Thursday, July 29, 2010

☞ DWELL: The Livmor Condominiums

The Livmor Condominiums are still just finishing up at 2131 FDB/8th Avenue (corner of 115th Street) and are around 60% sold in less than 3 months based on their website. A quick search does show at least 18 units are a done deal and 7 are currently in contract. The initial asking for roughly 820 square foot one-bedrooms, 1,300 square foot 2-bedrooms and 3,000 square foot 3-bedrooms were around $600 per square foot. Maintenance landed in around the $700-$900 per month range and units that have sold went for about $580 per square foot when all contracts had closed. Also, this is one of those church deals where the land was sold and a part of the development had to contain the new church inside the building.

So are these condos priced right and what is the main selling feature that's making them move? Location, quality or value? There's also the 3.5% down FHA approval and 25 year tax abatement which seems to be standard these days. Seeing that there are a lot of opinions out there, we will start looking closely at how condo developments are doing at least once a week. User names on comments, please. Facade photo by Ulysses. http//


  1. $550-650 sq. ft is exactly where I would put it (depending on floor etc.)

  2. Another Blog spoke of this development and it was posted..."all the corners they cut. Look at the unevenness of the exterior brickwork, the metal finishes on the south and east corners of the building, the gaps in the floors of the Juliette balconies (won't even speculate about the quality of the concrete used to construct those balconies) . . . and the list goes on. I suspect the amenities uos1 is making so much of will be drastically cut back once buyers in the building realize how much it's going to cost them to do necessary repairs, or to pay the cost of a lawsuit against the developer. The "middle class" (a euphemism for white people who can't afford to buy downtown) can pay asking prices on these new condos if they want to, but it would be a shame to buy thinking that the only costs you'll incur in the near- to mid-term is for the mortgage and taxes. BTW, we have seen this before. Ask buyers in some of "first wave" condos downtown about the assessments they had to pay once they realized developers had bribed Building Department inspectors to certify that hollow core bathroom doors were solid wood, that electricity and plumbing exceeded code, etc. I've come to the conclusion that developers bank on people making decisions to buy based on emotions instead of rational calculations about the likely direction of the market and the basic quality of the product. END.

    I think this commentary above is spot on. I think people are crazy to buy into this shoddy construction all over Harlem and Manhattan. If it was built in the last 10 years, chances are it's junk.

  3. Stupid name.

  4. New construction had been poor for alot longer than 10 years. I'm sure these come with a warranty. The fact that they are selling shows they are priced right especially for the location.

  5. We have seen these. Shoddy does not begin to describe them. The hallways are reminiscent of the cheapest sort of "Motel 6" constructions, and the units ... wow. I urge everyone to check it out, no need to take my word for it. I was actually embarrassed that I had mentioned this building to some friends who were looking to buy a few months ago - before I had seen the inside myself.

    People are buying because they want to own something. Moreover, at least some of them have probably left their common sense at home, or they have been compromised by the emperor's new clothes thing that is inexplicably running rampant.

    I agree with the critical poster.

  6. I am in contract in the building and have looked at all the buildings in the area and buildings on the UWS as that was the area we are looking. I think at the end of the day you are going to have those that will always be critical of anything that is built. I am not going to sit here and argue that it is perfect, but none of the buildings i have seen, old or new are perfect, which is why over the years many are renovated. I lived in Lincoln Towers years ago and all of those buildings have had to do massive work to fix them up.

    Faria you bring up the hallways, which sure are they great, no, but motel 6? really? I am not sure what you are looking for in a hallway that you are going to walk through for a few seconds and then go into your apartment.

    As to the apartments themselves, the layouts are decent considering everything else built in the area in terms of an actual living room area. I spent a lot of time going back and have had a friend who owns a lot of places do a walkthrough with me and while things are not great it was constructed well.

    I also walked a few apartments that were gettign renovated and saw how the walls were done and insulation and because someone was doing work on moving walls, I saw the underneath of the floor, in terms of concrete, insulation and the bamboo floors used.

    In terms of amenities, they are already done. The roof deck is already designed, furniture bought, landscaping complete. Gym is done, childrens playroom is done. So to tell people amenities will not happen is just misleading and putting forth opinion based on zero facts.

