Brooklyn’s big buys: The borough’s priciest listings and sales

Residential properties on upward trajectory as townhouse demand surges and new construction comes online
By E.B. Solomont | August 01, 2014 07:00AM
37 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights

37 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights

When the penthouse condo at One Brooklyn Bridge Park hit the market in May, its asking price of $32 million bested the record for the borough’s priciest listing by $2 million. The price also completely eclipsed the borough’s priciest sale to date, a Brooklyn Heights townhouse that sold for $12.5 million in 2012.

“The price du jour seems to be going up for houses,” said Ellen Newman, the Corcoran Group agent who brokered the townhouse sale at 70 Willow Place. Newman is now representing the seller at 192 Columbia Heights, a 7,900-square-foot house that’s asking $16 million — a price that’s also poised to shatter the current sales record if it fetches that amount.

This month, The Real Deal looked at the five priciest listings on the market in Brooklyn, as well as the five priciest sales that have closed in the borough during the last year.

The priciest listings ranged from a $14 million Park Slope townhouse to the $32 million One Brooklyn Bridge Park penthouse. Interestingly, the most expensive closed sales were priced far lower, ranging from a $5.8 million Brooklyn Heights townhouse to an $8.7 million townhouse at 12 College Place in the same neighborhood.

Not on TRD’s ranking despite its high price tag was 104 Willow Street, an historic clapboard house in the area that sold for $10.6 million in June, but is classified as a two-family because it has a basement-level apartment, according to public records.

To be sure, these Brooklyn dollar amounts are still far lower than record-setting deals (or even average deals) in Manhattan, where the $70 million sale of Edgar Bronfman’s 960 Fifth Avenue penthouse in May set a new high for the most expensive co-op ever sold in the city. The average luxury sales price in Manhattan was $7.25 million in the second quarter, according to a Douglas Elliman report produced by real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

But data show Brooklyn luxury prices are hitting new highs.

In the second quarter of 2014, the average price for luxury sales in the borough rose to $2.53 million, up 32.6 percent from the prior year, according to Miller Samuel.

In addition, sources say the gap in price between the borough’s most expensive listings and closed sales is poised to narrow, especially as a raft of new luxury construction comes to the market.

“As the inventory is created, I think you can keep seeing those prices go higher,” said Yuval Greenblatt, an executive vice president at Elliman. “As thresholds are broken, people feel more comfortable paying that type of pricing.”

In fact, Brooklyn’s priciest closed deal this past year, the College Place townhouse, sold for $3.8 million more than it sold for in October 2012.

The dead-end street is lined with residential carriage-houses and is also home to the 38-unit Love Lane Mews condo that was developed by Manhattan Skyline Management and where apartments have sold for more than $4 million, according to real estate website StreetEasy.

“It’s a tiny, little, charming enclave that is pretty much, I think, a little secret to most people,” said Corcoran’s Denise LaChance, who represented the College Place seller. “It really has unparalleled privacy.”

She said the 25-foot-wide townhouse, a former commercial space, has an elevator and private garage and that the seller replaced the construction-grade kitchens and bathrooms.

LaChance said she priced the property, which sold in 62 days, in part based on what the market would bear when it was listed last July. “As time went on, there was even more demand for Brooklyn than there had been originally,” she said.

Source: Properties were priciest listings on StreetEasy in Brooklyn as of late June 2014

Source: Properties were priciest listings on StreetEasy in Brooklyn as of late June 2014

Blue-chip listings

One Brooklyn Bridge Park’s $32 million penthouse has sweeping views, blue-chip amenities and is located inside the park. (See sidebar for a closer look at the borough’s priciest three listings.)

“In terms of the building as a whole, it’s virtually impossible to duplicate something like this,” said Andrew Barrocas, president of MNS, which is marketing the converted Jehovah’s Witness printing plant.

Barrocas said about 20 buyers have already combined multiple units to create larger, more expensive apartments ranging from $9.5 million to $11 million. “This is a market where the bigger [the apartment], the more desirable,” he said.

Other properties on TRD’s list of priciest listings stand out from the crowd.

For example, 192 Columbia Heights, a 25-foot wide, 50-foot deep brownstone, backs up onto the Brooklyn Heights promenade and has outdoor space and panoramic views. “You look left and see the Statue of Liberty, you look straight and see New York Harbor and you look right and see the Brooklyn Bridge,” Corcoran’s Newman said.

Source: Properties were the priciest closed residential sales in Brooklyn between July 2013 and June 2014.  Data pulled from StreetEasy and Zillow.

Source: Properties were the priciest closed residential sales in Brooklyn between July 2013 and June 2014. Data pulled from StreetEasy and Zillow.

Record sales

The brownstone at 48 Garden Place, which clocked in a No. 2 on TRD’s ranking of closed sales, went for $7.5 million in April and broke a record for its block, where the next-highest price was $5.7 million at 16 Garden Place in January 2013.

Broker Joan Goldberg of Brown Harris Stevens listed the 5,100-square-foot house for $7.8 million in September 2013. “It had always been maintained, it had central air,” she said. “It showed beautifully.”

Goldberg said demand for Brooklyn townhouses exceeds supply and has driven prices up in the sector. “People who want townhouses, that’s all they want,” she said. “If something is large and totally renovated, you will get in the $6 million to $7 million range.”

In Brownstone Brooklyn, 25-foot wide houses are especially sought after, Goldberg said.

“These purchases are not analytical,” said Goldberg. “They just love it, and they say, ‘What do I need to do, what do I need to pay?’ ”

Goldberg also sold 35 Willow Place, a 3,750-square-foot townhouse that traded for $5.1 million in January, and 38 Willow Place, which sold for $3.9 million in 2011. “The market had changed dramatically,” she said. “We had multiple bids [in the later sale] and the bid that took it was a cash bid that was $200,000 over [the asking price] with no contingencies whatsoever.”

She said she had an offer by the third day of showings.