At the Top of the World, a View of the New York Real Estate Market

The New York TimesOctober 17, 2014

Rising home values around the country are welcome news six years after the housing market collapsed. But there is a growing segment of buyers who are capable of spending so much money that they operate in rarefied space, paying prices that are rising into the tens of millions of dollars and have no bearing, on the usual rules of supply and demand.


That is especially true in some New York neighborhoods like the one along 57th Street in Manhattan, known as Billionaire’s Row. There, apartments with Central Park views have fetched in excess of $30 million. What you get is nice: three bedrooms, four baths, floor-to-ceiling views. But the price is so detached from anything comparable, save what someone else has paid for similarly opulent pad next door, that the phenomenon raises some intriguing questions:


No matter how much money you have, how would you know if you were getting a good deal?


And beyond price, what is it like to buy one of these baubles of the 0.1 percent? How different is the experience from what everyone else in the world goes through to buy a home? Are there moments when egos flared and deals got ditched? Or are the buyers so wealthy that the gargantuan sums – and even the whole experience – are meaningless?


The prevailing view is that most of the buyers are international. Many at the highest end are from South America, China and Eastern Europe, said Leonel Piraino, a broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. In Manhattan, their purchases are generally confined to condominiums, which are about 30 percent of the market and have laxer requirements for disclosing financial information and renting than the larger co-op market.


Regardless of where the buyers come from, Mr. Piraino said most super rich international and American buyers looking at New York real estate as an investment were aiming in the $2 million to $4 million range.


International buyers “see the U.S. as a safe place to come to invest their money even if the return is not the highest return,” he said. “They look at it as a bank account: You come here, you park your money in real estate and you assure yourself that you’re in a safe place.”


Others, he said, look at New York real estate as a long-term growth investment, where they can use the monthly rent to cover their carrying costs.


Michael, a 45-year-old London-based digital media entrepreneur who asked that his last name be withheld for privacy, has done just that.


He bought the fourth-floor apartment at 50 Bond Street in New York’s NoHo area for $5.65 million at the end of 2012 and the third floor a few months later for $5.3 million. He rents them for $21,000 and $20,000 a month, and owns them through a limited partnership.


“To be honest it was an investment decision for me,” he said, adding that he’s never lived in New York nor even spent a night in one of his condos. “London is one of those markets where property right now doesn’t offer a lot of value.”


He said he based his decision on considering the similarities of the two cities as global financial centers and then calculated that property values per square foot would have to rise 60 percent in New York to reach where they are in prime London neighborhoods like Chelsea. He could also charge enough rent in New York to cover all of his costs, including 30-year mortgages on both properties at interest rates under 4 percent.


“I’m better off borrowing at 3 to 4 percent and buying two condos,” he said. “I do think we’re going to look back in 10 years’ time and say gosh that was the most amazing opportunity of our lifetime.”


He was persuaded to buy the second property by his agent, Mr. Piraino, who pointed out that owning two 3,000-square-foot condos on Bond Street that someone else could combine was more valuable than similar apartments apart.


Yet for foreign buyers owning real estate in New York – or anywhere in the United States – their heirs can end up with a hefty estate tax bill they might not be prepared for. The exemption for nonresident aliens is only $60,000, with a 40 percent tax on real property over that. (The exception is if the United States has an estate tax treaty with the person’s home country.)


Depending on the level of wealth, buyers can set up expensive and complicated structures to own the property or they can buy life insurance to cover the estate tax. But getting that insurances is not cheap.


Bryan Schick, president of NFP BVI Ltd., an international insurance brokerage firm, said the premiums varied widely depending on the risk rating of the country where the person resides. For an A-rated country, like Britain, the annual premium for $10 million of life insurances would be about $75,000 a year. But for a C-rated country like Colombia, that premium jumps to more than $122,000 a year.


When international owners are ready to sell or buy, that transaction typically takes longer and requires more patience on the other side. Jason Walker, another broker at Douglas Elliman, just brokered the sale of a $7 million downtown loft that was owned by a Middle Eastern princess.


“It definitely added a layer of complexity to everything,” Mr. Walker said. “I had to be careful to manage the expectations of the purchaser. The offer came in during Ramadan so I stopped getting responses.”


He added, “You had American buyers, a Middle Eastern seller and European lawyers – there were cultural sensitivities.”


This is a segment of the market, the globe-spanning superrich, that real estate firms are chasing the way other luxury brands are. To that end, Douglas Elliman and Knight Frank Residential, a similar high-end, London-based brokerage firm, recently announced an alliance to serve and share clients buying property around the world – to keep them from going to different brokerage firms in different markets.


A New Yorker by birth, Marc Rappaport has a different view of the city’s booming luxury real estate market: It’s a more interesting investment than stocks and bonds. He bought three apartments in Lower Manhattan in 2012 and 2013 that ranged in price from between $1 million and $2 million to more than $3 million. He is now looking to buy a pied-a-terre in Paris, even though he doesn’t speak French. (He does have a girlfriend there.)

“I look at it more as a lifestyle,” said Mr. Rappaport, whose wealth comes from distributing mutual funds. “I could make more money in stock and bond investments. The investment performance is not the driver.”


With mortgages on two of the three New York properties, he said he was also spurred by low interest rates.


Yet at the highest end, a mortgage typically has to come after an all-cash purchase. Competition can be fierce, and that increases the pressure to pay cash for these properties or make other arrangements.


Walter Welsh, head of private banking at PNC, said consumer financial protection regulations that came into effect this year make the mortgage process much longer and more complicated, even for people with plenty of money. To get access to money more quickly, he said clients prefer to use other assets as collateral — in effect, a high-end margin loan.


Still, in this rarefied world, now is a moment when people believe strongly in luxury real estate. Some international clients are buying it for children attending college in New York, while others, like real estate investors before them, see it as an asset that will just go up in value.


"I don’t know what my exact plan is," said Michael, the London buyer. “I have fixed mortgages. I expect to hold them for 10-15 years. By that time, the rents will go up and my monthly mortgage bill won’t." Or at least that's the hope.

Many on Renwick Street Embrace Development

The Wall Street JournalOctober 16, 2014

Renwick Street, one of a few, largely hidden one-block streets in Manhattan, is coming out from the shadows with a burst of new development construction.


