The highs and lows (mostly lows) of luxury-market dealmaking

Past four weeks have seen 90% drop in pricey Manhattan home sales

301 East 80th Street and the penthouse at 112 Franklin Street (Credit: Beckford Tower and Atelier)
301 East 80th Street and the penthouse at 112 Franklin Street (Credit: Beckford Tower and Atelier)

The owner of the $4 million-plus penthouse at 112 Franklin Street accepted an offer in late February. By mid March, the stock market had plunged and the buyer had walked away. Then a second offer fell over — also a victim of the coronavirus.

So broker Wendy Maitland of Atelier WM circled back to the original buyer, who agreed to a deal with concessions.

The contract — one of only two signed last week for Manhattan homes asking $4 million or more — shows how the unpredictable economy is shaping negotiations in New York’s luxury market, increasing pressure on brokers as they try to keep expensive deals in motion.

The past four weeks have been brutal. Just eight contracts were signed for Manhattan properties above $4 million, a 90 percent drop from the 84 contracts in the same period last year. The total asking-price for those eight homes was $71.2 million — down from $675.5 million for the 84 deals.

The industry has adapted to the pandemic, and virtual tours are now commonplace. However, the data suggests end-to-end virtual deals in the luxury sales market are still rare.

“I’ve only had one in the last month that was not seen in person and that [buyer] was an investor,” said Donna Olshan, CEO of Olshan Realty and author of the report, referring to the contracts she documents.

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Manhattan luxury contracts down 90% from last year

The final asking price on the two-bedroom Franklin Street penthouse was $4.2 million, down from the sellers’ desired price of $4.6 million. (Maitland persuaded them to set the price lower.)

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Edging that contract out for the No. 1 spot last week was a fifth-floor apartment at 301 East 80th Street, which was asking about $4.9 million.

Judith Gillis of Brown, Harris Stevens represented the buyers — a couple from Brazil.

According to Gillis, her clients had bought a condo in Tribeca 10 years ago but the husband always wanted to live Uptown. They started looking for a place in January and visited the East 8oth Street property in person on a trip to New York.

“The wife loved the building right away,” Gillis said. “It was their style. It had everything they wanted: location, the building, and the amenities.”

The seller accepted an offer from the couple in February but the escalating pandemic caused negotiations to stall. When they got restarted, the seller agreed to some concessions and the contract was signed April 15.

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at