WHEN IT IS NOT ENOUGH JUST TO CUT THE PRICE
Six years ago, Yvette Folk made a real estate purchase that not everyone in her life could see the value in.
“My sister called my father to say that I had lost my mind,” said Ms. Folk, 52, describing the offending apartment: a one-bedroom co-op in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, on Albemarle Road. The property had sat vacant for two years after the owner was evicted for nonpayment of maintenance fees.
“The place was not very nice,” Ms. Folk said. “There was about two inches of dust on everything, the kitchen’s tiles had dirty grout and all the paint was peeling.”
But there was plenty to like - apart from the rather amazing price of only $16,000 (the cost of the maintenance owed on the unit) - there was the apartment’s quiet position at the back of the building, overlooking the tennis courts of the Knickerbocker Field Club, as well as the oversized rooms. “The bedroom fit my queen-sized bed, a big dresser, a chest of drawers, an entertainment center and a Queen Anne chair — and still left me room to do my aerobic exercises,” she recalled.
“Plus, it was a mixed community, with Spanish, West Indian, African-American and white residents. I just really liked the area.”
She had vision and enough financial sense not to walk away from an amazing deal: Pay the amount owed in back maintenance, and the place would be hers.
The former owner of the unit had been foreclosed upon, and its shares had returned to the co-op board. Because the unit had sat empty for so long, the board wanted to unload it quickly. So, $16,000 later, Ms. Folk had made her first real estate purchase.
She spent another $1,000 on legal fees and moved in, having work done on the floors and walls for a total of $5,000.
“My sister came back eight months after her first visit and said, ‘Is this the same place?’ ” she recalled with a laugh.
And now, with her recent sale of the place, the deal has paid off in spades — but not before a rocky eight months of twists and turns while it was on the market.
In 2005 Ms. Folk, a lifelong New Yorker who is an employee recruiter for accounting and secretarial positions, decided she wanted to try out a new city. She found a renter to sublet her apartment while she relocated to a rental in the Washington area. And after two years, she decided she wanted to stay there indefinitely.
She put her place on the market a year ago with DeAnna Lenhart, a broker with Brooklyn Hearth Realty who lives in the building.
Ms. Lenhart strongly suggested repainting the unit, as the renter had gone over Ms. Folk’s antique-white paint job with jarring, uneven coats of bright blue, neon green and red, and chocolate-brown moldings. But Ms. Folk wanted to make a go of selling it as-is, so they left it alone, deciding on a list price of $259,000.
That’s when the roller-coaster ride began.
It started out promisingly enough, with a full-price offer coming in the first week. But the prospective buyer got cold feet quickly. After about two more months and no real bites, they lowered the asking price to $249,000, and Ms. Lenhart made another pitch for painting the place to improve its marketability. “I felt so certain it was purely a lack of people’s imagination and not the apartment itself,” Ms. Lenhart said.
In exchange for raising the broker’s fee to 6 percent from 5 percent, Ms. Lenhart offered to have the place painted back to antique white, change the dated switch plates, regrout the bathroom tiling and undergo a professional cleaning. Ms. Folk agreed to the work, and a subsequent open house in October brought in two offers in one week. A couple won the bidding war with an offer of $250,500. But then, after a delay of more than four months, the co-op board rejected the application.
The apartment was vacant, so to raise the ante, in February, Ms. Lenhart had it staged and rephotographed. “At this point we wanted to do everything we possibly could,” Ms. Lenhart said. She also raised the list price to $255,000, explaining that “some time went by, and values in the neighborhood were going up.”
Some lookers came and went, including Steven Morales, who was drawn by the price and proximity to Prospect Park. But the place just wasn’t quite right for him. “It needed more work than we wanted to invest in, such as new finishes and fixtures,” recalled Mr. Morales, 40, an architect who found another apartment nearby. “We were also looking for a place that had the potential for creating a second bedroom.”
Still, in March, three offers did come in — for $260,000, $255,000 and $245,000 — and Ms. Lenhart was cautious, in light of the recent board rejection. One bidder had a weak credit score, and another had an income lower than that of the rejected couple; she advised Ms. Folk to go with the lowest offer from a buyer with solid financials — which she did, countering with $250,000. The buyer agreed, and the sale closed in May.
THE PROPERTY It took eight months, a price cut, a paint job and some staging to sell this one-bedroom Ditmas Park apartment in Brooklyn for $250,000.
“At this point I didn’t want her to be taking any chances,” Ms. Lenhart said. “He was such a slam dunk that I felt there was no way the board would reject him.”
Her instincts were right about that winning buyer, Jonathan Fox, a 28-year-old lawyer with the New York City Commission on Human Rights whose parents had agreed to help him substantially with the down payment. When he put in his bid, he was living in a Prospect Heights rental with two roommates.
“I knew I wanted to stay in Brooklyn for the long term, and that rents would keep going up,” Mr. Fox said. “The market had stabilized and opened up an opportunity.”
Mr. Fox was limited to certain neighborhoods because of his budget — under $300,000 — and began his three-month search in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, finding places mainly through Craigslist and in the newspaper. “Nothing felt perfect,” he said. Eventually, he shifted to the area south of Prospect Park, and was drawn to see the place on Albemarle Road.
“It’s very large — I liked that it had a separate kitchen — and it’s also laid out in a way that really maximizes the space,” he said, adding that he loved the wood floors and the built-ins, and the fact that it overlooks the tennis court.
He does plan to renovate the kitchen and fix up the bathroom. But the unit, Mr. Fox added, “has very good bones and a lot of potential.”
And Ms. Folk could not have been happier with the outcome of her long sale. First, she netted $200,000, which allowed her to purchase both a car and a $265,000 condominium in Arlington, Va.
Second, she was pleased to know that her labor of love was going to Mr. Fox. “The buyer is a sweet young man,” she said, adding that he seemed to understand what she had long believed: “There’s just something special about that place.”