Category Archives: apartment

atlantic terrace

Brooklyn Real Estate: Atlantic Terrace

There was little chatter about this development when I had visited it early 2011, and there still seems to be little discussion. Its forum on streeteasy is eerily silent. I stumbled upon it practically by accident. And I was suspicious. It seemed nice, but again how can NO ONE be talking about it? First, the lobby is modern,  minimalist and manned by a concierge / doorman who seemed to hate their job, but managed to get us to sign in. We met the sales agent in one of the penthouses, and it was impressive. A well laid out duplex, and windows on top of windows, on top of windows! With a porch! Almost love at first sight. But what about the rest of the complex? Not quite as overwhelming, but still a lot to talk about. For one, it’s Gold LEED certified. Not just “on track” for that certification (read Toren) but they’ve got the gold. One of the first in Brooklyn. Their finishes while not the fanciest, are sustainable and aren’t hard on your eyes. I especially liked the in-wall air units. Except for the duplex none of the windows were much to write home about, but we did see a few south facing units so you’ll probably get a lot of light. I liked the in-kitchen window, that’s always a nice touch. The hallways were actually very impressive, they *smelled* clean, as if fresh air was being pumped in, it probably was.

Now for the more interesting stuff. This development is a coop. Really? Yes, you read that right there’s a new GREEN building, that’s a coop, in Brooklyn. We were assured though that the board wasn’t unreasonable, the agent didn’t expect any problems. Uh-huh. The location, while not bad for convenience — about a brisk 10min walk to most subway stations, is practically sitting on the lap of the new Barclay’s center, upcoming home of the Nets, so expect to see a lot of traffic during game time in the near future. Finally, price. The market units weren’t offered at a great price.  8J a 1,067sqft unit was listed for $610k late 2010 and recently reduced by 2% to $599k, with common charges in excess of $1.1k (maybe some tax deductions?). The unit seems to be in line with what nearby developments are offering, maybe even on the more affordable side with the recent reductions. But, since the affordable units (which are the majority in this development 60/80)  are built in with the market rate units, you’re likely to see that your neighbor got your exact / very similar unit, just MUCH cheaper. Irksome.  All in, the market-rate units weren’t really that compelling. I’d rather go up the block to some of the new developments in DoBro, or even Prospect Heights and not have to deal with having Barclays Center / Nets Game traffic as my direct neighbor.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.


Brooklyn Real Estate: University Towers

This is a review from earlier this year, when I sojourned to my neighbor University Towers. I’d been itching to see a unit here since I learned that they were in fact coops, and not what I had initially thought, more projects. The unit I was viewing was being billed as a newly renovated gorgeous 2 bd / 2 ba sponsor unit, that wouldn’t require board approval. And I have to say I was mildly surprised. The outside, we’ve already discussed a bit dated. But once you’re inside, it’s pleasant. The security desk was manned by someone who was paying attention, the lobby was clean, the elevator comfortable,  and the hallways a bit utilitarian. There is a gym on premise, but not in the building, you’ll have to jump to the sister building 191 Willoughby to get your work-out on.

The unit itself was newly renovated and it showed. It was spacious, light, and had an interesting layout that allowed you to do laps around the living room / dining room / and kitchen. The details were nice, new appliances – kitchen aid fridge and silver stone counter tops, semi-crown molding, deep soak tub and solid white oak floors. Nice.  Yet, there’s no denying that the building / apt is old(er). The air unit is in a slightly obstructive , the windows are not over sized, though they do get good light, and the ceilings are a tad low. The finishes while new and good quality I expected more for the the $567k price tag. I suppose all of this is made up by it’s location — it’s well situated in Downtown Brooklyn, near all the subway lines, jumping distance to Fort Greene.

Checking streeteasy it appears the unit sold for ~$537k, not a bad price by any means for the location, the space, and the amenities.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.


Dispatches from DoBro

Just about every denizen in DoBro has said something about the weather — which is nothing new, and in about another month we’d have been well on our way to collective amnesia “what snowstorms?!”, were it not for the unplowed streets that make this years flurry batches unforgettable. A close second though has got to be the ensuing trash — immortalized here by AOL’s

And if that wasn’t enough trash talk for the Toren, DoBro’s zebra tower, they’ve also been recently stripped of their crown as best selling building in DoBro.

