Friday, November 29, 2013

"Outer" Brooklyn Keeping Pace: 168 Midwood Street

Going just outside the top 5 brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods was still a new idea as recently as a year ago.  But today, with top-notch 4-story houses for $1.8M popping up all over "outer" neighborhoods like Prospect Lefferts Garden, is it any surprise to see the next-best 3-story fetch its asking price of $1.775M?

168 Midwood Street had wood details for days, upgraded kitchen and bath, and lasted just 3 weeks on the market...

If you wanted to know how hot this market's gotten since last year, note this house was listed a few times prior for $1.25M in 2009 & 2010, it sold in April 2012 for $1.176M, and now closes last month for $1.775M.  Up 50% in 18 months?  Not too shabby for a fawncy single-family with no rental income.  Platinum Members passed on a 4-story off-market gem even lower than this, but without the updates.   And there are some comps even higher than this on their way that have been simmering for a while.

Pro's:  1899 Romanesque Revival, totally historic details with updated kitchen & bath, still beats a condo

Con's:  2013 prices, didn't last long, one-family doesn't bring that rental income, is this the new 3-story pricing?

Ideally:  makes a few of the under marketed plays over here look even more interesting

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Platinum Member Pass: Off-Market Opportunity in Clinton Hill

When we heard about a 3-story 2-Family brownstone in Clinton Hill around the corner from Pratt that was available off-market, we were excited.  It's always nice to dodge the crowds at well-publicized open houses like 102 Gates Avenue.  And even under-publicized opportunities like 108 Gates Avenue don't exactly go for cheap.  And just because a property is off-market or pre-market doesn't mean that they wanna sell for a steal or anything either.  But it is nice when you get to bid against only a handful of buyers instead of dozens.  So Platinum Members dove right in to this place in good shape, with great floors, mantles, and details.  A standard full-sized 20' x 45' on a 100' lot, it's set up as an upper owner's duplex with a garden rental.  Top floors are live-able, but with lots of miscellaneous work to do to sew it up right...

High ceilings on the parlor AND on the top floor, with the exposed beams...

The bathroom on the top floor's finished, though not to everyone's taste.  The skylight with the high ceilings gives it a nice feel...

A backyard always makes the brownstone a sweet alternative to the condo...

We weren't surprised to see arched-brick construction in the cellar, which explains why the house is solid, even in light of the work it'll need...

The garden floor needs the most work, but with a kitchen on the parlor, the house is move-in ready, allowing an owner to spend the rest of the time personalizing the renovation on the garden floor while they're living in the top 2 floors...

Exposed brick and exposed beams, baby!  We were told the deal could be done for $1.5M cash as-is, or for $1.6M financed with the owner doing a basic renovation to get the house mortgageable.  Platinum Members won the deal, but ultimately passed on it.  The owner has a broker in his ear telling him he can get more like $1.7M with a simple renovation.  And we don't doubt it in this market, even for a mere 3 stories.  While 4-story "comps" like 102 Gates Avenue and 108 Gates Avenue are long gone, have you seen what's been happening in this area since?  Clinton Hill expert Nadine Adamson pointed out to us yesterday that this bag of bones at 17 Irving Place closed for a remarkable $2M.  (And to think, people still doubt that floor-throughs in prime Prospect Heights are heading to $1M/each when what Corcoran's calling "2 floors" here goes for $1M/floor!)  Even this off-market 2-Family has some barely-marketed competition a block away at a lower price point.  But it's hard to buy something you don't even know is for sale.

Pro's:  solid quintessential 2-Family brownstone on a quiet & beloved block in Clinton Hill, not on everyone's radar, high ceilings on the parlor and top floor, great floors & details, personalize the reno yourself or with the owner

Con's:  work to be done, people still think this is the 4-story price, it's not like they're looking to give it away

Ideally:  curious to see if anyone steps up to the plate to take down this off-market opportunity

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Baffled by Bed-Stuy? Join the Club!: 364 Jefferson Avenue

