Brooklyn brownstones bringing bigger bucks

Short supply is leading to whopping price tags, as more Manhattanites switch boroughs

Apr.April 01, 2013 07:00 AM

The Tracy Mansion

Besides kid-friendly restaurants and baby strollers, Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods — think Park Slope, Boerum Hill — are amassing something else: more townhouse listings and sales over $3 million.

The uptick has been staggering — and Park Slope exemplifies it. Right now, for example, the neighborhood has 10 townhouses above $3 million on the market. This year’s first quarter is building on 2012’s final quarter, when the market had eight townhouse listings in the $3 million-plus category.

By comparison, 2011’s fourth quarter had only one townhouse listing above $3 million.

Park Slope’s rash of expensive listings means the average closed sales price for all the neighborhood’s townhouses is up considerably, too.

That number skyrocketed 40 percent to $1.7 million in the fourth quarter of last year, up from $1.2 million in the same period of 2011, according to data provided by appraiser Jonathan Miller. By contrast, the average sale price for Manhattan townhouses increased 6 percent year-over-year in 2012 to $5.3 million, according to the Douglas Elliman townhouse report.

Brokers attribute the price hikes to a tight inventory.

“In Brooklyn, townhouses [are particularly] hot right now,” said Jennifer Johnsen, executive director of sales at MNS.

The supply of Brooklyn and Manhattan townhouses is at a seven-year low right now, she said. In Manhattan, townhouses make up a small portion of housing — 3 percent of sales, which drives many buyers to look in Brooklyn, she added.

“Brooklyn offers the best of all worlds when you are out-priced from Manhattan townhome purchasing,” Johnsen said.

The short supply of homes coupled with the pull of the Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods explain the price increases, according to Patricia Neinast, a senior vice president at the Corcoran Group’s Park Slope office.

“There’s not enough inventory to handle the amount of buyers,” said Neinast, who recently received a full-price offer for 113 Prospect Park West, a townhouse she’d listed for $4.75 million with her daughters, Kelly and Kristin Neinast.

Buyers realize they can get more space for fewer dollars than in Manhattan.

“You get more bang for your buck here,” said Jackie Lew, an executive vice president at Halstead Property’s Park Slope office.

The sales trend is strongest in Park Slope, she said, but high-priced sales are picking up in other Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods, such as Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights.

In Cobble Hill, for example, the average price of townhouse sales in last year’s fourth quarter hit $2.4 million, up from $1.2 million in the same period in 2011 — a whopping 108 percent. In Brooklyn Heights, the average sales price was $3.6 million, still well over that pricey $3 million benchmark, but a dip of 22 percent from $4.7 million the year prior. (It’s worth noting that the generally small number of townhouse sales in each neighborhood may exaggerate percentage change figures).

Lew, with Park Slope co-executive vice president Marc Wisotsky, sold a townhouse in January at 848 Carroll Street for $3.6 million.

Now the duo has the 50-foot-wide Tracy Mansion at 105 Eighth Avenue on the market, asking a sky-high $18 million.

While value is a strong pull, an even bigger group of Manhattanites are being charmed by Park Slope’s “small-town feel” than before, said Peter Grazioli, a Park Slope–based Halstead agent, who listed a $3.8 million single-family townhouse at 43 Eighth Avenue in January and sold it within 48 hours — at asking price.

“It’s always been an active townhouse market,” Grazioli said. “But in the past year, the Brooklyn inventory has dried up.”

Now, he added, when a home in Park Slope hits the market, “it’s high on people’s radar.”


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