Saturday, March 29, 2014

Listings: Clinton Hill Garden Rental - 119 Gates Avenue, Apt 1

New to the Listings section of the blog, it's a garden rental in Clinton Hill with an open house tomorrow.  119 Gates Avenue, Apt 1 is asking $2,400/month for a great little 1BR garden apartment with access to a huge backyard with some nice topography to it...

The cherry tree's really something in bloom.  Oh yeah, and the apartment itself ain't bad either...

All in a sweet historic brick house from 1864 with nice details intact...

Slightly more renovated floor-thru's a few doors down can fetch higher than this, like at 110 Gates Avenue, where the duplex went for over $6K/month.  But with even rent stabilized 1BR's in Bed-Stuy and beyond getting $1,850/month, it's no wonder a prime Clinton Hill location like this commands over $2,000/month.  In the land of $2M-$3M fixer uppers, the $2,400/month floor-thru is a nice entry point.

Pro's:  prime Clinton Hill gardener's delight, close to the all the things that make brownstone Brooklyn great, quick walk to the C train, separate entrance and access to huge yard, pet friendly

Con's:  not a 2BR or 1+ office, not totally updated, en suite bathroom only

Ideally:  even if you think it's just shabby-chic, the open house is worth a peek for the backyard alone

Friday, March 28, 2014

Listings: Fort Greene Upper Duplex Rental - 126 South Oxford Street

New to the Listings section of the blog, it's a duplex rental in prime Fort Greene with a roof deck.  126 South Oxford Street has an updated kitchen and baths, washer/dryer in the unit, two working fireplaces, an open house tomorrow, but the roof deck is obviously our favorite part.  Long gone are the storied days of $4,000/month duplex rentals in Fort Greene - except for a few lucky folks with nice landlords with a low cost basis.  Clinton Hill records have been broken for less than the asking price of $6,195/month.  Let's see what $6,000+/month gets you...

Nice ceiling height on that top floor there!  Exposed brick and all the modern fixings in a brownstone in a prime location...

It's no wonder they want top dollar.  And if the rent sounds high to you, back it into that handy-dandy price per square foot number everyone loves.  While people are paying $45-$50/sqft for rentals even over in Crown Heights, this one is sitting at a mere $37/sqft (if you're willing to call it 2,000/sqft).  And if $3,000+ per floor isn't the rent you had in mind, maybe slide over to their other listing for a $2,500/month 1BR in Prospect Heights at 291 Lincoln Place.

Pro's:  renovated duplex, roof deck, washer/dryer, working fireplaces, prime Fort Greene, on the street the masses always tell us they want, great raw price per square foot number, open house this weekend

Con's:  "It's not on the park block," we can already hear them saying.  It's not necessarily cheap either.  Kinda generic looking.

Ideally:   if rents feel relentless, keep in mind we're living in the nation's richest & largest city, and it's fastest growing borough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Up 150% in Bed-Stuy: 22 Arlington Place

Barely over a year after closing for $725K, 22 Arlington Place is all renovated and ready for their close-up, and already has pre-market cash offers over a million dollars more than the owners paid for it.  That's right, if you were swept up in the bidding war for 196 Hancock Street well over $1.85M, brace yourself for another one at 22 Arlington Place.  Nobody wanted to pay $800K for it a year and a half ago, and look at what's happened since...

- 7 Arlington Place listed for $1.3M, sold for $1.7M cash, and is undergoing some $300K+ in work

- 18 Arlington Place closed for $1.15M cash without barely hitting the market

- 12 Arlington Place had so much upside in the deal poorly marketed that they passed on a contract at $1.35M, re-listed for $1.65M, and closed this month for more than they ever expected to get

- 1 Arlington Place listed for $1.795M and closed for over $1.9M, as an SRO

So when the fancy pictures hit the airwaves and the line is out the door, who knows how high 22 Arlington can go?  The renovation did just what it needed to.  They kept the details, upgraded the mechanicals, built a deck out the backyard, cut new skylights, added A/C and a master bath, stained the floors dark and ta-da...

They went Alhambra in the finished basement...

And Game of Thrones in the master bath...

What a difference a year makes.  Not only in the house, but more impressively in the market.  What will people pay for a not quite 16' wide triplex over garden on one of the cutest blocks in all of Bed-Stuy these days??  You won't have to wait too much longer to find out.

Pro's:  curb appeal, great original details with a modern renovation, fresh renovation, interior staircase & deep floor plate give large bedrooms to a narrow house, A/C and other upgrades throughout

Con's:  price tag of almost $2M isn't what everyone wants to hear, not everyone's taste, narrow width, brace yourself for the bidding war

Ideally:  where were you when no one wanted to pay $800K for this, or even believed there were comps to justify such a number?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Closings of Note: Condo Records Can Be Broken Too

Brooklyn, your $3M+ condo is here!  1 Grand Army Plaza, #12D sold for a paltry $2.5M in the doldrums of 2011, but now it lists for $3.4M and cruises to $35K over asking price.  No wonder people buy fixer-upper townhomes in Prospect Heights for over $2M on and off market.  Oh, and don't forget the common charges of almost $3,000/month on this condo!  The listing boasted, "This will be the Richard Meier Building's first important resale since its construction in 2006."  As if the people selling the other units for millions were all simply unimportant chump change transactions.  You gotta love Corcoran's spirit!