The semi-industrial block-long patch between Spring and Canal streets has four new residential developments under way. Along with several other new buildings of the last five or so years, it’s nearly a wholesale redevelopment of the street.


“I’m not bemoaning the loss of the old neighborhood—it was quiet and nice, but this development is needed and well deserved,” said Giorgio DeLuca, a longtime resident and proprietor of Giorgione restaurant near the intersection of Renwick and Spring.


A cluster of old-school drinking establishments—the Ear Inn (established in 1817, making it one of the oldest bars in the city), Emerald Pub and McGovern’s Bar (now a dance club called Sway Lounge beneath its original dicey facade)—still anchors the intersection of Spring and Renwick. But now construction workers—not vagrants, as one longtime resident remembers—far outnumber pedestrians and residents, heralding the changes to come.


“I would venture to say that Renwick Street is probably the most changed block in New York City,” said Shaun Osher, chief executive of CORE, which is marketing the 31-unit residence at 15 Renwick St. Slated for 2015 completion, the loft-styled apartments will start at $2 million and three-bedroom apartments will reach $10 million.



Renwick Street once was home to horse stables and families, recalls Francis Healy, 88 years old, who lives around the corner on Hudson Street, noting that in his time police blocked off the street on weekends so children could play. But for decades it has been home to warehouses and garages for food vending carts.


Karla Maria Rothstein, co-founder of Latent Architecture, whose offices have been on the street since 1999, said, “We love buildings that have integrity and believe in giving [them] a second and third life. But there was nothing here that I could see was an aesthetic loss.”


Latent is among the many small design-oriented firms that have long made the neighborhood its home. She and her partner, Salvatore Perry, say they are “thrilled with the transformation” on the street.


That is a feeling Ellen Baer, president and CEO of the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District, hopes will telegraph to others considering locating in the enclave.


“We expect thousands of people moving in over the next 10 years….We want to create a neighborhood with more neighborhood-type services,” Ms. Baer said. She noted last year’s rezoning of the Hudson Square Special District will bolster the larger neighborhood, which historically lacked housing and services.


While the changes are welcomed by many, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, raised questions about the impact of Renwick’s development wave on schools, parks and other public resources.


“We’re not opposed to new development taking place here, but there really was no comprehensive plan for dealing with the burden on local infrastructure these new developments would create…and for ensuring that this area had some socioeconomic diversity,” he wrote in an email.


It isn’t just housing that is popping up. Surrounding Renwick, new hotels are entering the market: the Hugo at 525 Greenwich St. opened this spring, and a 325-room hotel on the corner of Renwick and Canal is nearing completion, according to an application on file with the city department of buildings. Nearby, Tommie Hotel, a division of Commune Hotels, will open a 329-room hotel at 231 Hudson St. next summer.


In anticipation of welcoming residents and visitors alike, the local BID launched a $27 million streetscape improvement project to spruce up the area and make Spring Street—one of the few Manhattan streets to run from river to river—“more like a Main Street for our little neck of the woods,” said Ms. Baer.


Chris Miele, co-owner of reGeneration furniture, a fixture at 38 Renwick St. since 1997, said her business—like many others in the area—doesn’t depend on foot traffic, but referencing No. 45, the sole vacant retail space on the street, she said that “anyone who’s smart should do well here.”


Nick Incantalupo, who since 1979 has owned that storefront at No. 45, once home to a gallery, agreed the location is prime.


“If I was younger, I would put a pharmacy in there, but I’m beyond that stage—I want to go out of business, not in business,” he said.


Mara Flash Blum, a broker with of Sotheby’s International Realty, said she has been “selling a lot in the area—a lot.”


“There’s only so much product in the north Tribeca area, and [people] are migrating to Hudson and Renwick,” she said. “It’s like being in SoHo and not being in SoHo.”


Ms. Blum echoes what Mr. DeLuca’s instinct 20 years ago when he purchased 40 Renwick St., then a broken and abandoned building. It was the first property on the block to undergo redevelopment.


“I saw development surging in SoHo proper. This is close to the river, an affordable building we could afford to take a chance on,” he said. “I knew it was a matter of time but what I didn’t expect was the rate of development—the acceleration.”


Mr. Incantalupo said he, too, appreciates the changes.



“It’s gone from very low end to high end. I remember hookers, longshoreman, and drunks at night on the street,” he said. “Within the year, the bar should be [raised] unbelievably high.”

A History of New York in 101 Objects: 6sqft Edition

6SqFtOctober 16, 2014

As urbanists we tend to define the city by locations and the historic events that unfolded at them. But what about getting even more specific and looking at New York’s past through tangible objects? That’s exactly what New York Times urban affairs correspondent Sam Roberts has assembled in a new book, A History of New York in 101 Objects. And a corresponding exhibit at the New York Historical Society puts Roberts’ choices, along with objects from the Society’s collection, on view.



We were so intrigued by this idea that we decided to put together a 6sqft version of the list. From preservationists to architects to real estate brokers, we’ve asked ten people to give us the ten objects that they feel best define New York City’s history. There are definitely some favorites that emerged like cobblestones, Metrocards, and pizza, as well as an eclectic mix of items that speak to our participants’ personal connections to New York.

Made in the Shade?: As the W. 57th St. Area Sprouts Superdeluxe Towers, Long-Term Residents Face a Choice

New York Daily NewsOctober 16, 2014

Call them the humble millionaires of Billionaires’ Row.


Apartment owners living just south of Central Park are seeing their neighborhood altered by a stream of uber-pricey skyscrapers debuting along the short corridor between Sixth and Eighth Aves. from W. 57th to W. 59th Sts. The question on some of their lips: Should we stay or should we go?


Resales of existing condo and co-op units along the 57th St. corridor have ticked up in recent months as owners opt to sell their pads amid the development boom. There was an 83.9% increase in resales in the area in the second quarter, according to listings website StreetEasy, an early indication that some long-term owners in older buildings may be starting to get itchy feet.


“This is a case of a rising tide lifting all boats,” said Alan Lightfeldt, a data scientist at StreetEasy. “There’s certainly more interest in properties on the 57th St. corridor, which used to melt into the rest of Midtown. Now, it’s quite a powerful address.”

