The Real Deal New York

Mo money, mo penthouse

Today’s top-flight homes are larger, pricier and more plentiful than ever before
By Zachary Kussin | September 06, 2014 07:00AM

There’s a $50 million penthouse with its own 61-foot pool; a $25 million penthouse with three terraces; a $24 million combination penthouse that offers three floors of living space. Then there’s the $118.5 million three-penthouse combination in Battery Park City that’s currently the priciest listing in Manhattan.

These kinds of listings used to make eyes pop and jaws drop. Now, however, while no one’s denying these are seriously luxe pads with seriously steep price tags, such deluxe penthouses are almost — almost — becoming commonplace. A total of 823 homes whose listings included the word “penthouse” hit the market in the first 29 weeks of 2014, according to data from website StreetEasy. That’s up from 800 penthouse listings during the same period in 2013.

And not only are more penthouses hitting the market, they’re also pricier and bigger than ever before. So far this year, the median asking price is $3.975 million — that’s a whopping $1 million jump from the median price recorded last year. And their median measurement this year is 2,407 square feet, up from the median size of 2,001 square feet last year.

With so many ultra-pricey, oversized pads hitting the market, is 2014 fast becoming the year of the penthouse? Michelle Griffith, an agent at Trump International Realty (who has two penthouses, one nearly $25 million and the other $35 million, on the market at 502 Park Avenue), says that it is. “New development is in full swing and the luxury market is seeing spectacular penthouses being marketed in Manhattan,” she told Luxury Listings NYC. Though listed in 2013, her penthouses are currently seeing “through-the-roof” activity from interested buyers, she said.

What’s driving the penthouse bonanza? In a general sense, luxury housing — which, of course, includes penthouses — has rebounded and proliferated since the market crash, or “become vogue again,” in the words of Vickey Barron, a broker at Douglas Elliman. Barron is handling sales at the luxe Walker Tower at 212 West 18th Street, where the $50.9 million sale of a penthouse broke a downtown sale record early this year.

“Luxury service and status is of interest to a lot of people,” she said. “There are some deep pockets and everyone wants the best piece.”

But in this famously nonconformist city, the “best piece” usually translates to something one-of-a-kind. “What’s driving the market right now at the high end is unique space,” said appraiser Jonathan Miller. “People want something that’s different, especially at these high price points.”

This comes as a transition in the city’s luxury housing market. In the 1980s and 1990s, according to Miller, a “penthouse” generally meant that the home was located at the top of a building and that it had modest outdoor space. Layout-wise, these homes were simply continuations of all the comparatively more humble apartments below them; builders tried to charge more for them and the market resisted the push, he said.

Now, “the one defining characteristic is that there is not another unit very similar to it in the same building,” Miller said. (Think incomparable views and amenities.) “You’re creating a unique asset among the building that is unique to begin with. It’s a subset of a small subset.”

It’s also a collector’s item that comes with a big premium, said Urban Compass president Leonard Steinberg. “There’s something unique and special about it,” he explains, comparing a singular penthouse to a priceless painting. “It can’t be replicated easily.”

Steinberg has the co-exclusive listing for Jon Bon Jovi’s 158 Mercer Street duplex penthouse, which returned to the market in April for $37.5 million after a hiatus and a broker switch. In its listing, he details the 7,452-square-foot home’s panoramic, protected views of the surrounding neighborhood, which add to this home’s one-of-a-kind nature. “You try to replicate those views in Soho, it’s impossible,” he said.

The people purchasing a penthouse-sized slice of the pie typically come in one of two types, according to Barron: local New York City buyers who have the money and want to upgrade, and wealthy foreign buyers, who likely won’t live in the apartments full-time. “It’s like a fly-through penthouse,” she said.

And just like the owner can get bragging rights by buying such a property, its builders can kvell over having this type of trophy in their portfolio. “I think 10 years ago, they were scared to do it because it would take 10 years to sell,” Barron said of developers, “but now the buyers are out there.”

Moreover, a penthouse can boost a building’s standing in New York’s ultra-competitive market. “It’s a brand builder for the whole building,” Steinberg said. “And I think it does raise values.”

Read on for a look at some of the glitziest penthouses to hit the market this year.

$118.5 million
10 West Street

Impossible to ignore is the $118.5 million combination penthouse listing at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City — currently the city’s priciest, according to StreetEasy. Dubbed “the Penthouse Collection,” these three condominium penthouse homes being sold by broker Ryan Serhant together hit the market in late June and encompass the building’s top two floors. Interior space totals a whopping 15,434 square feet and houses three kitchens, 12 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and 360-degree views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Outdoor space totals a healthy 2,200 square feet spread across four terraces. The lucky buyer here will have access to Ritz-Carlton hotel amenities, such as housekeeping services, valet parking and room service.

$50 million
551 West 21st Street

The crown jewel at this Norman Foster-designed condo building in Chelsea hit the market this spring for $50 million. The 6,265-square-foot full-floor spread, still under construction, will come with three bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms. The 4,000-square-foot private rooftop garden will accommodate a 61-foot pool, two kitchens with gas grills, as well as sitting and dining areas. Other sweet features include 12-foot ceilings, white oak herringbone flooring, a 35-foot dining room and a 33-foot private loggia just off the 1,000-square-foot master suite. Brown Harris Stevens’ Erin Boisson Aries and Heather Cook are handling sales at the building.

$29.995 million
61 Fifth Avenue

Head to Greenwich Village to check out this triplex condo penthouse, which came online in April for $29.995 million. Elliman’s Fredrik Eklund and John Gomes have this listing, which measures 5,924 square feet of interior living space and an additional 1,901 square feet of outdoor roof terrace space with a kitchenette and a gas grill. Inside, there are 19-foot ceilings.

$28.5 million
27 Wooster Street

This Thomas Juul-Hansen-designed condo penthouse home packs quite the punch. On the market since May for $28.5 million, this duplex measures 6,700 square feet and comes with five bedrooms, four bathrooms and two half bathrooms. The living room, which features a fireplace, leads out to a 3,100-square-foot terrace with a 33-foot pool. The master suite has marble slab flooring in its bathroom, plus double rain shower heads with a steam shower. Leave lighting and window shades to smart-home technology, which controls them. Elliman’s Raphael De Niro has this listing.

$25 million
17 East 12th Street

Here’s a quick count: two floors, three exposures, four terraces, five bedrooms (plus an option for creating a sixth), 11-foot ceilings and a $25 million asking price. Located in a boutique development, this 4,743-square-foot condo in Greenwich Village hit the market in June. It has a 50-foot-wide living area with glass folding walls that open onto a terrace. The master suite measures 1,000 square feet and has its own terrace that’s 50 feet wide. The home has six full bathrooms (two of which are in the master) and one half bathroom. Douglas Elliman Development Marketing’s Darren Sukenik and Karen Mansour are leading sales at this project.

$21 million
400 East 67th Street

This $21 million Lenox Hill condo penthouse, listed in July, packs a total of 7,200 square feet of combined indoor and outdoor space. Of particular note is the home’s two-story rooftop terrace, which features a wooden pergola with built-in heating, a fireplace and a television, as well as an outdoor kitchen and lawn space. Inside, the penthouse spans a full floor. The media room features a television projector that lowers from the ceiling, and the great room has 12-foot ceilings and large windows. In sum, the home has three bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. Adam Modlin of the Modlin Group has the listing.