Friday, August 31, 2012

Pioneering in Style: 368 Grand Avenue

It seems like just yesterday that people were telling us that Clinton Hill was "pioneering".  Yes, perhaps back in the late 1800's when Charles Pratt was building mansions, it was pioneering of him...

But in the past few years, and especially the past few months, low-ball bidders banished from the tyranny of Park Slope prices have had to find to new brownstone blocks to practice their sub-$1.5M beliefs.  Back in January, a great fixer-upper like 101 Gates Avenue came out on the scene with a list price of $1.499M, and some wanted to play the ol' "30% off ask" game with a Corcoran listing.  But you know how that goes.  We drew Platinum Members a quick "back of the napkin" sketch of recent comps (and their downpayments) to diagram why we thought it would land at least $1.4M...

(Highlighted properties went for above asking price)

Some people hear us, but they just don't listen.  Now in this market, for $1.3M, you can still get in on the same block as a $2.5M+ property like 377 Grand Ave

Cue 368 Grand Avenue...

Now we're talkin'!  Moan about the 14-15' width if you must, but this is a great look at this pricepoint in this neighborhood now.  Sure, some of the renovation is from the 80's (the 1980's this time), and you may get lost in the stylishly-staged pics and be disappointed in person.  But what were you expecting, 110 Gates Avenue?

This room will almost remind you of Jenna Lyons' $4M place.  Besides, who needs a gut-reno when nifty wall-paper is WAY cheaper than actually re-doing the kitchen??

Brace yourself for a few of the details to be less savory than they are stylish, but with a "new boiler and water heaters", perhaps much of the heavy lifting is already done.  If you're looking for what might be even more value in a narrow Clinton Hill home, skip on over to 135 Cambridge Place, like we've been saying for a few months.

Pro's:  curb appeal, great block, great neighb', stylish, some new mechanicals, pricepoint, backyard deck

Con's:  less than 15' wide, a few dated features, may go above ask when compared to a few other sales on this block

Ideally:  an all-around great look on a lot of levels.  Luckily, one mile east and much closer to the train you can still cop this home's historic cousin for almost half the price.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

You Gotta Love the Limestones: 676 Eastern Parkway

We're told Eastern Parkway was built to be the Champs-Élysées of Brooklyn after the Civil War.  We even got our own "Arc de Triomphe":

But did you know that Eastern Parkway is supposedly "the world's first parkway"? 

NYC Parks & Rec says, "The world's first parkway was conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1866.  The term parkway was coined by these designers as a landscaped road built expressly for 'pleasure-riding and driving' or scenic access to Prospect Park (also designed by Olmsted and Vaux).  To these ends, commerce was restricted."  And big ol' houses commenced...

676 Eastern Parkway is a barrel-front limestone home located between Brooklyn Avenue and New York Avenue listed for months now at $999K.  This 18' x 50' single-family house weighs in at a healthy 4,000+ sqft on a 127' lot, giving you a ton of FAR to play with.  Most of the extra depth of the lot is shot on the front yard setback from the street, which actually comes in handy on Eastern Parkway - even with the side roads that were intended for delivery wagons.  A single-family doesn't give ya the rental income many might be looking for, but it's used as a 2-Fam with a separate entrance, so there's that.

It may not wow you with certain original details (there are still plenty) or modern upgrades, but this house is move-in ready today - even if it doesn't all match your taste.

Is a million dollars a lot of money for what many would consider a fixer-upper? 

You bet it is!  But it's also a lot of value over what the prime neighborhood next door commands for a barrel-front limestone.  Sure, once upon a time (read "last year"), limestone fixer-uppers on the open market in prime Prospect Heights - like 154 Underhill - were valued like this.  But now ones like 412 Sterling Place want well over $1.5M.  So in today's market, a year & 1/2 after 154 Underhill, you have to go a mile & 1/2 further east for the same price?  If this were DC, or Boston, or Philly, would that be a shocker?  Sit on the exact same train you already ride for 1 or 2 more subway stops to save over 30% off your purchase price?  Cha-CHING!!  Call it "sweat equity".  It's not like we're sending you to vinyl-siding on the other side of the tracks, people.  These are nice houses with great history that certain people simply slept on for a few generations:

Brooklyn is effectively the 4th largest city in the US all on its own, and you mean to tell me all the nice mansions from ~100 years ago is where the value is in this city?   414 Stuyvesant Avenue, we're looking at you!  Were you sad to see Crown Heights prices poking past $1M for fixer-uppers this Spring/Summer?  Well, where were you last year when Platinum Members we're lining up the purchase of a turn-key limestone beauty like 931 St. Marks Avenue at a great price?  That's the type of pricing another lovely limestone like 1310 Pacific Street should be commanding in this market.

