Selling an eccentric Manhattan apartment: PHOTOS

All listings claim to be one-of-a-kind, but here’s how brokers sell the truly offbeat property

March 14, 2013 04:00PM
By Hayley Kaplan

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Every broker likes to declare that he or she is marketing that one apartment in New York City that stands out from the rest. But a “unique” listing is not always an easy listing, particularly when a home comes with a pool in its living room, wall-to-wall (and floor-to-ceiling) marble or irregularly slanted windows.

Such eccentric properties often experience chaotic rides on the market, as owners make hefty price cuts or switch listing brokers.

For example, after going on and off the market several times since February 2009, film producer Stuart Parr’s famed “Marble House” finally sold last week for $9.47 million — a far cry from its original listing price of $24.5 million. That may have something to do with four different types of imported marble coating the condominium, as well as the three Murano glass chandeliers.

The 9,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom apartment at 60 Collister Street was most recently listed by John Gomes and Fredrik Eklund of Douglas Elliman for a hair under $15 million in November. Eklund and Gomes declined to comment for this story.

Initially, Deborah Grubman and of the Corcoran Group and Carol Cohen, now of Brown Harris Stevens, listed the apartment before taking it on and off the market several times. Then, in August 2010, it was relisted for $18.5 million with Eklund and Gomes.

Indeed, marketing an idiosyncratic apartment in Manhattan takes finesse, brokers told The Real Deal, perhaps because there are so few truly original properties in a city full of high-end real estate.

“The reality is, being unique itself is an achievement,” Elliman’s Leonard Steinberg said. Steinberg’s team has been marketing a 3,000-square-foot duplex penthouse at 497 Greenwich Street in Soho, which features sloping, exposed glass windows.

“You have to first identify clearly what makes the property so unique,” he said. “Look for collective quality items — the things that are really difficult to replicate.”

Brokers agreed that when marketing a property closely tied with an owner’s or architect’s personality, it is important to deemphasize some of the seller’s artifacts.

“The goal is to reveal the unique feature but take away some of the personal effects, so it goes to the staging and curb appeal of the uniqueness,” said Stan Ponte of Sotheby’s International Realty. “That’s really important because those unique qualities are important but sometimes buyers can’t get past the uniqueness of the owner too.”

Ponte was marketing the so-called Pool House — a townhouse at 232 West 15th Street in Chelsea — before it was taken off the market in September. The $9.95 million home famously has a pool in its living room, along with six bedrooms and five bathrooms. The owner, listed in property records as the Kirk and Britt McMurray Trust, is currently renovating the home before relisting it, Ponte said.

The Pool House, like the Marble House, has been on a roller coaster listing ride. Maggie Kent of Core previously listed the property for almost $11 million in February 2011, when it was featured on “Selling New York.” Ponte then listed it for about $1 million less last March.

Equally important when listing unique digs is marketing them to the right audience, and brokers go about this in a variety of ways.

Since 497 Greenwich hit the market for $14 million last week, Kane Manera of Elliman, who is working with Steinberg, said he has tried to market the space to Downtown clientele, holding several events there so brokers and potential buyers can see the place and generate buzz.

“It’s not about the home, it’s about [people] being there and having experiences and telling other people and having a response from it — whether or not they like it — and sharing that response with other people,” Manera said.

Meanwhile, Ponte emphasized that marketing is especially important with one-of-a-kind homes because luxury properties already tend to stay on the market longer.

“Be ready to keep marketing over the long haul because you might be looking for the needle-in-a-haystack buyer,” he said.

In the past, Ponte said he has targeted his advertising to specific geographic areas, marketing an apartment that might be right for a West Coaster in Los Angeles and a property that could appeal to a foreign buyer overseas.

However, sometimes selling a home’s eccentricities comes down to writing a meticulous description and taking careful photos for the listing.

Lauren Muss of the Corcoran Group did both before listing the penthouse at 225 East 24th Street earlier this month for just under $6 million. The two-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom duplex penthouse is not only covered in recycled barn wood and Portuguese slate but also features offbeat flourishes such as heavy soundproofing and a Zen stone garden.

Muss said she paid four times more than she usually would to hire an architectural photographer recommended by the seller to do the listing photos.

“I thought in this case it needed it because it was a unique property,” Muss said. “It showed the property in a more special light.”

When it comes to valuing unique properties, Ponte said, the market dictates the price, much as it does with more run-of-the-mill homes. “Pricing is always market dependent and individual to each situation,” he said.

What it all comes down to, though, is finding the one unique buyer to match the one-of-a-kind space, sources said.

“Once we’ve gotten out into the marketplace like we are now then it’s about capturing the right type of buyers,” Manera said, “and that is the trying part, and that is the most interesting part.”

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