And just who's dropping this kind of coin on a condo in Brooklyn?  Why none other than folks from just down the hill in Prospect Heights who just sold their stunning corner home at 562 Bergen Street for well over asking price of $2.65M - that's who!

If you're keeping score at home, this is over $1,300/sqft for a condo.  Developers are glued to that price per square foot metric as if it's the only thing propelling the market.  As if condo buyers head out to open houses on the weekend saying to themselves, "Honey, I'd like to spend $818 a square foot on the condo we buy."  We tend to think buyers buy the best property they can get within their budget, so the whole-dollar price of the condo is much more important to them than its raw price per square foot.  But while over $800/sqft is happening for stylish condos in Bed-Stuy already, developers will still look at a development site there and say, "$200 per buildable square foot is too expensive, because I'll have to spend another $250-$350 a foot on the construction, then I can only sell them for $500 a foot."  Then once you convince them they'll sell 'em for over $800/ft, they'll tell you that millions of dollars in profit isn't enough for them.  Rough life.  Let's see what other price per square feet are happening for condos in our borough...

If you wanna live on a no-brainer block like South Portland overlooking Fort Greene park, it ain't gonna come cheap.  Brownstoner mused last year, "Wow, it’ll have to be some kind of record for Fort Greene if the top floor of the brownstone at 4 South Portland Avenue sells for the asking price of $1,059,000."  Hmmm, that's interesting.  Because it just sold for $1.175M.  Makes a duplex we're looking at around the corner for $1.2M look like a steal.  Generic renovation by many accounts, but that's our Brooklyn for ya.  $1,000+/sqft, it's not just for Manhattan and Williamsburg anymore!

Speaking of $1,000+/sqft, slide on over to 199 State Street, where the penthouse unit sold below asking price, but over $1.2M.  Even if you think this is a narrow little place for the price, we're still talking about downtown Brooklyn priced below what even the outskirts of Manhattan has to offer.

Or if you're not nuts about downtown, slide down to trendier Boerum Hill where 303 Warren Street, #3 also just sold for $1.2M, or over $1,000/sqft.  Never mind the cheesy new-construction exterior, this place has a roof deck!

If over $1,000/sqft is the new breed of condo pricing in the best parts of Brooklyn, is there value in finding a decent condo priced lower than that?  We'd say so.  35 St. Marks Avenue has been dying to duplicate the sales of 33 St. Marks Avenue for years now.  They spent time wanting just over $700K a few years ago, then finally got their offering plan & their act together, listed for $839K and closed for $850K on Unit #3.  Still not what 33 St. Marks pulled off, but this is no 33 St. Marks.  $818/sqft spells value to us for a 1,000+ square foot condo in Park Slope.  But it's the pricepoint rather than the price per square foot that buyers really pivot off of.

Of course ~$800/sqft is a good price in prime Park Slope, especially when it's happening near the highway in south Slope.  231 16th Street, #2A just sold for $710K, or $814/sqft.  Makes a whole house on the same block asking $1.5M pre-market sound like a deal to us.

Don't look now, here comes another $2M+ condo in Park Slope!  305 3rd Street, #4G couldn't quite get $2.2M, but it sold for $2.172M, almost a million more than it went for in 2005.  Whether you call it $936/sqft or "over two million dollars", that's a lot of money.  No wonder a Park Slope fixer-upper like 115 Lincoln Place would want well over $2M too.

If Park Slope is too pricey for you, head across the street to Prospect Heights.  Buyers from the Upper East Side sure did, picking up a unit in the 268-270 St. Marks Avenue condo project for just over $1.5M.  A relative steal at $878/sqft.  Buyers from Boerum Hill took down another unit in this development for over $1.5M this year, and buyers from Brooklyn Heights got a larger one here for $1.8M!  Still, not bad when your neighbors are spending over $3.4M for a condo in Grand Army Plaza!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Platinum Members Passing in Park Slope: 115 Lincoln Place

It's not everyday you see an off-market property in prime Park Slope, but Platinum Members have passed on 115 Lincoln Place not once, but twice.  While some Corcoran brokers were working the deal quietly without an exclusive, Platinum Members also had a chance to check out this house a few months ago while it was being tidied up a bit to make it more presentable.  In the land of $2M+ fixer-uppers, this certainly wasn't the worst we'd seen.  It was in even better shape than we'd expected...

"$2.3M-$2.5M for a fixer-upper?  By the time you do the renovation, you're all in for $3M.  Is that really what a house in Park Slope is worth?" a reader and small developer asked us.  But we pointed out that she wants $3M for the house she just closed on in Clinton Hill for under $2M, with the mere stroke of a kitchen or bath or two.  So why do people think their house in Clinton Hill is worth $3M, but someone else's in Park Slope isn't?  Ah, that's just human nature playing out in Brooklyn again.

