Trophy listings at lower prices

<i> Five of the most lavish New York properties still looking for buyers</i>

The ranks of Manhattan’s super-high-end listings may have shrunk over the past year, but the city still boasts a number of properties with sales prices north of $30 million.

It’s no surprise that few of these mega-listings have traded in the last year, with the global financial crisis paralyzing potential buyers. But now, very high-end listings are beginning to generate interest again, albeit at smaller price tags. (Case in point: Madonna’s new $32.5 million Upper East Side townhouse, originally listed for $42 million in October of 2008).

This month, The Real Deal looked at five of the city’s priciest listings — some new, others market fixtures — along with other noteworthy properties generating buzz this fall.

Brokers weighed in on who, if anyone, still has the money to buy these spreads, and how much they’re willing to pay.

Despite the popular perception that much of Wall Street imploded along with Lehman Brothers, many of these superwealthy purchasers still hail from the financial world, brokers said.

“In the finance community at large, tremendous reservoirs of wealth” were created during the recent boom, said Meredyth Smith, a senior vice president at Sotheby’s International Realty. “They may have been diminished slightly, but they’re still vast.”

Still, between June and August, only eight contracts for properties over $10 million were signed in Manhattan — down from 38 in 2008, according to StreetEasy.

But “the luxury market is waking up,” said one high-end broker who asked to remain anonymous. “We’re getting a market again, whereas six months ago, we had no market.”

Overseas remains a strong source of hyperwealthy buyers. Wilbur Gonzalez of Brown Harris Stevens, who is marketing a $45 million penthouse at One Madison Park, said a larger percentage of buyers than in the past hail from Asia — particularly Hong Kong, China and India.

Of course, the deep pockets of these buyers doesn’t mean $30 million-plus listings will start flying off the shelves anytime soon. “You’re seeing deals in the 20s, but I’m not sure you’re seeing deals in the 30s,” said one high-end broker.

Here’s an update on the city’s most expensive listings.

22 East 71st Street

At this time last year, the priciest listings on the market were at the Robert A.M. Stern-designed blockbuster 15 Central Park West, where apartments were reportedly asking $150 million. Now, the city’s priciest listing is about half that.

Aby Rosen’s 22 East 71st Street townhouse, former home of the now-bankrupt Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, has been listed at $75 million with Smith and her partner at Sotheby’s, Serena Boardman, since April of 2008. If the home fetches that price, it would be the highest price ever paid for a Manhattan mansion.

Rosen purchased the 21,000-square-foot house in 2004 for $15.65 million. He has said he’s in no hurry to unload it, which explains the lack of price cuts. “If it sells this year, it will sell this year; if not, it will sell next year,” Rosen told the New York Observer.

Price cuts seem even more unlikely since last month, when Rosen increased the asking price of 3 East 94th Street — another townhouse he owns — by $1 million, bringing it to $24.75 million.

The 71st Street five-story limestone mansion was designed in the 1920s by architect C. P. H. Gilbert, and is zoned for both commercial and residential use. Now that the market paralysis appears to be improving, it has recently been receiving inquiries for both uses, Smith said.

“We field inquiries and calls all the time,” she said. “I just got a call yesterday from somebody in Europe who was interested. We’re sending him more details.”

Who are these superwealthy buyers?

“I call them the phantom well-to-do,” Smith said. “You haven’t heard of them, they don’t [show up on] Google, but they’ve done extremely well in an area of finance that doesn’t have a high profile.”

25 East 77th Street, PH

The 9,799-square-foot penthouse at the reincarnated Mark Hotel has been listed for $60 million with Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group since January 2008.

The five-bedroom suite has his-and-hers master bathrooms, a living room with a 26-foot ceiling and a rooftop terrace larger than most studio apartments.

Brokers have speculated that the buyer for this penthouse could be European, especially if the euro continues to perform well. But brokers say the listing has had trouble attracting buyers for several reasons. First, it was priced at “a really big number” even for the pre-Lehman market, said one broker who is familiar with the property. In this environment, it will need to be “significantly discounted” in order to move.

But developers are, of course, loathe to cut prices because it looks “like there’s blood in the water,” said the source.

Even if the developer, the Alexico Group, is willing to negotiate, the penthouse also faces a challenge in the form of a proposed 30-story tower at 980 Madison Avenue that would block its views and light. While the tower is currently on hold, its possible resurrection still could be a deal breaker for some buyers. “The kicker is that unknown,” the broker said.

