Flipped, or Flopped?

Normally, apartments are priced based on “comps”—similar sales nearby, adjusted for layout and condition. But now that we’re a year into the market slowdown, the data pool is big enough that the gurus at Streeteasy.com can go beyond that inexact science. They’ve isolated a list of individual apartments that sold at the peak (mostly in 2006 and 2007) and then again in the past few months. “It’s a true apples-to-apples comparison, assuming a property hasn’t changed considerably,” says appraiser Jonathan Miller. “The only variable is time.” Adds Noah Rosenblatt of Urbandigs.com: “It clears out the noise and gives you a pure look.”

The data are less dire than you’d think. Forty percent of the properties in the list showed rises in price, from 3 to 20 percent. But some of those turn out to be the ends of a wild ride: a steep increase in ’06 and ’07, followed by a comparable drop. Here’s a selection.

The Property Sold For Resold For Loss/Gain Expert Opinion

166 Duane Street, No. 8A
A 2,241-square-foot three-bedroom, three-bath prewar loft with views from every window. $4.7 million
2008 $4.25 million
December 2008 -9.6% “The market was already trending down when it went on sale,” says Rosenblatt. “It looks like this seller got lucky. It’s hard to sell these high-end products. Many properties like these are still waiting for buyers.”

81 Irving Place, No. 2ABH
A 1,600-square-foot Gramercy Park three-bedroom, three-bath with a terrace. $1.88 million
2006 $1.919 million
December 2008 +2.07% “The sellers did okay,” says Miller. “They probably did a little bit better than most. You could’ve expected it to be slightly underwater.”

444 Central Park West, No. 11H
A two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,400-square- foot co-op with a library in an Art Deco building. $1.1 million
2006 $1.565 million
August 2007

and then

$1.1 million
December 2008 -29.71% The property tells the story of the market’s rise and fall, says Miller, who thinks we’re settling in near 2005 levels. “The rise in between is essentially wiped clean.”

201 East 80th Street, No. 11D
A two-bedroom, two-and-a- half-bath in a full-service condo. $1.723 million
August 2007 $1.45 million
December 2008 -15.84% “Likely what happened is that it increased by another 5 percent, and then dropped 20 percent,” says Miller.

59 Pineapple Street, No. 2BC
A 1,113- square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath co-op in Brooklyn Heights. $775,000
January 2007 $850,000
January 2009 +9.6% A puzzler. Either the 2007 buyer caught a bargain, or he got lucky when he sold it two years later. Or “it could have been extensively renovated,” says Miller. “It’s not representative of what’s happening.”

1 Fifth Avenue, No. 14K
A one-bedroom, one-bath in a full-service co-op across from Washington Square Park. $725,000
April 2007 $715,000
December 2008 -1.38% The recent sales figure seems like not-so-bad news, says Miller. “I would’ve expected a bigger decline.”

333 West 22nd Street, No. 1B
A prewar two- bedroom, one- bath with a wood-­burning fireplace, renovated kitchen and access to the garden. $932,000
December 2007 $750,000
November 2008 -19.53% “This really reflects the full drop of the market,” says Miller. Adds Rosenblatt: “It proves how the market had a fierce adjustment after Lehman went down and the rescue of AIG. We were getting hammered.”

Flipped, or Flopped?