborhood and this block, coming in at $500/sqft ain't bad at all when you're across the street from $900+/sqft and a block away from even the dinkiest renovation getting $700+/sqft. You could probably condo these bad-boys right now as-is and fetch close to that.

If Williamsburg is hipster undergrad, BoCoCa is like hipster grad school. A bit yuppier, a bit older, and more parents. When you've outgrown feeling like a teenager on the L train, graduate to the F train (and a civil walk to Borough Hall). With a much different vibe than the Slope, this neighborhood is quickly becoming "the poor man's" West Village sooner than it is any off-shoot of Brooklyn Heights, as some still suppose. Which is why shells over here can command upwards of $1.5M. We can already see the cookouts these backyards will bear:

Wood-burning fireplaces are a nice touch too. We spent many a Fall & Winter evening a block from here roasting marshmallows & sipping cocoa...

The interior is definitely nothing special, but four 2BR free-market apartments in each building will command top rents and can very affordably be turned into much pricier condos.

We kinda fell asleep at the wheel on this one since the broker was giving us the stiff-arm about the seller only wanting to sell if he could get top dollar. Looks like a pretty good deal, all things considered.

Pro's: location, width, adjacent, versatile, wood-burning fireplaces

Con's: no original details, boring brick front not set back from the street, gotta have funds for a pretty big project, timing was tough with the reluctant seller and nonchalant broker

Ideally: wish we didn't take "no" for an answer or that the broker woulda got back to us sooner...

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's a Co-op! (Again): 428 Prospect Place, #1R

We almost never cover co-ops, but this one caught our eye. If only for the huge backyard:

Which is technically half the co-op's backyard, but with the only access to it through this apartment, it's effectively all yours. The rest of 428 Prospect Place, #1R is a narrow "2BR" with a modest, dated renovation for $499K. On a tree-lined block between Washington and Classon, we're going to call this Prospect Heights; although, it's situated in a happy medium between the best of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. Compared to what goes for $700K on dim blocks between 3rd and 4th Avenues, and new-construction 1BR's around the corner, there's a lot of value to get in on here at 428 Prospect Place.

Use your savings to update/personalize the kitchen & bath:

We're all about the pro's of multi-family properties, but this co-op is a nice alternative for young couples renting decent-to-luxury 1-2BR's for $2,000/month and much more. If you've got modest income and the downpayment to swing it, this is a great pricepoint to get in on, especially located off a solid avenue and a real train in a neighborhood that's only headed up. The "sorry No Dogs please.." is a bummer with such a nice yard right out your backdoor. Might be a dealbreaker for a few who'd otherwise jump at the chance for a garden apartment for their pup.

With the stadium construction wrapping up and $39 Gray Line bus tours stopping on Flatbush to load up passengers with cameras in hand... if Brooklyn ever was a "secret", the secret's out.

2-3 years from now you'll be cooking out in your backyard and friends will go, "How'd you snatch this sweet place off Washington Ave down the hill from the museum for under $500K?"

And you'll go, "BK to the Fullest!"

Pro's: backyard, pricepoint, nice block, neighborhood on the way up

Con's: narrow, 2nd "BR" is tiny, could use updating

Ideally: makes a lot of sense for a young couple who want a backyard, a great neighb', the 2/3 train, without spending a million

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Next Shoe to Drop?: 1612 10th Avenue

The unicorn hunt for a Park Slope townhouse for $1.5M or less continues, as the post has started trending again to the top of the most popular posts on the blog. And very little product meets the unicorn hunters' needs. Even the New York Times says, "So You're Priced Out. Now What?" - What are ya gonna do about it? Something's gotta give: location, condition, size, or price. Often a few have to give, actually. One reliable solution is often to head a bit further off the beaten path of a neighborhood that's already beloved. 1612 10th Avenue is just off Prospect Park, around the corner from the F train, in totally turnkey condition, and a great alternative to South Slope, Gowanus, and the apartments you'd find in Park Slope proper at these prices. $1.325M is a pretty fabulous price point, actually, to start talking about a 20' x 52' barrel-front brick house that's totally turnkey. 282 11th Street was a similar fixer-upper that's long-gone for $1.4M, but just one subway stop further you can still get more house for less money? In this market? How is this not the next shoe to drop?