The Harkness Mansion at 4 East 75th Street

In 2006, financier J. Christopher Flowers paid $53 million for this 50-foot-wide house — the highest price ever paid for a townhouse in New York. Now, it’s quietly for sale again, for $49.95 million.

Sources confirmed that Brown Harris Stevens senior vice president and managing director Sami Hassoumi, who represented Flowers in purchasing the house, has been showing the listing, though it is not officially on the market.

One of the city’s widest townhouses, the Harkness Mansion boasts a spacious garden and a premier location just off Fifth Avenue. It is reportedly at least 20,000 square feet of space.

A downside is that the house has been gutted in preparation for a planned renovation. Flowers secured the necessary approvals, however, so the new buyer can begin work right away.

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Sources say there have been offers, but that Flowers is waiting for the right price.

16 East 69th Street

In 2000, young socialite Sloan Lindemann Barnett and her entrepreneur husband, Roger Barnett, reportedly paid about $11.25 million for this 33-foot-wide mansion.

The home, built in the late 1880s for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, had for 44 years been the American headquarters of the New York English Speaking Union.

Once the Barnetts moved in, “it took four years to renovate,” one broker said.

Roger Barnett is now the chief executive of California-based eco-product company Shaklee, and the couple moved to San Francisco in 2005. His wife, who recently penned the book “Green Goes With Everything,” is known for hosting A-list Shaklee parties in the townhouse.

But the house is now being quietly marketed to prospective buyers, the source said. And because the renovation was such a long, painstaking process, the Barnetts are unlikely to sell the house for much less than their $52 million asking price.

“They are in no rush to sell,” said the source, adding, “someone will come along and appreciate it.”

23 East 22nd Street, PHA

In an economic climate hostile to new condos, rumors have surfaced that the Cetra/Ruddy-designed One Madison Park would never be built.

That couldn’t be further from the truth, according to Gonzalez, who said the 16th-floor penthouse is virtually complete (though it’s currently being used as a storage space for construction materials), buyers have moved into the lower floors and the doormen are at their posts.

Inquiries about the 7,577-square-foot condo, asking $45 million, were rare during the fall and winter as the financial crisis raged, Gonzalez said. But since the spring, he’s been getting “consistent requests” for appointments to see the space, and they’re expected to increase once the apartment is staged this month.

International buyers have displayed the most interest so far. “The international buyers put a much higher premium on views,” he said, noting that he showed the apartment to two billionaires — one Australian, one Russian — late last month. “Most very wealthy New Yorkers can do the townhouse.”

Other noteworthy listings:

70 Broad Street

The Real Deal reported last month that the landmarked American Bank Note Company building in the Financial District has been listed for $45 million. Currently occupied by followers of Transcendental Meditation pioneer Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the newly renovated, 15,218-square-foot building is zoned for either commercial or residential.

The listing broker, Danielle Grossenbacher, senior vice president at Brown Harris Stevens, said she has gotten both domestic and foreign inquiries.

155 East 48th Street

The home of the rapidly growing New York Kabbalah Centre was taken off the market this spring but reappeared last month. The five-story, century-old building can also be commercial or residential, and is listed at $42 million. Elliman’s Avi Voda, the listing broker, said there have been “very good offers” recently, but the sellers are willing to wait for close to the asking price. “Someone will come in and pay this much,” he said. “We are getting there.”

2 East 67th Street, #5 and #3FLR

This building was the site of 2008’s record-breaking purchase by Jonathan Tisch, chief executive of Loews Hotels, who paid $48 million for an 11th-floor co-op.

Taking a cue from that sale, Unit #5 is listed by Elliman’s Dolly Lenz for $45 million, and until recently, Brown Harris Stevens’ Kathy Sloane was asking $43 million for a five-bedroom unit on the third floor.

It’s a highly sought-after building, but brokers say those were pre-Lehman prices, especially since the tough co-op board makes suitable buyers hard to find.

“Clearly,” said one high-end broker, “2 East 67th Street has not listened to the market.”

As if in response, the five-bedroom third-floor unit was cut by $5 million late last month, bringing its asking price to $38 million.

133 East 64th Street, PHA

Perhaps the most famous listing in the city, the former home of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, is on the market with Boardman and Sothebys’ Anne Corey for $9.9 million. If the speedy sale of Madoff’s Montauk home is any indication, this penthouse may no longer be on the market by the time The Real Deal is on newsstands.

778 Park Avenue, #1516

The late Brooke Astor’s Rosario Candela-designed apartment, originally listed at $46 million, is now priced to sell at $24.9 million.