W hat makes an apartment a good value isn’t always apparent to the eye. It can be a more expensive building next door, a history of legal troubles in the building, or even just garish décor. We asked appraiser Jeffrey Jackson, chairman and co-founder of Mitchell, Maxwell, & Jackson, to scan current for-sale listings from a variety of sources and pick out properties that, for one reason or another, look like deals. To help illustrate his point, he compared their asking prices with “comps,” an industry term for the average selling price of similar homes nearby.
DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY A PLACE LISTED IN “POOR CONDITION”
145–146 Central Park W.
Asking: $2.695 million
Comps: $3 million to $4 million
You wouldn’t expect to see a well-priced classic six languish on the market, especially in a building whose residents include Bruce Willis, Dustin Hoffman, and Steven Spielberg. But this 2,300-square-foot estate, originally priced at $3.3 million in April, has been reduced twice. The problem: It’s a wreck, with cracked and peeling paint, craggy floors, and Stone Age appliances. “You rarely see a broker actually call an apartment’s condition poor,” says Jackson.“But the cost to renovate is the same whether it’s just old or unlivable.” Jackson estimates the renovation will run about half a million, bringing the total cost to a relatively fair $3.195 million.
—Christine Driscoll, Sotheby’s International Realty (212-400-8711).
WAIT UNTIL THE NEW-CONSTRUCTION HYPE HAS DIED DOWN
176 Perry St.
Asking: $7.95 million
Comps: $8 million to $9 million
While $2,134 per square foot is high even by Manhattan standards, a 3,726-square-foot, full-floor apartment in this four-year-old Richard Meier building is a deal relative to what buyers have paid for apartments in Meier’s latest tower, at 165 Charles Street ($2,855 per square foot). “This one was just overpriced in the beginning,” says Jackson. “Someone was very optimistic.” While Charles Street, which opened within the past year, does have amenities like a wine cellar and fitness room, are they really worth the difference?
—Jan Hashey, Prudential Douglas Elliman (212-206-2804).
LOOK FOR ADJACENT APARTMENTS
181 E. 90th St., Nos. 5A and 5B (on the market as a package deal)
Asking: $3.055 million
Comps: $4 million or more
If combined, the two adjacent homes in the Metropolitan—on sale for a single price—would add up to four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and 2,730 square feet. Jackson anticipates the cost of construction to be about $200 a square foot, or $546,000. If you add that into the sale price, you’re still paying less than a comparable place would cost. “You’re basically saving yourself a half a million dollars,” Jackson says.
—Elizabeth Spahr, Corcoran (212-893-1735).
DO YOUR OWN COMPS
201 E. 80th St.
Asking: $1.695 million
Comps: $2 million–plus
At this price, the broker for this two-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom apartment is being “very aggressive,” says Jackson. Although similar apartments go for up to $1,500 a square foot, this is a relative steal at $1,132 a square foot. “It’s in a good location and a great size. You get a lot of two-bedrooms that are 1,200 or 1,300 square feet, and this one is 1,500 square feet, plus it faces south, so there’s excellent light.” To do your own sleuthing on comps, try a user-friendly sales-history site like Property-shark.com. If you’re a Sprint or Nextel user, another option is Smarteragent.com, a $4.99-a-month cell-phone-based service that uses GPS tracking technology and public sales data to recall the last sales date and price of any home you’re standing in front of.
—Fern Hammond, Halstead Property (212-381-3270).
LOOK FOR BUILDINGS IN CONFLICT
170 E. 87th St., Unit W10A
Asking: $1.999 million
Comps: $2.5 million to $3 million
Prices in this Upper East Side building have been held down for the past two years by a lawsuit between multiple owners and the former sponsor, making this 1,789-square-foot three-bedroom, three-bath condo a relative buy. “Now that the lawsuit has been resolved,” says Jackson, “the prices will catch back up to the stuff around it.” Although this is a unique situation, it highlights the advantages of hiring a buyer broker who works one specific neighborhood—and knows all the dirt.
—Sungwon Hwang, Corcoran (212-360-1667).
BUY FROM A SPONSOR IN A CO-OP CONVERSION
45 Martense St., No. 5K, and 70 Lenox Rd., Apt. D3 Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
Asking: $202,800 and $206,250
Comps: $300,000 and up
When a building moves from a rental to a co-op, owners are eager to sell because the property values rise along with the number of owners. The difficult part is securing a mortgage, because most banks require that a building be at least 51 percent sold and owner-occupied before they’ll grant financing to prospective buyers. These addresses are two exceptions. Citibank has already lent to buyers on Martense Street, where the owner is asking $202,800 for a 1,075-square-foot two-bedroom, one-bathroom. On nearby Lenox Road, $206,250 buys a 1,400-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom. “Relative to those around them, these buildings are 20 to 30 percent below the market, but when they get to 51 percent sold and owner-occupied, they’ll go way up, in line with the rest of the market,” says Jackson.
—Nancy Kraft (914-899-8071).
BUCK THE BUYING TRENDS
3 Century Trail, Harrison, N.Y.
Asking: $1.15 million
Comps: $2 million and up
According to Jackson, houses with five bedrooms and four bathrooms go for $2 million to $2.5 million in Westchester. So what’s this 3,329-square-footer doing on the market for half that price? Yes, it needs updating, but the real reason for the discount, theorizes Jackson, is that buyers in Westchester tend to steer clear of one-story homes. “A ranch-style house is not considered appealing in that location,” he says. “Most people want a Colonial- or a Tudor-style home. But $1.15 million for an acre in Westchester? That’s land value.”
—Jan Vinikoor, Sotheby’s International Realty (914-921-9533)
SEE BEYOND THE CARPET
6 Brooklands, No. 1D, Yonkers, N.Y.
It’s one of the largest units in the building, so why is the asking price below the $900,000-plus selling prices of other apartments? The interior of this four-bedroom, three-bathroom co-op is dated, with floral wallpaper and worn carpet. What’s more, the apartment has been on the market for over a year (first priced at $995,000), while inventories have built up around it. Finally, it’s an estate sale—meaning the owner has died and the family is carrying the costs of the empty apartment. All of this suggests that the owners may be willing to come down even further—on a property that requires only cosmetic fixes. “A year ago, an apartment that needed a lot of work might have sold with a 10 to 15 percent discount,” says Jackson. “Today, with many options for buyers, that discount can grow to 20 percent.”
—Jane Vergari, Houlihan Lawrence (914-337-5400).