No, 115 Lincoln Place is not located the in "mecca of public schools" PS 321.  It's in the "toxic" - as one neighbor put it - less desirable PS 282.  (Yeah, that's right Bed-Stuy bashers, Park Slope's got toxic schools too!)  However, there's nothing stopping this from running with the $3M houses in Park Slope some day soon...

Floors and original details intact, but a full gut renovation and extension was planned for this bad-boy.  Barely 17' wide, with an extra-deep lot.  But what's the point of a 140' lot if you can't really use it?  The much publicized battle over the extension had the owners peacing out for greener pastures on a better block with a Valentine a few blocks away.  Who can blame 'em?  What's the point of having buildable square footage on a property if anybody on the block has a say in what you do with it?  It's not like the neighbor doesn't get a deck...


And it's not like the houses on the other side of the perfect "donut hole" of uninterrupted backyards don't all have small extensions of their own...

It's not like this is the most perfect expanse of greenery ever seen, so it needs some special protection.  But the hate is real in Brooklyn when you can't even just let your neighbor pimp their ride within the guidelines of the city's building code.  That is some fuzzy jurisdiction in our book when the Community Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission has their tentacles wrapped so tightly around private property.  Now it has rowhouse developers all around town are telling us they're worried if FAR really means anything anymore when proposals like that get shot down.  It's hard to feel bad for developers, but when home owners trying to better their property get shut down like that so ruthlessly, not wonder it killed their vibe.

Now, a jungle-looking extra-deep double wide backyard like 117 Berkeley Place around the corner, that's worth sticking up for...


A contract flip for ~$2M a block down the hill was kind of interesting too, but more for home owners than developers or flippers.  115 Lincoln Place still makes a great renovation candidate for a new buyer. 

Pro's:  location, block, curb appeal, original details, extra-deep lot, was available again off-market, not a gouging flip, approvable plans in place

Con's:  lots of work to be done, narrow, major extension proposal denied, not located in the coveted PS 321 school district, with steep restrictions from LPC extra-deep lot can be a gift and a curse

Ideally:  even narrow homes like these make a great triplex over garden with separate entrances.  When $4M is the new aspirational price in Park Slope, the fixer-upper over $2M actually makes sense for some people.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Platinum Member Closing in Clinton Hill: 123 Gates Avenue

Platinum Members are at it again, closing this month on a great house in Clinton Hill for a comparatively great price.  Anything 20' wide and 4-stories over here under $2M these days in even remotely non-gut condition is considered a win.  123 Gates Avenue wasn't a secret or anything, featured as Brownstoner house of the day, but it sure took some persistence and some skill to make it happen.  We're a far cry from just last year when the likes of 102 Gates Avenue (out at the same time) had 375 people at the open house.  That house, by the way, has a restoration that's coming along nicely and can expect to fetch over $3M by the time they're finished.  Maybe you missed the other cohorts on Gates that were available around the same time at 148 Gates Avenue and 108 Gates Avenue.  It's not likely we'll be seeing that happen again any time soon.  Maybe you missed a 5-story 4-Family estate sale on this same 100-block of Gates that wanted some $1.6-$1.7M off-market and quickly had bids run up above $2M without even a whisper on StreetEasy or the NYTimes.  Owners in this row who wanted $1.5M-$1.6M last year won't even sell for $2M anymore.  In this climate, 123 Gates above asking price, but below $2M is a slam dunk.  Totally live-able inside, there are some cosmetic and beyond updates to come...

Brownstoner thought "you might not like" the interior staircase - but that's how you get full-width rooms without giving up so much space to the hallway.  Brownstoner thought "you might not like" the dumbwaiter - but that's super neat-o, not in anyone's way, and at the very least provides a great chase for any new installations you wanna do.  You can run new electric up them and still make a great shelves out of them.  The original built in cabinets at 123 Gates are great.  So is the variety of wood, even curving at the staircase...

Tin ceiling in great shape on the garden level...

There's a vinyl-siding extension on the back, a nice yard, and a very cool mural from the 1970's on the adjacent building that's staying...

Owners have plans to make an addition to the mural that's even cooler!  They say they'll keep a triplex over a garden rental, and are even open to renting out these huge nice rooms for as little as $1,000/BR in the meantime.  That'd be the move for anyone who wants a slice of Clinton Hill history at a nice price for a short stint.  We'll cover the search that led to this conclusion next week in an upcoming segment called, "Diary of a Platinum Member".  Until then, this is plenty of house to feast your eyes on.

Pro's:  great location, below-market price, original details for days, in totally great condition, delivered vacant, no C of O issues when all said & done, the perception of SRO issues spooked many buyers away

Con's:  wasn't easy, wasn't necessarily "cheap", work to be done, won't be duplicated on market any time soon

Ideally:  every deal in this market is a unique miracle.  Rinse & repeat investors need a ton of upside in deal after deal for it to even be worth it, but discerning home buyers really only need to pull it off once.