If you missed your chance on a 3-story limestone like 355 Eastern Parkway (or weren't ready to follow it well into the $900K's), then you shouldn't sleep on 676 Eastern Parkway.  Corcoran is about to drop 676 Eastern Parkway's Crown Heights cousin on ya (with an even deeper yard!) pretty soon for an even lower list price, but one that's bound to be surpassed again.  Get on the bus now because gentrification - like time - waits for no man.

Pro's:  curb appeal, high ceilings, set back from the street, move-in ready, world's first parkway!

Con's:  not everyone's taste, a fixer-upper in some people's book, paved backyard isn't deep, a few blocks deeper east than some people think they deserve to be

Ideally:  anything with a $200-handle on the price per square foot is like a no-brainer now.   Unless it's an SRO or a gut - and even then sometimes it's still okay!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Closings of Note: If You Miss the Best, You're Stuck With the Rest

After literally months of calling this absentee agent for the great Prospect Heights listing at 542 Carlton Avenue, Platinum Members were finally able to get inside to make a bid.  On another showing appointment a few weeks later, the agent actually stood us up, calling while we stood in front of the property to notify us that it was in contract.  Yep, that's what owners are paying these jokers tens of thousands of dollars for.  After listing for $1.375M since last year, and chasing almost everyone away, this 20' x 50' 2-Family brownstone closed earlier this month for $1.4M.  Where do you have to go to get something this nice for ~$1.4M now?  If you didn't know about 439 Bergen Street or have the cash to swing it, if you thought 579 Bergen Street was "too white", if you thought 416 Park Place was "too 80's", if you thought 270 Sterling Place was "too dark", and 27 7th Avenue was "too busy"... now you can go play Goldilocks in Bed-Stuy where a $925K listing from 2010 wants $1.3M for a "needs work" "bring your contractor" 4-Family.

276 14th Street is a tiny 17' x 30' 2-Family with vinyl siding in South Slope.  Don't tell the Unicorn Hunters that it listed for $949K in May, had a contract in a month, and sold this month for $965K.

1078 Park Place was a ridonkulous 7,000 sqft corner opportunity in Crown Heights.  Buyers with millions in the bank looking for a steal passed on it because it needed a C of O change, like any decent repositioning play does.  Can't wait to see what they do with this 24' x 90' monster that sold this month for $630,500.

296 Dekalb Avenue was a great little Clinton Hill play listed since last year off & on at $1.799M.  Like Brownstoner, many tried to tell us this wasn't worth that price then because the immaculate 287 Dekalb Avenue closed for $1.8M last June.  Well, don't tell those people that price was negotiated months earlier.  You can't buy Apple stock today if you're bidding at prices from over a year ago.  And 287 Dekalb still needed new kitchens & baths.  Just like 338 Clinton Avenue, which was in contract above $1.9M (and wants $2.6M now) by the time people were scoffing at 296 Dekalb.  Accordingly, 296 Dekalb Avenue closed this month for $1.779M.

The painfully-generic renovation on the 4-Family at 175 Carroll Street in Carroll Gardens made many gasp at the original $2.625M asking price.  Then it dropped only a little to $2.55M.  But that's still "just" $655/sqft, not far from the area's average psf, and only a few blocks away from ~$1,000/sqft fixer-uppers in Brooklyn Heights.  It sold this month for $2.395M, and we can't imagine they won't be putting more into it to make it look less 1990's rental-grade.

And on the condo front, 237 Cumberland Street, #3 was a shiny renovation in Fort Greene that wanted $1.799M after the crash and came back at $1.695M at the end of last year.  Brownstoner ostensibly didn't see it working at ~$1,000/sqft then, yet it still manages get a contract in a few months and sell for a lofty-feeling $1.5M this month.  A little food for thought for those who doubted a 20' x 35' shell across the street at 242 Cumberland, which the listing broker told us needed as much as $1M in work, and sold for $1.375M cash just a few months ago.  Or maybe you'd prefer a Fort Greene SRO around the corner at 404 Clermont that just sold for $1.4M all cash?  And to think, it was pulling teeth to get a $1.2M offer out of some low-ballers on a "set it & forget it" turnkey 3-Family listed at $1.39M like 308 Clermont Avenue this Spring!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Contract in Bed-Stuy: 153 Hancock Street

The last house we covered was a real listing that sold for a great price because you couldn't find it on your Streeteasy or your New York Times.  It's a pattern we've seen play out over and over.  Today, however, we have a great house in Bed-Stuy full of original details that you can find on Streeteasy for $999K, but it wasn't a real listing for most of its lifespan on their site.  153 Hancock Street is an amazing 2-Family home near the Nostrand A train on one of Bed-Stuy's most lovable blocks.  