    Everyone is going to have their opinion about all of the projects up here. I felt for the price and what i was getting it was a good deal. Time will tell. However since i am not going anywhere and plan on living here for a long time, I guess i will know when and if assessments start to hit.

    so go ahead and attack and tell me that i am crazy and that i want to own something, which of course i do, since i am getting a lot more out of it. But i disagree about common sense, because people do like what they like, and maybe you have to factor in that this is in fact the right apartment for a person.

  7. I think the original critical poster meant that the amenities would mean little once the reality sinks in. This was the scenario with the downtown developments that h/she mentioned. I doubt very much that this was meant as an "attack" on anyone specifically; I know that my remarks were not. Oh, wait, perhaps on the developers as would be appropriate.

    Observation: The discussions here have become uninteresting because of the odd defensiveness, always either the result of someone who has a real-estate stake in something under discussion, or when raining on the determined parade "Celebration: The Turn-Around in Harlem" is suspected.

  8. livmor buyer, don't pay attention to some of the negativity that seems to flow through this blog. Unless the place has all original details or is going for $400 sq. ft, chances are it will be instantly dismissed. I have seen a ton of modern condo buildings across the city and in Brooklyn and the livmor was no worse than any of those. Not sure where the Motel 6 comparison was coming from. I saw this particular building fairly early on and some of the finishes were a little bit off, but mostly that was because the renovations had not yet been completed.

    GL with your new home.

  9. Faria I do not view as a rain on parade. It is that on both sides, there is nothing constructive anymore. It is very easy to say, oh the brick was crooked, you are going to get assessed up the wazoo. As it is easy for me to say wow i thought it was great and you have no idea what you are talking about.

    The point at the end of the day is i have been in friends homes and said wow this place is awful, why would they buy here. The issue is not that it was really that awful, but not my taste. this is the point of the hallways, i honestly did not think they were so bad. Not awe inspiring, but not really motel 6.

    Chris thank you. I am not looking for anyone to tell me whether i got a good deal or not. That is not for anyone here to tell me, that is between myself and my wife. And lets just say we would not have signed if we did not agree that we felt it was worth the money and the many years we plan on living there. Of course that is unless it falls down as our critical poster alluded to.

    But i will say that there is no way to know if any corners were really cut or not which could have a major effect on me later on. But as i said earlier time will tell what if anything goes wrong. I can just hope that nothing does, as do all the people who buy new construction.

  10. Postscript to the buyer: I remembered that a friend of mine said, regarding new constructions, people should hold money in escrow pending a construction quality review period. This is apparently a common-ish practice because the quality of building has declined quite a bit. The period can be a few years. It seems that warrantees, even when issued, do not cover everything and that they often require costly litigation on the part of the buyer.

    It would not be a matter necessarily of simply preserving equity, but of facing costly repairs down the road.

    In addition, there has been a lot of talk about the construction soundness of the Livmoor, often on professional (builders, real estate, etc.) sites. You need not listen to the "negative" (read: realistic) people here if you do not want to - google it and do research, see what people are saying.

    Nigerian Prince: The thing is, people who are renting also assume that something is being offered so it must be fine, it looks good or okay on the surface. And these are sometimes smart people who carry unfortunate assumptions. Then they find out differently. People do not always realize that nobody is taking care or watching, the regulations are broken every day, and it really is a ferocious "buyer beware" environment - especially with NYC real estate.

  11. Faria I took a look around google and while i could probably refine my search, the person above basically took a post from streeteasy and reposted it here. The streeteasy post was from 3 months ago. It is not a professional, it is some person who claims they had a friend with them who was in construction (what does that mean, the person who pours concrete?) and then continues with the quote above. It also states they looked for 5 minutes?

    I am all for people telling me what i should be looking out for, but seriously i would like to see someone who is actually a professional tell me their opinion. I would say i could go by my appraisal report i got recently which of course says everything is fine, etc, good quality. But i would think me saying i brought a friend who is in construction, which i did, who also looked and said all was good, was good enough also. But while it is appreciated i do not consider him the best end person to talk to either.

