10013, as I pointed out to residents in my last direct-mail piece, is the most expensive ZIP code in New York City. The price per square foot, according to Miller Samuel appraisers: $1,346. It’s Tribeca, and the neighborhood combines urban grit with some hipster charm (the iconic resident may be Christy Turlington, supermodel/yoga lifestyle guru/savvy business executive/mother of two); there are fashionable restaurants, and a decent, though shockingly overcrowded, public school.
So of course I want to get my newest clients down there. They are two working parents, looking for a family apartment, which in New York means “three bedrooms, and can one of them please not be the dining room?” They have had a lot of trouble finding what they want within their budget, as the city’s seemingly limitless supply of rich residents and wanna-be residents has pushed prices up toward the $1 million-per-bedroom range.
We’ve looked at apartments, but they’ve been small or the finishes haven’t been that great. One new construction possibility that I liked, they didn’t like the block. I know what they saw when they said no (dirt, schlocky stores), so I did take one minute to protest that I had placed clients across the street, and they were paying six figures annually for that dirt and those schlocky stores, but then I moved on.
Next I found a four-bedroom I liked in Chelsea, but the schools aren’t as good there so it would clearly take some campaigning. Result: we’re still looking. So it was exciting when a new, cool Tribeca loft hit the Internet. Just 15 minutes after it was listed, the husband was all over it.
“Looks a bit cheap … what am I missing?” his e-mail said.
Well, the no photos of the kitchen were a tip-off to us about what was possibly wrong with it, and I told him so. But I sashayed down to see it today, just to make sure.
The broker handled me the way brokers do with a preview; he invited me to wander around but seemed surprised that I wanted to know the room measurements. (The floorplan indicated shape of rooms, but no dimensions). He said that his assistant would mail them to me, and I put in a request to her, but I didn’t know when she’d get back to me. Figuring that I could risk one electronic device to piss him off, but only one (it’s a small building and it looks like he’s on the co-op board) I picked the laser measurer rather than the camera. (Plus, the laser measurer, which casts a dancing red dot on the wall, is way more fun with a cat.)
So here’s what I don’t have pictures of: a gray tile master bath, from the early ’70s I would guess, with a slab of apricot marble vanity and one sink. The lighting was the row of round naked bulbs that was in style then which always says “dressing room” to me.
A Mexican-tiled kitchen, floor badly in need of regrouting, with updated appliances, so that the Bosch dishwasher and the Tappan stove are recognizable brand names, but the finishes don’t match. (One’s silver and one’s black.) It doesn’t matter, because New York luxury kitchens obsolesce so fast that you would rip out a 7-year-old one, let alone one that has seen a couple of decades of service, honorable or no.
A north exposure that faced another building, with a patch of sky on the left. Kids’ bedrooms that face a brick wall over a light well, so the wall is maybe 12 or 15 feet away and you get some sun. Master bedroom in the south, facing other buildings, so you have cool West Side Story-looking fire-escape details to look at. Another bath that you could redo at the same time you were renovating the master and the kitchen.
All of these rooms are serviceable, mind you, and it is obvious that a very happy family lived there for a very long time. But Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” posters would not have been out of place either, and people like clean-edged glass things now, not dove-gray tile.
So I made a quick call to my clients describing the place, then sent them a long e-mail with the plusses and minuses and all the room measurements. Then, the broker’s assistant e-mailed me the floorplan with measurements on it. Why do I distrust people? I just do. But if I hadn’t measured it, she wouldn’t have sent it; it’s that old principle that it doesn’t rain when you carry your umbrella. At least my clients — who have just done a renovation and swore that they’d never do another one — are interested enough to go take a look after the holiday. But will they want to roll up their sleeves and call in the contractors? I’m going out of town, to lie by the pool and have a drink with an umbrella in it. The answer can keep till I get back.