You may swoon over the original floors and some of the wood and moldings, but the white & beige kitchens won't match everyone's taste for sure...

The shallow, paved backyard is another drawback, but can be greenified relatively affordably. Besides, with people buying shells for more money than this not far away, how is this not a great value proposition for a handful of discerning buyers?

Pro's: curb appeal, location, great value, nice details, totally turnkey

Con's: not everyone's taste (but at these prices, who's counting?), shallow & paved backyard

Ideally: this is the price where 2 gems are sitting out there waiting to be swooped up. You won't see many more like this...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Vacant Single Family in Boerum Hill: 200 Wyckoff Street

If you could step into the hot tub time machine in Boerum Hill, 2010 was a great year to pick up a small, finished 2-Family before prices took off. 476 Degraw listed for $1.595M in late 2010, and closed a modest $30K above asking price at $1.625M. Then we were surprised to see a fixer-upper on a nicer block get $1.65M in early 2011. Fast forward to 2012, and another small, finished 2-Family over here lists for $1.695M and gets $130K above asking price last month. Ostensibly, even the fixer-uppers want more now. 200 Wyckoff Street just came out for $1.6M. A narrow single family delivered vacant with a south-facing garden, some mantles, floors, and exposed brick & beams to geek out on?

If you're only 38' deep on a 100' lot, we'd love a picture of the backyard, but they're bound to get enough attention on this place as-is...

You can't ignore the projects that the NY Times says doesn't hold back pricing over here. As "off the beaten path" plays in this neighborhood go, 200 Wyckoff Street is better than having to worry about an SRO with no interior photos that's supposedly "delivered vacant with certificate of non-harassment" for $1.5M on Dean Street. This makes even the price on 108 Bergen Street seem modest.

Pro's: delivered vacant, tucked away in a great neighborhood, customizable with a few orignals, south-facing backyard

Con's: 16' wide, won't be cheap, work to be done, people will fret about the proximity to the projects

Ideally: not sure if this is the price, but with shells going for all kinds of prices, something like this has value anywhere around $1.5M.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Broker Swap: 159 Underhill Avenue

There's not a lot of product in Prospect Heights, so even a double-duplex with an okay renovation from about 10 years ago in a great location can command a price that seemed super lofty not that long ago. 159 Underhill Avenue came out with Corcoran, and just jumped ship for Halstead today. The price of $1.79M feels high for sure, but quintessential Prospect Heights is going to command a premium. 416 Park Place went in contract quickly with a similar price per sqft. And for a block so close to the park, 159 Underhill is still a bargain compared to Park Slope.

If you could get in the time machine, 132 Underhill Ave is really the best buy on this block in a long time. It was a head-to-toe renovation that started at $1.8M in 2008 after the crash, but quickly came down to $1.6M. We offered them $1.4M (because it's all the bank would lend us), and they rejected it. We told them we had the $1.4M if they needed it. Came back in the spring, and they'd sold it for less than $1.2M in 2009. To borrow a phrase from one reader, #brokerfail. The next year, 407 Sterling had a hard time finding this pricepoint too.

But the market is completely different now. 407 Sterling and 132 Underhill could easily fetch their price today. And since this price makes sense for a handful of buyers on 159 Underhill, we're a little curious to know why Corcoran couldn't get it.

Pro's: turnkey, easy to personalize, prime Prospect Heights, value compared to Park Slope, small backyard

Con's: a little narrower than 20' wide, the interior won't wow you, no pics of the upper duplex, why the broker swap?

Ideally: even though the price feels steep, it's hard to say it's not worth $1.75M if ya can't name a better $1.75M

Friday, May 18, 2012

Value Sells Again: 579 Bergen Street

We told you that value doesn't last in Prospect Heights when a nifty little barrel-front brownstone on Carlton went in contract as soon as the agent did something about it. Now comes a less awe-inspiring 3-Family at 579 Bergen Street. This house didn't knock anyone's socks off when it came out in the winter for $1.195M, but the value was there. It went into contract quickly, recently sold, and we're curious to see the number.