It was almost a year ago that we were telling you "Parents Just Don't Understand" this whole Brooklyn real estate resurgence.  And, though the pattern repeats itself month after month, even the top dogs in the industry still can't come to an agreement about what's really going on here.  Case in point, the much-republished headline this month that posits, "Bed-Stuy Is The Next Williamsburg", which these jokers are calling "a headline that shouldn't exist but does."  It's true; that headline shouldn't exist.  But not because of some sentimental notions about where gentrification should or shouldn't go, or because of fatigue over neighborhoods people cynically think are simply renamed by advantageous real estate brokers.  That headline shouldn't exist 'cause it's just plain incorrect, and it shows how misunderstood Brooklyn continues to be.  Bed-Stuy is categorically not the next Williamsburg.  Not long ago, Williamsburg was a quiet little neighborhood of old factories, warehouses, and mediocre vinyl-siding housing stock, until a hipster critical mass discovered it as a more affordable alternative to the East Village and Lower East Side with an L train right into downtown (if you can imagine the days - just 10 years ago - when getting priced out of no-brainer Manhattan neighborhoods like those was a novel thing).  Williamsburg was a sleepy little place, a blank canvas ready for conversions, new developments, big spaces at affordable prices where artsy establishments could take affordable risks.   The likes of these guys felt no problem invading the quaint, mostly-Polish confines of Williamsburg and Greenpoint virtually overnight...

(Yes, for the record, that's a white blazer, stone-washed jeans, and an ironic vest on display along with vinyl-siding and green astroturf in Greenpoint, Brooklyn's 2nd hipster Mecca behind Williamsburg.)

Bed-Stuy is almost the opposite of Williamsburg.  It's a valley of amazing housing stock built during the rowhouse heyday that everyone loves - ahem - Park Slope for.  That's right, if Bed-Stuy is the new anything, it's the new Park Slope.  And before you start gasping, try looking at the historic townhome activity going on in Bed-Stuy.  Townhomes you'd be hard-pressed to duplicate in Williamsburg, even if money were no object.

In case words don't paint the picture, let's let pictures paint the picture.  Observe, these are Williamsburg houses...

 These are Bed-Stuy houses:

If you had to choose, which houses do YOU think are worth griping over the fact that their sales prices are approaching $2M?  Does Bed-Stuy housing remind you more of Williamsburg, or of - ahem - Park Slope??

Then, to top it off, some of the biggest deal-makers in the industry are going around saying that the Brooklyn townhouse market's cooling off.  We're sure they don't say that to seller's faces during listing presentations, but they're happy to make it an "insider" talking point all over town.  Which is data we'd more than welcome, if we could only find a concrete example of it.  The folks at Evans & Nye are part of a wave that's almost single-handedly bringing Bed-Stuy closer to Park Slope by the day, and they've got nothing but bullish news to report to us.  Take 364 Jefferson Avenue which Ban Leow listed for $1.7M and has in contract for $1.85M with a buyer from Soho.  They tell us this is a neighborhood record for a 3-Family (they set the 2-Family record too, by the way) and that the house appraised for its contract price.  Good luck finding housing stock like this anywhere in Williamsburg, at any price...

Does this barrel-front gem look exactly like Prospect Heights' $2.5M+ 398 Sterling Place to you??  Does it look just like 314 Park Place that sold for almost $3M last year, and would easily fetch higher today?  That's because these houses were built at the same time by the same folks!  This isn't the vinyl-siding that time forgot, like Williamsburg.  These are the mansions that time forgot (and that everyone is rapidly remembering at a pace virtually no one can keep up with).  It wasn't long ago that millionaires were too chicken to offer this much for a lesser townhouse on a park block in Park Slope, like 635 10th Street!  Think about that for a second.  And now $1.35M being a record-breaker in Bed-Stuy feels like yesteryear.

But Ban's not done there.  He had 663 Putnam Avenue asking $1.6M, now in contract for $1.8M, with another buyer from Soho...

$1.8M, y'all!!  For a great house, granted.  But this is pretty much no man's land in terms of train access by many accounts.  If you were shocked when a fixer-upper on a killer block in west Bed-Stuy, that was featured in Crooklyn and located a mere 100 yards from an express train, commanded $1.7M a few months ago... did you think $1.8M would start popping up in relative transportation deserts?  No, Bed-Stuy is not the gentrification sprawl of 20-something hipsters trying to find the next flop house near a coffee shop, a train station, and a bar.  (Although, those will come too...)  This market is being dictated by true home buyers who are willing to be 10 blocks from the train just to be in this valley of amazing housing stock.  And at prices that some people - to this day! - remain too chicken to bid on in prime Prospect Heights, let alone "deep" Bed-Stuy.

'And even after all my logic and my theory, I add an SRO so you ign'ant buyers hear me...'  If you weren't convinced enough by two $1.8M+ contract prices deep in Bed-Stuy, peep game on the SRO market.  615 Jefferson Avenue was asking $1.495M, but goes in contract 5% over asking price.

