Two low-priced November townhouse sales, explained

Posted December 4th, 2018 by Richard Pretsfelder, Sophie Smadbeck

With the explosion of real estate data on the internet in recent years, buyers and sellers have been empowered with data to better understand the market. Yet, the story behind the data remains essential for accurate pricing and minimizing time on the market.

With that in mind, two Upper West Side townhouse trades took place in November that could be described as below market. 18 West 75th Street, a 21’-wide, newly renovated single-family sold for $12.25 million and $1,517/ft., well below Leslie J. Garfield’s highest priced UWS 2018 sale at 29 West 75th Street, a renovated 22’-wide two-family on the same block, which sold for $15.8M and $2,019/ft. 18 West 75th street sold for a diminished price for two primary reasons. First, the townhouse was a spec house that was in financial distress and the investors wanted to get their money out. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the quality of the finishes and the layout were problematic, forcing most potential buyers to factor extensive renovation costs into their offers even though the house had been newly renovated.

The other 'below market' sale occurred at 24 West 71st Street a 20’-wide single family home replete with old world details in need of some upgrades, which sold for $9.5M and $1,294/ft. This property was first put on the market in 2015 for $29M. The last asking price was $11.995M. As with 75th Street, the issues with this property also involved financial distress and design, where the lenders wanted to get their money out and the market resisted the extensive wood work in the house given the current preference for a more modern aesthetic. As a point of comparison, we had sold the 17' wide single family townhouse next door at 26 West 71st Street in 2015 for $11.9 million and $2,164/ft.

It is important to note that the qualitative aspects of a transaction affect the non-distressed, high end of the market as well. Our sale at 29 West 75th Street would likely have achieved an even higher price if the property had a garden and was not configured as two units. Similarly the sale of the beautifully renovated home on 76th Street, which traded for a face value of $13.1 million and $1,973/ft would have sold for a higher price if it had an elevator and was also not configured as two units. In addition other consideration was included in the transaction which likely would increase the true value of the sale.

The bottom line is that it is essential to understand the nuance and detail behind transactions so both buyers and sellers are presented with true comparable sales rather than simply what appears comparable on a spreadsheet. In a soft market in particular, it is especially important for sellers to be well informed so that they are not unnecessarily leaving precious dollars on the table.