I think we all secretly knew that Be@Schermerhorn with its drop dead prices was out selling the Toren, we just opted not to say anything about the “accounting” error.

The neighborhood while still in the throes of construction and snow-trash appears to be selling well, according to property shark data, which shows that most sales in the $500-$1,000 SF range were in DoBro or Park Slope, so take THAT Williamsburg! We may show you yet!

81 Willoughby was named Brownstoner’s “Building of the Day” for February 10th.  Which made me stop and actually take a look at that building. For the entire 6+ months that I’ve been living in the neighborhood I never paid attention to that building, it has students congregating on its steps, so when I usually pass it I’m actually pushing through it. But truth be told, it IS quite nice.

Brooklyn Gold which we covered last year in October is having a moment, only 4 units left from the sponsor according to Brownstoner, who featured this unit as their Feb. 3rd “Rental of the Day”. While the complex is a strong rental I’m not sure about this $1,999 for a one bedroom. I mean the W/D is *clearly* in the kitchen. You would think that would impress the multi-tasker in me, but it doesn’t.

The Brooklyn Burger Bonanza can probably thank the Shake Shack for the moment the burger is experiencing. But really, how many of these things can we eat, and how often?

Smash burger:

Chee burger:


Brooklyn Real Estate: The Robert Livingston

There were quite a few open houses the day I went to check out the Robert Livingston, unfortunately for me I only had time to check out only one. The chosen one was a one bedroom on the 7th floor, ~ 650 sf, listed by BellMarc for $315k.

The Robert Livingston is well located on the border of Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill. Very accessible to all subways and unlike much of Downtown Brooklyn nearby neighborhood charms and conveniences. The lobby is unexpectedly opulent, channeling old-world appeal. Even the elevator had a certain aged elegance, arriving with a sense of purpose. But where the lobby seemed appealingly old, the rest of the building was a bit neglected. The hallways were dark with worn carpet. The unit itself, echoed the sentiment. The kitchen appeared to be the strongest feature, having been recently renovated. The bathroom was a good size and had modern finishes. The windows were generous throughout and light easily streamed in.

I wasn’t a big fan of the darkish parquet flooring, though this is more personal preference as the ones here were in decent shape.The layout also seemed reasonable for a one bedroom, though there is an awkwardly placed closet in the living room with accordion doors. The furniture could have been better optimized to showcase the space.

I didn’t get a chance to checkout the building amenities, but I was told there was 24hr doorman, live-in super, laundry, bike racks, storage, and  a health club next door.  All good things. Still the $315k seemed a tad bit high for the unit, especially if I’m going to have to pay for my own health club membership, and the W/D was in some communal space rather than in the unit itself. The apartment also wasn’t in the best shape possible (though not bad), and $315 isn’t too pricey and depending on how much you like the location might actually be fair. The monthly maintenance of $787 is shockingly steep, and I can’t imagine why it’s pegged so high given the limited amenities. This is a co-op however so the monthly structure is worked out differently from a condo, so possibly hard as it is to imagine this might be reasonable.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

96 S Oxford

Brooklyn Real Estate: 96 South Portland Avenue

I didn’t want to like this place. Really. I’m a fan of new developments in a big way. But I liked this place the minute my eyes clapped on its rustic entrance. With its ambling path leading to a bricked entry, surrounded by aimless vines, it’s like something straight out of my child hood coloring book. Somehow, the signs of its age didn’t bother me, instead I found them charming. The chandelier and the paneled doorway of the entrance punctuated its charm. Not even the garbage / recyclables tucked around the corner detracted me, nor did the stairs leading to the unit — usually a red flag in my “strongly prefer new developments” book, but not today.

