Realty Bites: Wait Up!
Delays increase on new buildings.
Look closely at your lease; that "right of extension" might mean not just a week on a friend's couch but up to two months of homelessness. As gentrification and the demand for new apartments overwhelm electricians and carpenters, the clause -- which gives landlords the right to delay occupancy for 45 or 60 days -- is being invoked more frequently. "Nine out of ten Manhattan construction projects aren't completed on time," says Citi Habitats CEO Andrew Heiberger. "Tenants are so excited and emotional about finding an apartment they like, they don't notice that the landlord can write 60 days' leeway into the lease." Developer Larry Silverstein accelerated construction on River Place I, his new building on Twelfth Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets, so apartments could be ready to accommodate recent graduates who moved to Manhattan to start jobs this fall. He didn't make it: A numbert of the apartments weren't finished in time, according to Nancy Packes, president of Feathered Nest Realty, and tenants were given the option to cancel their leases. "Hardly anyone backed out," she says, perhaps because of the Olympic-size pool, the basketball courts, and the difficulty of finding a new place on short notice. Over at One West Street, developer Joseph Moinian also had to take advantage of the extension written into leases in his latest conversion. "All tenants whose apartments weren't complete had the right to cancel," he says, "but I know of only three who did." A chunk of the building was rented out to NYU Law students, who moved in to find hot water, "but you might not have the doorknob for a closet, or a shade, or a microwave," he admits. Even a developer with as much pull as Donald Trump is a bit exasperated: "Skilled workers are hard to find," says the Donald. But "at some point, the boom will end. It always does."
News flash: Bill Beutel cashes out of "snobby" building.
Last year, eyewitness news warhorse Bill Beutel, 69, gave up doing the 11 p.m. newscast. Beutel, who's been working for Channel 7 almost continually since 1962, kept his gig on WABC's six o'clock show, but now he's downsizing at home. Beutel and his wife, Adair, sold their seven-room pre-war co-op at 1220 Park Avenue and are moving to a smaller, less prepossessing apartment at 1150 Park. "It's not as elegant as his old building," says a broker, who noted that Beutel's apartment at "snobby" 1220 -- with high ceilings and a fireplace -- sold in a matter of weeks. It had been on the market for $3.25 million. They don't have to do any work on their new place, a five-room that set them back just over $1.5 million, apparently a decent chunk of change for a place that's "like the apartment building I live in," says one broker. Oh, Bill Beutel, be well.
171 West 57th Street
Two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,900-square-foot condo. Asking: $1.425 million. Selling: $1.425 million. Charges and taxes: $1,498. Time on market: one day.
The briarcliffe has been a rental building to the stars since it was built in 1921. Barbara Walters lived there, as did the woman who wrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and the ballroom-equipped penthouse was home to celebrity macher Earl Blackwell until his death four years ago. Earlier this year, the building's new owner began converting to condos, much to the delight of the buyer of this classic six, a designer who'd been living just across the street, coveting an apartment in the Briarcliffe for some time. There were nine vacant units; as soon as the for sale sign went up, the designer called Douglas Elliman broker Iva Spitzer. High ceilings and fancy decorative fireplaces were bonus points, Spitzer says.
231 East 35th Street
Three-family, 5,000-square-foot townhouse. Asking: $1.65 million. Selling: $1.5 million. Time on market: nine months.
Who says the townhouse dream is dead for middle-class Manhattanites? This couple figured out how to make it come true. Scout out a dumpy block in a decent neighborhood (in this case, east of Third Avenue, near the Queens-Midtown Tunnel). Then choose a house that's maybe a little down-at-the-heels, too. William B. May broker Kathleen Burns Hoffman, who sold this place, allows that it needs "heavy cosmetics." But the buyers, an interior designer and an artist, can more than handle that. And with a duplex for them to live in and two floor-throughs to generate income, they're living Manhattan's other dream: becoming homeowners without Harvard M.B.A.'s.