Manhattan’s Most-Celebrated Architects and Interior Designers Go Large-Scale

New York PostOctober 15, 2014

The latest crop of luxury residential developments is breaking ground in a whole new way: by hiring interior designers and architects better known for their work in hotels, restaurants and product design — along with swanky private homes.


Previously lauded for their smaller-scale commissions, these talents bring a fine eye for architectural and design detail to their first-ever large-scale residential developments.  Along the way, they’re imbuing these projects with bespoke features that come from very personal visions.


“Who knows how to better craft homes than interior architects?” says Barbara van Beuren, managing director of Anbau Enterprises, which hired Andrew Sheinman of Pembrooke & Ives for a new Upper East Side development. “They have a deeper understanding of lifestyles and needs, and that translates into
the design.”


“People want beautiful design rather than a brand name just for the sake of the name,” says Shaun Osher, CEO of CORE, which marketed 141 Fifth Ave., one the city’s first bespoke developments, in 2008. “Something that feels customized to the buyer and feels unique is what they’ll put the value on.”


Citing the high stakes and high costs of today’s market, Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, sees this new trend driven by economics.


“There’s an extra cost associated with a brand that might not translate into additional returns,” he says. Bringing in “people who have been successful in their own right [versus a ‘starchitect’] but that don’t have the brand recognition [is] a cost-effective alternative.”


On the Upper East Side, developers are placing a value on reinterpreting history, selecting interior designers who can straddle tradition and trends, and respect the neighborhood context.

Peek in the Seller’s Closets, Nix the Bathroom Stop, and More Ways to Ace the Open House

Brick UndergroundOctober 14, 2014

For buyers and nosy neighbors alike, open houses can be a welcome opportunity to poke around other people's homes and see how they live (and decorate). But if you're genuinely looking to buy in a city as rife with bidding wars as NYC, the open house is also a crucial time for you to make a good impression. The seller's broker could be silently vetting you for a massive financial transaction and, if you're looking in a co-op, how you'd fare in a board interview, to boot.


"How someone conducts themselves in an open house is generally a good indication of how they'd act in a board interview, and how likely they are to be approved," says Halstead Property agent Chris Kromer. And no seller wants to waste their time with a candidate who’d never impress the board.


Coming across as the ideal buyer is a delicate balance: you don't want to seem desperate or likely to overpay, but you do want to come across as a legitimate, interested purchaser with the means and the know-how, not just another voyeur who stopped by to gawk. You also want to leave the sellers with the impression that you'd be easy to work with. "We definitely get a sense of a person’s personality and how the process would go [during the open house]," says CORE agent Dana Karson, who adds, "it can sometimes lead to the seller wanting to work with someone else."


So how do you leave an open house in good standing with the seller and ahead of your competition? We grilled experts for the best tips (and cautionary tales), and came up with these no-fail guidelines:


1.     DON'T overdress


While a seller might assume you're not serious if you show up in sweats, it's also possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction. "Some people walk in flaunting everything they've got like it's a special occasion—diamond jewelry, the works—but you don't really want the listing agent to assess your financial situation from what you're wearing," says Gea Elika, principal broker of Elika Associates. "It's important to show that you're a strong candidate, but not over-the-top. Think professional, not flamboyant—don't go in dressed like Liberace."


Mostly, the rule of thumb is not to overthink it, and Karson advises to aim for "comfortable and appropriate." 


2.     DO play it cool


As with outfit choice, you want to show that you're legitimately interested in (and capable of) buying but not come across as over-eager, lest you ruin any future attempts at negotiation. "I wouldn't make any declarative statements, like 'I will definitely be bidding,'" Warbug Realty broker Jason Haber tells us.


"An open house is about learning about the property," rather than becoming best friends with the listing agent, Elika adds. "If you try to negotiate there, it shows that you're not qualified and you don't know what you're doing." Put it this way: "Would you ever walk onto a used car lot and say, 'I love that car!'?" 


Another upside to not spending the whole time gushing to the seller: the opportunity to eavesdrop.


"Listen to other people and see what they think," advises Elika. It could give you a sense of the competition, or potential points for negotiation down the road. 


3.     But DON'T play it too cool


If you're interested in making an offer, say something more along the lines of "I love the home, it could be a great fit for me, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible," Elika suggests. Ask smart, specific questions about the building's financials and maintenance charges, and how many residents live there year-round. 


You want to be remembered. "It will always raise eyebrows if the seller or their broker gets your offer and doesn't even remember meeting you at the open house," explains RealDirect CEO Doug Perlson.


Since so many ultra-competitive buyers are in the habit of putting "placeholder" bids on the apartment right then and there—and never following through—you should have a brief, polite, conversation letting the broker know that you're seriously considering the place (not just bidding to keep it on the back burner), and will be in touch again. 


4.     DON'T be an armchair critic 


Openly critiquing the apartment won't score you points, and it definitely won't score you a better price. "Lots of buyers think they have to be poker-faced—or worse: negative—​in order to have better leverage when making an offer. Not so," says Realty Collective agent Tina Fallon. "The listing agent will be more willing to work with a buyer who demonstrates a sincere interest in the property."


"Don't be mean," adds Brennan Realty Services broker Barbara Wilding. "You can explain why a place isn't for you—​not enough space, too dark, etc.—without being personal." After all, home decor is something that can be changed, but making a terrible impression—or offending the seller—isn't.


5.     DO surrender your shoes


No one likes walking through an open house in stocking feet, but think of it as a necessary evil. (And also, pretty understandable if a seller's got dozens of people coming in off the city streets and tromping through their home.)


"Don’t roll your eyes if they ask you to take off the shoes," says Halstead's Kromer. The no-shoes request is particularly common in higher-end listings, but is a universally accepted practice. "I've even had listing agents give us medical booties to put on over the shoe," says Citi Habitats broker Corlie Ohl. Best to wear your good socks and go with the flow on this one—after all, if you can't handle a basic request during an open house, how will you respond to the building rules if you're a resident?


6.     DON'T use the bathroom (and if you can't help it, at least close the door)


Bathroom use is a lightning rod of open house etiquette—some say it's strictly verboten, but everyone agrees that if it absolutely can't wait, you must follow certain rules. 