Upon entering, it pretty much is what you’d expect from a prewar co-op. The floors sag here and sigh there, I briefly wondered what happened to the floors but decided to be happy  that they seem like they’re in decent shape after (what looks like) 100+ years of wear. There are odd “mini-steps” separating each room, which perhaps was my biggest pet peeve with this place since it meant I was constantly looking down anticipating a surprise step.  The unit gets plenty of light, which the owner has expertly highlighted with their choice of flowy white curtains in the living room. The agent mentioned that the new owner could probably open up the already lengthy living room and put a direct archway to the kitchen. This would create the feeling of additional space, maybe even enough to section out a small second bedroom (from the living room), and make this place into a “charming” two bedroom. It might work.

The master bedroom was not so well decorated, it looked dark, dreary and grim. The agent later mentioned the owners (a couple) were getting a divorce. Not surprising. But it had good space, light (when the curtains aren’t dark grey and drawn), and nice bones. The one bathroom was a bit odd, it looked like the owners had started a renovation, but then changed their minds. So the shower area has modern looking glass panels, but the rest of it looks old. The kitchen, optimizes the space nicely, but it’s probably worth revisiting the look.

The location is excellent. Practically in the heart of all the places you want to visit in Fort Greene, and near enough subways to make it accessible. The unit’s view in fact looks out into some prime Fort Greene real estate. All that said, I’m not a fan of the price. $399k seems to be a tad too high for a unit that clearly has age. But the $649 in monthly maintenance is what really sets it apart, given there are no amenities or common areas to speak of, it’s tough to justify the high monthly charge.

Interestingly enough, other units in the condo are up for grabs too, units #8 and #5 both are selling for a higher price tag, and probably have more stairs to traverse, but (based on their photos) seem to be more updated. That would have to be weighed against what are probably very motivated sellers for unit #1. Yet, I can’t help but want to check those out as well … maybe next week.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

163 Wash

Brooklyn Real Estate: 163 Washington

Those of us in the neighborhood have been watching 163 Washington go up for some time. It’s been slowly dominating an otherwise remarkably flat skyline.  The press has been unclear about this building, what with the website — alarmingly comic-inspired (Lichtenstein) and sparse on the building details (i.e. no amenities listed) I half expected a repeat of 96 Rockwell. But I was wrong. There are agents there, and they were very friendly, even better, they were knowledgable — what kind of wood was used (ash), the finishes, the neighborhood and how much wiggle room there is in the prices.

The first 2 BD/2BA unit (8C) was ~966 sqft with a nice 40 sqft balcony off the living room. The view from the balcony is a non-descript Brooklyn view, but having been balcony free now for ~ 3 years I sorely miss it, and this one was nice. The lay out of the unit isn’t great, the bedrooms are railroaded together, a detail you might almost miss thanks to the snazzy  interior design of the model unit, and the finishes are pretty strong. I noticed the custom cabinets, Liebherr fridge, Faber range hood, and spa-like bathroom. Too bad the unsightly air unit is also strong. There’s one in the living room, and each of the bedrooms, not great.  8C wasn’t actually on the listing — but the unit just below it (7C) was at $545k, with $310 common charges. Not a bad price.

The second unit 9A was head and shoulders better. Approximately 1,154 sq feet the added 188 sqft allowed it that much more room to have a very compelling layout, and it’s got two balconies giving it 80 sqft of outdoor space. Plus, this unit had small touches like a pillar here and there, detailed tile work in the bathrooms, HIS and HERS shower heads, and a window in the master bathroom — all yum! Best of all, it’s got a Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn view! It’s a stunning unit, and at $650k and $386 in CCs yes … I’m a little jealous.

The building’s common areas are not not finished but seems to have promise:  a 5,000 SF “yard”, a 530 SF zen garden, gym, and a lounge / common area with a fire place. What it won’t have, is a door man. Which you might not miss since this neighborhood (despite what you may have read on the various threads) is a heartbeat away from Pratt, hardly dangerous grounds. It is however, hopelessly far from any subway station, even the dreaded G.  Still, with FHA loans approved, and a 15 year tax abatement in the works, maybe a bus-to-subway lifestyle isn’t half bad.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.


FR Resorts: The Seabird

Manila 2010

As a way to lure me back to visit sooner than later my brother offered to take my husband and I to Boracay, a powerdery white sand and crystal blue watered paradise. You’ll need to white knuckle a propeller planed flight, a lengthy side car ride, ferry and a final side car ride before you finally get there. But feeling the silky powder (they call sand but I call pure heaven) under your feet is well worth the journey.

