Transparent Motives 

Jul 17, 2006

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Co-op sales will likely become a matter of public record any day now. What will the neighbors say?


The phones started ringing almost immediately, says Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property. “It’s caused quite a bit of chatter on all levels,” she confirms. The source of all the agita: the bill working its way through Albany that would make public the sale prices of co-op apartments—the bread-and-butter of most brokerage firms—was working its way through Albany. Most upset are clients who are “very private, wealthy, or well known,” adds Ramirez, though they’re not the only ones. Whether people pay $700,000 or $7 million, adds broker Michele Kleier, “they like their privacy in New York. They like to keep their secrets.”

For as long as co-ops have been around, buying-and-selling details have remained undisclosed. Since a co-op is sold without a deed, it’s been a convenient way for celebrities and other figures who dislike publicity—or, occasionally, whose finances are a little shady—to keep their purchases to themselves. Online databases list the transfers but not prices. But now, says Greg Carlson, spokesperson for the Federation of New York Housing Co-operatives and Condominiums, “the Department of Finance wants to make all real-estate transactions transparent,” largely to make sure tax assessments are appropriate. Supporters say the measure, should it become law, will level the playing field for buyers. (It’s awaiting the governor’s signature, which could come at any moment, and will likely be retroactive to January 2003.) “Disclosure is good,” says real-estate attorney Steve Wagner. “If I was thinking of buying in one of these buildings, I would want to know what my neighbors paid.” (Right now, buyers rely on their brokers to gather intelligence, especially in the most exclusive buildings.)

The law is unlikely to affect prices or influence many buying decisions, says Gregory Heym, chief economist for Terra Holdings, the parent company of both Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens. The uproar, Ramirez agrees, may be not about loss of privacy but loss of fun: “To some degree, it’s going to take away the cocktail-party discussions over what [people] paid.”

Mafia Princess Gets Her Castle  

May 08, 2006

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After months of searching downtown, Jamie-Lynn Sigler has gone into contract on a multilevel two-bedroom...


After months of searching downtown, Jamie-Lynn Sigler has gone into contract on a multilevel two-bedroom, two-bath loft for under $3 million in Tribeca. Sources, breaking the code of omertà, say the actress—who plays Tony and Carmela’s daughter, Meadow, in HBO’s The Sopranos—was expected to go for a splashy downtown condo, as is typical for young Hollywood (she’s rumored to be dating nightlife impresario Scott Sartiano). Instead she settled on a top-shelf but low-key building. (She was previously spotted touring the much higher-profile Urban Glass House, and poking around Soho and the West Village.) Sigler’s new space, which she found with the help of husband-and-wife duo Sabrina Kleier and Rob Morgenstern of Gumley Haft Kleier, has fireplaces, exposed brick and beamed ceilings. Kleier and Morgenstern declined to comment.

A Million-Dollar Room 

Apr 18, 2005

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Seven figures for 700 square-feet? Hey you get a bathroom, too!


Last summer’s opening of Richard Meier’s tower at 165 Charles Street introduced the million-dollar studio to the city, leaving spectators to the sport known as Manhattan real estate gasping. Even for an out-of-control market, even in a well-loved piece of architecture, asking seven figures for a room seemed way over the top. Would anyone actually buy it?

Indeed: “It wasn’t a problem selling studios at these price points,” says James Lansill of the Sunshine Group, which markets 165 Charles. The building now has takers for all but its last studio, with one fetching a record $1.425 million two weeks ago. “If we had more, I’m certain they would have sold,” says Lansill. “We’ve had lots of inquiries.” Other properties are also flirting with the seven-figure mark: The Time Warner building has a 370-square-foot space priced at $995,000 (available, presumably for servants or kids, only to those who purchase a bigger pad), and the new-kid-on-the-block Park Avenue Place on East 55th Street is listing 628-square-foot boxes for at least $990,000. “It’s like that Kevin Costner movie,” says Michele Kleier, president of Gumley Haft Kleier. “If you build it, they will come; if you price it higher, they will come even faster.”