"Use it for 'number one' only," our etiquette columnist Jamie Lauren Sutton advises. "Don't stink it up, or worse, clog or break the toilet—which has happened," Brennan broker Tiffany Lee adds. If you simply can't wait to get to a Starbucks, always ask before availing yourself of the apartment's facilities. And be quick: "Especially if the open house is crowded, understand that everyone's going to want to see the bathroom, and getting in there to use it makes things a little awkward," Kromer says. 


One major don't he's encountered after years of open houses: a well-known retired athlete using the bathroom during a showing with the door open. It should go without saying, but just in case: Don't. Do. That.


7.     DO snoop—within reason. 


The whole point of an open house is to scope out a potential purchase, so don't be shy. "Sometimes people are hesitant to do things like open up closets, or they sort of lean into a bathroom instead of walking in," says Haber. "If someone has an open house, though, they’re anticipating people poking around the apartment, and you should do that." 


That doesn't mean rifle through the medicine cabinets and the bedside table. A good rule of thumb is to refrain from opening drawers in furniture that'll be going along with the seller—coffee tables, dressers, etc. "You’re buying the apartment, you’re not buying the seller’s underwear," Haber says. "You’ve got to get acquainted with the space, while being mindful that all the stuff in the apartment isn’t yours when you buy it." Sit on the furniture to "test it out" if you'd like, but know that it's not likely to be part of the purchase.


8.     DO stay on schedule


Yes, we told you to play it cool, but no need to be "fashionably late." "If the showing's from 12:30 to 2 and you show up at 1:59 expecting a full tour, the listing agent probably has other places to be," says Kromer. Besides potentially irritating the seller's broker, it won't give you the time you need to properly scope the place out. Citi Habitats' Ohl recommends allowing yourself at least 15 minutes to look around the apartment and ask a few question. And if you're a leisurely browser, get there towards the beginning so you don't have to rush yourself.


9.     DON'T let your kids run wild. 


In fact, you may not want to bring them at all. Simultaneously keeping an eye on your kids and a potential apartment will distract you from the whole process, and you want to focus your attention on the property (which probably won't be childproofed if the seller doesn't have kids). Let the kiddies scope out the place for themselves if you like it enough for a second visit.


If you do need to bring your children, "they should behave as they would on a school interview," etiquette expert Sutton advises, and they shouldn't wander the house unsupervised or touch valuables.


Depending on their age, put them in a stroller or hold their hands while you walk through the place.


"Children have a way of finding plugs or other knick knacks and causing damage," Ohl says.


Sometimes, though, they can make unexpected appearances: "I once had a client go into labor while she was at a showing," recalls Warburg's Haber. "Her kid was almost there by accident!"


10.   DO be careful with the snacks (and the wine). 


Outside food or drink is a no-no at the open house (after all, dozens of people may be coming through, and the seller doesn't want any unnecessary mess or stains). On the flip side, a lot of open houses serve up snacks and wine (the better to keep you lingering in the apartment). 


If you'd like to stay in everyone's good graces, do your eating near the table, or make sure you're putting all your detritus in a trash can, not on the coffee table. (As with so much etiquette advice, a lot of this comes down to common sense.)


If you're not making a serious play for the apartment, well, the rules are (hypothetically) a little looser. At one of Haber's open houses, which he hosted in an East Village townhouse on Halloween, a woman came in off the street, had a few glasses of wine, and passed out downstairs. "We turned off the lights when we left and she slept there overnight," he says. "The owner came in the next day, said hi, made her breakfast, and they had a nice chat. These things happen; it's the East Village." 



Williamsburg is Not in Manhattan, and 6 Other Surprises For NYC’s Foreign Apartment Buyers

Brick UndergroundOctober 08, 2014

For the average overseas buyer, the NYC apartment search will be an education

The New York City real estate market already feels like a foreign country, with its own language (alcove studio, classic-fives, mansion tax), geography (no, "the city" is not the five boroughs, according to some people), and social conventions (yes, it's perfectly acceptable never to speak to your neighbors). But when you're shopping for an apartment and you actually come from a foreign country, the hunt is that much more complex—and filled with assumptions that are all too quickly dispelled. 


With the firm belief that ignorance is not bliss, we spoke to local real estate brokers who frequently work with buyers from China, Russia, Europe and elsewhere to enumerate the most common myths their clients have about the New York market. Below, the biggest reality checks for buyers from outside the United States:


1. Most apartments are not actually for sale

Many clients are surprised to find out that the ratio of all apartments is 70/30, of which only 30 percent are sales and 70 percent are rentals. —​ Eliot Bogod, founder of brokerage Broadway Realty


Compared to the fast developing cities in China, New York City has a very low inventory.​ —​ Li Chen, a broker at Siderow Residential Group


The inventory that hovers between $800,000 and $1.5 million is very minimal. So the all-cash buyer who believes they can come here and make a quick deal is not so quick. — Reba Miller, founder of brokerage RP Miller Realty Group


2. And the apartments that are for sale are off-limits


Approximately 80 percent [of the apartments in New York] are co-ops, which are hard for foreigners to purchase. They are always surprised when they hear about the concept of a co-op. —​ Nataly Rothschild, a broker at Engel & Volkers


In regards to purchasing in a co-op, these buyers are also sometimes taken aback by the lengthy board approval process and the restrictions that come along with ownership in these buildings.​ —​ Keren Ringler, a broker at CORE


They are even more interested to find out that only 30 percent are condos... ​Many of my foreign clients are surprised to find out that most "desirable" real estate is out of touch for them. As an example, they inquire about Fifth Avenue buildings north of East 57th Street along Central Park. When they learn that area is mostly co-ops that allow full-time residents only, they are disappointed. —​ Eliot Bogod


3. Some sellers find out everything about your finances


Foreign buyers are always surprised and easily annoyed by the fact they need to be fully prepared with their financial documents before they make an offer, and sometimes even before they can see apartments. ... The different buying process makes it harder for them to understand that the sellers need to see all funds for the down payment in a U.S. bank as well as a pre-approval letter from the bank in order to be considered a serious offer. —​ Li Chen


