Saturday, October 22, 2011

What does it cost to live in Soho, and what do you get for the money?

Everybody wants to live in Soho.  It offers vast spaces with literally lofty ceilings, and you can configure those spaces any way you want.

On the second floor of a Soho building, which in most neighborhoods would be considered less desirable, the ceilings are even higher--often 14'--and have ornate Greek columns.

Soho is the home of the beautiful castiron facade, vintage 1860-1880.  Greene Street is the longest stretch of castiron facades in the world.

Originally, the main streets in Soho were Broadway, Greene, and West Broadway.  The streets in between, that is, Mercer which is between Broadway and Greene, and Wooster which is between Greene and West Broadway, were service streets. 

The backs of the magnificent castiron buildings are what you see on Mercer and Wooster.  Those streets are a bit quieter, and quite lovely.

In recent years, Soho has been restored to its historic glory, with newly quaintified cobblestoned streets and 19th century streetlights (electric, but still).

28 Greene Street, a stunning example of the castiron facade, designed by J. P. Duckworth in 1872

Soho has changed drastically from when it was home to artists and galleries.  And not all of the artists have taken kindly to the change.  I remember the day when an artist who owned a loft on Spring Street called me and said, "The time has come.  I have to leave.  Victoria's Secret has opened at Prince and Broadway." 

Soho now has the chicest, trendiest shops, and the chicest, trendiest people shop there.  Forget Victoria's Secret; there's Prada, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and scores of wildly expensive little clothing stores with cutesy names.

Anyone on the streets who doesn’t appear to be verging on anorexia is a tourist. Soho is home to the thin, rich and gorgeous. (How the supermodels in their Manolo Blahnik and Louboutin stilettos navigate those cobblestones is beyond me, but they do.)

But Soho is complicated.  Every co-op in Soho legally requires that all residents must be certified as artists by the Department of Cultural Affairs.  (For more information about the history and problems associated with this requirement, see post, June 8,  So even if you have the money, your attorney may not want you to buy there.   

About the money:  average asking price for the 36 co-op lofts currently on the market is somewhere between $1,000 and $1,200 per square foot.   You’d probably pay somewhere in the low to mid $2 millions for a typical 2000 square foot co-op, depending on condition and location. 

Many of the buildings are built full on lots that measure 25’ x 100’; some are considerably larger.  Most of the lofts are full floors, so these net out at about 2000 square feet after allowance is made for an elevator (which usually opens directly into the loft), a flight of stairs and the thickness of the walls.

A third floor loft said to measure 2125 square feet on Spring Street between Mercer and Broadway closed recently for $2,450,000, with maintenance of $2,250 per month, which is typical. 

Soho condos are a different animal altogether.  Twenty years ago there were very few condo buildings in Soho.  I remember exactly two. 

Today there are at least 18 that I know of, and probably more, in prime Soho; that is, between Houston and Canal and between Lafayette and West Broadway. 

Most of these are new construction, built on the former sites of parking lots (parking can now be a problem in Soho).  In order to encourage construction, the city waived the artist certification requirement for all new construction.  So that’s a good reason to consider one of these.

Another reason is that they offer many amenities that the older buildings do not, if you're an amenities kind of person.  If you see a doorman in Soho, he’s at the door of a new condo. 

In the early ‘90s, when Soho first became popular, uptown brokers would call me to show my Soho listings, and at some point would invariably ask if there was a doorman for the building.  And I would invariably laugh. 

There were no doormen in Soho then.  There was one security guard, who guarded one of the two condo buildings.  But not very well; at the first sign of trouble he would bolt.

Now it's not at all unusual to see a uniformed doorman in a new building.
Some of the new condo buildings offer fancier bells and whistles.  30 Crosby has an enoteca, or wine cellar, and a wine tasting room for its residents. 

40 Mercer, designed by starchitect Jean Nouvel, has a pool and a health club.  Of course, at 40 Mercer you do have to like the ruby red or blue shadows cast across your floors by the ruby red or blue glass windows, but apparently I am the only person on the planet who doesn’t; the building is extremely popular.  New York magazine has called it the next Dakota.

The pool at Jean Nouvel's 40 Mercer Street.

For these reasons, Soho condos are considerably pricier than Soho co-ops.  The average price per square foot for the 43 condos currently available in prime Soho--that is, between Houston and Canal, and between Lafayette and West Broadway--is about $2200 per square foot.  (There are several new developments with multiple listings for sale, which accounts for the large number available.) 

Average monthlies are about $4,000; average size is about 2700 square feet.

So there you have it.  If you want to know more about life in Soho and what it costs, call me at 917-991-9549 or better yet e-mail me at  I'll be happy to natter away.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quarterly reports: the real estate market is flat. With a few mountains and valleys.

Flat in both senses of the word.  More than one commenter used the word "boring" about third-quarter reports of real estate sales.

In more elegant language, says, "Though pricing indicators were mixed, the volume of Manhattan residential sales increased in the third quarter of 2011, creating an overall picture of stability in Manhattan's residential market."

Flat and boring is fine with me, given the financial chaos the world is in right now. 

But let's not forget that the contracts that established this flat and boring market were signed months before the sales actually closed.

That would be well before the financial turmoil and drastic deflation of the stock market that we have faced recently.  Hard to say exactly what the effect of these will be, but it probably won't be good.

Let's also note that it's the overall market that's flat.  Look closer, and you'll see mountains and valleys.  Bloomberg News actually called it bipolar.

“You have strength at the low end and the upper end,” Jonathan Miller, president of the pre-eminent appraisal firm Miller Samuel told Bloomberg.

“They’re benefitting from what’s going on globally: low interest rates and the weak dollar. The middle is restrained largely because of elevated unemployment and tight underwriting,” Miller said.

Low interest rates benefit first time buyers (who don't face the crunch of having to sell in order to buy); the weak dollar attracts foreign buyers; nervous banks reluctant to lend make it hard for anybody else who needs financing, particularly those who are up- or down-sizing.

Read more at 

One piece of news that is definitely good, at least for sellers, is that the number of sales rose about 17 percent year-over-year as well as quarter-over-quarter according to a report prepared by Miller Samuel, resulting in an inventory dip of about 5 percent from last year.  

At present, we're in a balanced market.  There's a buyer for every property.

Right now, it's often a foreign buyer.  More good news:  in a chaotic world, New York real estate is still seen as a good place to park your money.  The dollar's weak and prices here are drastically lower than they are in, say, London.

Of course, the conventional wisdom would be that a lower inventory will lead to higher prices.  Wrong.  It's a balanced market, not a sellers' market. 

But properly priced apartments and houses won't languish on the market.  They will sell.