In this case, “they” means business tycoons, Wall Street hotshots, rich foreigners, and young Hollywood types who’ll pay anything for a pied-à-terre in ultrafashionable environs. Citi-Habitats agent Tess Young had a fashionista client who scotched her plans to buy a one-bedroom in a typical building in favor of a 607-square-foot $700,000 studio at Windsor Park, the former Helmsley Hotel bearing the architectural stamp of Gwathmey Siegel. “She wanted the cachet,” Young explains. Some buyers also liken purchasing a high-caliber studio to collecting art. Interior designer Alex Fradkoff coveted one of the 165 Charles apartments, saying that living there would’ve been the ultimate homage to high design. “The space itself was so exciting I forgot it was a studio,” he says. (Another buyer beat him to the finish line.)

For many others, paying a million dollars for a superexpensive starter apartment means adopting a small-fish-in-a-big-pond mentality in exchange for rarefied surroundings. “Not everyone can have the $3 million two-bedroom, so why not the smaller space you can afford and be part of an elite group?” asks broker Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern, who has shown a handful of high-end studios to her clients. Besides, she says, “you’re better off not buying the best apartment in a worse building because in down times, the name buildings are the ones that will still hold their value.” In other words, it’s practical.

Boho Chic Returns to the Village
Fashion designer Nanette Lepore and her husband, the artist and singer Robert Savage, have finally closed on the 6,200-square-foot, five-bedroom Greenwich Village townhouse they bought last fall for $6.4 million. Lepore, whose recent Russian-bohemian-chic runway collection was well received by critics, expects her new abode to be a radical departure from the ultrastreamlined Noho loft she and Savage have occupied for two and a half years, and which they’re preparing to put on the market. Still, she’s excited about the whole prospect. “I get to discover a new neighborhood,” Lepore says with enthusiasm. And she’ll be able to indulge in lots of backyard barbecues, which she enjoys hosting, usually in the couple’s East Hampton summer getaway. Lepore says renovations will soon be under way, but she has no plans to strip the 1860s structure of its charm. “I don’t want to take a traditional space and modernize it to the hilt,” she explains. s.j.r.

Triple Assessment
505 Greenwich Street, Apartment 10G
One-bedroom, one-bath, 722-square-foot condo.
Asking price: $949,000.
Charges and taxes: $517 per month.
Broker: Christopher Mathieson, JC DeNiro & Associates.

The owner of this one-bedroom condo had just signed a contract (for a bit less than $700,000) when he met his boyfriend; by the time he closed on the apartment, they had already decided to move in together, and it went back on the market within a week. No worries, though: Our panelists deem it an easy sell.

Sharon Barros, Gumley Haft Kleier: Though the square footage is ample for a one-bedroom, Barros says it feels a tad tight—“There’s no place for dining,” she points out. “But it’s in a good building in one of the hottest parts of the city, and you have to pay for that.”
Her assessment: $925,000.

Julie Perlin, Stribling: “It’s a beautiful full-service building,” says Perlin, who especially liked its “great eastern light.” Her one concern: Should a high-rise replace the low-slung buildings across the street, “it only has one exposure.”
Her assessment: $925,000.

Edward Weiss, Century 21 William B. May: “Normally, if the floors are dark,” says Weiss of the gleaming mahogany underfoot, “a place would feel small.” But the high ceilings and the wall-to-wall windows balance the dark wood perfectly. “It’s got the look and feel of a New York condo that an up-and-comer would love to come home to—and show off.”
His assessment: $989,140.

How Cooperative! 

Feb 07, 2005

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Co-op boards and brokers, often at odds, call for summit conferences


Co-op boards and real-estate brokers traditionally have an uneasy relationship. Boards have the power to turn down buyers and kill otherwise lucrative deals, frustrating the brokers behind those sales. Brokers, in turn, are forever rolling their eyes at these rejections, finding the building’s gatekeepers capricious and difficult. (The boards, in turn, find the brokers devious and willing to do anything to make a sale.) But at a few Manhattan buildings, that fractious relationship has warmed up, as the boards have begun scheduling meetings with local brokers. After all, both have one goal at heart: making sure the prices of apartments in those buildings stay competitive.

