The Real Deal New York

What’s hard to find in New York

November 27, 2007
By Melissa Dehncke-McGill

While it’s never easy to find a place in Manhattan, some types of apartments are harder to find than others. Big apartments for families are scarce. And apartments in new developments where many projects are in the works but only a modest number have actually hit the market appear to be in relatively limited supply, brokers say. And of course, the best spots in the best buildings are tough to snatch.

Here’s a look at what’s rare:

Family apartments

Three or more bedrooms are increasingly difficult to find everywhere, especially on the Upper East and West Sides.

Toni Haber, a senior vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman, says, “A seven- to nine-room apartment on the Upper East Side west of Third Avenue is the hardest to find right now.”

She says this is caused by lack of inventory and more affluent families staying in Manhattan because they want to cut down commuting times.

Donna Olshan of Olshan Realty says good three-bedrooms under $2.2 million are in the most demand from the buyer on the precipice of going to the suburbs.

“They want to stay in the city badly but they are getting squeezed out,” she says. “It’s hard to find a two-bedroom under $1 million, or any good quality condo under $1,200 a square foot in a decent location that doesn’t need a lot of renovation.”

New construction

With increasingly stringent co-op boards and limited supply, brokers say new condos are a much-sought commodity. There are many new projects under construction, but relatively few that are ready for occupancy.

In late August, the offering plan for Fifteen Central Park West was approved; within two days, the marketers had sent out 50 purchase contracts.

The building will have 202 apartments averaging around $4 million each, but it will be another 18 months before the building is finished.

“Buyers need to put down 15 percent on signing and another 10 percent in six months,” says Haber. “A lot of them are New Yorkers.”

Olshan says Fifteen Central Park West will deliver the large apartments that many buyers, families included, crave.

“They got a premium architect in Robert A.M. Stern and views with big floor plans,” she says.

Olshan, however, adds that Central Park West has been in a drought for over a year and Fifteen Central Park West is not going to alleviate the situation. With such demand for conventional large family-sized apartments, Olshan says the solution is often to put two apartments together.

“I did three deals in 2004 because people couldn’t find the space,” she says. “At 50 Gramercy Park North [another new project], there are 23 units, but buyers are putting half of the units together.”

Mid-priced new construction can start at $1,500 a foot, so condo buyers looking for a deal go to condos built in the 1980s and now in need of renovation. Even then, it’s hard to find a deal.

“If you look at the inventory in any category there isn’t enough,” Olshan says. “And interest rates aren’t going to rise under the prevailing conditions. People who don’t buy this fall will be priced out.”

In the best buildings

“The hardest property to find is 11 rooms and up in the 60s and 70s,” says A. Laurance Kaiser IV, president of Key-Ventures, “There are few properties in the best buildings and almost nothing on a high floor.

“Everything is death or divorce,” he adds. “When Clinton changed the tax rules, the taxes were too high, so the elderly stay in their 18-room apartments until they pass on.”

Also in the posh residence category, large townhouses in mint condition in the East 60s and 70s with traditional renovations are also very difficult to find, brokers say.

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