In sale of Manhattan co-op apartment, owner Encarnacion Singh puts faith on broker who is also FilAm

bubut living room

Riverside Drive co-op apartment: Purchased for $70K, sold for $2 M after 50 years

Riverside Drive co-op apartment: Purchased for $70K, sold for $2 M after 50 years

By Cristina DC Pastor

Generous rooms. Gracious entry foyer. River park views. 24-hour doorman building.

In January, retired UN employee Encarnacion ‘Bubut’ Singh put her home on the market, parting with the Riverside Drive co-op apartment she had shared with her husband and two children for 50 years.

Widowed since 1999, Bubut has gone back and forth on selling the home. No doubt she loved this house and inspired it with the warmth and colors of Asian artifacts collected over years of travel and working with the United Nations. Her husband Krishna Singh was a film director and photographer at the UN. She was a population officer for the Fund for Population Activities, which was just three years established when they met in 1965.

“I enjoyed 50 years of it,” she told The FilAm in an interview.

The decision to sell was not easy. For one, the neighborhood was gentrifying. When Bubut and her husband purchased the apartment in 1965 for $70,000, drug-related crimes were a huge drawback, but the Singhs, who were smart New Yorkers, learned to live with the risks to personal safety. It did not matter that at one time, a man was stabbed to death, staggered into their building lobby, and died there.

“That was the first time I’ve seen a crime,” said Bubut. “There was a knife sticking out of the man’s back.”

Still, the Indo-Filipino couple was pleased to have a home within walking distance from the culturally vibrant Lincoln Center, and living in a building populated by mixed-race families.

Over the years, the immigrant families began to leave, but the Singhs stayed put. As if in a flash, they found themselves and another Chinese family among the handful of ethnic holdovers. Security improved, the neighborhood became a prime residential location, and Bubut’s and other apartments on Riverside Drive appreciated in value. When she decided to sell in January, the value of her property had bloated to almost $2 million!

“Now this neighborhood is really high end,” she said. “I like the atmosphere now.”

The Seller: Encarnacion Singh; The Broker: Edwin Josue

The Seller: Encarnacion Singh; The Broker: Edwin Josue

But at her age, Bubut felt it was time to stay close to family. His son in Florida has young children, and she felt a strong yearning to see them grow up.

A common friend introduced her to real estate broker Edwin Josue of Halstead Property. The two began a months-long journey in which his role evolved from business strategist to one who became a shoulder-to-cry-on.

“If not for Edwin,” said Bubut, “I would have jumped off a window. He held my hand every step of the way.”

The challenges to selling a Manhattan property were many, and the two quickly became allies. Bubut trusted Edwin’s many years of brokering experience and Manhattan lore; Edwin eyed Bubut’s coveted property and its potential for a nice margin.

The minute it was listed on the Halstead company website, Edwin immediately received seven interested inquiries. One of them, a young Manhattan doctor, was the first to attend the Open House. He instantly fell in love with the house and came up to Edwin with a reasonable offer suggesting not to avidly show the house to others.

“That’s how much he liked it,” he said.

Edwin could have declined, triggering a bidding war, but his decades-long experience as a licensed real estate professional has taught him never to make decisions motivated by runaway profit. As it was the buyer’s first real estate purchase, Edwin became the dual agent for both buyer and seller.

The transaction ran into countless challenges, from complicated tax waivers to a simple case of miscommunication on the phone. As the transaction was an estate sale, Bubut, as a widow, had the obligation to present proof of her husband’s death. Edwin said this was a standard requirement to prevent other parties from laying claim to the property.

“In any closing whether condo or co-op, there should be good coordination among all parties concerned — the buyer, seller, the lawyers, the managing agent, the broker agent,” he said. “Without coordination, everybody is affected.”

It was a nightmare, cried Bubut.

She had to secure document after document, approval after approval as she faced constant questioning from lawyers from all parties concerned. Edwin with his friendly and calming disposition was constantly urging her “not to lose hope.”

The buyer, who wished to remain anonymous for this article, was pleased with Edwin’s handling of the transaction.

“He is genuinely a nice man which sets him apart from so many of the agents that I met along my search for an apartment,” he said in a statement.

The closing was finally completed on October 1, 2015 exactly 50 years to the day Bubut and her husband bought the apartment on October 1, 1965.

“I realized it when only when I was packing,” she said while dating all the boxes she was to send off to her new home in Florida. “God must have designed it.”

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