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What $800,000 Buys Now
BY STEFANI EADS
Published: April 10, 2000, New York Magazine

 

Sha Dinour, managing partner of Triumph Property Group, shakes his head as he clicks through listings on the computer screen in his brokerage's sparse Flatiron office. "Eight hundred thousand dollars won't get you what it would have just four months ago," he says. "In January, we closed on a penthouse loft on West Broadway in SoHo for 825. It's a nice condo -- prewar, two bedrooms, two baths, skylights, 1,300 square feet with a 670-square-foot roof terrace. But it needs a lot of work." Today, he shows me a 2,700-square-foot condo in Chelsea's flower district for $775,000. "It's half the entire floor, but the windows face the back of other buildings. It all depends on what you want, but you're definitely going to have to be willing to give something up."

 

So what's out there for $800,000? Try a 2,300-square-foot co-op on Lafayette Street in SoHo for $850,000. "It's got two bedrooms and two baths, but you can feel the subway going underneath the apartment," says Dinour. Three bedrooms? "It's highly unlikely you'll find a three-bedroom for that price downtown," he says. What about four? "Look in Hoboken," he says with a shrug.

 

"The range downtown is anywhere from 1,000 square feet to 2,700 square feet," says Dinour, "but 1,500 square feet is the breaking mark. If you get lucky, you'll get that with a view. Go anywhere above it and you're going to have to compromise the view or the amount of space," he says. "It's harder to find a prewar downtown because there's always a premium on them," agrees Rob Anzalone of Fenwick-Keats. On the other hand, he says, "you could find a very pleasant, sunny two-bedroom, two-bath condo in a prewar doorman building on the Upper West Side. There would be no view of the park or river, but you'd have a separate dining area or maybe even a formal dining room.

 

"On the East Side, says Rob Sussman of Goodstein Realty NYC, "you might get a one-bedroom condo on Fifth Avenue with park views and a full kitchen, but you'd have to go all the way east to York Avenue to get a three-bedroom.

 

"Dreaming of a townhouse? Dream on (except if your dream is Harlem). Dexter Guerrieri, who specializes in townhouses on the Upper West Side for Vandenberg Real Estate, says he recently sold two properties near 105th Street on Manhattan Avenue for about $875,000 each that were never officially listed. "They went in a heartbeat," he says. "Otherwise, it's been a number of years since I've had anything in this price point."

In Brooklyn Heights, finding an $800,000 place "is a fight," says Kevin Carberry, owner of Carberry Real Estate. "There's a lot of buyers, and little availability." He knows of a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath with full living room, dining room, eat-in kitchen, and two fireplaces on the parlor floor of a brownstone that might be on the market soon -- "but it won't start at less than 875, and it doesn't have any outdoor space." What about a townhouse? "For 800?" he asks incredulously. "Not right now." Townhouses can still be found in other Brooklyn neighborhoods in that price range -- but even in formerly bohemian Fort Greene, the $1 million mark has been broached.

 

TriBeCa
2,270-square-foot condo loft at 195 Hudson Street.
Paid: $790,000; common charges, $1,200.

 

To most people, 2,270 square feet of completely unfinished space for almost $800,000 wouldn't sound that appealing. Unless you're Tom Klinkowstein. "It's an architect's dream," he says of his new sixth-floor TriBeCa condo. A Web-design consultant and professor of digital design at Pratt Institute, Klinkowstein wanted a place that would serve as a showcase for his own vision, his own talent (as does his current SoHo loft, which has been featured in interior-decorating magazines like Elle Decor). "We didn't want an aesthetic pushed upon us," he says. Klinkowstein, 50, bought the loft space with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Gillett, 38, a designer of fashion accessories. "We started out modestly -- looking at around 300," he says. "We couldn't find anything we liked." It wasn't until Klinkowstein and his architect walked past the building at 195 Hudson that he saw something that inspired him. "We didn't want anything traditional-looking, and the windows from the outside were exceptional -- large and done in a way that's not sentimental," he says. "I like things that look very clean and Bauhausian." For now,
the space has nothing more than concrete walls and floors and a kitchen and bathroom that meet only minimal legal requirements. Susan Barrie, his broker at Douglas Elliman, quips: "You have to have vision to be able to appreciate this place." Klinkowstein's aesthetic for his new loft owes something to his childhood dream of being an astronaut. "Imagine the space station from the movie 2001. Something contemporary and futuristic that won't look silly in ten years." His plans include elevated bedrooms and offices, neutral colors, and an "undulating wall of see-through material separating the living space from the guest space." Klinkowstein estimates the renovations will cost him another
$250,000 to $400,000, pushing him over the million-dollar mark. The couple hopes to move in by the end of the year. A wait, he says, that will be well worth it: "We have a plain slate to work from, which is what we wanted."

 

Wall Street
2,350-square-foot, three-bedroom condo near the New
York Stock Exchange.
Paid: $805,000; maintenance, $1,956.

 

The buyer of this property, a 35-year-old lawyer, looked for only a few weeks before landing this apartment in the heart of the financial district, and made an offer immediately. "I really liked the place and knew that with the market the way it is these days, if you find something you want, you have to take it," he says from his current residence in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill. Wall Street's lack of grocery stores and laundromats is a downside, he admits -- "but there are plenty of restaurants that deliver."


With three bedrooms and two baths laid out over an entire floor, the apartment not only has the kind of space he was looking for but also lets in lots of light. "I hadn't thought of Wall Street as a residential area before," he says, "but the location is great and the apartment has some of the best views I saw in my range.

 

Morningside Heights
3,500-square-foot townhouse at 128 Manhattan Avenue, between 105th and 106th Streets.
Paid: $875,000.

 

Hugh Cosman and his wife, Mariko Gordon, had no choice but to look for a new place to live. The couple, along with their two small children, were keeping house in two small, adjacent one-bedroom apartments, and they soon expected Gordon's mother to join them. "We basically live in one apartment and sleep in the other and kind of streak across the hallway from one to the other," says Gordon. The two embarked on an apartment search that lasted, off and on, upwards of two years. "The more we looked, the more we got
depressed," says Cosman, who learned quickly how to discern the losers directly from the ads. " 'Rambling' means poorly laid out. 'Estate condition' means the place needs extensive renovation," he says, laughing. Of the twenty properties they scrutinized, one was especially memorable. "It was on 157th and Riverside Drive, and it looked like a crack house," Gordon says. "You could look up straight to the top floor since each level had rotted through, and there was even a bathtub hanging from the plumbing on the ceiling."

 

"We'd sort of given up," says Gordon, when they got a call from Vandenberg's Dexter Guerrieri about a townhouse on Manhattan Avenue. "I saw it and called Hugh from the backyard," Gordon says. "We went back that night and talked to the neighbors. Then we made an offer the following morning." Built in 1886, the house has its original woodwork and one of the original mirrors, Cosman says. In fact, the story goes, the seller's mother bought the house in 1948 from a Communist who kept printing presses in the parlor -- at least until the FBI came looking for him. "It's just got tremendous soul," Gordon says. Cosman estimates he'll spend somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 more on renovations. "But if you're buying a place your kids can grow up in," Gordon says, "you don't mind paying market top."


 

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