Inside Lena Dunham’s Mortifying Home-Sale Fail: Why She Sold Her Brooklyn Pad for Less Than She Paid


Lena Dunham, creator and star of the HBO series “Girls,” has made a name for baring all—her body, her tattoos, the millennial generation’s many foibles. So it’s perhaps no surprise that the recent sale of her Brooklyn, NY, home has people gasping in horror, too.

The reason? Last May, Dunham bought an apartment in Brooklyn’s hip enclave Williamsburg for $2.9 million. Then, just a few months later, in July 2018, she turned around and listed it for $3 million. Talk about instant buyer’s remorse!

To make matters worse, the place sat on the market, so in April, she reduced the price to $2.65 million. Word on the street is that she’s finally found a buyer. Although the final sales price has yet to be revealed, you can bet she lost at least a few hundred thousand dollars on the deal.

Girl, what’s up with that?

The Gretsch building in Williamsburg
                                                                           The Gretsch building in Williamsburg

Her loss is not likely to have been due to the apartment itself. The condo, a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath beauty in the recently renovated Gretsch building, is a lovely, bright, loftlike corner unit with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.

This particular unit measures 1,987 square feet, and features 13-foot ceilings, a gas fireplace, and lots of intriguing, built-in custom cabinetry.

Built-in custom cabinetry
                                                                                            Built-in custom cabinetry

It also has an open gourmet kitchen with Carrara marble countertops, Sub Zero, Wolf, and Bosch appliances.

The open kitchen has upscale appliances.
                                                                              The open kitchen has upscale appliances.

The master bedroom features a built-in platform bed, a huge walk-in closet, and a Carrara marble master bath. Other fab features include a Bosch washer/dryer, and Nest central air and automatic blinds on the numerous windows.

Master bedroom
                                                                                                  Master bedroom
Master bath
                                                                                                     Master bath

The building itself, constructed in 1916, was originally a musical instrument factory, and was converted to condos by noted architect David Bers. It’s now a full-service, white-glove condo building featuring a 24/7 doorman, a library lounge, and a roof deck.

Why did Lena Dunham’s home sell for so little?

So it’s a fancy place, even by Williamsburg standards. Why didn’t it get a better price?

One look at the listing history of the condo—and photos—and you can see why it may not have sold at first. Many of the earlier listing photos show unfurnished rooms—which don’t capture just how amazing a space it could be. Check out the emptiness below and you’ll see what we mean!

Lena Dunham's unstaged, unfurnished apartment doesn't look all that special.
                                                Lena Dunham’s unstaged, unfurnished apartment doesn’t look all that special.

“It wasn’t staged,” says Jamie Rappaport, a Compass agent who is licensed in both Los Angeles and New York. “Without any furniture or accessories, it doesn’t look special, it doesn’t stand out. It just looks like a plain rental.”

Nice kitchen, but how much nicer would it look with a few objects on those shelves?
                                               Nice kitchen, but how much nicer would it look with a few objects on those shelves?

At some point, the light dawned on Dunham (or at least her listing agent) that furnished listing photos would be much better. Within a month of new listing photos showing the place fully furnished, it sold—albeit at a reduced rate.

Broker Martin Eiden of Compass also believes that the lower price could have been prompted by a recent overall softening in the New York market. “After a robust first quarter in Brooklyn-Manhattan sales, transactions have dropped considerably in April and May,” he says. “In order to move properties, prices have come down as much as 10%.”  Eiden also believes “the hard reality of substantially higher federal income taxes” have played a role in slowing the luxe end of New York City real estate.

Lena Dunham's former Brooklyn condo
                                                                           Lena Dunham’s former Brooklyn condo

What Lena Dunham’s home sale can teach the rest of us

Whether you love her or hate her, Dunham has nonetheless taught us something important in terms of real estate: Never sell a place you’ve just bought, since you’re bound to bleed money in the process.

“Anyone who buys an apartment and sells within a year is almost always going to lose money, regardless of market behavior,” says real estate agent Brandon Major of Warburg Realty.

Within just a year, Dunham will be ponying up for buyer’s and seller’s costs, which are extraordinarily high in New York, and include things like agent commissions, transfer taxes, mansion taxes, attorney fees, and moving fees.

“Most people recommend you hold onto a property for at least two years, preferably longer, if you want to make a profit,” agrees Rappaport.

Also, you can never underestimate the importance of staging. Right, Lena?

Dunham, in case you’re curious, has moved back into Manhattan, having purchased an apartment in the West Village within the last year. She also has a 1920s home in West Hollywood. Let’s just hope for her sake that she applies some of the lessons she’s learned this time around to her next home sale!

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