Brooklyn Heights

Swift sales in Brooklyn Heights: A triplex at 31 Schermerhorn St.

Eye on Real Estate

July 20, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here's a glimpse of 31 Schermerhorn St., seen through summer foliage. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

In pricey, patrician Brooklyn Heights, some homes sit on the market a looong time before being sold.

Others are snapped up in a New York minute.

We were wondering why the other day, as we strolled along streets lined with beloved pre-Civil War brownstones and wood-frame houses. So we asked experts to share their insights.

“There’s so much negativity out there. A lot of people are saying, ‘Maybe I’ll wait for prices to come down.’ Then I’m reminded that a great property in a great location will sell, and sell quickly,” said Leslie Marshall of the Corcoran Group.

“People always want to live in Brooklyn Heights.”

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Sixteen days.

That’s all the time it took to sell the top half of a renovated brownstone in Brooklyn Heights.

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A couple signed a contract for the top three floors of 31 Schermerhorn St., a pre-Civil War house on a landmarked block, 16 days after the triplex went onto the market.

Ravi Kantha, a real estate adviser at Leslie J. Garfield & Co., had put the listing for 2,893-square-foot, four-bedroom Unit 2 onto the firm’s website and StreetEasy.com on June 15. The asking price for the condo was $3.65 million.

That day, a half-dozen would-be buyers contacted Kantha about the condo unit. Among them was the broker representing the couple who wound up purchasing it.

The first week the triplex was available, Kantha showed it to 20 people. He only had time to hold two open houses before the sale contract was signed. Both were well attended.

“A dozen people an hour is ideal at an open house for a property at this price point. You feel confident it’s well-received,” Kantha told us. “It’s a broker’s dream to create a competitive environment from Day One.”

A mahogany staircase and a view of Lady Liberty

As City Finance Department records show, in January 2015, Unit 2 had sold for $3,229,200 to Matthew Leonard and Stacey Miller.

The seller was a condo converter, Angel Group Holdings. The developer had done a renovation that preserved historic details like a circular mahogany staircase ascending up one side of the house, and working fireplaces with marble mantels. Four of these fireplaces are in Unit 2.   

In 2012, Angel Group Holdings had purchased the entire brownstone through an LLC for $2.4 million, Finance Department records indicate.

Why did an offering for half a brownstone draw an avid response from home buyers? we wondered.

“There are a lot of people who like townhouse living. But when you buy an entire townhouse in Brooklyn Heights, you can spend $7 million to $9 million before renovations, sometimes more,” Kantha said.

Unit 2, which has a fully finished roof deck with views of the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, feels almost as large as a full-sized brownstone but is half the price.

Also, its carrying costs are relatively low. The maintenance charge is $240 per month. And thanks to a tax abatement, the property taxes are $1,100 per month.

Kantha set the asking price for the triplex 13 percent higher than the price for which it had sold in 2015, a move that “was a little bit bold,” he said.

“But given the lack of supply, and the fact that buyers are looking for homes at this price point, we thought people would look at what was comparable in the sale market instead of objecting to the price being higher than a year before,” he explained.   

Four types of townhouse buyers

The associate broker is the first person from Leslie J. Garfield to sell homes in Brooklyn Heights. He started his work in the neighborhood in mid-2015.

Before expanding to Brooklyn, the firm specialized in Manhattan townhouse sales for 44 years.

“Our customers in the West Village, Chelsea and Gramercy Park wanted to know what’s available in Brooklyn Heights,” Kantha said.

Renovated Brooklyn Heights townhouses sell for $2,000 to $2,300 per square foot compared with $3,400 to $4,000 per square foot in Greenwich Village, he said.   

Kantha has found that home-hunters who want Brooklyn Heights townhouses usually fall into one of four categories. They’ve sold their residences in Manhattan or have been renting homes in Brooklyn Heights for a couple years to test out the neighborhood.

Or they own smaller Brooklyn Heights townhouses but want more space. Or they live in Manhattan, or Park Slope or Cobble Hill, and their children attend Packer Collegiate Institute or St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights.

Real estate is a career switch for Kantha. He was a Bronx Assistant District Attorney for four years and later was a lawyer in private practice specializing in white-collar defense, criminal defense and securities litigation.

 

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