Elliman retail partner buys at Manhattan House

Joseph Aquino, executive vice president of retail leasing and sales at Prudential Douglas Elliman, has closed on a $1.48 million apartment at Manhattan House, the controversial Upper East Side condominium that his firm is marketing, according to sources and government records.  

The deal makes Aquino one of the first buyers at the 200 East 66th Street tower, which just began closing apartment sales last month following a year-long conversion process.  

“He bought when the offering was first presented,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail leasing and sales division at Elliman and Aquino’s long-time business partner. “He’s very happy. It’s a wonderful building.” Aquino was not immediately available for comment.

The move comes at a time when several major commercial banks, including Citibank, have decided not to underwrite mortgage loans at Manhattan House or have asked buyers for down payments of up to 50 percent. JPMorgan Chase officials said they were only following guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which call for banks to lend in new condo conversions only when more than half of available units are sold.

As of this week, more than 120 apartments in the 583-unit building are under contract, and 15 deals have closed. About six apartments were sold for cash, with the remaining were financed with down payments of at least 25 percent, according to sources and city records. The building has another 190 rent-stabilized and 35 market-rate rental tenants.

Manhattan House officials have been under pressure to boost sales at the building. The sponsor, O’Connor Capital Partners, lost a December 2007 court battle to evict existing 31 market-rate tenants, which left him with fewer available units to sell, although the case is under appeal. The building’s Germany-based lender, HSH Nordbank was forced to assume the risk on the Manhattan House loan after a deal to syndicate it fell apart.

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Aquino and his wife Suzanne closed on their apartment, unit A1107, late last month. The 1,113-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment was originally listed at $1.48 million and was taken off the market nine months ago after the Aquinos signed a contract, according to Streeteasy.com and records filed with the city Department of Finance.

City records show that JPMorgan underwrote one mortgage for $1.1 million and a second mortgage for $234,142 for the Aquino unit, leaving a down payment balance of about 10 percent.

Prudential Vice Chairman Dolly Lenz, who leads the Elliman brokerage team selling units in Manhattan House, confirmed that Aquino bought a unit at Manhattan House, but declined to offer any other details about his purchase or the overall pace of sales at the building.

“We can confirm that Mr. Aquino has bought in Manhattan House and the relationship with our buyers prohibits us from providing purchase details with the media.”

One high-profile buyer, according to published reports, is Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has signed a contract to buy a three-bedroom apartment at Manhattan House. Retired Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino previously shopped around for apartments at Manhattan House. CNBC superstar Maria Bartiromo is a former Manhattan House resident, but sources say she moved out after the conversion process began in 2007.