4. Prices may seem comparatively low...


Prices are reasonable compared to other major international cities such as London.​ —​ Keren Ringler


Very wealthy buyers accept [the prices] as they are looking for a status symbol or are used to high prices in other cities where they already own real estate. —​ Nataly Rothschild


Someone from Hong Kong is usually surprised at how much bigger apartments here are.  A studio in Manhattan is the size of a two-bedroom in Hong Kong.​ —​​ Wei min Tan, a broker at Rutenberg Realty


5. ...Until you realize what you get for those yen, Euros and pounds


For a lot of buyers [with budgets] between $1 and $10 million, they need a learning curve of several months to understand what is available for the money they want to spend. This will most likely be a much smaller place than they thought they could buy and could afford in their hometown, with some exceptions of similar expensive cities around the globe. They will most likely lose some great apartments because they are not quite ready to understand the market. —​ Nataly Rothschild


Buyers from overseas are used to living in high-end glass towers back home, so when they come to New York, they expect to buy similar spacious apartments with high [ceilings] and in brand new condition. Many of them consider post-war buildings too old. Only buildings [that are] three to five years old are acceptable to them. —​ Li Chen


6. Neighborhood choices are all over the map


Usually foreign buyers come anticipating to buy in Times Square, Wall Street, Central Park and Fifth Avenue [because] these are the names they are familiar with. These are touristy areas but may not always be the best for investment.​ ... Those buying for investment decide based on metrics such as demand/supply, rental prices and vacancy rates. —​​ Wei Min Tan


There are two groups of overseas buyers: investors and homeowners. For pure investors, they will compare the rental market, fees that are involved, return rate and potential growth of value. Many of them prefer neighborhoods close to universities for the stable rental income that this provides, while some of them will consider buying in neighborhoods which are up-and-coming, such as central Harlem, and the First and Second Avenue areas. For homeowners, they scatter all over the city. They care more about safety and convenience. Many of them like buildings which are only two to three blocks to subways stations, supermarkets, and sometimes close to their work place. ​—​ Li Chen​


Always very popular with our international clients: the West Village, Soho, Chelsea and the Flatiron, as well as centrally located in Midtown. And the "classic" buyers who still love the areas around Central Park best. —​ Nataly Rothschild


7. Oh, and Williamsburg is in Brooklyn


"Williamsburg is now an entity unto itself. I get phone calls—usually from foreign buyers looking to buy something for their children—who are absolutely sure it’s a neighborhood on the island of Manhattan."​ —​ Jacky Teplitzky, a broker at Douglas Elliman



Good Morning New York Real Estate

Voice AmericaOctober 07, 2014

Parul Brahmbhatt is featured in this weekly online real estate segment.

Just Stopping By: Briefly Occupied Two-Bedroom at One57 Lists for $10.75 M.

New York ObserverOctober 03, 2014

One57 has never evoked a homey vibe—from the early renderings of a vast apartment occupied by a bored-looking woman in evening dress to the building’s reputation for attracting buyers shopping primarily for a safety deposit box. But since closings started at 157 W. 57th Street early this year, a smattering of residents have indeed come to call the striped glass tower home. Among the units with the lights on these past six months has been 44B, which an entity by the name of 44B LLC purchased for $7.02 million in April, according to city records.


But simply it doesn’t do to get too familiar, and now, after an evanescent acquaintance, the unit is back on the market for the considerably larger sum of $10.75 million.


Listed with Emily Beare at CORE, the spacious two-bedroom (it clocks in at just over 2,000 square feet) boasts two distinct advantages over the sponsor units lingering on the market (as Bloomberg recently reported, just two sponsor units have gone into contract this year and 25 percent of the building’s units remain unsold). All the other two-bedroom units in the building have been sold out, according to Ms. Beare, and the listing has a new development rarity—actual photos. What’s more, there is furniture in the photos, courtesy of the owner’s son and daughter-in-law, whom Ms. Beare said had decided to leave after such a short residency because of their expanding family.


True, the sparse, modern furnishings don’t exactly make the place look cozy, but even a gloss of habitation at One57 is a distinction that makes the place appear downright liveable. Provided that one has $10.75 million, of course.


Ms. Beare said the owner, a domestic type that the broker declined to identify further, hadn’t intended to sell the unit so fast, but was persuaded by the strong market that now was the time to list.


Whether or not the owner will be able to realize a $3.73 million profit—more than $500,000 for every month he’s been in possession of the pad—remains to be seen. Of the five One57 resales currently on the market, only one has found a buyer, albeit for an impressive $34 million, as The New York Daily News reported yesterday. A tidy profit considering that the owner had paid $30.5 million a few months before, but a far smaller percentage increase than 44B is trying for. Still, Ms. Beare said that she has had “quite a bit of showings.”



“It’s a two bedroom, probably one of the lesser apartments in the building, but still very impressive,” she noted. “Every room has a view.”

Superfund Chic: In Gowanus, Industrial Touches Aren’t Just Affectations

New York ObserverOctober 01, 2014

The very word “Gowanus” seems to resist the possibility of glamor. Were the Brooklyn neighborhood’s famously fetid canal to vanish suddenly, there would still be that name—an unpleasant gulp of syllables, somehow reptilian in flavor. Until recently the province mostly of garages and machine shops, it is not the sort of place where one expects to find condos on the market for $4.395 million.


But one evening last week, at an open house for the lower of two duplex apartments occupying a brick building at 459 Carroll Street, that’s just what we discovered. A former brush and ink factory dating to 1888, the structure was purchased by two couples in 2006, divided and outfitted for occupancy.


The lower unit, an airy abode of 3,300 square feet, is owned by artists and evinces a variation on Soho chic, rather than a take on the brownstone aesthetic of pricier neighborhoods nearby. Walls of clean, white-painted brick rise to high ceilings, while dark, intricately tooled radiators offer warmth and slatted skylights peer out at the world above. An open kitchen softens bright metallic appliances with a block counter of smooth, blonde wood.


Industrial styling notwithstanding, as we entered, we could smell neither the sulfur nor the gasoline of Gowanus’ traditional bouquet, detecting instead the unmistakable aroma of fine hors d’oeuvres. A small crowd composed chiefly of real estate agents invited by CORE listing brokers Doug Bowen and Paul Johansen moved over dark wood floors, sipping wine and plucking dainty toasts spread with sprouts, fennel and sea bass from passing trays.