If you can tell us what any of this Bed-Stuy activity has to do with Williamsburg, feel free...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Listings: Bed-Stuy 1BR Rental - 622 Jefferson Avenue

New to the Listings section of the blog, it's our main-man Morgan "Million Dollar" Munsey with a garden apartment rental at 622 Jefferson Avenue on the Stuyvesant Heights side of Bed-Stuy.  You may remember Morgan from his record-breaking Stuyvesant Heights deal on the same block at 593 Jefferson Avenue a few months ago for $1.8M.  But when Morgan isn't breaking million-dollar records, or giving historic walking tours, in his spare time he moonlights as architect on houses.  Morgan told us he was the architect on this renovation, which kept & compliments lots of the wood detail intact.  The house was built in 1890 by John E. Dwyer, according to their site, and it looks like it's stayed in good hands with Morgan.  The griping about the $2,200/month price is to be expected, but you'd be commanding top dollar too if your kitchen was this sweet.  People are swooping up Platinum Member rentals for the new kitchens alone.  And the rest of the apartment keeps the quality look alive...

All in a cute 3-story brownstone...

On a block where a nice town home listed for $1.425M and fetches 3 offers, none lower than $1.6M cash, what did you expect nice apartments to rent for??  For this much money, we'd love a pic of the yard, even if "beautiful views to the garden" are all this unit gets, and not genuine garden access.  However, with a rear door right there at the kitchen, we figure garden access comes with the place.  Throw in the walk-in closet and the circle's complete.  It's a slow month for rentals, but we can't be mad at their number.  We've seen couples with fancy jobs in midtown take floor-throughs without all these details for $1,750-$1,850 around the corner from here.  With features this nice, these owners have every right to expect a premium.  So, as they say, "it is what it is."

Pro's:  well renovated & restored floor-through apartment, everybody loves some good penny-tile in the bath, separate entrance for this unit, garden views and (presumably) garden access

Con's:  would love to see the garden, isn't exactly cheap, more in the 2BR range for most renters, no man's land transportation-wise in most people's book

Ideally:  for the true-blue lover of backyards and Stuy Heights, this looks like a well-designed slice

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Renovated Frame House Coming to Fort Greene North: 179 Park Avenue

When they asked us if a totally renovated frame house on Park Avenue on the northern edge of Fort Greene could command a million dollars, we said it's certainly worth a try.  The neighborhood's not for everyone, but it certainly is hip (and historic!).  After seeing the work that The Stuyvesant Group did on places like 624 Greene Avenue and others, we figured they could put the right touch on the place.  We got an early look at 179 Park Avenue, a 2-Family house coming out soon asking $999K that we're told is having an open house this weekend.  The location for this frame house is a tweener between Fort Greene proper to the south, the rapidly developing Navy Yard area (some call it Wallabout), and just a stone's throw away from Williamsburg.  With Myrtle Avenue being the vibrant commercial stretch up the hill, spots popping up like Brooklyn Roasting Company on Flushing around the corner...

You can squint your eyes and forget you're not in Williamsburg, where - oh, by the way - condos fetch $1,200/sqft with hefty maintenance fees.  But this 2-Family condo alternative is coming in at $593/sqft, less than half that.  And brownstone condo conversions are already selling higher than that on Dean and NY Avenue "deep" in Crown Heights, as high as $630/sqft.  Condos north of Myrtle closer to Pratt are selling for over $730/sqft.  So let's see what a million gets you for a townhouse over on Park Avenue...

We see this place having potential as a hipster Batcave and/or a condo alternative for anyone who wants a yard at condo prices.  It's a way better value than an unrenovated house on the same block asking $700K.  If you want to be in striking distance of Fort Greene, but not pay $1,000/sqft for a condo with $1,000+ maintenance fees or pay $2M+ for a townhouse shell, then this house might be worth a look.  Going north of Myrtle isn't for everyone, but it ain't cheap either.  Corcoran got $997K for another small frame house at 47 Cumberland Street last month, north of the BQE.  Corcoran also got $1.358M last month for 161 Washington Avenue north of Myrtle after listing closer to that price in April and wanting as much as $1.55M by the end of the summer.  Corcoran also got $1.475M in September for the 15' wide "bring your contractor" special at 86 Vanderbilt Avenue north of Myrtle.  Maybe you missed the lovely 13' wide brick house at 141A Washington Avenue closing this month for $1.375M.  Obviously, the biggest drawback of 179 Park Avenue is the BQE overpassing on stilts right out the front window.  There's no getting around that.  We were surprised at how little street noise makes it into the house, even during rush hour.  So if that's not a deal breaker, getting an owner's duplex with a yard and rental income could be clutch.

Especially when you get all the fixin's fully renovated inside and out with sleek finishes, nice floors, washer/dryer in the basement, and central A/C in the house!  At this price you could take over the whole house or even FHA buyers can rock it out in the 3BR & 2.5 bath duplex and get a nice stream of income from the garden rental.