The house has been well-maintained by a garden-friendly owner with a serious green thumb, and it only needs a few finishing touches to complete a gorgeous restoration.  Its high ceilings and plethora of original details like pocket doors, parquet floors, wood banisters, wainscoting, etc. are on par with this house - but at a much more attractive pricepoint, with its stoop intact, and a layout that's better suited to homeowners than investors.  153 Hancock Street was on Platinum Member radar long before it went up on Streeteasy, and Platinum Members had it in contract shortly after it first appeared on Streeteasy.  We kindly asked Streeteasy to take the listing down, or at least change the status to "in contract" so as not to waste everyone's time.  But it wasn't until 4 days ago that they finally obliged.  They'd told us they'd looked into it, but you know they couldn't've done that thorough of a due diligence if they let an "elevator" slide as one of the supposed amenities of the building:

We also visited Streeteasy's office last week, practically begging them to let us bring our Platinum Member listings to their platform, but it was nothing doing.  Oh well, seems like we gotta keep navigating Brooklyn's wild west the old-fashioned way.

Even without Streeteasy on board, we're actively working to find a suitable platform to house the listings everyone wants in one place, hoping to roll out Gold Member status in the coming months.  (fingers crossed)

Pro's:  original details galore, great block, great price, great yard, only needs a few finishing touches

Con's:  gone already, dead-end listing that we tried to warn Streeteasy about right off the bat, interior pics for Platinum Members only

Ideally:  if all you've got is Streeteasy on your side, you may be tardy to the party, or not even hear about the party at all

Friday, August 24, 2012

Crown Heights Value Sells Again: 1054 Dean Street

Just because a nice Brooklyn brownstone doesn't show up on your Streeteasy or your New York Times, doesn't mean it isn't real or that it doesn't exist.  Dozens of real, great listings abound that don't always show up in the typical places.  In fact, some of the best deals are deals in the first place because not everyone's seeing them.  Is 1077 Dean Street with all its original wood details really worth about half as much as 1259 Dean Street?  Of course not.  But we're willing to bet that less than half as many people knew about 1077 as knew about 1259.

Platinum Members were inside this value 3-Family at 1054 Dean Street since this time last year.  The agents even raised the asking price from $750K to $779K when they realized what they had on their hands.  Seasoned buy & hold renovators saw the value in this building around the $700-$750K range.  Many users weren't too impressed with the interior, which was certainly nothing nearly as nice as 1077 Dean.  We preferred the value in 1142 Dean above them all, but who wouldn't want a full 3-Family for a condo price?  Getting good bones around $700K has been the move for a while now in Crown Heights.  Especially just down the hill from the prime commercial corridor of Franklin Avenue that makes even 3-story fixer-uppers get into the $900K's when marketed well.  Even Brownstoner can't deny this neighb' anymore.

In fact, 1054 Dean Street is also a tennis ball's throw away from where Brownstoner's freshly pulled the wraps off the revamped Studebaker sign at 1000 Dean Street for their upcoming workspace project.

So what's the catch?  Well, 1054 Dean wasn't listed well, it didn't show too well, it didn't have many details to gush over, it needed plenty of fixing, and people were just catching up to Bed-Stuy & Crown Heights.  1379 Pacific Street still looks like a better buy, but this location for $750K is a value for sure on Dean Street.  Another big snag about the location, though, is definitely the bus stop in front of the building, à la 678 Dean Street.

Not a total deal-breaker if you put the bedrooms in the back.  This play is another winner in a neighborhood that's making itself known for value.  Platinum Members are snagging the next-best $750K in town as we speak.

