“Bidding war”: $28M townhouse tops luxury deals in Manhattan

Brokers see uptick in contract activity, but volume still far off last year

14 East 11th Street and 21 East 61st Street (StreetEasy)
14 East 11th Street and 21 East 61st Street (StreetEasy)

The most expensive Manhattan property to go into contract last week says a lot about the contradictory realities of New York’s luxury market right now.

Though buyers are returning, sellers and sponsors are still not out of the woods.

A townhouse at 14 East 11th Street — which notched the week’s priciest contract — was listed for $28.5 million in July and ended in a bidding war between three buyers, according to listing broker Jeremy Stein of Sotheby’s International Realty.

But in the luxury market overall, deals are down 30 percent from last year, according to Donna Olshan of Olshan Realty. This means sellers are often forced to lower their prices. The owner of the 7,411-square-foot townhouse at East 11th Street, for example, bought the property in 2017 for $21 million and invested $9 million in renovations. While the sale price is unknown, it appears likely they sold it at a loss.

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In total, there were 16 deals last week for Manhattan properties above $4 million, according to Olshan’s latest market report. That’s two more than the prior week and a sharp uptick from the dark days of the lockdown, when deals averaged four per week.

While the momentum is promising, Olshan said it’s difficult to draw conclusions from incremental fluctuations, noting that deals are often price sensitive.

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Another property to go into contract last week — a four-bedroom unit at 221 West 77th Street — was last asking $8.75 million; the seller paid $10.5 million for it in 2017.

“The data says something, and then you have to go into the data and try to figure out what that really means,” Olshan said. “Week in, week out it comes down to one giant thing: It’s called price.”

The second most expensive deal was unit 14A at 21 East 61st Street, which was asking $15.45 million. The seller paid $24.23 million for it in 2015 and listed it last April for $24.9 million.

The co-op unit has five bedrooms, five-and-a-half bathrooms and three terraces. Listing broker Brad Ingalls of Sotheby’s International Realty said the buyers were a family from Brooklyn who had visited the home some five times, both before and after lockdown.

Patty Lehan of Douglas Elliman, who represented the buyers, said it was a “great deal.”

“At the end of the day,” she added, “it made them feel good about buying it.”