A Fixer-Upper Fit for Royalty

A former Broadway actor sells a $3.2 million loft in New York City’s Flat Iron district to a German princess.

November 1, 2006

In this REALTOR® Magazine Online exclusive series, Colorado broker Jeff Ordonez talks with practitioners who sold the highest-priced property in their MLS in a given month. This month, Joshua Judge, a salesperson with Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy in New York City, explains how he sold a $3.2 million loft to a princess in August.

Was your $3.2 million listing the priciest in your MLS area?

JUDGE: I really don’t know. In New York we don’t have a centralized MLS for everyone to use, so finding the priciest listing is not easy. Many companies have their own listing Web site, so it’s very difficult to track sold listings.

What does a buyer expect to get for that price in New York?

JUDGE: In this case, the buyer got a large loft in need of a complete renovation. We priced it low and basically sold it as 4,200 square feet of raw space. If it didn’t need a complete renovation, I’d probably add another $200 per square foot to the listing price — that’s what it would cost to reasonably finish out the property.

Why would someone be willing pay $3.2 million for a fixer-upper?

JUDGE: Lots of reasons. The property was located in the Flat Iron district, a hot neighborhood that’s centrally located to shopping and commercial areas. The average price per square foot in the area is about $1,000, so $762 is a good deal. Add to that the flexibility of owning a completely customizable space and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind property that specifically caters to the buyer’s needs.

What is the original configuration of the space?

JUDGE: I sold it as a four bedroom, four bathroom loft.

How much customization will the buyer perform?

JUDGE: The buyer indicated that the loft will be completely gutted and rebuilt, which means only the four exterior walls will be left standing. Projects like this can be extensive and costly, depending on taste. Projects like this usually take about a year to complete.

Will be property need new electrical, plumbing, and heating systems?

JUDGE: Usually everything is stripped and redone. This property was particularly flexible because the loft constitutes the entire 10th floor of a 12 story building. In this case, the exterior walls and several interior pillars are the main load-bearing structure, so you can design and build a configuration as unique as the owner. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Have you seen the new design?

JUDGE: No I haven’t. I don’t think it’s even in the drawing stages. The person that bought it is a socialite that will probably invest time to create a spectacular residence.

Can you tell us who the buyer was?

JUDGE: Sure. She’s a public figure — Princess Gloria Von Thurn und Taxis of Germany

Did you get to meet the princess?

JUDGE: No, she worked through a buyer’s agent. I like cooperating with other agents; it really helps when responsibilities are shared.

So, how long did the seller own the loft before he decided to move on?

JUDGE: 30 years.

Did he ever remodel the loft?

JUDGE: Yes. It was about 10 to 15 years ago.

Do you remember what he paid for the loft?

JUDGE: I think it was about $200,000.

What’s he going to do with the profits?

JUDGE: He’s retiring.

How many offers did you get?

JUDGE: I got three offers and they all came in at the same time. I even had one come in higher than the listing price, at $3.25 million.

How did you attract so many offers so quickly?

JUDGE: I really didn’t. I had the listing for five months before the offers came in.

So what do you attribute the multiple offers to?

JUDGE: Well, New York is just a crazy market. My marketing was the same from beginning to end. It just happened that way.

Did you encounter any difficulties during the sales process?

JUDGE: Yes, the loft was in a building that required approval from the current 12 owners. The board would review every offer I submitted to make sure their criteria was met. Luckily, the princess was well received. The only other issue was that I was the second agent to have the listing, which can sometimes make the property seem a little stale.

How long did the other agent have the listing for?

JUDGE: A year. Fortunately I got it sold in 5 months.

Did you have any offers turned down by the board?

JUDGE: Yes. That happens all the time in New York. In this case, the princess made a very good impression.

This property sounds like it would be a good candidate for flipping. Do you find that there investors out there looking for a property to flip?

JUDGE: I do. There aren’t many in New York City, but it’s definitely is a market where money can be made.

So, how did you market the property?

JUDGE: New York is very diverse so you have to market to a variety of demographics. But for the most part, I target New Yorkers.

What types of marketing produce the best results for you?

JUDGE: New York is a melting pot market so I use print marketing to communicate to existing residents. Then I advertise in the surrounding areas to reach the people who desire to move into the city. I also market nationally, and even internationally. I print and ship mailers, I use the Internet, and I advertise in local newspapers and real estate magazines.

To whom do you send the mailers?

JUDGE: I start with all the residents of the building where the property is being sold, then I mail them to the surrounding buildings, and then I move on to my sphere of influence.

How do you use the Internet to promote your listings?

JUDGE: I use www.nytimes.com, REALTOR.com, and my brokerage’s Web site, www.cbhk.com. These have been my greatest source of Web exposure.

I noticed you have another listing at $6.8 million. How do you manage to land such exclusive listings?

JUDGE: I started off in real estate selling small studios priced between $200,000 and $400,000. Then I worked really hard to gain slightly larger listings. It’s all about putting in the effort. A lot of people in this business don’t want to do that.

How much did you close last year?

JUDGE: $30 million.

That’s very respectable. Do you have help?

JUDGE: Absolutely. I give my partner Dan LoBuono a lot of credit. Without him, I couldn’t operate. We help each other as much as possible. We also have a great assistant that keeps the office running smoothly.

What made you decide on a real estate career?

JUDGE: Well, I always had an interest in real estate. As a Broadway actor I was making a living but not the kind of living I knew I was capable of, so I switched careers.

You were an actor?

JUDGE: Yes, I starred in many Broadway plays. That was a lot of fun and it paid the bills, but it wasn’t enough.

What kind of budget did you have when you started in the business?

JUDGE: None. I started from scratch. I only had enough money to get my real estate license and pay my fees.

What are your secrets to being so successful?

JUDGE: I work hard, provide the best service, and always keep the clients' best

interest at heart. Of course, being lucky also plays a role.

Joshua Judge
Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy,
New York City