Pro's:  value, 203(k) loan candidate all day, good bones around $700K is a no-brainer over here by now

Con's:  not as nice as 1077 Dean, wasn't listed well, no great details, no interior pics, lots of work to be done, gone already

Ideally:  if you missed this one, don't be surprised when the next one wants over $100K more

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bed-Stuy Still Booming: 4-Family Full of Details

Boy, it seems like just last year we were wading into the water in Bed-Stuy, then telling you Bed-Stuy's "back" and Bed-Stuy's "bubbling".  Now prices are consistently shooting above $1M, and for good reason.  What's left under $1.5M in the top brownstone neighborhoods in Brooklyn anymore?  Buyers have to stay ahead of the curve, or get rolled over by it.  I mean, just take a look at how the "Brooklyn Now Guide" has changed in just a season.  From their Fall/Winter 2011-2012 edition to their 2012 Spring & Summer Edition, Brooklyn has suddenly jumped from 9 approved neighborhoods to 11.  Who were the lucky neighborhoods to make the cut & join the pack?  None other than Bed-Stuy and Bushwick.  And their map has expanded to include Crown Heights as part of Prospect Heights.  Nothing the signs haven't been pointing to for over a year now, but it's pretty telling to see it side-by-side in just a season:

Just yesterday Brownstoners descended on BK to the Fullest tracking the $500K-to-$1.1M+ flip at 221 Jefferson Avenue.  Comments ranged from the semi-satirical (highlighting a few points we've been on board with) to calling out BK to the Fullest for "not doing a proper due diligence" on the comparability of 106 Hancock Street and 221 Jefferson Avenue.  Today we bring you a look inside another great brownstone in Bed-Stuy, listing just above $1.1M...

This 4-Family has got you covered with original parquet floors, mantles, wood details, built-ins, wainscoting, mirrors, a backyard...

Is this worth $1.1M+?  It is what it is.  Sure, there's way more value in a 4-Family like 1379 Pacific Street under $700K from a "whole dollar" approach.  But for a true home buyer who can swing an FHA loan, wants rental income instead of maintenance charges, and loves the interiors of $3M Park Slope brownstones, what better investment could you conceivably make today with under $250K down?  Platinum Members are getting this home's nicer 2-Family cousin for a lot less.  While people with $5M in the bank still miss $3M+ Park Slope townhome bids by $50K, the cluster of flagship $900K homes on the best blocks in Bed-Stuy crossed $1M - and this is news or cause for alarm to someone?  The glass is still half-full in Bed-Stuy in our book.  But if you really wanna be a stickler for the comps, you might miss how quickly things are moving over here.  And, let's keep in mind that we're still talking about a price range that nearby condos go for all the time.

Bed-Stuy native Jay-Z says, "If a man test my 'Stuy / I promise he won't like my reply."  He claims to be such a forward thinker too, "I'm so tomorrow, the Audemars [watch] says yesterday / which means you on time delay."

It's often forgotten that real estate comps are a severely lagging indicator, and by the time these newer price points are finally closed & recorded for all to see, might we be looking at even steeper pricepoints?  Would-be buyers in South Slope once bid $1.1M - $1.2M to low-ball a property.  Now they bid $1.9M and they're still a few hundred thousand short.  We're not saying Bed-Stuy is or will become Park Slope, but we've seen this movie before.  As always, understanding the market, acting accordingly, and getting best of breed are key.  You don't need to be Home-stradmus to know that.

Pro's:  size, yard, original details galore, great block, well within FHA 4-Family loan limit

Con's:  no stoop always throws some people off, some people aren't ready for Bed-Stuy - especially at these pricepoints, (don't look now, it's a flip too!)

Ideally:  if you can get it at the right price, this is a GREAT look!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Closings of Note: Outer Edges Fetching Interior Prices

502 Prospect Avenue was huge 20' x 55' 3-Family on the edge of Windsor Terrace and Park Slope that came out for $1.559M last year.  We were calling it the last Park Slope value of the season.  It somehow got written off while people tried to chase the fixer-uppers basically as close to the park but at double the price per square foot.  It closed this month for $1.475M.

If value/outer Park Slope isn't your speed, maybe you were quick enough to pull the trigger on 532 8th Street.  Core dropped this gorgeous house on ya in May for $2.095M, had a contract in 3 weeks, and closed for $2.325M last month.

269 Sackett Street is another great 4-Family in Cobble Hill that actually had some value with what goes for $2M+ over here.  It listed for $2.175M in the Spring, had a contract in just over a month, and sold for $1.9M.  Compare to the likes of 116 1st Place, 564 Henry Street, and 122 Carroll Street.

