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Manhattan Apartments

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The lobby of the Jumeirah Essex House on Central Park South doesn’t offer a refuge

from the hustle of nearby Seventh Avenue, but a continuation of it. The hotel now

contains some high-end apartments, but it’s still a hotel, and the piped-in jazz burbles

just above the clatter of bellmen pushing luggage and the sound of men in suits talking

loudly on cellphones. Sit still for more than a few moments, and a waiter is likely to

approach to ask if you’d like a drink, testing the fine line between luxury service and

a hard sell.

On the 40th floor of the same building, however, all was silence and celestial light

Friday afternoon in one of the building’s four penthouse condos. Outside the windows,

a thick layer of cloud floated about, as if it were an amenity designed to muffle

wayward sounds. From the living room, Central Park, perfectly framed but miniaturized

by the distance, had the look of a carefully groomed private yard.

A retired publisher, dressed in three contrasting shades of flannel (gray, dark gray

and darker gray), was touring the home with a real estate broker, considering a move.

He already had a sprawling apartment on the East Side with more square footage on

the terrace than most people in Manhattan have for indoor space, but he was interested

in room and maid service, luxuries his current building couldn’t offer.

Elsewhere in New York, certainly in places like southeast Queens and central Brooklyn,

maybe even on those winding Central Park paths that looked like the tracks of a train set,

people were probably asking themselves unanswerable questions that cloudy morning:

How would they pay their mortgage when their adjustable interest rates ballooned?

How far would the subprime market fiasco go, and would it take their jobs with it?

At the Essex House duplex for sale, the questions bandied about floated on a wholly

separate plane, one held up by at least a decade of good investments in a roaring market.

Could someone install an elevator in those hallway closets on the two floors? Might the

building allow an atrium, if not a terrace, to be built just off the bedroom?

As was widely reported last week, there seems to be no crisis of confidence in the

high-end housing market of New York. In the first three months of this year, average

apartment prices in Manhattan rose by 33.5 percent to $1.7 million — and much of that

increase was carried by the boom in sales of apartments at the high end. In the same

period, the number of apartments that closed for more than $10 million, for example,

rose by 318 percent, according to calculations based on public records and provided by

Brown Harris Stevens, a luxury residential real estate firm.

Not that even those kinds of prices promise perfection. The front door of the Essex House

duplex — 2,800 square feet going for close to $10 million — opened up on a stairway

whose Champagne-colored carpet looked dingy. A telltale towel on a windowsill revealed

a leak, and there was an excess of mirrors on part of the first-floor ceiling, with predictable

results. Anyone in the market for a $10 million home would inevitably renovate anyway,

but it was surprising — no, it was heartening — to see that even buyers with that kind of

money have to endure a boring bit of patter from the broker about the repointing work

being done to the exterior.

“Where are the sellers from?” asked the prospective buyer, looking skeptically at a tall,

husklike sculpture in the bedroom. California, the broker told him. “That explains it,” he said.

The availability of new luxury housing like 15 Central Park West and the Plaza accounts

for much of the high-end real estate boom — but how to explain that in those buildings,

priced at $5,000 to $6,000 a square foot, bidding wars are still not uncommon, even as

the economy wobbles, from many reports, on the edge of a precipice?

“Scarcity,” said Nancy Candib, the broker showing the duplex.

The subprime mortgage fiasco may be complicated, but the high-end real estate market

is not: There are still more people who can afford to have it all than there are apartments

that actually have it all — the views, the space, the prime location and the amenities.

This is what makes New York sometimes feel unlivable: the notion that you can be asked

to spend close to $10 million on an apartment with a leaky window, or $6 million on one

with low ceilings and no views, and still have to pay $275,000 for storage, as was the case

with one apartment viewed last week on the Upper East Side. You could even walk out of

15 Central Park West, as the wife of an electronics magnate did last week, feeling

disappointed in the cramped kitchen of an apartment going for $15 million.

But those absurdities are also part of New York’s shiny allure. This is a city so well

populated by the super wealthy, even they are forced to compromise. New York promises

the attainability, in all economies, of untold affluence; it’s everywhere, there for the

making or taking. It advertises the possibility of wealth, as well as the consoling limitations

of what it can buy, all in one real estate market.

The former publisher left the Essex House apartment expressing enthusiasm mostly for the

possibility of that elevator. The lack of a terrace, not his stock portfolio, might be what

held him back.

As for the wife of the electronics entrepreneur, she wasn’t in a hurry to decide.

“I think the prices are going to start coming down in a few months,” she said, explaining

why she’d wait before making an offer. If the high-end market does soften, it probably

won’t be because of the buyers’ financial anxiety.

“I think we’re heading for a period of really dark times,” she said.

From her point of view, the market could only get better.

NY Times


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$6k a square! focking hell!

you're drooling over the commission rates, ain't you? :D


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$6k a square! focking hell!

you're drooling over the commission rates, ain't you? :D

no wonder my friend goldie is rolling in the money. must keep nyc realtor on my list of potential jobs


Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth.

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$6k a square! focking hell!

you're drooling over the commission rates, ain't you? :D

:blush:

$6k a square! focking hell!

Only at the high end. "Normal" apartments are "only" $1,000-2,000 a square :P

Ffffs, $2k a square...might as well be working min wage ;)

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$6k a square! focking hell!

Only at the high end. "Normal" apartments are "only" $1,000-2,000 a square :P

Ffffs, $2k a square...might as well be working min wage ;)

I know, right?

And they have the nerve to call someone who makes a few hundred thou "rich".


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$6k a square! focking hell!

Only at the high end. "Normal" apartments are "only" $1,000-2,000 a square :P

Ffffs, $2k a square...might as well be working min wage ;)

I know, right?

And they have the nerve to call someone who makes a few hundred thou "rich".

Paupers! The lot of em!

;)

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