North Slope holds its own

Interest strong thanks to limited inventory in tony Brooklyn nabe

Feb.February 01, 2009 05:08 PM

It’s a neighborhood that hardly needs to be identified, thanks to its turn-of-the-century brownstones, sprawling Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park, and tree-lined streets. With two restaurant rows, some of the top-rated public and private schools in the city, and baby carriages aplenty, Park Slope’s reputation precedes it.

The neighborhood, which is bounded to the east by Prospect Park, has long been considered one of the most desirable in Brooklyn. And, despite the economic downturn and chilly real estate climate, brokers say the limited stock of townhouses, co-ops and condos on North Park Slope’s toniest stretches means its real estate values are holding their own.

Late last year, a mansion on Prospect Park West sold for $8.45 million, making it the most expensive residential deal ever in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

“It’s kind of a broker’s dream,” said Debbie Korb, a senior vice president with Sotheby’s who was the listing agent for 17 Prospect Park West. “You can’t ask for more in terms of location.”

Korb said the house, which was owned by the movie stars Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, sold to buyers who viewed it on the first day it was shown, and that she received interest in the mansion from people in Dubai who were willing to buy it sight unseen.

“We priced it rather aggressively,” said Korb. “We knew it was more than anything had sold for in the neighborhood, but one-of-a-kind things are always a good value.”

The property is on what is generally considered Park Slope’s gold coast, the northern stretch of Prospect Park West. In addition to the avenue overlooking the park, the “name” blocks south of Flatbush Avenue — including Carroll Street, Montgomery Place and Garfield Place — as well as 1st through 3rd streets are typically considered Park Slope’s priciest and most attractive. In general, the grander, more expensive homes are bounded east and west between Eighth Avenue and the park.

While 17 Prospect Park West is arguably one of the most mint residences in the neighborhood, brokers say the sale is indicative of unflagging interest in high-end North Slope homes, despite the economic downturn.

“Is there more inventory? Yes. Are people being more cautious? Yes. But the serious buyers are still buying,” said Marc Wisotsky, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Wisotsky, who has lived in the neighborhood since the ’70s and worked in the Park Slope market for more than 15 years, said that his firm helped broker the sale of nine “very big number” townhouses in Park Slope last year and already had three contracts signed for properties — including a $2 million-plus co-op — within the first couple of weeks of the year.

“The unique thing about Park Slope is that it has the best stock of untouched brownstones probably anywhere in the country,” he said. “People have been waiting for the shoe to drop, but I think in this neighborhood they’re realizing that’s not going to happen. I’ve never had a person I sold a house to walk away on the minus side when they resold.”

Still, while most brokers acknowledge that the neighborhood’s real estate values are holding their own, they also point out that prices on the high-end have stopped rising as both buyers and sellers have become a bit more gun-shy.

“There was that period of [price] escalation that was really over the top,” said Roslyn Huebener, principal of Aguayo & Huebener Realty. “That has disappeared.”

Huebener said “the aggressive extra fluff on the price” disappeared in mid-2007 with the credit crunch, and, like nearly everywhere else in the city, “things have hit the fan since September,” resulting in more circumspect buyers and sellers.

“Nonetheless, we’re still getting good prices,” she said. “There is a market and you just have to strike the right price for the property.”

Demand for townhouses on the Slope’s best blocks, for example, is holding up, because there’s never a great deal of for-sale inventory at any given moment.

“I think there’s always a good demand for townhouses in Park Slope, because there are rarely that many on the market,” said Isabelle Reboh, a senior vice president with Brown Harris Stevens who has been selling homes in the neighborhood for more than a decade. “If there are 10 for sale, that’s considered a lot, but objectively speaking, it’s only 10. It’s never a lot.”

Reboh and her partner, Joan Goldberg, a vice president at Brown Harris Stevens, have an $8.5 million listing for a 6,800-square-foot brownstone mansion on Garfield Place designed in the late 19th century by noted architect C. P. H. Gilbert. If the house sells for its asking price, it will beat out 17 Prospect Park West as the most expensive sale ever in the neighborhood.

Like others who specialize in pricey Park Slope sales, Goldberg is sanguine about the neighborhood’s relative strength amid the troubled market.

“From mid-September through December, the high-end market was about the same,” said Goldberg. “If you have a prime property and it’s presented well, and it’s in good shape, you’re OK. If you have a property that’s not prime, but it’s on the park or [on another] prime block, we can sell it for you.”

While the limited number of townhouses has helped prop up values in Park Slope, there is also a dearth of new condo construction in the northern section of the neighborhood.

One of the few new condos in the North Slope is the 22-unit Vermeil, on Sterling Place. The building, which is half sold since hitting the market in early 2007, had three-bedroom listings ranging from $1.15 to $1.5 million as of last month.

Mordy Werde, a senior associate at Corcoran who heads sales for the building, said demand for units at the building had been slow but steady, though he noted that offers have been slower to materialize since September’s market turmoil.

“It’s still a very sought-after neighborhood. It hasn’t lost its appeal,” said Werde. “Buyers are just waiting to see if they can get a better deal.”

Werde said that open-house attendance has continued to be decent, which he said reflects not only the neighborhood’s draw but also the fact that the Vermeil boasts units larger than are typically found in the Slope.

“There’s not much in terms of higher-end three-bedrooms available, which is why my demand has been stronger than other people’s,” he said.

Reboh also noted that “there is never more than a handful of family-size apartments for sale on the prime blocks,” ensuring continued demand for such properties.

Nevertheless, most brokers acknowledged that continued demand for co-ops and condos on the best blocks hasn’t been translating to as many deals these days.

“For a seller to attract qualified buyers, they cannot push the market for record prices, and they may need to be negotiable, depending on their time frame,” said Goldberg. “Buyers who can get a mortgage have the luxury of compromising less and holding out for more.”

Goldberg and Reboh said that while the neighborhood attracts people from all over the city, Manhattanites keen on the Slope tend to compare it to the Upper West Side.

“The people who come from Manhattan want Park Slope because it’s what the Upper West Side used to be,” said Goldberg. “What I hear all the time is that they want to get away from noise and congestion [in Manhattan].”


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