Sugar Hill & Hamilton Heights Townhouse Sales, Early 2010

Continuing with an examination of townhouse sales this year, this time I’m looking at Sugar Hill and Hamilton Heights…

[Remember that price per square foot is generally pretty inaccurate because the measurement of townhouses is not consistent – some include the ground (basement) level in the square footage, others don’t.]

Higher end properties

Sugar Hill

  • 2/17/2010 – 614 West 148th Street, $1,316,199, 3,000 sq. ft., $438/sq. ft. – SRO restricted
  • 4/21/2010 – 545 West 149th Street, $1.095M, 3,264 sq. ft., $335/sq. ft. – SRO restricted
  • 5/19/2010 – 413 West 154th Street, $1.2M, 4,368 sq. ft., $274/sq. ft. – Landmarked, not SRO restricted, Aging ’80s renovations, English basement, 25′ foot wide

Hamilton Heights

  • 1/20/2010 – 410 West 145th Street, $900K, 3,608 sq. ft., $249/sq. ft. – Landmarked, not SRO restricted, on busy commercial street
  • 3/3/2010 – 522 West 142nd Street, $895,638, 2,872 sq. ft., $311/sq.ft. – Not SRO restricted
  • 6/4/2010 – 554 West 142nd Street, $1.12M, 4,543 sq. ft., $246/sq. ft. – SRO restricted

What’s shocking here is that nothing sold on Hamilton Terrace, Convent Avenue, or the prime, landmarked blocks in Hamilton Heights (with house numbers in the 400s). The other rather shocking thing is the generally low prices. With the high end of Mount Morris Park now pushing $2M, the highest sale in Sugar Hill was barely over $1.3M, and calling $895K “higher end” just feels odd to me…

We actually went through 413 West 154th Street during our search. It sold for more than we expected. A nearly identical sister townhouse just around the corner on St. Nick had sold in August of 2009 for $1.05M and it was recently renovated. 413 needed $200K to $300K in renovations. Still, it was a very solid house in good repair. If you didn’t mind the aging renovations there was nothing that needed to be done.

Low end properties

Sugar Hill

  • 2/16/2010 – 844 St. Nick, $775K, 5,195 sq. ft, $149/sq. ft. – Huge ark of a house on a small lot, had certificate of no harassment and approved plans (under 1968 building code) for renovation to 2 family, some original details, lots of charm with a lot of big huge rooms
  • 4/14/2010 – 427 West 146th Street, $450K, $165/sq. ft. – Habitable, SRO-restricted
  • 5/18/2010 – 521 West 150th Street, $250K, $89/sq. ft. – SRO restricted

Hamilton Heights

  • 1/29/2010 – 48 Hamilton Place (near 140th St), $450K, 3,146, $143/sq. ft. – Active, occupied SRO
  • 2/5/2010 – 505 West 144th Street, $425K, 3,468 sq. ft., $122/sq. ft – Had certificate of no harassment, estate sale, some interesting original details, but smelled (badly) of urine, and on a block that is a bit rough at times

A few of these houses we knew pretty well. We had gone through 844 St. Nick a couple times. It was a wonderful ark of a house with huge rooms, great bones, some original details, a certificate of no harassment, and approved plans for conversion to 2 family (under 1968 building code). It was owned by a friend and initially we thought we couldn’t afford it, then he confided what he really wanted and we bid $765K, but he already had a verbally accepted offer for $775K and so we didn’t get it.

505 West 144th Street was always the one we’d bring up when we got discouraged and thought we weren’t going to be able to buy a townhouse. We went through it twice. Despite the strong sense of dog urine (a ‘caretaker’ had a dog in there for years and didn’t walk it very often), it had some real charm. But ultimately we walked away because we didn’t feel comfortable or safe on the block at night.

With the exception of 521 West 150th, low end prices were slightly higher than I would have expected – especially given the stagnation in the neighborhood in the higher end properties. There’s less of a gap between shells and high end properties than there is in Mount Morris Park which means less opportunity to make a profit from renovation.

It would seem Hamilton Heights and Sugar Hill are are the place to buy if you want a higher end property that needs minimal renovation – the properties are going for a half million less than they are 20 blocks south. What might be hurting sales is the lack of services. Mount Morris Park and South Harlem have great restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Those are sorely lacking in Hamilton Heights / Sugar Hill.

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