At a healthy 18.5' x 50', even $438/sqft ain't too shabby an acquisition price anymore in places as prime as Prospect Heights. There are no interior pics, and it wasn't much to see. While some prefer to chase the tiny 2-Family fixer-uppers left in South Slope around this price, a 3-Family situated this nicely between Vanderbilt & Carlton is pretty clutch.

Don't let the white exterior fool ya, a tacky pink facade didn't stop 233 Garfield Place, and they've been spraying blasting another building up the block on Bergen Street. This particular block isn't the best, per se, but being so close to the 2/3 & B/Q trains, lodged between Bergen Bagel & the hanger steak at The Vanderbilt, across the way from North Slope, and in a better school district? What this wide block with a bus route and some industrial usage on it lacks in quaint, residential feel, it makes up for with the bike lane and a super centralized location. With supply low and demand high, it was a wrap pretty quickly. Don't expect to see another 96 St. Marks anytime soon...

Pro's: 3-Family, as cheap a pricepoint as you'll find in Prospect Heights now, delivered vacant, great location overall, near great trains, bike lane out your front door

Con's: not the most residential-feeling block, interior won't wow you, will need a hefty budget for updating the house

Ideally: with the next-best fixer-uppers in Prospect Heights pushing $2M, this looks like a great buy

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Time Machine Effect: 221 Clinton Avenue

If you had a time machine, would you exploit all your knowledge of the future and turn yourself into some sleazy mogul like Biff did?

Because some people really think they're living in the past. Last year, everyone lusted after the castle-like 287 Dekalb Avenue, but only one stepped up to the plate and took it down for $1.8M, closed in June 2011. And even that place needed new kitchens and baths. Now that the market's done a complete 180 since the final value days of late 2010 - early 2011, people still think they can use last year's prices to dictate this year's bids. A month after 287 Dekalb closed, Prudential listed 221 Clinton Avenue for $2.2M. Were they off a bit? Sure. But not by too much. After two price drops down to $1.95M, this stunning 4,700 sqft 2-Family closed last month for $1.87M.

Lose yourself in the "steep sloping mansard roof", "Corinthian colonnades", "ornate terra cotta enframements" of this "traditional Romanesque Revival/neo-Renaissance five story townhouse designed in 1891." Remember, Park Slope wasn't the only place building mansions 100+ years ago, people!

You don't get a true yard here on Clinton Ave, but there's a nice back deck to make up for it. And check out how quick they rolled a 1BR rental out the door for well over $2,000/month.

People who think they have a time machine will tell you, "Well, if 287 Dekalb closed for $1.8M, no way I'm paying more for 221 Clinton Avenue..." but that's simply not how it works - especially not in an up market. People love to get lost in comps, without realizing the first and most important thing about comps: they're long gone. 221 Clinton Avenue never ever competed with 287 Dekalb because they were never on the market at the same time. Can you imagine how much 287 Dekalb would list for if it came out now in this market? Another huge fact about comps that most people overlook is the fact that their contract price was negotiated months before the sales price was recorded. So a closing in June 2011 could be based on a price negotiated in February of 2011, which has little-to-no bearing on February 2012. But you don't have to be a mad scientist time traveler like Doc to know that.

Pro's: curb appeal, size, original details galore, great upkeep, back deck, another great mansion, better than spending $3M in the Slope

Con's: no back yard, a little bit of a hike to the trains, buyers living in the past can't wrap their heads around it

Ideally: Since you can't actually go in the past, you've gotta look to the future. And there are deals getting done today will look like steals in a few years.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Another Tree Falls in the Forest: 986 Park Place

Another great buy in Crown Heights for under $700K? Not on StreetEasy or NYTimes or Another tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it? 986 Park Place was a screaming buy for a long time, even if it started & failed to fetch its price in 2008. We've all seen what wash-ups from 2008 finally managed to deserve their price when the market caught up to them. With a list price around $700K, a rear extension on 2 floors, and all leases expired, this thing was ripe for a reposition. Par for the course, it was listed virtually nowhere, had no interior pics or true set-up, and was pulling teeth to get a response from the agent. No wonder it just sold last month for only $600K.