“There really aren’t any comps for this,” Mr. Bowen said, meaning area properties of comparable style and not the asking price. “It’s a condo, but it’s a potentially attractive option for a townhouse buyer.”


One broker cooed over a swing hanging whimsically from the ceiling between the kitchen and dining space on great lengths of rope. Another offered an approving one-word appraisal: “Damn.” Yet a third considered that the sellers were “shooting for the moon.”


We ascended the “sculptural” staircase, wherein light wood steps climb inside a weathered-looking metal frame, to inspect a trio of simple and elegant sleeping quarters, and a sleek, lumbered roof deck.


The master bedroom had been configured as an artist’s studio, with an array of worktables, fabric rolls and small images attached to walls. We peeked through a window looking out onto Carroll Street, across which stands a dark brick building with graffitied garage doors. Outside, a man in mechanic’s garb wearing forearm tattoos buffed a late model BMW to high sheen.


New York's Super Brokers: Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon

Mann Report ResidentialOctober 01, 2014

Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon stand out even among the exclusive coterie of New York's "Super brokers." As the breakout stars of HGTV's hit reality series Selling New York, which airs in 65 countries and 99 million American homes, Tom and Mickey have been hailed as the show's "Dream Team," with a track record to support the title. Responsible for more than $1.5 billion in residential sales, the duo are internationally renowned for their unique command of the luxury market, repeatedly shattering price records at many of Manhattan's most desirable addresses. Last year they were named CORE's top-producing agents, helping Shaun Osher and Jack Cayre's firm to seize the coveted ranking of #1 Midsize Brokerage for the third consecutive year.

ModernNYC.Weekly Featured Listing – 459 Carroll Street, 1

Modern NYCSeptember 30, 2014

Formerly an Ink & Brush factory circa 1888, the residence located at 459 Carroll Street is an innovative industrial space reimagined as a cutting-edge functional home. This prime Gowanus locale has seamlessly made the transition from its original workingman's roots into two distinct condominium residences. The 25-foot by 100-foot property sits on Gowanus' most significant block and was developed by its two current residents and completed in 2006. The entire building was stripped to its core and then completely rebuilt including all systems and mechanical. The lower two floors were crafted into an approximately 3,300-square-foot multi-level modernist home. The voluminous living floor is accentuated by its high ceilings, six skylights and sculptural metal and wood staircase; this floor also contains a gallery/office/guest suite space. The upper level has three bedrooms and is the egress to a remarkable 900-square-foot private outdoor space. Additionally, there is an approximately 1,200-square-foot cellar area with 10-foot ceilings that is a fully built-out artist studio. Please note: the common charges for this home are yet to be determined.

The Price of Parking: There’s More Than One $1 Million Parking Space in Manhattan

6SqFtSeptember 30, 2014

Car-owing New Yorkers can probably recite year-round alternative-side parking laws on cue, but most will also tell you how they loathe circling their block for 20 minutes, tracking which days to stay put, the inconvenience of babysitting a spot before the switch, figuring out a cluster of parking signs or, worse yet, arguing with a paid-for parking squatter. It often drives one batty.


Yet, there is an option and that’s paying for a monthly but costly sliver of asphalt—hopefully an elevator ride away or at the very least, a quick walk a few doors down. However, the key word here is “paying” and if you live in New York, that slice of space could put you back a pretty penny, especially if you’re shoveling out dollars for one in a new development.



Unless you’ve been living under a real estate rock, there’s no doubt you’ve read about the $1 million dollar spaces at 42 Crosby Street’s garage in SoHo. Is this lofty price tag for parking a market first? Nope.


Last spring, nearly all 28 parking spots at 56 Leonard went in a New York-minute at $500,000 a pop. Same thing at the Delos-developed (pioneer of Wellness Real Estate with an advisory board filled with the likes of Deepak Chopra and Leonardo DiCaprio) at 66 East 11th Street. They’re remaining firm on a million dollarparking space from the penthouse buyer, which, at $50 million, is still on the market.


Many ask if selling spots at absurd prices is simply a clever publicity stunt to garner lots of ink and airtime for a new project—or is this yet a new benchmark for guaranteed parking? Perhaps it is possible to shell out the kind of money (the current average cost is about $140,000), given that the Department of City Planning conducted a comprehensive parking study in 2011 and reduced the number of off-street parking spaces from 127,000 to 102,000 below 60th Street in Manhattan.



But more importantly, how are on-site parking prices determined? Jacqueline Urgo, the president of The Marketing Group said: “There is no formula, but an on-site garage is a highly coveted amenity, much like buying a townhouse with a private garage versus one without. The cost is determined by several factors, including the level of the product, the overall pricing of units and garage space inventory. In other words, pricing in a luxury condominium might be more than one in a building that would be considered more mid-market.”


Expert development marketers such as Ms. Urgo and Stephen Kliegerman, the president of Halstead Property Development Marketing, agree that they are involved early in the game, which is when a decision must be made about building an on-site garage, given that a potential car-owning buyer won’t even take look inside if there’s no garage. “Another aspect of including a garage is the local zoning regulations. Outside of Manhattan, the number of required parking spaces is tied to the number of units,” said Mr. Kliegerman. “But for New York City, there are no requirements to be met. That being said, on-site parking in a luxury development in Manhattan is key to distinguishing that development from another one.”



Some other things to keep in mind: The developer can sell a garage outright to a garage operator. And though you may pay a king’s ransom for a parking spot, you’re required to sell your parking spot to another resident if you move. In 80/20 buildings, spaces must be available not just to market-price residents, but to those residing in Affordable Housing units as well.

Good Morning New York Real Estate

Voice AmericaSeptember 30, 2014

Parul Brahmbhatt is featured in this weekly online real estate segment.

On the Market in New York City

The New York TimesSeptember 28, 2014

In the Sutton Area, a three-bedroom two-bath with a fireplace and a washer/dryer in a prewar full-service building with 24-hour doormen.

Will Zeckendorfs Get a Record $130M for 520 Park Penthouse?

