2010 Mar 11th

What’s Wrong With That Building?

Do Multiple Units for Sale Mean Trouble?forsalesigns

In Hoboken, there are often times when a particular building has multiple units for sale at the same time.  Is this a problem or an indication that there is “something wrong” with the building?  Not necessarily.  Hoboken is still a somewhat transitory town.  Singles become couples, families grow and need more room, people change jobs and move to other areas.  Just because two or more units are both for sale simultaneously does not necessarily indicate a problem with the condo building.  It may just be coincidence that multiple owners decided to sell at about the same time.

How Does a Buyer Really Know?

This is where asking questions, having a good realtor and a good lawyer come into play.  Talk to the neighbors.  There is nothing stopping a prospective buyer from being friendly and saying hello to people walking into or out of the building.  Ask if they have lived there long and if they are happy.  Ask if they have had any problems with the building or the condo association and if they think the building is well run.  There is no reason you can’t simply tell them the truth – that you’re thinking of buying a unit and wondered how they like living in the building.

While you are out shopping for properties, your realtor should advise you of other units for sale in a building in which you are interested.  He or she can make inquiries of the seller as to why there are multiple units on the market.  If the seller doesn’t know, the realtor can urge the seller to find out.  The other sellers are all neighbors, after all.  The realtor might also be able to contact the other listing agents and speak with them about why the other sellers have put their homes on the market.  If the building is professionally managed, the management company may be another source of information.  These preliminary inquiries are a good place to start.

Then you have the attorney review process.  Once you make an offer and reach agreement with a particular seller, you have the right to have your attorney review the contract, the condo documents (the master deed & bylaws) and any other associated information.  It is extremely important to examine the condo association financial statements (budget, bank statements, amount held in reserves, what the reserves and maintenance have been spent on).  If there is a problem, this is where you’re likely to find it.

Also, if the condo board has regular meetings and keeps minutes of these meetings those minutes can be requested.  Read the minutes – is there mention of a legal action against the building that has caused costs to increase dramatically, perhaps driving owners to sell?  Are there financial problems like, for example, a large loan taken out by the association that is coming due and might not be able to be refinanced resulting in a special assessment of the unit owners?  Or is there some sort of major repair on the horizon that has not been budgeted for and will result in a special assessment? Have your realtor ask these questions of the listing agent and have your attorney ask the sellers’ attorney.  The more you know, the better.

It’s possible many people in the building have decided to sell at once because of some underlying problem with the building or condo association.  I suspect, though, that in most cases multiple units for sale are just the nature of Hoboken.

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  1. Craig

    I tend to agree that it’s usually the transitory nature of Hoboken that explains multiple units available in some buildings (the departure of those transitory people never seems to reduce the wait time for monthly municipal parking though). However, there are some buildings with multiple openings that have issues.

    SkyClub seems to be a nice building that is a victim of all the investors that walked away from their units. My agent steered me away because of concern that all the short sales create comps that could affect future seller pricing (I wasn’t interested because of the location anyway). I was also steered away from Zephyr Lofts (technically in Jersey City) and Adams Square. All three of these buildings seem nice enough – but they constantly have multiple units for sale for a reason.

  2. Tiger

    Speaking of lofts, I absolutely hate it when developers build buildings and call them lofts. They are not lofts. 9 ft ceiling is not a loft. A loft is a converted building; a building that was meant to be a factory, a warehouse, a school, a hospital, or whatever, and later got converted to apartments. History is a big part of loft, and obviously Zypher lofts, Garden Street Lofts, and all those 50+ story ‘loft’ buildings in Jersey are not lofts.

  3. bettyboop

    Tiger, Zephyr Lofts is a true loft building. The building is over 100 years old and used to be a refrigerated slaughterhouse back in the olden days. My ceilings are 16 feet high. My downstairs neighbors ceilings are 23 ft high. Not sure where you get the idea that it’s not a loft building but you’re wrong. The building was abandoned for many years before being converted. It’s as lofty as lofts get around here. It’s not a pre-fab loft ala Garden Street Lofts. Just wanted to make that clear.

  4. Lori

    Sorry guys but Garden Street Lofts was an old Nabisco factory or pineapple processing plant, I can’t remember which. It is a converted factory except for the top floor or two which were added recently. Now they may have gutted everything but the facade but at least they kept that!

  5. bettyboop

    that’s pretty cool too lori, i think they should do that more often in hoboken & jersey city. there are so many amazing buildings with great bones that shouldn’t be torn down.

