Printer Friendly

West Side comes into its own.

A spate of multi-million dollar Upper West Side townhouse sales has focused attention on the neighborhood as a place where values are rising. Buyers are finding that what they want on the West Side is still mostly affordable, but sometimes, they have to do some work to get it right.

Real estate taxes are embarrassingly low on these Class I properties, allowing occupants to easily send children to private schools rather than having to spend the money on supporting city services, according to several brokers.

Shoppers can still find two- to three-family unregulated buildings that can even provide an income stream until the owners can afford to take over the entire home. Or they can find properties partially or fully restored for value on the money. But those options are quickly being snapped up by savvy buyers.

A year ago, there would have been several choices in the Upper West Side for less than $1.5 million, but "almost everything you see now is $2.5 million or more," said Greg Young, director of sales for City Living, the re-sale arm of the Marketing Directors.

"Most of the ones you see come on the market have been renovated, and most of their problems have been solved, and that's why they are commanding a premium price," he said.

The ones that need work usually still have a tenant or two, and sometimes an elderly one in a rent-controlled unit, he added.

But brokers say their prices reflect that downtime.

A house at 163 West 87 Street is on the market for $1.25 million. "If vacant it would be on the market for $1.6 million," said Kathy Hoffman of William B. May.

There is a nice triplex on the lower three floors for an owner, but there are two elderly rent controlled tenants that live on an upper floor. Each of the two floors has two studios apartments, with the other two renting at market value.

"Most of the time, if they are elderly, they don't have a space where they want to go," said Hoffman, suggesting that helping to find them a place without steps might be one way a new owner could gain possession.

The sky-high prices on the East Side have also sent folks heading West in order to keep their fortunes.

"You still can [get value] on the West Side," said Anne B. Snee, senior vice president and director of the townhouse department of the Corcoran Group. "We're seeing houses come in the low $800's, while on the East Side they are asking for $7 million to $11 million. When people are faced with that kind of money to be near the park, they are switching to the other side of the park.'

On the West Side, said Hoffman, "you get a random sale of $3 million or $4 million, but it has to be exquisitely special." For $1.5 million to $1.6 million "you get something nice," and "in the 2's, it is exceptional."

She sold a house that needed some work on West 99 Street between West End and Broadway in the mid-$700,000s. "It was not the block beautiful, but a couple that already lived on the West Side was absolutely delighted with the house and the neighborhood, which was comfortable for them," said Hoffman.

Another property at 25 Riverside Drive was for sale at $2.5 million and is under contract "for not much less." It has sweeping river views, but it needed "everything."

"People have now discovered that the Upper West Side is a wonderful place to live," said Snee.

The surge is also being fueled by buyers sick or scared of co-op boards and the often endless disputes over items like the color of wallpaper. The same trend is sending condominium prices upwards.

The townhome buyers like having control over their environments and details, and usually have their own outdoor space on rooftops, terraces and in gardens.

"You get far more space for your dollar in a house and you have things like outdoor space that people like," said Hoffman. "It registers more as a residential way of life."

It's registering so much that Corcoran's townhouse volume has increased 100 percent over last year. They have 30 contracts signed, sealed and delivered already, and at least another five that will probably close before the end of the year.

Hoffman believes the drop in crime and perception of being safe has also taken the fright away from not having a doorman.

"Giuliani has done a great job for the PR image of the city," she said.

Hoffman, who sold Versace his house on the East Side, was working with his friend, Elton John. He looked at a couple of condos but was most interested in a house "only on the East Side." He ended up, instead, seriously interested in the West Side - a place that has always attracted those in arts and entertainment.

Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner recently snapped up a second West Side residence - leaving his family in the first one. That 74th Street sale, made by Snee, is listed on transfer records at $3.735 million.

The 9,300 square foot, 25-footer has a "lovely brownstone facade" and sits on "one of the most beautiful blocks." It's on a slightly longer lot, at 109 feet, than most, and has a small L-shaped garden.