The Real DealSeptember 26, 2014

Earlier this week, Zeckendorf Development announced that it would seek $130 million for the penthouse triplex at its 520 Park development, the priciest current listing for a condominium unit in New York City. The ask surpassed the $118 million listing for the Ritz Carlton Hotel’s penthouse and surely made more than a few jaws drop.


To be sure, the space is one of a kind — at 12,394 square feet, it will be the largest condo on the Upper East Side. But in a luxury market in which contract signings have slowed to a trickle and listing discounts have deepened, was it a wise move?


The Real Deal sought the opinions of some of the city’s top brokers to find out whether $130 million is a bridge too far.


“My feeling is the mission has been accomplished already in the fact that you’re writing about it,” said Leonard Steinberg, president of Urban Compass.


He added that in an area packed with high-end development, Zeckendorf’s penthouse has become the focus of attention.


Still, Steinberg noted that the steady announcement every few months of a new record listing can backfire for the next big thing. If buyers perceive that escalating asking prices are down to publicity rather than legitimate valuation, owners can lose some credibility.


Certainly, headlines about record condominium prices and have been coming fast and furious in recent month. In June, Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers International listed the Battery Park penthouse at the Ritz Carlton. Less than a month earlier, news broke that the penthouse at Alchemy Development’s Woolworth Building conversion would hit the market at $110 million.


Given that the 520 Park unit will likely be marketed to international buyers, the price may not seem out of this world, said Steinberg. He pointed to the $237 million penthouse sale at One Hyde Park in London and the $391 million listing for the penthouse at Tour Odeon, Monaco’s tallest residential building.


Steinberg also noted that 520 Park is a spectacular property, boasting an exclusive address, views of Central Park and the imprimatur of celebrated architect Robert A.M Stern. But that last point could swing sentiment either way, he said. While Stern’s name lends a sense of exclusivity and stature, it is also associated with 15 Central Park West, and he has another project nearby — 220 Central Park South — in the pipeline.


“Does that take away from the luster and collector quality of living in a Robert A.M. Stern building? We don’t know,” said Steinberg. “We just have to see how this plays out.”


Emily Beare of CORE is not so sure that Stern’s output in the area will count against 520 Park. She points to the enduring allure of buildings designed by legendary and highly prolific architects Rosario Candela and Emery Roth.


And while those designers achieved fame nearly a century ago, 520 Park has something in common with their work.


“It is an iconic old world building and it’s not even built yet,” said Beare, “People like timeless and I think that’s what this will be. I think it speaks for itself and I don’t know that they need to do any hard sell on it.”


That aspect of the building sets it apart not just from other condo buildings on Park Avenue, but also makes it more desirable than the ultra-luxury buildings rising on Billionaire’s row, she said. Looking back 10 years from now, the time during which those buildings were constructed will be evident, Beare added.


While the market at the high end is a little quiet and buyers are not rushing decisions, Beare believes that the price of the penthouse is not out of the realm of possibility.


The timing of the announcement is significant, said Michael Graves of Douglas Elliman, given that no one knows if the market will hold and there is currently a race to the top in terms of similar product being delivered.


“What I think these developers are doing is they’re trying to capture what I think has been a very strong luxury market over the last 15 to 18 months,” he said. “They’re trying to capitalize on that now and increase their exposure with foreign buyers.”


Graves believes 520 Park was specifically designed to bring those overseas clients to the table and said that in the context of what the billionaire international buyer is looking at, a $130 million price is not out of step.


Knowing that, increasing the penthouse’s exposure at the top of the market could impact the way it is perceived among the international set.


“If they have already heard the name of the building we’re bringing to them, that starts to open up a dialogue that can lead to a sale,” he said. “If it’s a building they’ve never heard of, there are more question marks there.”


Ultimately though, Zeckendorf’s ability to close the deal at the asking price will depend on the boots it puts on the ground, said Graves — and moving a penthouse of this caliber will require considerable relationship building.



Fort Greene, Brooklyn: A Neighborhood With Many Faces

The New York TimesSeptember 24, 2014

Amid New York’s variegated urban landscape, Fort Greene has been known since the 19th century for its low-rise human habitat: intimately scaled, tree-lined blocks of brownstones, brick rowhouses and occasional frame houses. But a lofty new habitat is emerging on the neighborhood’s western edge, as a forest of mixed-use towers rises in the Brooklyn Cultural District around the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Peter Jay Sharp Building on Lafayette Avenue. Incorporating more than 1,200 new apartments into a kind of high-rise Lincoln Center, the district will be home in the next few years to more than 400,000 square feet of cultural space, including performance, rehearsal and studio facilities.


“The idea was always concentrating great culture together in a small area to spur economic development and provide the people of this area with great cultural options,” said Andrew Kalish, the director of cultural development for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a public-private local development corporation.

Gowanus Condo Asks $4.395 Million

BrownstonerSeptember 24, 2014

When we first saw this listing asking $4,395,000, we thought it was for the whole house. Then we realized it’s a condo. For that kind of money, you could buy a whole brownstone, renovated, with details, in Carroll Gardens.


But it turns out the ask isn’t so crazy after all on a per square foot basis. The building at 459 Carroll Street in Gowanus was converted into two condos in 2006 by the sellers, and this is the first unit up for sale.


The 19th century factory building is very large at 25 feet wide by about 64 feet deep, plus there is an extension on the ground floor that takes up the rest of the 100 foot lot. (So no garden.) The unit for sale, No. 1, has about 3,300 square feet of living space on the first and second floors. There is also a terrace and an art studio in the cellar.


The renovation has very much kept the industrial vibe, with a metal stair, white painted exposed brick, and high ceilings. The building housed a factory making ink and brushes in the late 1880s, according to the listing.



The ask works out to be about $1,330 per square foot. It may be high for Gowanus but it’s not unusual for prime Brooklyn these days. How do you think this sale could affect prices in the area?

Artists Who Converted Ink & Brush Factory into Their Own Masterpiece List it for $4.4M

6SqFtSeptember 23, 2014

By their very nature artists are visionaries blessed with an innate ability to create something out of nothing. Time and time again some of New York City’s most industrialized areas have seen rebirth as residential enclaves courtesy of these imaginative souls. Examples of such artist-led gentrification abound – think SoHo, Chelsea, and Williamsburg, to name a few.



