Why brokers often market Manhattan townhouses as being bigger than city records claim

There are no laws governing how to calculate square footage

New York /
Aug.August 16, 2017 01:45 PM

Some Manhattan brokers are including square footage that doesn’t actually exist in townhouse listings, in order to make the homes seem bigger, according to a recent analysis.

StreetEasy ran a review of townhouse listings, the Wall Street Journal reported, and found several inconsistencies between multiple listings on the same properties. When a home was listed more than once in the last 10 years, 55 percent of them had a different square footage between the listings, even though they had not been renovated or expanded, StreetEasy found.

Olshan Realty’s Donna Olshan looked and found the same issue. She put together a list of 162 Manhattan townhouses priced at $6 million and above, and compared them to city property records. A total of 120 townhouses had a square footage in the listing that is higher than the official figure.

The issue is that brokers don’t have to follow the same rules as underwriters and appraisers, who do not include cellars and basements when they are determining the size of townhouses.

A townhouse for sale at 73 Washington Place, for example, will span 8,643 square feet, and will eventually include a gym, sauna, soaking tub, wine vault and 19-foot-wide theater, according to the listing. However, city records claim the house spans 6,000 square feet, as the space for the theater has not been excavated.

“These figures are not anything pulled out of my thumb,” Leonard Steinberg, president of Compass, who has the listing alongside Leslie J. Garfield & Co., told the Journal. “These are actual figures that come out of the architect.”

Raphael De Niro said the lack of a standard has caused difficulties in the marketplace. “It makes things difficult for buyers to get a handle on what they are buying,” he told the Journal.

The median sales price for a Manhattan townhouse fell by 5.3 percent last year to $4.97 million after several years of increases, according to a report earlier this year from Douglas Elliman.  [WSJ]Miriam Hall


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