“I wanted to see if we were missing something,” says Scott Grayson, president of the co-op at Cannon Point South, the building at 45 Sutton Place South. So he invited Elaine Clayman of Brown Harris Stevens to a specially convened board meeting; she advised the board to streamline its application process, which it promptly did. At the Future, a building at 200 East 32nd Street that also asked for her advice, Clayman and her partner, Dan Ruiz, suggested a lobby renovation, adding a roof deck, and sprucing up the plaza out front. All the suggestions were approved. “People want to buy into a building that they know will continue to increase in value,” says the building’s board president, Julio Marquez. “The brokers are the ones who are really attuned to the market.” Ruiz has given several boards the same advice this year: Clean up public areas and improve the staff’s professionalism. “The boards want to make sure they’re doing everything they can to maximize prices,” he adds. They don’t charge for consultations, preferring to make their money on the other end: “It’s to everyone’s advantage, including ours,” says Ruiz. “It becomes a B building to a broker if a luxury building falls into disrepair.”

Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier has advised boards to add a gym or do a one-shot assessment instead of raising the maintenance, because a higher monthly fee can scare off buyers. Dolly Lenz, the kingpin of high-powered brokers at Douglas Elliman, has lately met with a half-dozen “significant buildings” that asked for counseling. (Several are run by Elliman’s management division.) “They’re getting maybe $900 per square foot, and they want to bring the average sale up to $1,200. Some are already at $1,200 and want to move up,” says Lenz, who suggested upgrades like new uniforms for the doormen and lobby rehab. “They never did it before, and I don’t know why,” adds Lenz, before pausing to formulate a theory. “Maybe it’s coming to a head now, since all the Tycos of the world are making the boards more responsible and responsive.”

LeFrak City Expands to East 73rd Street!
Real-estate magnate Richard LeFrak is adding one more piece of turf to his portfolio—this time, for himself. The president and CEO of the LeFrak Organization, landlord to 70,000 New York and New Jersey households, is said to have bought the East 73rd Street town house owned by Alex Von Furstenberg. Located on the block between Fifth and Madison, the house went for $14.5 million. Von Furstenberg, who put the building on the market around the time his separation from his wife, Alexandra, became public in 2004, owned the property for only about a year and a half. Calls to Richard LeFrak’s office were not returned; the seller’s broker, Richard Steinberg of Warburg Real Estate Partnership, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the sale.

Due south, Filipina supermodel Anna Bayle has put her two-bedroom, two-bath co-op at One Fifth Avenue on the market for $1.565 million. Bayle, who strutted down catwalks in New York and Paris in the eighties for Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino and was the face of the Shiseido cosmetics line, is upgrading to a bigger place, says her broker, Elliman’s Leonard Steinberg.
—S. Jhoanna Robledo

Same Space, Different Place
Would You Walk Eighteen Blocks for a Million Dollars?
It’s axiomatic that the Upper West Side gets cheaper the more “upper” you go. Consider this pair of town houses, essentially identical: Both are four-story houses off Columbus Avenue, with their original stoops out front and a pair of apartments inside, and both were renovated a few years back, to good results. The difference? One’s on 69th Street, on a block that’s been lovely for decades; the other’s on 87th, which, until a decade or so ago, was still raffish but is now quite bourgeois. Whether the difference is worth $1.2 million—31 percent—is, of course, up to the market. We know how we’d vote.

127 West 69th Street
Four-story, two-unit town house.
Asking price: $4.995 million.
Taxes: $12,234 per year.
Broker: Anne Snee, Corcoran.

113 West 87th Street
Four-story, two-unit town house.
Asking price: $3.795 million.
Taxes: $11,593 per year.
Broker: Carol Samaras, Corcoran.

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Hot Property Book

The stars of HGTV's “Selling New York” let fans step inside the high-profile world of Manhattan real estate in a wild and one-of-a-kind novel of stormy egos, sumptuous homes, and staggering fame and fortune. Written by Michele, Samantha & Sabrina Kleier.