    As to an escrow, you have to remember all these developers have to pay bank mortgages. No bank is going to sign off on leaving money on the side that it rightfully theirs. I do audits of developements and all those apartments you sell in the beginning, the net proceeds are going to the bank, nothing to the developer. So trying to negotiate that into a contract would be rather impossible, because the only people who lose are the bank adn they would rather you find a different buyer.

    And at the end of they day in this market it takes years normally to fully sell out the building and be uninvolved. If the construction is so bad, the sponsor will still be around when this occurs. So it will be very hard for him to say it was not a construction thing and try to get aaway from it.

  12. Not sure what posts or blog you are talking about. While I did urge you to do research, I am not interested in doing this myself and I do not have the time. If I had, i would have simply told you and explained the source(s).

    I know about the bad press the Livmor developers got from a New York Times article, and from some friends who develop and who are involved in real estate. From them, I had the impression that this was a known issue. I would go with the New York Times article to start over the blog you mentioned.

  13. livmor buyer, I am familiar with the Streeteasy thread that you are referring to. Believe me, if we all paid attention to that site/forum then I don't think anybody would be living in Harlem right now. Guess what? People used to say on there that a NEW hotel on the scale of the Aloft would never be built in Harlem...and look where are we are today.

    The internet can be a valuable tool for research, but at the same time, when we start listening to people who's friend said this and knew I guy that said that you will start to second guess yourself about everything. Believe me, even the New York Times is fallible.

    I could spend half a day now researching why one should not even move to NYC, let alone Harlem and convince myself that the city is going to collapse in a heartbeat. You can just about construct a point of view for anything through 'expert' forums.

    Don't sweat it. Enjoy your new home and Harlem :)

  14. "Celebration: The Turn-Around in Harlem."

    Best of luck to all.

  15. What i meant is the poster above who was quoting from a blog, was really streeteasy posting, which left out the beginning of the sentence saying that the person who posted, supposedly was their with a friend of his, who is in construction for 5 minutes. Meaning it has no validity because it was not as if they did a detailed review of anything.

    I did all of this research originally and was basically trying to see if their was something i missed specifically to this building.

    As far as i saw it has mostly been individuals who have posted opinions.

    As i redid research i see nothing negative except from individuals. If there is a times article please post a link as i would be interested. as i have looked at the times site there is no article specifically on bad construction.

    The only thing i can find is someone posting about Philip Morrow and some of his past, but nothing specific even then.

  16. livmor, the only NY Times article I found refers to the "Momentum in South Harlem".

  17. Well its funny in all my research the same post from above was elsewhere, meaning the same person seems to seek out an article or blog on livmor and posts the same thing.

  18. ..."As i redid research i see nothing negative except from individuals".

    C'mon, you see nothing negative? How about the whole Harlem apt inventory landscape? The glut is building.

    Per the NYT - "The number of lis pendens filings — a first step in the foreclosure process for houses and condos — doubled in 2009 in Manhattan, to 724 from 334 in 2008". “Short sales are happening and they’re all over the map,” said Melissa Cohn, the president of the Manhattan Mortgage Company. “We’re seeing multimillion-dollar foreclosures and short sales that no one ever anticipated in New York City.”

    Remember that line in the NYT,..."...that no one ever anticipated in New York City". New York City is not "different", please, the article clearly shows the nation-wide trend has not begun in NYC, with some guy in Harlem losing his fabulous townhouse.

    You don't need a crystal ball to see which way the winds are blowing, I think the figure is in 2012 more than 50% of the homes with mortgages in the U.S. will be underwater, have more owed than they are worth.

    And you think Manhattan is immune to this? lol,'s not, read the article, and by Q4 2011 and through 2012 "..thing no one ever anticipated in New York City"...will again be seen. The $400-$450 / sq' new condo in Harlem.

    In my opinion the whole landscape is negative and it's rather obvious. I am just responding to your point. Of course you can put your head in the sand and deny the glut of inventory, the second dip of the double dip recession we're heading into, and exodus of well paying jobs in Manhattan.

  19. You are funny. We are SPECIFICALLY speaking about the livmor and not speaking in general terms of what the real estate market will or will not do.

    It relates to a post claiming that there was an article in the times talking about construction of this building.