Having learned that the resort was still undergoing some renovation I asked if there were still some pre-renovation rooms. YES. And folks if anyone is wondering what renovations can do to your property value just check out the bad boys (below) out. You would swear these weren’t the same resort — eat your heart out. The first thing I’ll be buying when I get back to the Flatbush Riviera are bed runners and throw pillows. Who would’ve thought they’d unify a room (and a complex) so effectively?

Super Sekrit tip — the wood seen throughout the units are actually the handiwork of a skilled painter. I spoke to the designer who casually said — said that she had hand picked him for his work, and that he used a combination of paint, a rag and healthy helping of creative imagination. No kidding.


FR Int’l: Parc Chateau Manila

Manila 2010
Park Chateau in Pasig Metro Manila is one of the older condo developments of the area, but still offers a lot of strong selling points. The hallways and walk ways may look older, and could use a face lift but they’re still spacious, with amazing light. In fact, rather unique for this condo the natural light is filtered throughout the complex from the center core. There’s enough indoor lighting to support a robust eco-system. We went to check out this development since my sister in law was in charge of one of the unit’s renovations.

I had seen pictures of the project — so half knew what to expect, but surprisingly, it was more impressive in person. The 1 bd/ 1 ba ~ 750-800 sqft’s main window was from the bedroom balcony with the effective use of glass and the layout the light was able to fall gently across the whole apartment. The dining room the wall was texturized with a grey-green marble / stone paneling that punctuated the room with a garden feel. The entrance — which I found to be the most innovative for a condo, actually had a kind of “outside” porch complete with a an inside door so you actually felt like you were entering a house rather than a condo. Nice. Not to be left behind, the master bedroom was well sized — it’s headboard acting as the focus of the room imbued a sense of grandness, and the view from its balcony was entrancing. It made me miss my old apartment with my own balcony that was more like a porch. Alas.

With it’s location, space, view, and just finished renovation they estimated that if the owner were to sell (and apparently he’s not in the market to do that so don’t get your hopes up) it would go for at least 3M (Pesos) ~ $60K. Tempting isn’t it?

night render

FR International Goes to MANILA: Nuvo City

Nuvo City

Going away for the holidays is truly a great tradition, and for this season my husband and I left the sun drenched shores of Flatbush for the balmy tropics of Manila. Once our jetlag became half-way manageable, we set doing what we love– looking at real estate.

First thing’s first, the Philippines is having a bit of a moment, symptoms include not only the shop-til-you-drop fever, but also the glassy-eyed stare of non-comprehension when we name-drop “recession”.  The Philippines is expected to have the second fastest growing economy in southeast Asia (after Thailand) in 2010, and as all Flatbush denizens know boom economies are exuberantly followed by condo building mania. Half way across the world– this logic stood its ground.

Our first stop — Nuvo City an ambitious mix-use 5 tower project  that has barely broken ground but promises to serve up the latest in Philippine condo offerings from a studio to 3BD penthouse. Amenities include: –gym, lounge / conference room / media room,  outdoor swimming pool (for each of the 5 towers), tennis court, basketball, badminton, volleyball, and playground(?).  Most compelling, they’ll have high-end retail businesses in the lower levels — making it into an upscale mall not unlike the Time Warner Center in NY — or other successful developments like Global City — Fort in Manila.

We were offered to view the showrooms – which are similar in purpose to model units, except the materials aren’t exactly the same as the units you’d be buying– more like just the “look and feel” of the place. And some things are just designed to show you what you could do with the place (i.e. wood paneling) which the unit would not be coming with. Still, they were quite impressive. Many of the units came with a balcony, high ceilings, and spacious layouts. They also had a distinct modern aesthetic, overhead showers, roca finishes in some of the bathrooms, homogenous tiling (yum), engineered wooden flooring and synthetic stone tops in the kitchen — which looks nice but I prefer au natural. Glass was also a big theme throughout, they opted for generously over-sized windows rather than the floor-to-cieling drama favored in the Flatbush Riviera, and used it liberally internally using frosted glass partitions for bathrooms (studio units) to master bedroom walls to overlook the living room (penthouse lofts).

