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A Million? Yawn.

Who needs to be a millionaire? In two years, if prices keep rising, the "average" Manhattan homeowner.

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Realty Bites: A Million? Yawn.
Prices soon to reach a scary milestone. Calling Dr. Evil: according to appraiser Jeffrey Jackson, if the market continues to rage for just two more years, the average price for an apartment below 96th Street in Manhattan will reach . . . one . . . million . . . dollars. (Remember to breathe.) "Now, there's no assurance that the trends will continue," says Jackson, a principal of MMJ Appraisals. So just how likely is this doomsday scenario? Jackson concedes that since the stock market lost its mojo in April, buyers have backed off. "But historically, that's part of the New York real-estate cycle," he says. "From the second quarter into the summer, people have other things to do: They're out of town, so they're not looking to buy apartments. Then in September, they come back, and the market rises in the third quarter." There are other hints that real-estate prices may not be-haaave for long: Manhattan's population is rising (1.43 million in 1980, 1.49 million in 1990, 1.55 million in 1998), and per capita income has gone from about $19,000 in 1980 to -- yeah, baby! -- more than $80,000. Meanwhile, new construction all but stopped after the crash of 1987; at most, a few thousand units are built each year, compared with about 30,000 annually in the mid-eighties. What's more, Barbara Corcoran, chairman of the Corcoran Group, thinks Jackson is "way under. If the market keeps rising at 20 percent a year, I figure an average of $1.29 million. If it's only 10 percent a year" -- she pauses to recalculate -- "it's about a million. I'll make you a money bet, though, that I'm right." Maybe it's time to forget about Dr. Evil -- and get on the phone to Mr. Philbin.
CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

The Buddha of 10021
Richard Gere's spending a pretty penny to move to Fifth Avenue.

Richard Gere, at 50 People magazine's 1999 "Sexiest Man Alive," became a dad earlier this year, so he's forsaking the Village for Fifth Avenue. Along with his girlfriend, ex-Law & Order star Carey Lowell, and her daughter from her earlier marriage to Griffin Dunne, Gere is leaving his townhouse on Sullivan Street, where he'd aroused the un-Buddhist ire of his neighbors by proposing to build an outdoor Tibetan-style temple. Real-estate sources say they're buying a full-floor condo at 817 Fifth Avenue, a 1925 building at the corner of 63rd Street. The place, which sprawls over about 3,900 square feet and has three soul-soothing rooms facing the Park, was on the market for $8.9 million, but Gere is said to be paying more than that. His upstairs neighbor will be art fan and Bellagio builder Steve Wynn, who lives in an apartment that Mirage Resorts, his gaming company that was recently sold to MGM Grand, bought for him in 1995. (Sources say Wynn, who recently agreed to buy Barry Diller's mansion in Bel Air, is going to exercise his contractual option to buy the apartment.) As for Gere, his 2.2-acre bluff-top Malibu compound is for sale, for $10 million.
CARL SWANSON

Big Deals

Clinton Hill
298 Washington Avenue
Five-bedroom, three-bath, 3,600-square-foot brownstone. Asking: $1 million. Selling: $999,950. Time on market: one hour.

Clinton Hill was built for millionaires, even if the buyers of this brownstone managed to talk the price down a whopping $50 from the seven-figure mark. In the 1870s, the neighborhood just east of Fort Greene was Brooklyn's new mansion zone, where oil baron Charles Pratt lived and founded Pratt Institute. The area got de-millionaired for a while, but the clan that has owned this house since 1912 held on in the neighborhood and kept it a single-family home. The pocket doors work, the bathrooms still have their original marble sinks, and the electrical fixtures are converted gaslights. The buyers -- a thirtyish couple with Internet money, represented by Corcoran's Jerry Minsky -- can snap out of their 1900 House reverie with the occasional celebrity sighting: Wesley Snipes recently bought the house two doors down for his mom.

Upper East Side
52 East End Avenue
Three-bedroom, 2 and 1/2-bath, 2,000-square-foot condo. Asking: $1.295 million. Selling: $1.295 million. Time on market: six weeks.

it's always this way, says William B. May vice-president Stacey Gero: "The wife comes first, then brings her husband." This duplex was the first place this husband had seen, but he wasn't sold on it, despite the double-height dining room and the three balconies. So they kept looking; another couple nearly bought it. Then, suffering non-buyer's remorse, the first couple, represented by Halstead's Michele Friedman, returned to the scene. The wife, who's about to have the couple's first baby, "educated him a little," says Gero, who represented the seller, "and he came around."
C.B.


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