    Thank you for the upchuck of information as to where you think real estate will go. It very well could if the economy cycles down again.

    However since i am not buying to resell in a few years, I will happily enjoy my apartment for years to come.

    Also you keep speaking of glut in inventory. All I see is that in a market that is still recovering the 3 projects including livmor on 115 and 114 all have sold about 60-70% of their apartments this year. Of course more will come online in years to come and there will need to be buyers waiting to buy.

    As to the short sale article. They quote some moron who had his money in ohio real estate and mortgaged himself up the wazoo to restore to 19th centry grandeur, as being the one who needs a short sale. so if that is who is losing their home in harlem, what am i supposed to worry about?

    As to manhattan employment market, time will tel what happens, but it is obvious you are on the side of the country is doomed into a double dip recession.

    What if you are wrong? of course i shouldn't say that because it is obvious that you know what you are talking about, because you can pull 3 word quotes and ignore all else in the article.

    And why not factor in that banks are now requiring 20-30% down, which will basically save the banks a lot of concern about people not repaying mortgages. the only ones hurt will be the individuals walking away from their original cash if they need to.

  20. Always been confused by the discussions on the impact of the apparent inventory glut. Strikes me that it can be a very bad sign of things to come for an area, but in this case it might be an opportunity to take advantage of. Is the underlying assumption that the excess inventory exists because a lot of people are trying to sell and move out of Harlem (and fewer people are looking to move in), or is it just a temporary supply/demand mismatch because too much was built too quickly, so it will just take some time before enough buyers move in?

    If it is primarily driven by the former, that can be awful. (See Detroit.) But, if it is primarily driven by the latter, couldn't that be a very positive set of conditions for somebody like livmorbuyer and others looking at these new condos in the area?

    The new condos in the area that seem to be moving fast are the ones like the Livmor that priced lower than the competition (e.g., 2280 FDB, SoHa 118), so presumably livmorbuyer gets the benefit of the price reduction now due to the excess inventory and the fact that developers need to unload the units before their construction loans come due. Livmorbuyer isn't under that type of constraint and can wait for the supply/demand to rebalance, which could even happen quickly considering that the last two years (post-Lehman) it's probably been pretty difficult to convince a construction lender to finance your new condo project. And in the meantime, all the new people moving into these new condos will probably help bring more amenities and make it a more sought after place to live. Does that make sense or have I drunk too much of the Kool-Aid?

  21. Mcmallet, that makes sense to me. To the extent that the excess supply is new, and reflects a positive trend (i.e., the momentum of the recent development cycle, with people and businesses still moving in, as they are), I think it is fair to say that the net effect remains positive -- even if it takes some additional time for market transactions to clear and buildings to fill up.

    What is clear is that there is no glut of people moving *out* of Harlem, out of Manhattan, out of NYC, nor out of the NYC metropolitan area. We are not "hollowing out" as in the 1970's (or as Detroit has since the 1990's).

    We can argue about what the economy will look like in the next year or the next five, but there are a large number of macro factors that will continue to drive people toward urban living. The "micro" factors in Harlem also seem positive in the long run, with increasing positive feedback from the redevelopment and consolidation that has already taken place.

    In my view, the biggest problems at the city level are long-term fiscal management, and maintaining anywhere close to the level of infrastructure investment that is needed. That is the kind of thing that concerns me most, as a generalized breakdown of our infrastructure could actually reverse the broader trends I am attempting to describe here.

  22. Pete,

    That was an incredible breakdown you gave us. I completely agree with your statement.

  23. Pete, well said - I agree with everything you said. I do think the large inventory of unsold condos, while negative in the short-term, bodes well long-term, in that it brings more infrastructure to the area. And I agree about the trends toward urban living. But I too am concerned about the city's budget and what that might mean for the things that have made urban living more popular in the last 15 years - better schools, more police and less crime, cleaner parks and streets. Although as you alude to there are macro factors driving the demand for urban living - people having fewer kids and having them later, desire for "greener" living, people working longer hours/having two parents working making a short commute important, etc. But if crime spikes and schools worsen and parks get less neat these none of these things matter ...

