Realty Bites: Business Crunch
Can't find a place? Blame the Man.Perhaps those neo-hippie protesters the L.A. police shot with rubber bullets at the Democratic convention had a point: Corporate America is keeping you down. Or at least keeping you from renting a place, as companies take blocks of apartments for transferred and visiting employees. Recently, two investment banks leased an entire office-building conversion at 56 Pine Street a mere 24 hours after the units became available. Once, bulk leasing was limited to a few buildings in midtown and Battery Park City. Now "it's all over town," says Ruth McCoy of Feathered Nest Realty, in part because the hotels are full of tourists. "We've been the onsite leasing coordinator for thirteen projects in the last couple of years, and we've seen at least 15 percent of inventory utilized for short-term furnished corporate housing," says Andrew Heiberger, president of Citihabitats. Brokers don't mind because "they're paying a premium on top of market rents -- 10 to 15 percent more -- and signing longer-term leases," he says. Plus, "they don't care about views. Almost every building has 10 to 20 percent what we call dog inventory. The furnished companies don't mind -- they'll pay full price." The problem is that "with the vacancy rate down near one percent, when a building opens and gives up 30 percent to long-term leasing for a corporation, it doesn't soften the market," says Douglas Wagner, president of Benjamin James Realty. "They're taking housing stock that's originally intended for the general public and making it unreachable." There are a few holdouts, new buildings like One Union Square and the Madison Belvedere, that don't want all the moving in and out, say brokers. The apartments will rent anyway, even the dogs.
My Teardown With Andre?
Andre Gregory's last summer in the Hamptons.
Andre Gregory, the actor and theater director known for playing himself in My Dinner With Andre and Vanya on 42nd Street, also starred in Last Summer in the Hamptons a few years back. Now he's living it, by selling the nineteenth-century farmhouse he and his late wife renovated themselves on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack. The place sits on three acres of land and overlooks 30 acres "that I don't think will be touched," he says. So why leave the view? "There are probably a million reasons," he says. "But it has to be summed up with the idea that Sagaponack and this area used to be the country, and now it's become, I feel, a suburb of New York." For example, at the local deli, "a bottle of apple juice costs more than an okay bottle of wine at a liquor store." Gregory's been going to the Hamptons since he was 15. (His parents' house, which they sold for $30,000, resold last year for $4 million.) Real-estate sources say Gregory's house, which needs a lot of work, was on the market for $2.1 million; they also say it will close for almost that much. Gregory, who's moving to Cape Cod with his wife, Cindy, says he hopes it won't be torn down: "It's a very pretty house."
32 Gramercy Park South
Two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,100-square-foot co-op. Asking: $750,000. Selling: $735,000. Maintenance: $1,554. Time on market: one week.
"You say 'key to the park,' " notes Corcoran vice-president Chris Leavitt, who sold this apartment, "and it sells in, like, two seconds." The mystique of Gramercy Park usually clings only to the neighboring hoary granite fortresses, but this 1956 doorman building has a roof deck and a garage as well as that magic key. The purchaser, an apparel-company CEO, is buying the place after looking, says Leavitt, for "many months." The seller, who renovated the kitchen, is moving to Westport, Connecticut.
Upper East Side
126 East 73rd Street
8,149-square-foot townhouse. Asking: $12.9 million. Selling: $11.5 million. Time on market: six weeks.
Even in an ostensibly cooling market, top places are still mighty hot. This renovated five-story limestone townhouse was on the market for just six weeks, and, says selling broker A. Laurance Kaiser IV of Key Ventures, "it would have gone even faster, but the owners were out of town." It's a record price for an 18.9-footer. It has all the usual amenities (killer kitchen, new bathrooms), plus some that aren't so usual (elevator, 100 linear feet of bedroom closets). The buyers, represented by Sloane Square Realty, are a young couple moving from Connecticut; the sellers are private investors. And, adds Kaiser, "it's in the best condition of any house on the market." In other words, location, location, location -- and condition.