In a wave of activity not seen since the eighties, foreign buyers are swooping down on new midtown co-ops and condos -- and paying top dollar.
Remember when the Japanese were flooding into New York to invest in real estate? In addition to Rockefeller Center, they bought a lot of brand-new one-bedroom condos. "Entire buildings were built relying on that market," says David Wine, vice-chairman of the Related Companies, a developer. And, as with Rockefeller Center, these investors often paid too much: "I remember having a property on the market for $2 million and having someone bid $2.2 million. There were no other bidders," recalls Douglas Elliman broker Dolly Lenz. Many of these investors, she adds, "still haven't recouped their money."
Still, with this late-boom bloom of condo towers going up, foreign buyers are back, snapping up those half-built towers in midtown. Bridge Tower Place, which is being completed now, was presold, 40 percent to foreign buyers (many of them Pakistani). The Park Imperial on West 56th is another favorite, says Louise Sunshine of the Sunshine Group.
Foreigners often invest in property their countrymen already have bought. A brand-new, luxury feel and striking river or Central Park view are key to the attraction of modernist midtown properties with their immense windows. Almost a third of Trump World Tower was bought by Hong Kong investors, many of whom have already resold. Roger E. Novatt, managing director of Sumitomo Real Estate Sales, points out it's also a favorite of Koreans for a more arcane reason: It was rebuilt by a Korean construction company.
Some argue that buyers from abroad have less opportunity to negotiate price reductions. Silvana Mander of William B. May counters, "They're not looking to bargain for $200,000 off a $2 million apartment." Only about 35 percent of Mander's clients want an apartment to live in. For all the flipping to turn a quick buck, many "are looking at it as something to leave for their children and grandchildren."
In Rent We Trust
Maybe the close-knit Alphabet City community depicted in Rent isn't so cohesive after all. Two of the principals in the Bohème-ian musical, which is entering its fifth year on Broadway, are abandoning the low-rent district for spiffy new co-op studios in the Village. Cristina Fadale, who plays performance artist Maureen Johnson, bought a $145,000 studio at 85 Eighth Avenue, between West 14th and 15th Streets. Andy Senor, who plays the beloved cross-dressing street drummer Angel, picked up a studio at 25 Leroy Street for $115,000, according to Patrice Mack and Harry Cooker of Douglas Elliman, who brokered the two sales. Cristina and Andy took up residence after extensive renovations to their apartments. Word has it, though, that they'll continue to crash at their previous pads -- the ones onstage at the Nederlander Theatre -- for eight shows a week.
Upper West Side
444 Central Park West
3-bed, 2-bath, 2,200-square-foot co-op. Ask: $899,000. Sell: $899,000. Maintenance: $1,216. One week on market.
Back in 1981, this prewar's rocky transition from rental to co-op made the papers when landlord Curtis Katz, who called himself "the Green Beret of gentrification," was charged with harassing tenants to make way for wealthier buyers. Today the 104th Street building is home to
a broad range of buyers, according to Corcoran broker Anna Kopel, who has represented several of them. This apartment was bought by entertainment professionals transplanted from California, who liked its proximity to their children's schools.
Battery Park City
21 South End Avenue
1-bed, 11/2-bath, 950-square-foot condo. Ask: $385,000. Sell: $385,000. Charges and taxes: $1,669. Two months on market.
Battery Park City was built on landfill as a refuge from the crumbly old city. Which is what this buyer needed: Her undoubtedly quaint building in Greenwich Village had structural problems, and she had to get out -- fast. Douglas Elliman's Vanessa Low brought her to this condo, which had already had a price reduction. "She offered full price under the condition the sellers could move within three weeks," says Elliman's Julie Stevens, who represented them (they landed in a nearby townhouse). She was in in four.