  24. I am still trying to wrap my hands around this glut of inventory we are talking about. I do not feel at this point there is a glut, especially if the sales pace at most of these projects continue. The only project that seems to be selling slowly is 2280 because of their high prices. Sure Soha118 has not sold out after the past few years, but they have done nicely considering the market and they have started closing on some of their remaining units.

    I believe as the economy picks up and the retail spaces start getting filled in the area it will help things along. I think having the best yet market, starbucks, banks, etc. The opening of new restaurants, only makes the area more attractive as the time goes on.

    I agree with greengirl in terms of two parents working and being closer to kids. Have a friend like that, if they move the husband would just never see the kids as he runs his own fund.

    in terms of the future it all depends upon the other condos that are still being built. However they seem to be at least a year before they hit the market and if the economy continues to improve, then when they come to market hopefully more people are looking to buy at that point.

    Also if the city was to start cutting services, such as police and park money, that could be a big negative especially for this area as the big draw is morningside and central parks.

  25. >livmor buyer said...
    I am still trying to wrap my hands around this glut of inventory we are talking about. I do not feel at this point there is a glut, especially if the sales pace at most of these projects continue. The only project that seems to be selling slowly is 2280 because of their high prices.

    So according to you there is no oversupply of unsold condos in Harlem, the pace of sales is just fine, and in Harlem only one, it is only a lone single condo bldg is selling slowly. Didn't you forget a couple things, like the schools in Harlem at terrific, the streets always clean, amenities abound, and out Congressman Rangel completely innocent.

    If you're going to start drinking the kool-aid and telling tale tales, why not go all out?

  26. okay so lets see. schools not great, but charter schools are helping a bit. plus access to schools on uws.

    when you compare the pace of sales in harlem to the rest of the city how does it compare? I would think based on what i have seen the pace is about the same. are you going to tell me that 3 buildings selling out 60% or a bit more of inventory in the past 6 months is slow and bad movement in this economy?

    So yes i think it really is one overpriced building who think that because they are close to the express train it warrants 300 more psf.

    please do compare other places in the city where city schools are not great either and the prices they are getting.

    As to Rangel, really that is what you are going to hang your hat on to say wow a politician did bad things? that is what makes harlem an unlivable area?

    and finally i expect a table to show the oversupply in harlem compared to the other areas that have been built up, such as the uws.

  27. livmor, whenever anything condo related is posted on here, the usual suspects come out of the woodwork: 'HarlemOnMyMind' et al. Typically, they are the 'experts' talking about the economy collapsing, NYC falling apart at the seems. I have come to the conclusion that they must be bitter renters longing for prices to come down even further.

    Harlem has taken enormous strides forward in the past decade. Take a stroll around MM/MG Park on the weekend and you will see families out and about. It isn't perfect, but for a long time this place was essentially abandoned and left to rot, so there is a lot of catching up to do. Now take FDB. A decade ago you never would have seen a swanky new hotel opening on 124th. Now we have the Aloft on it's way.

    I have noticed there are two different sorts of negative posters on here. One, the kind who actually highlight existing ills (i.e. garbage, BBQ'ing problems, various other anti-social problems) and constructively suggest ways to solve these problems and the other who post voraciously about how NYC and the economy is going to the dogs, coupled with a slight obsession about prices per sq. ft.

  28. I think it's safe to say that any lack of realism on this blog resides mostly with "HarlemOnMyMind" (or whatever his latest incarnation may be).

    The ax he has to grind is obvious, and tiresome. He can go on talking his book all he wants -- but the folks here are for the most part able to recognize and screen out the noise.

    "Reality" lies somewhere between Pollyanna (which for the most part doesn't actually describe anyone who posts here these days) and Malthus (which I would ascribe to the one or two habitual malcontents whose writings we are all familiar with).

    There is of course a range of issues on which many of us will disagree, but I find substantive discussion much more interesting than hearing folks deliver the same pre-packaged screed over and over...

  29. Chris I have noticed that any time a blog is posted on a condo people start going after it and saying how whoever is buying is insane.

    I guess maybe you are right and people would either love to see it fail so they become nice cheap rentals, or that they fail and are sold for pennies.

