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Condos Rise From The Ashes; After A Fire in Queens, Embracing BK

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If reading The Hunt stokes your deepest hopes that someday everything in life could work out, then you, too, are obsessed with the New York Times Sunday Real Estate section. Join us as we venture into the depths of this weekend's installment, figuring out along the way what the subtext of each story tells us about the state of the NYC real estate market using our bona fide Market Point system.

1.) Giving us all something to be happy about this weekend, the Times did a write up on developments that are recovering after unsteady Post-Lehman futures. Let's jump right in and take a look at these phoenixes.

- "But two years after the real estate market seized up, some of the hardest-hit developments have found ways to rise from the ashes." +1 MP

-"Focusing less on trendiness and more on value, they have redesigned lobbies, combined apartments to create more family-sized units, and swapped luxuries like private roof cabanas for shared amenities like common roof decks. The changes all seek to appeal to today’s much more skeptical buyer." Substance over style, we always say. +1 MP
-"The first brochures had pronounced, “be@ is not just an address, it’s an attitude,” and had shown beautiful young people dining out or shooting pool. New marketing materials promise “clean styling and attractive pricing,” and feature a child reaching for a juice box at a local market and an older gentleman leaving the building with his dog." Babies and grandpa are a lot more appealing than hipsters. +1MP

-"A new roof terrace has also figured in recent sales at Warehouse 11, a 120-unit building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that was stalled for most of 2009 and was reintroduced early this year. The developer, McCaren Park Mews LLC, defaulted on a $50 million mortgage, filed for bankruptcy and negotiated the loan down to $35.5 million. In the process, about 30 buyers were released from their contracts and real estate blogs had a field day describing the project as a failure that had been exposed to the elements for too long and was most likely falling apart."

-"...the 2008 sales activity provided “an opportunity to look at what didn’t work the first time and change things.”
The plan had called for a children’s playroom and 60 private roof cabanas. “But there was no interest at all in a playroom because the family market in Williamsburg is still developing,” Mr. Maundrell said. No one was buying cabanas, either. So the playroom was replaced with a billiard/television room, and the cabanas were removed to create a common roof deck. Prices were also dropped, by 25 to 35 percent, and the building is now nearly 80 percent sold." Going for the "give the people what they want" approach really worked in Brooklyn. +2 MP

-"Some developers with stalled projects are confident that after a hiatus of a year or longer, now may be a good time to reintroduce their buildings, because prices have stabilized. This is the case for the Lotta condominium, on 118th Street in Harlem, and 1 Rector Park, in Battery Park City."

-The Lotta became hostels for a short period of time but is returning to Condo sales. "Before opening the condo, they will refinish the apartments and redesign the building’s public spaces. One-bedrooms will sell for about $350,000 and two-bedrooms for about $550,000, roughly 20 percent less than original asking prices."

-"At 1 Rector Park, some prices will be more than 50 percent lower than in 2008. Apartments back then were listed at $957 to $1,585 per square foot, and prices now will range from $417 to $1,304 per square foot. Studios will be available for $300,000; one-bedrooms for $365,000 to $760,000; and two bedrooms from $775,000 to $1.17 million." That's some heavy pricechoppage. -1 MP

-He added that since prices had been lowered so much, “we are going to offer one price, no negotiation.” They have done their research and can show buyers that the apartments are priced below the competition in the area, he said. A week after the Web site went up, there were 31 contracts at full price, almost double the number of sales the first time around.

Goodbye, Glitzy Condo Pitches

2.) The Hunt this week featured a couple whose apartment in Queens was destroyed in a fire, which led to their move to Hells Kitchen. After a miserable year in midtown, they were itching to get out. After coming to terms with looking in Brooklyn, they found just what they were looking for.

-"Seven months in, roof construction led to a building fire, which destroyed most of their possessions. Fortunately, they had renter’s insurance, which paid to replace almost everything." A sad, sad start.

-"a small one-bedroom, for $1,800 a month, on 44th Street near Ninth Avenue, in Hell’s Kitchen. “We were so tired from the fire and the trauma that we didn’t have energy for the hunt" I think we can all understand.

-The two were miserable in their home. “There was outside noise inside our apartment all the time,” Ms. McCarron said. Daily, they pushed through thickets of tourists and theatergoers. “It was incredibly stressful,” Ms. Molitor said. “There was never any relief.”
-Laundry was a chore they loathed. They tried dropping off their laundry to be done, but when they picked it up, items would be missing or destroyed." Sad trappings in Midtown. -1 MP
-Friends urged them to look in Brooklyn. At first, they had some Manhattan pride that was hard to relinquish, Ms. McCarron said. But “we started listening to people. We wanted to see what $2,100 would look like in Brooklyn.” Who says Brooklyn is a quitter's choice? +1 MP

-The next day, visiting a friend in Prospect Heights, they decided to stop by one last open house, in a new building on Lincoln Place, on the edge of Crown Heights.
“We walked in and that was it,” Ms. McCarron said. The agent talked about “amenity after amenity” and then “pointed to the space where the washer-dryer was going to go and said they are installing it next week. I looked at my partner, and she was trembling with joy.” Can't help but smile at this. + 3 MP
-“There were actually square rooms,” Ms. Molitor said. “Everywhere we’ve seen, it is all cut up and hard to fit your furniture. You have to live around the design of the space.” Some compromises that would come with living on the Lower East Side for this couple.

A lot of Laundry and a Little Luck

What more do we want from our weekends other than knowing that a handful of zombie buildings are back from the dead and a couple is happily doing laundry in Brooklyn? 7 Market Points, that's what.