  6. shortsequalmarket

    Are you sure you want to write Hoboken is a transitory town where eventually people leave after having a family. I have been told on this board that is not the trend in NJ

  7. Lori

    Lofts became popular in Soho and Tribeca when artists started living in old factory spaces (illegally) and NYC passed the Loft Law that let them stay. These spaces typically had very high ceilings and extra strong floors as they were designed for light industry. Many were constructed of cast iron, especially in Soho, and had beautiful exposed Corinthian columns supporting the floors. They were usually wide open spaces without traditional rooms. We lived on Horatio Street in the Meatpacking District in a loft building. It was an old warehouse and the high-line train line ran, literally, right through the building so the cargo could easily be discharged. Some of the apartments had the train tressel supports in them. Loft living is nice but without walls unless you and your partners or room-mates have similar schedules it can be a little annoying. What are often called lofts today are missing all the charm and interest of the old NYC lofts. Keeping only a shell of a building facade and rebuilding the entire guts often results in rather ordinary apartments on the inside. It’s way too late for most of Hoboken as almost all the old factories were razed to make way for the cookie-cutter Dean Marchetto designed condos on the west side of town. I only wish the old Maxwell plant was renovated as I’d seen done with a very similar complex in the Mitte, East Berlin. Oh well, too late.

  8. vreporter

    shortsequalmarket,
    This whole “trend from suburbs to urban” song and dance is a fabrication. The data is opposite but we only use data when it suits the agenda. Jeffrey Otteau is a seminar holder who as an appraisal consulting practice. That’s what he began telling all his attendees a couple years ago. He has maintained that thought since then in all his seminars. I would agree that it may be a future trend but there is no sign of any such trend yet in NJ and Hoboken is definitely not one of those beneficiaries given its financials, infrastructure and schools. I don’t think retirees and empty nesters find it that compelling either (the more logical audience).

  9. Tiger

    I stand corrected re: Zypher Betty. Sorry :-) I always thought it was built in 2002 or so. I must be mixing it up with the toll building.

    Garden street is a conversion? That’s news to me

    thanks Lori for the info! Very informative!

  10. whynot

    Vreporter – You draw conclusions, but that is about it. You may be wrong or you may be right, I do not really care, but just saying something does not make it true. It is hysterical. I guess that is what message boards bring out in people.

  11. teaorcoffee

    vreporter – I actually know of some people who have moved back to Hoboken from suburbs. I think the number of people who have done this is relatively small, but I know many, many families who are staying in Hoboken and have no intention of moving to suburbs.

    Some of these families are stuck because they bought at the height of the market and can’t afford to take a loss. But some have made a conscious decision to stay, as they don’t want to spend hours in transit from NYC to the burbs each day. If you follow how many new classrooms keep being added to the lower school grades in public schools, and know about kindergarten waiting lists for private schools, you’ll have your proof of families staying in Hoboken.

    I know of several empty nesters in our building who sold bigger houses in burbs. Yeah, this is anecdotal, but it is factual.

  12. Eric

    same here, teaorcoffee. it seems like the 20somethings in my building are in the minority compared to the amount of greying retiries, at least on my floor. i’m sure that’s not the case throughout hoboken, but like you said, anecdotally based on my building, there should be a ton of early bird specials on washington st soon.

  13. whynot

    There are a lot of early dinner specials now!

  14. bz

    vreporter – Do you live in Hoboken? from most of your comments on this blog, you give me an impression that you don’t know this town at all.

  15. Nicole

    Lori – zzzzzinnnngggeer to the Metro Homes buildings with your comment about “the cookie-cutter Dean Marchetto designed condos on the west side of Hoboken.” I’ve seen at least two dozen Dean Marchetto-designed condos on the west side, and not a single one matched the floor plan, details, cabinetry, fixtures, and/or layout of the other. Even units with the same number (i.e., same location in the same building) have different layouts and details and thus cannot be appropriately described as “cookie cutter.” Since this is your profession, I’m sure you’ve seen many more than I, so you should know that statement is quite misleading…and will probably lead to people’s knowing where not to go when they want to sell their Dean Marchetto-designed condo.

  16. Craig

    Actually, I’m inclined to agree with Lori on the Dean Marchetto buildings. Though no two are completely identical, the exterior designs are very similar. You can point out his work on sight. Take Harrison Court and The Oz for example. They are nearly identical even down to the rounded edge on one corner of the buildings.

