The Real Deal New York

Million dollar babies

Sales of top-dollar Manhattan homes set to break an all-time record this year
By Julie Strickland | September 06, 2014 07:00AM

The number of uber-luxury home sales in New York City at or above the $15 million mark hit a post-recession high over the past 12 months, with 76 closed sales at that price recorded in Manhattan.

At the current pace, $15 million-and-up sales are on track to set an all-time record in 2014, according to Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

The last time the number of deals at that threshold was this high was in 2008, when 90 sales at or above $15 million were recorded, according to city property data.

Of the 76 closed sales at or above $15 million, 24 were located in new condominium developments, the data show. And that number — currently accounting for roughly 30 percent of the sales in the price bracket — is expected to continue to rise.

“I think that number is undercounting, in the sense that there’s a lot of [new condo purchases] just starting to close now,” Miller said. “That’s going to occur with increasing frequency, so I would suspect that the $15 million-plus market will be more like 50 percent new development, if not more.”

The push for both higher price points and buyer interest in new high-end development is driven by two main factors, Miller said: costly land on which increasingly expensive residential product is being built, and a global phenomenon of international investors seeking a safe haven for their capital.

“I like to say we’re building the world’s most expensive safety deposit boxes,” Miller quipped.

At the top of the chart was the $70 million purchase of an apartment at 960 Fifth Avenue, an all-time record for a co-op. Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris purchased the penthouse owned by the estate of the late Seagram’s chief Edgar Bronfman in June.

Another co-op deal for $70 million took place at 740 Park Avenue. An apartment there, which has long served as the official residence of the French ambassador to the United Nations, was reportedly sold to hedge fund founder Israel Englander, also in June.

The $15 million threshold represents an upper echelon of the market that is increasingly detached from the mainstream. While there are more homes available at that price point than in past years, it still represents only the top 0.7 percent of all closed sales — less than 1 percent of the entire market.

The sales at or above $15 million over the last year were all concentrated in Manhattan. The priciest property sale in Brooklyn — a three-bedroom townhouse at 12 College Place in Brooklyn Heights — went for $8.67 million in November, while the priciest in Queens — a seven-bedroom house at 72 Tennis Place in Forest Hills — sold for $4.3 million the same month. The highest sales in both Staten Island and the Bronx were under $3 million.