So it should come as no surprise that it was two artists who came to the rescue of this former ink and brush factory located at 459 Carroll Street in Carroll Gardens and gave it new life as a practical-yet-cutting-edge home. Stripped to its core in 2006, the four-story manufacturing building built in 1888 was completely renovated into two distinct condominium residences, one of which is now on the market for $4.4 million.

Open House Agenda: 3 Apartments to See This Weekend

DNA InfoSeptember 18, 2014

419 E. 57th St., Apt. 10C, Midtown East
3 Bedrooms/2 Baths
Approximately 1,450 square feet
$1.975 million
Maintenance: $3,384 per month
Open House: Sunday, Sept. 21, 12:30-2 p.m.


Lowdown: Photographers generally do not shoot closets in apartments, but in this case, the broker insisted because the space “is so beautiful,” said Doug Eichman, of CORE.


The sellers, who purchased the apartment about five years ago, commissioned an architect who worked for Robert A.M. Stern's renowned firm "for many years” to renovate the space “from front to back,” Eichman said. “He reconfigured it and created the [windowed] closet and dressing area. It was a very clever and intelligent redefining of the space.”


In addition, there are three closets off the entrance and foyer, one of which is a cedar closet. All the cabinets are maple, custom-made by a craftsman brought in from Michigan. The bathrooms are marble with heated floors. The architect converted the third bedroom into an office space with pocket doors and his and hers desks.


There’s “beautiful workmanship” throughout the apartment, they found and created storage “everywhere you could,” and all the walls have been “beautifully glazed.” The unit faces south, and the building across the street is historic, so the view is protected, Eichman noted.


George and Edward Blum designed the full-service building, built in 1927. It has a “magnificent” newly replanted roof deck with views to the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, said Eichman, who lives in the building.


Location: This block between First Avenue and Sutton Place South “is considered one of the prettiest blocks in New York City,” said Eichman. There’s a small park at the river, and there’s a Whole Foods between Second and Third avenues, “which has changed the energy in the neighborhood.”


The nearest trains — 4, 5, 6, N, Q and R — are at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue. There are also crosstown and select bus services on 57th Street.


Why put it on your open house calendar? Aside from the “tremendous closet space,” the “flexible” layout “flows beautifully," Eichman said.



16 Swoon-Worthy Condos on the Fall Real Estate Market

New York PostSeptember 17, 2014

Joanne and Peter Rosten have an unassailably nice apartment. It’s in Lux 74, an Upper East Side condo that came on the market right before the implosion in 2008. And it’s gargantuan: five bedrooms, 5½ bathrooms and 3,207 square feet, with a 44-foot long great room.


But the Rostens are moving on — listing this gem for $6.295 million with Jacky Teplitzky of Douglas Elliman and swapping it for something brand-new on the High Line.


“I want to put my money into A-plus real estate because I know the returns will be generous,” says Joanne. “To go in on a pre-construction building, I kind of compare it to what Apple does. There’ll be lines around the block. That’s what’s going on downtown.”


Condos are arriving on the scene with more frequency than new hosts of “The View.” And they boast a huge amount of space — and massive prices to match. Many of the buyers are well-heeled phantoms — foreigners looking for a safe place to park their cash as they wait for the seemingly endless stream of bad international news to play out.


“It’s the new safe deposit box of foreigners,” says Teplitzky. “You can bring money from wherever and you can own [the condo] under an LLC; no questions are asked.”


And such astronomically priced new properties aren’t hard to find — at Ian Schrager’s new hotel/condo at 215 Chrystie St., on the Lower East Side, the asking prices are expected to be $4,000 per square foot.


At a new condo development, 42 Crosby St., parking spaces are fetching $1 million. Want a more modest parking space? The ones at 27 Wooster St. are practically a steal at $500,000. (“It didn’t make me think I was underpriced,” says Tony Leichter, developer of 27 Wooster. “It made me think, if the guy can get it, god bless him.”)


But that’s only half the story. Amid the insanity there has also been smaller, more modest rumblings on the real estate scene.


“There’s a whole segment of the market that’s been largely ignored,” says Kelly Mack, president of Corcoran Sunshine, “and that’s the mid- to entry-level offerings. There’s a new generation of buildings that’s not just for the super rich; 60 percent [of the new market is] priced below $2,200 per foot.”


She adds, “I realize that sounds a little nuts, but that’s the reality.”


From high-end to entry-level, here are 16 projects to salivate over this fall.



Good Morning New York Real Estate

Voice AmericaSeptember 16, 2014

Parul Brahmbhatt is featured in this weekly online real estate segment alongside host Vince Rocco and a panel of industry experts.

NYC’s 20 Best Nabes for Young Families (Including 5 You May Not Have Considered)

Brick UndergroundSeptember 16, 2014

Choosing the right neighborhood is an individual endeavor for anyone. But add a kid or three to the mix and it gets exponentially more difficult. For one thing, real estate brokers are barred by federal discrimination laws from steering clients with children to areas that might fit best. (Even describing an apartment as “family-friendly” is verboten.)



For another, as more public and private schools open up, including in the outer boroughs, parents don’t necessarily pick where to live based on school choice alone.  “Now when I have parents tell me what neighborhood they’d like to live in, I can generally give them three or four decent public schools in those neighborhoods,” says school consultant Robin Aronow, founder of School Search NYC.


Finally, with prices ticking upwards across the boroughs, buying or renting in the go-to kid-friendly neighborhoods may be wildly out of budget. “People should look at places in Queens and Brooklyn that aren’t immediately transparent and obvious, but because of, say, green space or close proximity to public transit, would lead them to believe that over time this is going to accrue value," says Michael Graves, a broker with Douglas Elliman.



With that in mind, BrickUnderground spoke to parents, real estate brokers and school experts, and sourced data on prices, listings, schools, crime and more to rank the 10 best neighborhoods for young families. (You’ll find an explanation of our methodology at the end.) The first half of this list is made up of under-the-radar ‘hoods that are (nearly) perfect for raising children, while the second half rounds up  some of the classic spots to raise a family.

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