When people hear about barrel-front brownstones that owners picked up in Park Slope in the 90's (the 1990's, folks, not the 1890's), there's shock & awe. $600K got you an amazing house in the Slope back then. "Who could possibly be selling those things for those prices?", they wonder. Well, where were you in the 90's when those were the prices? Spare us the woulda/coulda/didn't... we'll cover the "Time Machine Effect" tomorrow.

This article claims that "economists are baffled" by the inefficiency of the real estate market in the United States and how realtors are responsible for an estimated $8 billion a year in "social waste". And that's before we even get to Brooklyn (and all of NYC for that matter) where pricepoints are many times higher than they are in the rest of the country. Supposedly transactions happen all the time in Britain for 2-3% commission, but here in Brooklyn you can't get a realtor off their bum half the time, or to even take a decent picture, for a 6% commission. Let alone how fractured it is with all the various places you have to visit to even try and find half the listings. One day (and we're working on it), we'll figure this all out, and sit back and laugh about the old days... but until then, there's always BK to the Fullest!

Pro's: curb appeal, size, leases expired, undercover listings have great opportunity

Con's: gone already, little info, most won't realize this was a good buy until 3-4 years from now

Ideally: buy, reposition, rinse & repeat

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is There Value Left in Prime Clinton Hill?: 135 Cambridge Place

This time last year we had our sights set on an SRO on this prime Clinton Hill block for $1.2M. Now in this market you can get a legal 2-Family on the same block with a list price of $1.2M? What's the catch?

On a block with $2M properties, and around the corner from a brownstone that didn't last long at $1.5M, what could be the hold-up here besides width and mediocre marketing? 135 Cambridge Place is a 15' x 45' 2-Family used as a 1 just off of Fulton in Clinton Hill. It came out last month and probably hasn't gotten enough attention, in our opinion.

Mix some original details with some dinky upgrades in a location that's seen some pretty uninspiring comps... and we think there's value here. Even the narrow 15' backyard is at least a yard, and on a 100' lot.

Pro's: original details, legal 2-Family with separate entrances, sought-after location, pricepoint

Con's: narrow, curb appeal (for some), sub-par upgrades, marketed poorly

Ideally: we're not super bullish on it, but it's a pricepoint you don't see very often on these blocks anymore. Worth a closer look. It's not like narrow doesn't sell over here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Park Slope 2-Fam' Pushing $3M: 833 President Street

833 President Street is a flagship 2-Family on a flagship block between 7th & 8th Avenues in Park Slope. It came out in February for $3.45M and was in contract in just over a month. At a healthy 21' wide with a deep floorplate, central A/C, radiant floor heating, working fireplaces, killer triplex, renovated or tastefully restored everything... this was a gem!

833 President Street closed last month for $3.41M. Now before you get on your Chicken Little "the sky is falling" routine over this & other high prices in Park Slope, remember that this is actually value to many buyers.

One of the brokers with a co-exclusive on this stunning townhouse would also gladly sell you a 1,500 sqft Tribeca condo for the same price. Would you rather have a backyard by the park in Park Slope, or $1,680/month in condo fees in Tribeca? Also compare to a large 7-Family on the same block at 864 President Street that can't quite seem to fetch $2.7M. The pricepoint on 833 President might make your jaw drop at first, but even $800/sqft for this size & quality isn't shocking us. Nothing's shocked us in Park Slope for a while. Good thing some houses cheaper than this around here could easily be made this nice, and that houses this nice in other neighborhoods still sell for a fraction of this.

Pro's: location, curb appeal, nice marriage between restoration & renovation, actually has value for some

Con's: pricey, didn't last a month, lots of other opportunities in this price range or less

Ideally: you can still afford to be really picky in this price range, and there are few places still under the radar with even more value than this.