A young broker named Jonathan was sitting on a stack of concrete slabs beyond plywood walls at the Isabella, yet another location on Washington Avenue near the Fulton Street C train station. The building boasts 63 units–four of which are in contract–a concierge, gym and roof deck. The building is scheduled to be completed in February.
"Bad timing?" I asked him.
"If you have money, it’s not a bad time to buy," he responded, as I was signing a release form to tour the building, which is still far from completion. He had been chatting with two other brokers, looking bored, as I approached the building.
After walking through a concrete maze of stairs and hallways filled with construction materials and even a dust-covered wheel barrow, we entered a two-bedroom model apartment with two bathrooms on the second floor. Out of the large windows was a quintessential view of historic brownstone Brooklyn. The mortgage broker was comfy on the plush couch, surrounded with stock-footage-filled picture frames. She seemed surprised to see us walk in, and briefly looked up from her BlackBerry to chat until Jonathan informed her I wasn’t actually in the market for an apartment.
A map in the brochure for the Isabella had the popular Q/B train line on Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, rather than it’s actual location four blocks farther away on Flatbush and Seventh avenues. It’s safe to say that nobody living on Washington Avenue between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue is regularly going to walk all the way to the Q/B at Seventh. A lot of minor details factor into a buyer’s decision; and brokers are going to put the best face they can on any neighborhood by giving the impression that the distance to transportation and nightlife is less than it might be. Some buildings and neighborhoods just have more to sell than others.
BACK IN WILLIAMSBURG, BEYOND 20 Bayard’s view of the BQE, sits 22 Monitor Street, a four-story building closest to the Graham Avenue stop on the L line. On the corner was a handwritten sign announcing the open house where apartments start at $379,000.
Chester, an older kindly man and the owner of the building, nervously approached me down a long narrow hallway as I walked in the front door. He greeted me without making eye contact or saying much of anything besides his first name; and let me wander freely through the duplex ground-floor apartment in the front of the building.
The apartment was spacious, with two large common rooms on either floor, two bathrooms and a decently large bedroom with a glass door looking out onto a private outdoor area. It was clear, though, that the materials were cheap, and the only extra investment made on the property was the modern kitchen tiling and appliances.
Chester told me that traffic had been slow all day, and that he has yet to sell any of the building’s eight units. With fewer amenities and a location off the beaten track of Williamsburg’s heart, he seemed a bit worried that the apartments might not move, or at least not soon. But the duplex, at $499,000, was the most expensive unit in the building. The majority were smaller units, with balconies, for $399,000.
"They have been on the market for two months," Chester said nervously in a thick Spanish accent.
I asked him why he thinks they haven’t moved yet.
"People are afraid because of the market. I hope it goes back to normal soon."
But I’m not sure anyone knows what normal is anymore.