THE SNARKY COMMENTERS over at Brownstoner have been making fun of this townhouse in prime Cobble Hill, which just went on the market for $2million. Why? Mainly, it seems, because it would cost a bundle to turn the four-story, four-family into a one- or two-family, and because it has a fire escape on the back. That makes it, says one commenter, little better than a tenement. (Better a fire escape than a sprinkler system, which is a horrendous interior eyesore. Anyway, all brownstones over 3-1/2 stories have fire escapes; at least this one’s on the back.) And of course, the Brownstoner crew thinks it’s overpriced.
I guess it is, a bit. Still, it’s a decent deal, especially because it could probably be had for under the asking price. It’s not elegant, granted, in its present state, but boy, would it be a worthwhile income-producing property in years to come, left more or less just as it is. At the present asking price, and with rents a bit soft these days, the numbers don’t quite crunch out. If you figure 1BR floor-throughs are worth $2200-2400/month in that neighborhood, or potentially $9,600/month in rental income, and you happen to have $350 or 400K lying around for a down payment, you could come close to break-even, and you’d own this solid building on a venerable historic street (Clinton between Baltic and Kane, which hasn’t changed in 150 years, if you don’t count the cars going by).
I called the listing agent to find out if the building was to be delivered vacant, and to get more pics and info. Yes, it’s vacant. It’s a legal 4-family. The owner is elderly, the house has been in the same family for decades, and the price is negotiable. It is in excellent mechanical condition, with pristine but dated kitchens, like the one on the garden level, below (picture it white with a black-and-white checkerboard floor). I like the 1940s bathrooms with the pedestal sinks, by the way, and the long parlor windows are intact.
On the minus side, the taxes are high for NYC: $7,616/year. And the building is smallish: 20′ wide by only 36′ deep.
It probably won’t last long; fifty people people showed up at last weekend’s open house. At today’s interest rates — the broker I talked to said she closed a deal recently at 4-1/2% — and considering the intrinsic value of an 1860s townhouse in that location — it seems worth exploring.
What do you think? Would this brownstone be a reasonable investment at this point in time? Personally, I’d love to own this building. If only I had $350K lying around.