    What these people do not realize is that the banks hold most of the cards. Sure all these projects were originally projected to make a ton of money for the developers, who have scaled back what they expected. I can tell you the livmor lowered prices, but has slowly start raising them to see what they can get. At the end of the day though, they can only lower so much as they banks at least want to get back their money.

    Also you have to acknowledge the amount of retail and restaurants that are now opening on FDB that are doing so because they feel the demand is or will be there. Sure some will fail but that is normal all over.

    I am done trying to respond to the negative people because they really do not come at you with anything concrete, just general arguments of the economy and half sentences which of course when not read in full make it seem one way not another.

    These people would probably do to that woman from the Ag department who got chewed up by the media, because none wanted to actually reserach the story they just took a clip as being evidence of what she was talking about.

    it seems anytime i ask for proof, all i get is, I know i have seen it, do your own research.

  30. The primary risk to an early buyer in a new condo is not shoddy construction. Yes, major construction issues do emerge early at some developments on occasion, but it's usually several years down the road before those demons rear their heads.

    What an early-stage buyer needs to be most concerned about is the near-term solvency of the development. Condominiums with units that sit unsold for months and years are a financial drain on the sponsor. If that sponsor reaches a point where it is unable to pay the lender, then that sponsor stops paying common charges on those units, leaving the few owners with a major incrase in their payments just to keep the condo's budget in the black. The sponsor also declares the development bankrupt. So now as an early owner, you not only have a 200-300% increase in your common charges (not unheard of), or an offsetting reduction in services (although realize that the vast majority of the budget is for essential services that cannot be cut), but you have to pay substantial legal fees to protect the condominium's interest in the protracted legal battles that will be taking place between the sponsor and the lender. It can be a very difficult experience.

    There is no sure fire way to guard against this. After all, somebody has to buy early. The only thing you can do is do your homework. If it's a development with reasonably-priced units, or otherwise has unique features that people are willing to pay up for, it will sell.

    Longer-term, the NYS legislature needs to enact stronger protections for condominium buyers to prevent them from being wiped out by the missteps (or corruption) of developers.

    I am telling you all this from experience. By and large, you need not worry about construction quality. Frankly, unless you have a background in construction or architecture, you're just playing armchair quarterback anyway. You need to worry about the solvency 12 months in the future of the sponsor and the LLC that was set up for the development. If you either haven't done any work on that or if you aren't comfortable with what you know, you should not be buying.

  31. One additional comment if I may...the inherent dependence on the financial stability of other parties (including both the sponsor and the other owners at your condo/co-op) is a major reason why many higher income buyers shun high-priced apartments in favor of townhouses. It's not always about the timeless architecture.

  32. Great advice harlemfanatic.

  33. Harlemfanatic i do not disagree with what you stated.

    Now for this particular building which is what we should be talking about they took out $38.2 million in mortgages per ACRIS search. they have total sales, including contracts waiting to close (mine included) of about $32 million. Sure fees are paid out of this, etc. But that means even if you take 3 million off for broker fees, assumption of some of the closing costs, they will have paid off $29 million of the $38 million outstanding. I have been told there are other contracts out there that are not reflected on streeteasy yet. However judging by how they are going into contract, just looking at this building they should have no issue potentially paying off the mortgage at some point this year with sales proceeds.

    So then that means all they need is maybe one addtional sale after that to have a funded account to continue to cover the portion of the common charges on the unsold apartments.

    Part of the reason i was willing to buy was the amount in contract and already closed, when i entered into my agreement.

    You make a valid argument for what the true issues are when buying a condo, and that of course is the developers financial condition.

    As to the financial stability, I think one of the great things these days is the banks really will not lend at the 10%, and even though these buildings may have FHA loans, the fact that the livmor has no affordable apartments, makes it so only people earning on the higher end can even afford a 1br apartment. SO you have a bunch of people putting 20% down and should after all that be able to handle mortgage and common charges. Of course I can not and will not sit here and argue over what happens when they lose their job, because that of course goes for anywhere in the city.

  34. livmor buyer,

    I don't know a lot about livmor specifically, but it would appear that you've done your homework and are comfortable with your decision. That is all that matters. Harlem is a wonderful place and I welcome you to the neighborhood.