187 Sterling Place was another "just across Flatbush from Park Slope" play that listed last spring for $1.799M, dropped to $1.749M by the Fall, had a contract in a few months, and closed last month for $1.61M.  How many people do you think would pounce on this 3-Family for a much higher price if listed today, even at its 16' wide?

If 16' wide in Prospect Heights isn't your speed, maybe a 16' wide 3-Family like 113A 2nd Place in Carroll Gardens might do the trick for ya.  Closed for $1.8M last month.

67 Adelphi Street is a 2-Family on the northern edge of Fort Greene that wanted $750K back in the day, and Brownstoner didn't think that asking price "was low enough".  Just sold for $890K last month.

323 Franklin Avenue is a corner mixed-use spot on the edge of Clinton Hill & Bed-Stuy that gets $900K last month.  So much for some jokers thinking Vanderbilt Avenue mixed-use is worth $850K or less.  You can see more of the uninspiring, generic rentals here.

253 20th Street is a "Park Slope" (read "Greenwood") 4-Family with pretty nice rental income that listed for $1.499M last year and just got $1.25M this month.

103 Vanderbilt Street, also closer to Greenwood Cemetery than Prospect Park, was a 2-Family limestone that listed for $999K and got $980K this month.

818 Prospect Place was a detached brick 4-Family / "rooming house" listed for $599K last year.  It just sold for $630K and is bound to ruin your price per square foot comps when you try to low-ball a Crown Heights beauty this Fall.

1015 St. Johns Place is a funky little 2-Family that listed last year for $775K, got a contract this Spring when things heated up in the area, and closed last month for $715K.

The castle at 1142 Dean Street in Crown Heights closed for $930K.  A jewel and a steal that many missed for all sorts of reasons.

883 Park Place was a Crown Heights stone-exterior multi-family short-sale steal that listed for $400K in the Spring and closed for $385K.  Bound to be a gut, but it's also bound to mess with people's heads for a while too when they're bidding on Corcoran fixer-uppers north of $900K.  Keep in mind, it's an SRO.  And that was enough to deter folks from even Park Slope winners like 135 St. Johns Place.

Speaking of SRO's, 404 Clermont Avenue wanted $1.5M all-cash in Fort Greene since last year.  Many buyers with less than $500K in cash said they'd like the deal at this price (though couldn't actually swing it), and many with the cash to do it said it's only worth $1.25M.  It closed for $1.4M all-cash in June.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quintessential Clinton Hill: 303 Vanderbilt Avenue

303 Vanderbilt Avenue is a renovated Single Family home on a cute brownstone block between Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.  Whether you call this location "Fort Greene lean" or "Clinton Hill chill", this straightforward listing with a sensible $1.599M price tag shows exactly what's going on in these streets right now.  It's nestled right between a Clinton Hill fixer-upper winner like 101 Gates Avenue and a blast-from-the-past straggler like 308 Clermont Avenue.  Corcoran landed $1.43M this Spring for 101 Gates, but that place could use a modest amount of work.  308 Clermont is a generically-renovated 3-Family with a fading-but-nice brownstone exterior that was a steal at its relisted price this Spring of $1.39M, and has wasted lots of people's time drifting up towards a new ask price of $1.8M.  Spare yourself the hassle when 303 Vanderbilt is priced just right.

You've gotta like what you see at 303 Vanderbilt.  Did somebody say "5 marble mantles" and "pocket doors & crown moldings"??  Then you get the modern upgrades in the kitchen to boot? 

Even at 18' x 45', you'd buy one floor this nice for $550K all day, so three floors for less than 3 times that ain't hard to justify one bit.  Besides, if you wanna talk comps, you're only a few blocks from a deeper fixer-upper 4-Family at 289 Clinton Avenue that fetched $1.58M this Spring (after a revival of the listing), and a $1.9M+ sale at 338 Clinton Avenue in need of "gut rehab" that wants to flip for $2.6M now.  This is Clinton Hill's answer to 416 Park Place in Prospect Heights.

Even die-hard Manhattanites (some of who rent in Queens) fall in love with Brooklyn when they walk these streets around Clinton Hill.  As long as the Brooklyn Flea is a destination, that's just another cherry on top of the unmistakable vibe people love this area for.  Remind us what $1.6M gets you in the Slope again these days...??

Don't even get us started on the potential over here with sales such as 377 Grand Avenue...

Pro's:  spot-on listing, nice block, renovated with original details, no 308 Clermont games

Con's:  $628/sqft was Park Slope pricing last year,  won't last, no rental income

Ideally:  check it out and make a move if you're ready