Time to see what this Wallabout market is all about!

Pro's:  totally renovated, central A/C, washer/dryer, condo alternative with a yard and a deck, price per squarefoot, might happen under a million

Con's:  off the beaten path, curb appeal isn't everyone's taste, modest 18' x 33' size, BQE is tragically close by

Ideally:  a hipster hide-out in the making or a condo alternative for buyers who wanna be in striking distance of prime Fort Greene

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Flipping Is Easy in Crown Heights: 857 Park Place

How do you make $400K plus in less than a year in Crown Heights?  We'll show ya!  All last year, many Brooklyn buyers came out of the woodwork realizing that Crown Heights was the obvious next shoe to drop in the gentrification that's sweeping eastward in brownstone Brooklyn.  Folks with as relatively little down as $100K we're happy to tell us what was and wasn't worth ~$700K, but we figured all these homes wanted to be $1M sooner than later.  We didn't realize how soon "sooner" would be.  Case in point, 857 Park Place was a listing that was even on your Streeteasy for all to see last year, and it was in and out of accepted offers around $750K.  A few wanna-be developers who could afford it many times over all cash passed on it (they also passed on no-brainer gems such as 181 Park Place, 1142 Dean Street, 22 Arlington Place, 26 St. James Place, 71 Irving Place, 289 Clinton Avenue, and 308 Clermont Avenue - so what do they know?), and even end-users who couldn't afford any house besides this one in the area were passing on it flippantly.  The seller went with an FHA offer from someone they'd been working with for some time.  However, after months in contract, the financed deal fell through and the house was rescued for the same price all-cash, closing in March this year.  It appraised for $1M at the time, and is back out now with a list price of $1.2M...

Trust us, you're paying for more than just floor plans when you get this house, even though the listing shows nothing else.  We were impressed with its end-user potential when we got inside last year, and things have only gotten better in Crown Heights, even if the house itself hasn't.  We hear there are offers significantly over $1M in already, so it's not a game out there.  When the $1.2M listing this year is worse than the $775K listing last year and buyers still waste no time coming in strong, you KNOW you're dealing with a hot market.  Up 60% in under 9 months?  That's just how we roll.

Pro's:  great block,  a relatively affordable way to participate in the market, a 3-Family with a yard and rental income still beats a condo

Con's:  no pics on the listing, not the best house on the block, can't play woulda/coulda on last year's pricing for this same product, "Nostrand is too far" still rolls off the tongue for lots of folks

Ideally:  don't sleep on Crown Heights next time, if there is a "next time"

Friday, November 15, 2013

Just Closed in Clinton Hill: 108 Gates Avenue

Before 375 people lined up in the cold this January for an open house at Corcoran's intentionally-underpriced listing at 102 Gates Avenue, which closed for $1.55M, another equally compelling house was already wrapping up under everyone's noses.  Yes, just about a year in the making, 108 Gates Avenue just closed this week, also for $1.55M.  Much like 148 Gates Avenue, estate sales take time and court approval, and make it hard for us when the novices will come clamoring for another one of these (when they see the closing recorded publicly in a few weeks) without realizing that this is last year's price.  This same house sells for more than this in today's market, but they don't hear us though.

All & all not a bad price for a 20' x 45' brownstone 4-Family with a "5th Floor Vacant Loft".  For rental comps, you need look no further than 3 bricks away, next door at 110 Gates Avenue, where the duplex just rented for a record-breaking $6,100, and floor-thru's easily get about half that.  The yard at 108 Gates isn't too far off...

And feast your eyes on a variety of interior, from the totally-turnkey...

To the fixer-upper...

Yes, Brownstoner happily dropped it on ya on January 30th of this year and claimed there were "no interior photos to work with".  Somehow we had interior photos, and the listing broker Stephen Safina reminisced to us yesterday that he remembers working on this deal last Christmas and New Year's to lock it up, just to illustrate how long these things can take and how timely you gotta be to get in on one.  It feels like just yesterday that people we're trying to tell us comps can't justify 101 Gates Avenue over $1.2M, before it closed for $1.43M.  If you missed this gem at 108 Gates, don't despair!  There's more on and off-market activity coming to a Gates near you.  And not all of it requires waiting in line with hundred of folks in the cold, although it may also never appear on your!

Pro's:  location, price, not on everyone's radar, great 4-5 units for investor or end-user, decent rental income already in place on some units plus upside in renovating the others, killer rental and sales comps have come in since this place was locked up 

Con's:  gone already, took all cash, took almost a year to close, not easily duplicated

Ideally:  don't sleep on a gem in an up-market!  The next versions of this house on the same street effortlessly command $1.8M-$2M, even off-market.