Sadly, I couldn’t take a photo of any of the showroom units we saw — as they were  top trade sekrits– so the ones I have are scoured from the internet.

Finally, we got to the real juice, the prices. Generally ~ $65k for ~350 sqft studios, ~$90k -$120k for ~750 sqft 1 bedrooms, and ~ $150 – $280k for 2 bd / 2BA, I kid you not, those are ALL IN prices and not down payments. Even more mind blowing — those are just about the same prices whether or not you’re located on the 2nd floor or the 42nd floor. I discovered this during a conversation that went something like:

Agent: Which floor would you like the pricing structure on? We have units still on the 8th floor which is close to the 5th floor amenities.

FR: {seeing they also have units on the 42nd+ floor}  I’d like to see the 42nd – 44th.

Agent: {silence} .. even for the 2 bedrooms? For 2 bedrooms we have corner units available on the 13th floor, which isn’t too far from the 5th floor amenities.

FR: Are these amenities on the 5th floor the swimming pool, and tennis courts etc,..?

Agent: Yes

FR: {gestures to husband} — HE only goes to the gym 2x a month, me 3x week TOPS, and with the gentle tropical sun (sarcasm inserted) we may never go to those “amenities” during the day. But I’ll be seeing my view EVERY day.

Agent: {shrug and smile} — people here like the amenities.

True story.

560 State Street

Brooklyn Real Estate: 560 State Street

We looked at two, 2 bedroom apartments at 560 State street. The area was familiar as we had recently visited 556 State Street, a development just next door, which we thought was quite pleasing. So we were interested to see what kind of pads their neighbors had. First things first, the entry way; there isn’t a doorman — not the end of the world, it’ll mean lower common charges. But it does have a fairly lengthy stair case ascending towards the courtyard. Again, not the end of the world, but a dozen memories of me face-planting from my ridiculously high heels down the W Hotel staircase, all flashed before my eyes.

Once you ascend the stairs you enter into a nice courtyard area, which when we were viewing it was still under construction, but looked promising. The units are arranged in small buildings around the courtyard, so we had to look for building “5″ to see 5B. I actually liked that since it gives it a sense of privacy similar to what you might find with a house. The unit we were looking for was the second unit up, meaning we had to walk another (though smaller) flight of stairs.

The first unit 5B was nice. It was newly renovated. Although the sales agent spent a lot of time telling us how the even newer renovated units were more impressive, they had “modern” kitchens and not the terra cotta we were looking at. He also mentioned that the main wall in the living room was brick underneath it, and if we wanted to we could open it up and the brick facade would be quite dramatic, in fact they had done so for some units, why they hadn’t for this one is mysterious. This unit also looks directly onto the busy Flatbush / Atlantic Center intersection. The traffic was already heavy, I expect it’ll only grow with the Nets moving in, but the windows are double sealed, so try as I did, I couldn’t hear very much if at all. Very nice. The best thing about the living room was the spaciousness of it, the kitchen will probably start looking dated in ~ 5 years. The bedrooms located upstairs were angled, but generous, and the great lighting made them look even bigger. Overall, the unit was nice even if the common space and lack of amenities of any kind were not. Still, at $699k for 1,440 sqft 2BD / 1.5BA it is quite a compelling value — even before negotiations — and there were some hints that the sponsor was flexible. Common charges of $575 and taxes of $785 however, are not so compelling. Especially since there seemed little that would justify an over $500 common charge.

The next unit we saw and was prefaced as “needing some work”, was so horrifying I shudder to think about it. I swear even the door on unit 2B sagged. Everything about it was dilapidated, and as my husband surmised it seemed like “renters had run it to the ground“. As we stood taking it in I realized that although I talk the big DIY-self made- renovation project dream, I don’t know if I’m actually game. I mean if a rat had scuttled across that grimy kitchen floor it would’ve been the least of my concerns. At $579k, ~1,100 sqft it wasn’t discounted THAT much more than 5B — so you had to wonder. Common charges of $429 /mo and taxes of $680. You’ll have to look hard to see the potential.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.