These are great questions, because it actually sheds some light on things for me. I have 5 listings right now which range from a 5th floor studio walk-up (it's like you wrote this question for me) in the East Village to a 4 BR, 2.5 bath, 2-terrace duplex penthouse on the Upper East Side. When I get a new listing, the form I have to fill out is extremely detailed and I must put in information in every single field for every detailed aspect of the apt. and the building. Our admins then enter it in the REBNY (Real Estate Board of NY) system. Then the listing, the photos and floor plan all start feeding out to all the websites that get our feed. There is no detail anyone could ever want to know that hasn't been entered and uploaded with the exception of square footage on a co-op (which I will return to). So I provided the same level of detail and same information on the walk-up studio as on the huge penthouse duplex. Nothing was concealed or held back. So it certainly surprises me when someone calls and asks me the apt. number or the floor. For example, the studio 5th floor walk-up is apt. 5-C. So when someone calls and asks what floor it is on, I am thinking to myself "how can they not know 5-C is on the 5th floor?" The answer is that every different feed to a website picks up certain info and not other info. This is not something the agent decides or has any control over. So in answer to you, I don't think anything is being hidden, it's just what fields are populated by any particular feed. I know when another agent calls me they know all the details because they saw it in the agent database. But when a direct buyer calls, it varies in how much detail they were able to see, yet the info I provided was provided one time and was complete.
The square footage issue is a different matter entirely. The definitive document for a co-op or condo is the offering plan. The offering plan for a condo lists square footage for each apartment and what you own is actual real estate which IS measured in square feet. A co-op offering plan, on the other hand, lists shares and not square footage. That is because what you own with a co-op is shares in the corporation that owns the building. You do not own real estate you own stock. Agents and real estate firms have been sued for misquoting square footage in co-ops. It is therefore my company's policy and that of at least one other major company to NOT quote square footage on a co-op. In my prior company, a colleague quoted square footage on a co-op to buyers. This measurement was based upon an appraisal the owners had had done at one point. Later on these buyers said an interior designer they brought in measured it differently (smaller) and they were threatening to not close unless they got a reduction on the contract price saying my colleague misrepresented the square footage. Suffice to say It got ugly. I am inclined to believe the appraiser's measurements were perhpas more accurate than an interior designer's, but we can't say "let's turn to the offering plan to settle this." Furthermore there are different ways to measure - e.g. outer wall to outer wall (common in condos), half-way through the party wall, or paint to paint. They are all "right." Add to that when you own shares of the corporation, you actually own a proportional amount of the space of the lobby and common areasas well, which is additional square footage and technically can be added on. Basically square footage in a co-op is a can of worms.
Wow, thanks for the chance to address these issues. It was very interesting to hear your take on them and I hope my agent perspective explained some of what happens from this end.
I hope this helps and best wishes to you.
Halstead Property, LLC
I hope I can answer or satisfy some of your questions. Walk-ups can be a "Catch 22." As much as you say, "I can handle it or not," most buyers just dismiss the listing and brokers want you to come and see it. Many gems are skipped by quick judgements by glancing through the internet. I have sold many walk-ups, however, it took a lot of convincing to get them to walk up 3 flights of stairs. However, once they did, they were smitten. It can be a lot of work, so perhaps if the agent isn't putting the floor the unit is on, this is why. Also, most real estate companies websites (in NYC) don't show a floor or an apartment number unless there's an open house. Once the agent has set the open house, then the website will allow the unit and/or floor number to show.
Now as for square footage...... Any square footage you see in a COOP is a "guess-timate" as coops were not structured around square footage as CONDOS are. Coops were set up with Numbers of Shares. So, again, when you see the square footage, it's a rough numbered guess. As for not seeing square footage on a listing, this is the same reason some agents don't always put the floor # of an apartment in a walk-up. They want you to show up. To shop just by square footage isn't always the best way to find your new home. SEE EVERYTHING. (FYI - you can take the measurements of each room on a floor plan, for example: Bedroom 14 x 10 - 140 s.f. and add them together.) And, if a listing says 500 s.f. but you want 700 s.f., you should still go see it. Why? Because it may feel larger to you. If there are no photos, there could be many reasons; either the seller wouldn't give the agent access (yes, sounds silly but it happens), the apartment is a wreck or the seller isn't tidy......just to name a few. But all in all, if you see something that is not satisfactory to you and you really want to know the answer, CALL THE AGENT. We're more than just a pretty face that opens a door. :o) We're here to help you every step of the way.
Thank you so much for your terrific feedback. A 'thumbs up" or best of all a "Best Answer" is always appreciated if you feel I really helped you. Please feel free to reach out to me in any way to help you further.
Regarding your comments on co-ops, an experienced agent will know how to get you through a board. It is all in taking you where you meet the requirements in the first place. Certain boards have certain requirements, though they are not stated outright, but there are signs of what they are looking for based upon certain telltale signs in the listing. A really good agent knows how to read them. I'm a Seinfeld lover too, but that episode is of course a parody -it's really not as bad as that.
Halstead Property, LLC
By the time I finished composing my answer and posting it you had written more, so let me add this to respond to what you just added. I am very with you on the missing photos. That has got to be a small low-budget firm, because the major firms use professional photographers and we get them up there ASAP. But I do say laziness at work when I see something like the "photos coming soon" that never gets taken away. I particularly like "will not last" and it's now been on the market 8 months. Or the "first open house Nov. 18" but it's now March. That's just plain ridiculous.
It sounds like you are working hard doing your research in preparation for making a purchase. I'd like to suggest you consider using a buyer's agent. A good agent will streamline your search for you. We have access to the agent database, so the stuff that's not showing up where you are looking is spelled out clearly for us. We can link you with lenders and attorneys, negotiate for you, and navigate around all the bumps in the road that inevitably come in the course of any deal. It really helps to have a professional you trust take you from point A to point Z. We all work with both buyers and sellers and represent the interests of the party we are working with in that particular transaction.
It wasn't actually a Seinfeld episode - it was real life! It might have been 20 years ago but I remember reading headlines in maybe the New York Times saying that Jerry Seinfeld had been rejected by some really exclusive co-op board. I tried to find the article for you but I think it's been too long. My friend says he remembers it too. It was after he was already rich and famous but still a long time ago, possibly in the late 80s. I know he got into the Beresford later but this was long before that.
I understand about different feeds only picking up partial data on a listing. But I am going by Trulia where you can see anything from a barely filled out listing all the way to the incredibly detailed type you described.
There is a stunning penthouse "walk-up" listing at 411 West End Avenue (at 80th Street) for $695k that was written up in the New York Times. It requires you to take an elevator to the 20th floor then walk up three flights. If I had my money and mortgage in hand I'd have gone to see it in an instant.
Interesting about co-op square footage. I'd much rather see a floor plan with measurements than an estimated square footage anyway. People are so litigious these days; those people with the interior decorator sound awful. I can see why it's not worth the risk to give approximate square footage.
As for the walk ups I am sure they are very hard to sell given how quickly buyers are to dismiss them. I am still in full investigative mode so I am studying every listing that looks interesting to me and weighing every factor in my head. I've looked at a number of walkups. Each time I look at another listing I recalibrate my perceptions of the market ever so slightly. By the time I get my down payment in either February or May I will have looked at a thousand listings online and only then will I start going out to look at places! And of course the market will have changed by then. I am a very data driven analytical person. Not to mention I love browsing real estate! But I will not be a looky-lou forever because interest rates are supposed to rise sometime this year and many economists say they won't be this low again for decades and I want to get in before it's too late.