Guy buys a building in NYC for $102k in 1966, still lives there. It’s now worth around $50 MILLION DOLLARS
Wow, this is amazing! I love stories like this. Found this story via the New York Post about what might be the most greatest Real Estate investment of all time. Jay Maisel, a photographer, gained around a $49 million (possibly more) return on his investment. Well, technically he hasn’t receievd any return on his investment because he still lives there and has chosen not to sell it yet!
Back in 1966, Jai Maisel was paying $125 a month for a 2,500 square foot studio. His landlord tried to raise the rent $50 a month, HOW DARE HE! Maisel wasn’t having it, so he found a real estate broker and began the hunt to buy a place.
That’s when he found 190 Bowery, which at the time was a graffiti covered hunk of junk. Six stories, 72 rooms, 35,000 square feet. Could this be his next family home? He bought it. He moved in. “My parents cried,” he said, “Every single thing that can come out of a human body has been left on my doorstep. But it was more disgusting than dangerous.” The ground floor was knee deep in garbage and coated in soot. He had to do all the work himself, shoveling everything out and cleaning it up.
He doesn’t state how much money he has put into renovations, or how long it has taken to make the place what it is now, but today it’s a beautiful bohemian mansion. It feels like it’s a home out of Architectural Digest.
All of the bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining are on the sixth floor; the kitchen was once where the staff cooked meals for the bankers. There’s only one elevator, the original copper cage from 1898 when the building was a bank. It’s still in working order and has been kept very clean. “You know what a sign of love is, in this family? It’s if you come home and the elevator is on the ground floor,” says Linda. “Because that means whoever came home before you walked up twelve flights of stairs.”
There have been no major changes to the interior. The basement contains a bank vault, still in tact. The first second and third floors are gallery spaces for his photograph and art. The fourth floor is a work in progress, and has previously been rented out to tenants. The fifth has various workshops, like the Mylar-window-shade room.
The building is considered a landmark in New York City. “Here’s the deal,” Maisel says. “If you have a window that needs fixing, you fix it. If I have a window that is broken, I have to repair it, with approval, the way it was done in 1898.” Upkeep is constant. “A typical day is first we might have to clean the sidewalks,” says Linda. “Because we’re responsible for the sidewalks in front of our building. Or the fire department comes for a walk-through, or the meters need fixing, or the boiler. Or the graffiti police come by.”
That’s another headache. The city wants the exterior graffiti-free, but it’s impossible: 190 Bowery is a mecca for street artists, as its neighbor 11 Spring was before it went luxury. Maisel tried scrubbing the building every week, but “it was like I was providing a fresh canvas for them.” Keith Haring used to cover the exterior in chalk babies, says Maisel, and that he liked, both for the spirit of the images and because they washed off so easily.
The building is still giving up its secrets. About a month ago, Amanda discovered a room she never knew existed. “It’s kind of in the mezzanine between the first and second floors,” she says. “It’s a cool little room. I don’t know why they don’t use it. It is just kind of full of pieces of mirror.”
So, will the Maisels ever sell? Or, more to the point, what’s holding them back? By modest estimates, and even in this economy, the building is worth tens of millions of dollars (see the estimates, here), and the property is so prime that sometimes Linda does reconnaissance before she takes out the trash for fear she’ll have to fend off yet another aggressive agent. “One man called me a bitch because I told him the building wasn’t for sale,” she says.
Maisel won’t let real-estate agents walk through or even see floor plans, so there’s lots of guessing in these assessments. He says his house is 35,000 square feet, 38,000 if you include the exterior walls; propertyshark .com has it at 27,414. Our brokers used various figures in that range. Whatever the size, if Maisel sold the place today, he’d make a hell of an ROI.
Robby Browne of The Corcoran Group says, “Without actually seeing it, I’m guessing the value is between $40 million and $70 million.”
“I fantasize about never having to worry about money again,” Maisel muses. “It would be great to take the money and run. But let’s face it, where are we going to go? A three-room apartment?”
If I was Maisel, I’d do what I had to do to get approval to split it up into units and sett a few of the floors for some “spending cash.” Because it’s a historical building I’m sure it’d be a pain in the ass, but it’s been done thousands of times in New York….. it can be done again!
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