Foreigners opting for townhouses over condos

The Harkness mansion at 4 East 75th Street on the Upper East Side
The Harkness mansion at 4 East 75th Street on the Upper East Side

Wealthy foreigners are starting to look past glitzy condominiums and instead opt for older townhouses, a move that brokers say gives them a bigger bang for their buck and a greater measure of privacy.

The average price per square foot of a townhouse in Manhattan in the third quarter of this year was $1,144, compared to $1,379 for condos, according to data from Miller Samuel. At the top of the market, however, the gap is far wider: a record breaking $88 million sale at 15 Central Park West last year commanded a price of over $13,000 per square foot, but the most expensive townhouse sale, that of the Harkness Mansion in 2006 for $53 million, brought in about $2,440 per square foot.

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“Usually when I get a call and it’s a foreign buyer, I’m pulling out my new development Rolodex,” Halstead Property’s Brian Lewis told the Wall Street Journal. But that has started to change.

One of the main reasons for this shift is condo boards increasing scrutiny of buyers’ finances, Halstead’s Sarah Parsons told the Journal, something foreign buyers find unpalatable. “It’s almost like a co-op board,” she said.

Townhouses have a reputation of being cumbersome to maintain, something that used to dissuade foreign buyers who put a premium on convenience, according to the Journal. But Prime Manhattan Residential’s Robert Dankner told the newspaper that he had “seen more of an emerging trend with buyers who don’t live here full time embracing the townhouse market.” [WSJ]  – Hiten Samtani

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