  17. Tiger

    Metrohomes, is it me or does this building seem to be quite? I use the lightrail sometimes (like last night, I was not going to drive to my friends in JC) and I did notice the building seemed quite. Only a few lit windows, and till now they still haven’t opened the long-promised retail and cafe.

    I remember looking but I the building for location and price. I enjoy being 4 minutes away from the lightrail, but I don’t enjoy having it right outside my door.

  18. Lori

    First of all, Nicole, I never named the builder (MetroHomes) or identified any specific buildings. You did. But, yes, Dean Marchetto was the architect for most, if not all of MetroHomes condos and Maxwell Place too. Now I know the sales literature for Maxwell mentions Michael Graves but if you read it closely it says “design details”. (No one at the Maxwell sales office has yet been able to identify exactly what Michael Graves designed.)

    Tiger – you’re confusing MetroStop (a MetroHomes building) with the MetroHomes, the company that built The Huntington, Charles Court, Pembroke Place, The Everard, The Oz, Cypress Point, the Belmont and a few I’m sure I’ve overlooked. MetroStop was their latest. It has quite a few unsold units which is why it probably seems quiet.

    Secondly, I was speaking of architecture – not kitchen appliances or granite colors. Almost all of his projects are the same basic style – faux brownstone – thus the ‘bay windows’ and alternating brickface. They all have the basic 2BR 2BATH “split floor plan” with an open kitchen with a breakfast bar, bedroom on each side of the living room and bathrooms off each bedroom. There are a few variations on this theme if the unit is an end unit or a 1BR. They are similar in that the interiors have the same ceiling heights, similar window styles, the only architectural element tends to be chair rail molding in the living rooms and hallways.

    Among these buildings, none would be considered Gothic, Colonial, Bauhaus, Post-Modern, Italianate, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Mudejar, Renaissance, Art Deco, Tudor, Empire, Rococo, Baroque, or any other style I can think of or identify. So in that sense, I maintain that the architecture is cookie cutter. Have you been to Barcelona or Berlin? Those are just two examples of cities with a wide variety of architectural styles which, to me, are far more interesting from a design standpoint than recent construction in Hoboken. Whether the owners of MetroHomes buildings get to choose between Uba Tuba or St. Cecilia granite is not the point. So I don’t believe my statement is misleading at all.

    As far as my ability to sell a MetroHomes unit, we own one which we bought pre-construction as an investment property. I’ve been on the condo board for several years. I know them as well or better than any agent in town. Just because I wish we had better esthetic design does not mean I cannot appreciate or sell their good points. I don’t sugar coat and say that every building in Hoboken is wonderful. While I am sorry if as another MetroHome condo owner you took offense, there is, and always will be, room for improvement in any urban environment if the consumer demands it and, as such, I feel part of my job and the value of this blog is to educate those consumers.

  19. teaorcoffee

    I have a few friends who live in Marchetto-designed units, and they all have that layout that Lori describes (open kitchen/breakfast bar/bedrooms on opposite sides of living room/bathrooms off bedrooms). It’s pretty cookie-cutter to me!

  20. Nicole

    Lori, then educate you should. As a condo owner of a MH building, you have in your possession the POS, which contains the floor plan for every unit in your MH building. You should post it to provide factual basis to your claim. The building that I live in, however, does not have the layout you described. There is no “split floor plan” similar to what you describe above in my unit or in any other unit contained in my POS. I actually perused the various floor plan layouts in my building – I did not find one that fits your description. Hence the reason for my calling you out on the inaccuracy of your description of all Dean Marchetto-designed condos on the west-side of Hoboken. My building is not cookie-cutter. Maybe that is what your MH investment property looks like, but that’s not what any unit in my MH building looks like.

    I also find it ironic that as an investor, you supported the Dean Marchetto design when it would/could make you quick money, but you now mock it on the blog. Seems like you want to have your cake and eat it to…I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I just want to highlight the irony there. Maybe the Dean Marchetto-deisgned MH building in which you invested did “improve” the urban environment in which we live afterall.

  21. Craig

    I don’t see where Lori mocked Dean Marchetto’s designs. Her comment was that all of his work looks very similar. That’s what the term cookie-cutter implies. Can you really argue that his designs have variety via using the various noted architectural styles? I actually like his work a lot and it’s a style I prefer. The Oz is one of my favorites. That said, the fact that his work does not vary much is not a negative criticism as much as it’s an observation of a fact.

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