The house was built around 1910, and like many of the elegant, Upper West Side buildings, fell on bad times and became a 17 - room rooming house at one point. While a lot of the original house was not ruined, there are peepholes still, in many of the doors.

The property was purchased in April of 1993 for $2.5 million by a group of Italian investors intent on renovation. Instead, they have now turned it over for a "nice tidy profit."

"This is most expensive about-to-be-single-family-in-need -of-renovation that's been sold to date. Ever," added Snee.

Wenner got a bargain when compared with the recent sale of a 9,000 square-foot pre-war co-op at 4 East 66 Street that was just sold for around $14 million to "either David Geffen or Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen."

Another high Corcoran sale is the 19th Century townhouse at 57 West 69th Street that has a basketball court, gym and exercise room and medieval style 1,400 bottle wine cellar paneled in banana wood.

That home had also been purchased about a year and a half ago in the $2 million range. "It was asking $4.25 million and sold for not a lot less," said Snee. "Those two buildings are an example of what's happened in the last couple of years to the Upper West Side."

There are several examples of the West Side moving up, but keep in mind that real estate tax assessments typically run at 8 percent of the value that was placed on the homes many years ago. Even if assessors tried to raise these assessments, they are capped to rise no more than 6 percent per year or 20 percent over five years.

The Wenner home, for instance, at three stories, is assessed at $108,372, and at the FY97 current Class I tax rate of $10.785 per hundred dollars of assessment, the owner will pay a mere $11,687.92 per year. A comparably priced house in the better Westchester school districts might pay over $50,000 per year in taxes.

Additionally, a two-family, five-story walkup on the East Side at 10 East 63rd Street just sold in August for $3.653 million. There, assessments are already higher because the land values are much higher. Its assessment is $291,500 and the owner will pay about $31,336 in taxes this year.

A single-family home at 22 West 68th Street with five stories sold to a California family for $3.250 million. 64 West 83rd sold a year ago for $1.015 million and contains four apartments. Its 10-unit neighbor at 68 West 83rd Street sold in May of 1996 for $1.85 million. Also in May, a three-unit townhouse at 209 West 78 Street sold for $985,000. 163 West 95 Street sold for $950,000 and has nine apartments.

161 West 87 Street had four apartments and sold for $1.140 million, but was completely renovated and changed to a one - family. The same happened at 318 West 78th Street, which just sold in July for $2.175 million. While it was an 11-unit building, the new owners got the tenants out and changed it to a one-family home.

Three Riverside Drive is a one-family residence and sold in January for $2.635 million, while another one-family at 82 Riverside Drive sold for $2.125 million in June.

The three-unit building at 341 West 84th Street sold for $1.25 million in June.

At 145 West 87 Street, a 15-footer with a triplex on top and an apartment on the bottom sold for $1.137 million, and the seller bought 317 West 92nd for $1.888 million in July.

A two-family at 130 West 88th Street also sold in July for $1.425 million.

A single-family elevatored five-story home at 24 West 71st Street was just sold at the end of September for $4.275 million. It had a stoop, central air and while Thomas Lamb was the original architect, it just underwent a "beautiful" renovation.

The lower streets aren't the only ones seeing million dollar prices. One at 311 West 103rd Street off Riverside Drive that closed in May was on the market for $1.45 million sold for around $1.3 million. That house was purchased about two years ago for around $650,000.

And if your appetite has been whetted, 58 West 88th Street is a pretty house that's still on the market for $2.35 million, with Judy Osten at Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy.

Said Hoffman, "The West Side is really not coming - it's arrived."
COPYRIGHT 1996 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:townhouse sales in New York City's Upper West Side
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 16, 1996
Previous Article:Coliseum tax breaks unlikely.
Next Article:Holland resigns at DHCR.

Related Articles
West Side brownstone market picking up.
Luxury residential markets on a slow but steady climb.
NYC townhouse market remained strong in '98.
New York City townhouse market remains strong.
Corcoran mw-year report: NYC residential market still strong.
Manhattan townhouse sales booming.
Get ahead of the crowd in Manhattan Valley.
Star spotting.
Massey Knakal.
Townhouse sale sets new record.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters