The Real Deal New York

Foreigners opting for townhouses over condos

December 20, 2013 08:17AM

The Harkness mansion on the Upper East Side

The Harkness mansion at 4 East 75th Street on the Upper East Side

Wealthy foreigners are starting to look past glitzy condominiums and instead opt for older townhouses, a move that brokers say gives them a bigger bang for their buck and a greater measure of privacy.

The average price per square foot of a townhouse in Manhattan in the third quarter of this year was $1,144, compared to $1,379 for condos, according to data from Miller Samuel. At the top of the market, however, the gap is far wider: a record breaking $88 million sale at 15 Central Park West last year commanded a price of over $13,000 per square foot, but the most expensive townhouse sale, that of the Harkness Mansion in 2006 for $53 million, brought in about $2,440 per square foot.

“Usually when I get a call and it’s a foreign buyer, I’m pulling out my new development Rolodex,” Halstead Property’s Brian Lewis told the Wall Street Journal. But that has started to change.

One of the main reasons for this shift is condo boards increasing scrutiny of buyers’ finances, Halstead’s Sarah Parsons told the Journal, something foreign buyers find unpalatable. “It’s almost like a co-op board,” she said.

Townhouses have a reputation of being cumbersome to maintain, something that used to dissuade foreign buyers who put a premium on convenience, according to the Journal. But Prime Manhattan Residential’s Robert Dankner told the newspaper that he had “seen more of an emerging trend with buyers who don’t live here full time embracing the townhouse market.” [WSJ]  – Hiten Samtani

  • John

    I bought an investment property few years ago and wanted to rent it most of the time. Since I heard that the condo boards are kind of becoming like co-op ones (meaning very demanding), I also opted for a townhouse under the advice of my broker at Corcoran. However, when owning a townhouse you don’t have a super that you can contact for tenants requests or maintenance issues like snow cleaning. It was needed to work with a management company, especially because I live abroad. My broker advised me to reach out to XL Real Property Management which handles everything smoothly for me. So far so good – I’m happy with my investment.