The Real Deal New York

In the lapse of luxury

Weakness in the top tiers of real estate means a bonanza for big-name buyers, but trying times for normally high-flying sellers
By Judy Messina | January 01, 2017 10:00AM

The chairman and CEO of TouchTunes Interactive Network, Charles Goldstuck, scooped up this 10,000-squarefoot, seven-bedroom house in Greenwich’s waterfront enclave Belle Haven for below asking price.

The weakness in the high-end real estate markets in Westchester and Fairfield counties created winners and losers among high-profile names last year as Wall Streeters, tech entrepreneurs and media moguls all scored bargains — while sellers took their lumps.

Average luxury prices in Westchester were down 6.9 percent in the third quarter year over year, landing at $2,434,731, and listings lingered on the market longer than in the previous year while the percentage of price cuts was up, according to a Douglas Elliman report by real estate consulting fi rm Miller Samuel. There were more home sales overall in the third quarter than in any other quarter in 35 years, but most of the activity was in the entry and middle sections of the market, refl ecting similar conditions in other high priced U.S. housing markets such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel.

Shrinking Wall Street bonuses and overbuilding in high-end suburban markets are partly to blame, Miller said. And the market for luxury homes is massively in favor of those looking to buy. “These properties don’t sell unless [sellers] give large discounts,” he said. As a result, many high-priced houses are languishing on the market, said Coldwell Banker agent Michele Flood. “The luxury market is down and there’s a huge amount of inventory,” she said. At the end of November there were 232 homes for sale in Westchester priced at $3 million or higher, including a $23 million property in Mount Kisco that had been on the market for 786 days, according to Flood.

The same is true in neighboring Fairfi eld, where average luxury prices were down 13.8 percent year over year in the third quarter, according to the Douglas Elliman report.

Read on to see how the effects of the softening luxury market cut both ways for titans of industry.

BUYERS WHO BENEFITED

Adam Neumann

Adam Neumann,
Co-founder of workspace-sharing company WeWork

Neumann and his wife, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, bought a 60-acre estate in Westchester’s Pound Ridge last January from former Simon & Schuster publishing executive Dick Snyder.  Originally listed at a whopping $22 million, the Neumanns picked it up for just $15 million, according to the Lohud real estate database. Dating from 1929, the 61-acre property boasts a 13,700-square-foot main house, a stable, riding ring, pool and tennis court and, if that’s not bucolic enough, borders a 4,400-acre nature preserve. Dan Ginnel of Ginnel Real Estate brokered the off-market deal. WeWork’s sites are home to hundreds of tech and other startups in 19 U.S. cities and 13 other countries. In 2016, Neumann was named the 89th richest person in tech by Forbes and the 16th richest American entrepreneur under the age of 40.  Forbes estimates Neumann’s net worth at $2.4 billion.

Strauss Zelnick,
Head of private equity firm Zelnick Media

Last January, the media investor put down $7.1 million for Whelpley Farm, a 23-acre property in the northern Westchester town of Bedford. The price was 45 percent below its original $12.95 million listing in 2009 and followed two reductions.  Built in 1936, the 8,160 square-foot fieldstone mansion has six bedrooms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis court, formal gardens, carriage house and stable. Dan Ginnel of Ginnel Real Estate was also the broker on that deal. In June, Zelnick, the former CEO of BMG Entertainment, had sold his McLain Street home in Bedford for $4.95 million; he bought the property in 1995.

Michael Price,
Head of hedge fund MFP Investors

Last June, Price scored a discount on a 13-room waterfront estate on the Long Island Sound in Westchester’s Rye for $21.15 million, down from its $25 million October 2015 listing. Among other things, the estate has a pool and guest quarters, as well as a dog room complete with bath. The seller was Oliver Stanton, co-owner of Trammo, a commodities trading company headquartered at 1 Rockefeller Plaza. Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty brokered the sale.

Alfred Eskandar,
Co-founder of the trading platform Liquidnet and now CEO of trading management system Portware

Eskandar, who was ranked 33 on Institutional Investor’s 2016 list of top trading technology luminaries, paid $4.1 million in December for a new, seven-bedroom house in Greenwich. Built in 2015, the house went for a bit less ($45,000) than its September listing price. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties brokered the sale.

Michael Yavonditte,
Founder and CEO of ad tech company Yieldmo

Yavonditte picked up a five-bedroom Georgian house on two acres in Greenwich last spring for $3.62 million, down from the $3.72 million it was first listed at in January. The 7,106-square-foot house backs onto the 300-acre Babcock Preserve.  Yavonditte sold his first company, Quigo, to AOL in 2007 for $340 million. A prolific angel investor, he also has stakes in dozens of other internet-based companies. Sotheby’s International Realty brokered the deal.

Ali al Fayed,
Owner of Turnbull & Asser and Savile Row Society and, along with his brother Mohamed al Fayed, a stake in Harrods department store in London

Al Fayed, the longtime owner of a 3.6-acre waterfront estate in Greenwich, bought two units in a cooperative/condominium on the Long Island Sound in December, paying a total of $3.89 million for them. He was the uncle of Dodi al Fayed, the boyfriend of Princess Diana, who died with her in a 1997 automobile crash in Paris.

Charles B. Goldstuck,
Chairman and CEO of TouchTunes Interactive Network

In January, as Zelnick was purchasing his farm in Bedford, fellow former BMG executive Goldstuck picked up a 10,000-square-foot house on Field Point Road in the tony Belle Haven section of Greenwich. The seven-bedroom home sold for $8.6 million, down slightly from its original listing of $8.85 million in April 2015. Independent Realtors brokered the deal.

SELLERS WHO SUFFERED

Former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit (inset) sold his home for 37 percent less than the original asking price.

Vikram Pandit,
Former Citigroup CEO

In October, after five price reductions, Pandit sold his Pecksland Road house in Greenwich for $2.7 million, down 37 percent from the $4.3 million he asked for the house when he first listed the property in April 2012. The 1939 six-bedroom colonial sits on two acres. Houlihan Lawrence brokered the deal.

It took three price cuts totaling $2.6 million for Hussah Princess Abdulaziz to sell her Greenwich house.

Estate of Hussah Princess Abdulaziz,
Member of the Saudi royal family

Last September, the estate of the princess sold her 12,600-square-foot colonial in Greenwich for $5.6 million. The house, built in 1906, is on 10 acres and has a pool, tennis court and 11 bathrooms. The estate, too, settled for less. The price came down three times over the 15 months after it was first listed in June 2015 at $8.2 million. Douglas Elliman brokered the deal.

Elizabeth Hasselback

Elisabeth Hasselbeck,
Talk show host

Hasselbeck and her sports commentator husband, Tim, also had to accept a bit less than they wanted for their 7,600-square-foot colonial in Greenwich, which has a pool and sits on 1.5 acres of land. They took $4.46 million for the home, down slightly from the original asking price of $4.795 million. The broker was Centric Property Group.

Andrew Caspersen,
Former partner at the Park Hill Group

Caspersen is one of the sons of the late billionaire chairman of the Beneficial Corporation, a consumer finance company. He was convicted by a Manhattan jury in 2015 of fraud in connection with a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of nearly $40 million. After his arrest, Caspersen reportedly put up his Bronxville house as part of a $5 million bond. Later he sold the house, a six-bedroom, 1934 Georgian brick home on Library Lane, for $3 million, down from the $3.23 million he paid for it just a year earlier. Houlihan Lawrence was the broker.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Hussah Princess Abdulaziz rather than the estate of Hussah Princess Abdulaziz was the seller of a home in Greenwich.