Friday, May 30, 2014
We'll never forget a few holidays ago, making small talk with an uber-liberal hipster friend of the family from a west coast town known for its smugness. The girl's attention span was pretty selective. When we said, "So I was playing Xbox the other day..." the gal immediately rolled her eyes as if video games were the mindless fodder of plebian rubes and most certainly beneath her and anything in her world view. But when we corrected ourselves, "No, no... I mean, they were talking about Xbox on NPR the other day..." her eyes immediately lit up and we had her undivided attention, as if some exalted revelation about the human condition was about to rain down from the high-brow heavens. Try it on your intelligentsia friends! Talk to them about something mainstream and accessible like rap or McDonald's from a first-person perspective, and watch them sigh at the perceived low-brow topic. But if NPR, or the NYTimes, or some other elite-approved outlet talks about rap or McDonald's, it suddenly becomes high-brow food for thought. It's human nature that some people need the red carpet rolled out for them before they'll accept something as up their alley, or even palatable. And real estate is nothing more than human nature, only set to 11. Which is why readers send us satire like this, which is startlingly almost more spot-on than it is an exaggeration to prove a point...
So while dozens of e-mails still pile in monthly from would-be buyers who can list off the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn with ease, but couldn't afford them even if they were half-off today's prices, the neighborhoods that these same folks actually CAN afford get pshawed and dismissed as something far beneath them. That's until the NYTimes writes an article about that neighb, or until a big broker rolls out the shiny red carpet and blesses the block with their presence, pictures, and marketing. Ok, some off-the-charts interior design never hurts either.
Yes, on a small block of Tudor homes in Lefferts, 25 Chester Court got a mere $928K in February of 2013. The buyer came from one of the most stunning blocks in elite-approved Park Slope. While some folks on the Brownstoner comments section actually had some informative critique to add, the usual hacks from the peanut gallery put their dismissive 2 cents in:
"This is one of those poor little blocks squashed up between a noisome, kinda-crappy stretch of Flatbush Ave. and the ever-lovin’ Q tracks? A whisker under a million seems not to acknowledge 'location, location' etc…."
Great use of "noisome" where a simple "noisy" would suffice!
Then Corcoran got their hands on one at 30 Chester Court, listed for $829K and closed for $875K in November 2013. The buyers? From Park Slope. But by then, in December of 2013, 18 Chester Court sold for just over $1M after listing for $865K. Those buyers? From Park Slope too. But feast your eyes on the latest one at 17 Chester Court, where Corcoran got over the asking price of $1.4M, closing for $1.5M last month...
Ok, to be fair, the interior here is on another level & the house speaks for itself. So there's more going on here than just the Corcoran story. But they're the best outlet to bring it to you. The same way NPR and NYT can bless mainstream and mundane topics and elevate them to a level fit for consumption by the elites, the big brokers can bless the perceived-ghetto with the nicest homes on the block and bring the top tier clients to them for top dollar. Once upon a time, local brokers couldn't bring $850K for a little Crown Heights gem on one of the cutest blocks at 10 St. Charles Place. When Corcoran rolled out the red carpet, bids soared over their higher asking price, and buyers floundering for years low-balling in BoCoCa pushed the price over a million. Nowadays, even FSBO's get bidding wars over asking price on these blocks, and dozens of buyers e-mail us looking for houses just like that one off of Franklin Avenue that are no longer affordable at the pricepoints in their heads.
Even if 17 Chester Court is too flowery, too gaudy, and not your style, there's no denying the stylishness here on a par with Cousin John's renovation of Jenna Lyon's old house in beloved Park Slope. If 17 Chester Court went for half a million more than any other house on the block, it's also more pimped out than 98% of end-users could muster with a half a millie and many months to do it with. When someone does a reno you not only didn't have the time to do yourself, but couldn't even duplicate if you tried, that's when the profit margin premiums get pretty high. Is that a powder room in Soho or a bathroom in the ghetto? You decide!
Same house, same original architect as all the other Chester Courts... just a way snazzier designer spin on the interior and staging - and a big broker's top-notch exposure. Mind you, half you clowns wouldn't know Chester Court from Chester Cheetah if it wasn't for Corcoran rolling out the red carpet and capturing the place with stunning pics.
The peanut gallery said, "seems very much 'off' in comparison" to the other sales on the block. But a buyer from the Upper East Side (no less!) dropped over half a millie down to snag this little gem.
But don't worry, there are 3 story homes over here without Corcoran exclusives in all-cash bidding wars way over asking price too. Often, Corcoran and their peers bring the Manhattan buyers, even if they didn't have the exclusive, as long as they can cop their minimum 2.5% for their side. Once the elite-approved outlets give a neighborhood the "all-clear", then the masses are free to start piling in. Lefferts is among Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy with the top-tier homes approaching $2M (and surpassing it at times). Even at 50% more than its neighbors, 17 Chester Court still looks like a relative deal compared to record-breaking neighbors like 55 Rutland Road & 36 Rutland Road. And don't get us started on what this same house or interior would go for anywhere in Manhattan or what piddly places $1.5M gets you over there.
Big real estate brokers have got even the savviest off-market players salivating over other stylish listings in "emerging neighborhoods", some asking 50-70% more than properties typically trade for in those neighborhoods, and sometimes that much more than the owners just paid for the house a few months ago. Barely more than 12 months ago, no one wanted to touch 22 Arlington Place with a ten foot pole over $750K, and now it's reportedly cruising over $2M. Trust us, if you wait until something is so nice and so obvious and so risk-free... if you won't take a house or a block or an entire neighborhood seriously until a big broker bops you over the head with it... then get ready to pay top retail prices. If you only go for something once the elites are in the room, get ready to have to compete with the elites.
Pro's: completely pimped-out ride, the stuff fawncy interiors magazines are made of, slays any condo in Manhattan, leagues better than even what trades for $1.3M+ cash in this same neighb! , took "only" half a millie to close it, adorable tudor on a great block, best of breed for its price, couldn't get interior this juicy anywhere else in NYC for less
Con's: over asking price, 50% over the neighbors' sale prices, over the top interior that's not everyone's taste, won't be undersold when the big boys are on the case, call it a bubble if you must
Ideally: if you think a neighborhood is nothing but the hood, the big brokers will disabuse of that notion in time. Try taking someone else's word for it sometime for even greater values!