After a tough winter, spring brings courting season in life and real estate. In Harlem, sellers have been slashing prices on newly renovated condos by hundreds of thousands, but buyers are still playing hard to get.
At 555 Malcolm X Boulevard, on the corner of 138th Street, Halstead brokers Michael Coker and Collette Smith have been tapping their fingers on the solid marble countertops for months now. The 36-unit pre-war building was finished in late 2007 with oak floors, stainless steel appliances and five-foot windows. It’s easily one of Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor pads. But a year and a half later there are still 10 units available—possibly nine after Sunday.
Around 12:30 that day, a young couple came in looking for a one-bedroom unit that just sold. “I hate brokers who tell people ‘hurry up and buy or someone else will take it’,” Ms. Smith told them. “But …” she left them to fill in the rest.
Walter Nimley, 33, and Sheba Taylor, 24, both grew up in Harlem and were intrigued when they saw the listing for the condo with an outdoor terrace. But they waited, thinking the $400,000 price might go down more. The gamble could have paid off, as unit prices in the building have been slashed by as much as $287,000, but not in this case.
“Where were you four months ago?” Ms. Smith gently cajoled them, as she listed off the more expensive units still available.
But Mr. Nimley, a police officer at the local 28th Precinct, said they probably haven’t learned their lesson.
“We might wait,” he said. “I still think prices could go down more.”
Fifteen blocks down, and several price brackets up, Danielle Christensen, a broker at Douglas Elliman, waited patiently alone in a luxurious Harlem condo. “You don’t need a lot of buyers,” she said. “All it takes is one.”
Ms. Christensen, who is selling her own two-bedroom condo, valued at just under $1.4 million, has sat through a number of quiet open houses over the past few months. She recently cut the price by $100,000.
When the 1910 warehouse was converted into condos three years ago, it quickly sold to families from Turkey, Brazil, Germany and to Grammy winner Robby Merkin. Ms. Christensen, an experienced broker, snapped up her own 1,940-square-foot unit, with 10.5-foot ceilings and white marble bathrooms.
Upper-end Harlem real estate was some of the worst hit by the crash, the broker said. “Harlem is a little bit on the edge,” she added. “People are less confident buying here now,” though she emphasized there’s still development.
For those who find taking the C up to 124th as unappealing as crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, there were bargains a mere stroll across Morningside Park. At 157 West 111th Street, another newly renovated pre-war condo with three bedrooms was going for $999,000, reduced by $176,000, according to the listing.
But the Upper West Side families who came to see waited in vain for a broker, who was at least 25 minutes late. One couple, Chris and Kim Spencer, started their house hunt several months ago and had visited four Harlem condos by 1:30 in the afternoon. “The buildings are spectacular,” said Mr. Spencer, perhaps conjuring the dingy bathrooms, closet-sized kitchens and potted plant decor of his native Upper West Side.
Mr. Spencer, who works in television, and Ms. Spencer, an artist, have focused on Harlem because it offers good value close to their two children’s high school. Despite seeing some great properties, they’ve hesitated to pull the trigger. In an affable accent from Down Under, Mr. Spencer explained, “It’s still a neighborhood in transition.”
Confirming that not everyone welcomes the return of the Harlem real estate renaissance, around the corner on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard a Prudential Douglas Elliman sign beckons: “Come home to Harlem.” In the window next to it, long-time residents have put up handmade signs that read, “Don’t buy here.”
Follow Laura Kusisto via RSS.