The Real Deal New York

550 Vanderbilt is a popular destination for Chinese money – if not for the buyers themselves

A single Flushing-based law firm facilitated 27 sales at the luxury condo
By Chava Gourarie | December 06, 2017 02:30PM

550 Vanderbilt

When sales at 550 Vanderbilt finally launched in June 2015, developer Greenland Forest City Partners went above and beyond to woo Chinese buyers to the first condominium building in the Pacific Park megadevelopment.

Greenland USA, which owns a 70 percent stake in the long-delayed 278-unit project with minority partner Forest City New York, opened a sales office in Shanghai. It also created a flashy website offered in both English and Chinese.

And the strategy appears to be paying off. A swath of the building’s 278 units have been sold to foreign investors and then listed for rent, according to an analysis of closed sales data by The Real Deal and subsequent interviews with lawyers.

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Jeremy Wang, founding partner of the Flushing-based Yeung & Wang PLLC, said his firm flew to Shanghai after hearing about the 17-story condo project here in New York. “There was a big rolling out in China,” Wang said, so he went to meet with prospective buyers and found that, “there seemed to be a lot of interest.”

Three law firms that worked primarily with Chinese buyers facilitated at least 57 closed sales at the building, and two-thirds of those units were subsequently rented or listed for rent, according to data from PropertyShark and StreetEasy. Yeung & Wang represented clients on 27 sales; Yang & Associates PC, another Flushing-based firm, facilitated 17 sales; Jun Wang & Associates, based in Manhattan, represented Chinese clients on another 13 sales.

Of the 57 units bought through the three law firms, all of which confirmed that they work with overseas Chinese clients, 31 have been rented, and seven are currently listed for rent.

The units sold for between $575,000 and $2.1 million, and were renting for between $2,200 and $3,900 a month. Another unit, a $1.5 million two-bedroom on the 16th floor, is currently asking $5,288 a month, according to StreetEasy.

Wang said most of his clients bought for investment purposes or for their children. They prefer new construction because the process is less onerous for international buyers than buying a co-op or a resale condo.

Since 2015, marketing at the building has shifted focus, and the Chinese marketing push has lessened. Greenland’s Shanghai office is less active, according to Wang, and the Chinese site is no longer updated.

Sales at the building had moved quickly in the first year, with 140 units sold by June 2016. But over the next year, sales slowed considerably, and in July, the developers swapped out Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group for Nest Seekers International’s Ryan Serhant.

According to Serhant, the building is more than 70 percent sold, and the buyers tend to be local.

Greenland Forest City has a joint 421a application pending for the market-rate 550 Vanderbilt and all-affordable 535 Carlton Avenue down the block. If the application is approved, the tax break for the luxury condo building will be extended to 25 years, instead of 15, and cut the tax bill by 97 percent. The two buildings are part of the 22-acre megadevelopment that’s 13 years in the making.