Without a Net
As dot-coms die, the dream of buying a TriBeCa loft with IPO winnings (while you're still young enough to enjoy it) may be over as well.
Small World Media laid off a third of its staff last month, but CEO Mark Jacobstein, 30, is still decorating the 1,700-square-foot SoHo loft he bought this summer. "I'm having a lot of fun with it," he says, describing the willfully kitsch style that could come to be known as Late Dot-Com Baroque. "It's colorful."
Jacobstein made it in under the wire, but the dot-com dream -- that you could be rich so young that you could still be cool -- is in decline. "It's not such a hot topic of conversation now, everyone getting a fabulous apartment," says Courtney Pulitzer, who throws Web-business networking parties. "Gone are the days of the gold rush -- the feeling is that the land's divided now. You might work for a great landowner, but you're not going to be one."
"It's the same story with all my dot-com buyers," says Corcoran's Kai Wittmann. "They hated to take their money out of their expanding portfolios earlier in the year, and now they have none left! Their formerly urgent searches are on indefinite hold as they hunker down in their overpriced rentals or undersize 'starter' apartments." Broker Jerry Minsky says that dot-commers "jacked up the prices tremendously." Then, "after the Nasdaq fell, these guys were nowhere to be found."
"The dot-commers sort of fueled the bidding wars six months ago," says Corcoran COO Scott Durkin. But though the bidding is less intense, the market for downtown lofts isn't exactly tanking. As for the dot-commers, "I don't think we ever had that many to begin with," says Stribling Marketing Associates' Christopher Wilson.
Not everyone will be sorry to see them go. "A lot of the co-op boards I deal with never liked them," says Gumley Haft Kleier president Michele Kleier. "It's fresh-off-the-printing-press money."
Many believe that the potential for decline is greater in rentals. "The rental market is down, and that's more the dot-com market," notes Bellmarc principal Neil Binder. "They're people who have limited cash and big incomes." Or maybe not: Corcoran says it has seen former dot-commers applying for jobs selling real estate.
On the Move
Tyler sells home-runway
Fashion designer Richard Tyler just sold his plus-size mansion at 19 Gramercy Park South for almost $17 million. Built by a prominent Whig politician in 1845, it was owned by the Stuyvesant Fish family and, later, the legendary flack Ben Sonnenberg, who combined it with the six-story apartment building next door. Tyler and his wife, Lisa Trafficante, bought it in 1995 for $3.5 million and renovated it, turning the ballroom into a white space he used for shows. They put it on the market for $18 million in February with Douglas Elliman broker Leslie Mason. They were in contract to buy a $7.75 million house at 727 Washington Street with a retractable roof and a glass-bottomed reflecting pool that allows light into a loft space that Tyler could use for shows. "I'm still hoping he's buying it," says its broker, Corcoran's Wendy Sarasohn.
Upper West Side
330 West 87th Street
6-bed, 5-bath, 5,000-square-foot townhouse. Ask: $4.295 million. Sell: $4.1 million. Two weeks on market.
"They didn't want to do a lick of work," says Corcoran's Anne Snee of her buyer, a lawyer and his family who were willing to pay accordingly. That worked out nicely, since this twenty-foot-wide Victorian had just been thoroughly restored (new kitchen, plumbing, A/C, wiring for high-speed Internet) by a woman who gentrifies down-at-the-heels houses. She was represented by Corcoran's Alan Berger. "It was a multi-unit before," notes Snee, distastefully.
Lower East Side
477 FDR Drive
3-bed, 2-bath, 1,820-square-foot co-op. Ask: $699,000. Sell: $680,000. Maintenance: $925. Seven weeks on market.
Slowly, the East River Houses, a 4,500-apartment complex of brick high-rises built by unions after World War II as a workers' Utopia, are being repopulated by bourgeois bargain-hunters. For years, owners had to sell their homes back to the co-op for the same price they'd paid for them. That socialistic requirement was relegated to the dustbin this summer, and the co-op hired Halstead's Steven Reisman and Myrna Reisman-Moreno to market the units. The brother-sister duo just sold this combined apartment, which has a 40-foot balcony, through a newspaper ad. The family who bought it had been cramped in east midtown.