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On the Market


The headaches of owning a Manhattan house are obvious. No super when a pipe bursts. No doorman to sign for deliveries. Trash cans that spill. Crazies on the stoop.

Ah, but … “You’re getting your very own castle,” says Brown Harris Stevens’s Paula Del Nunzio. Want to play the drums at 4 a.m.? Paint your door in Peter Max sunbursts? Unless you’re in a landmark district, you probably can, and you are in rarefied territory: There are only a few thousand one-family houses in Manhattan. The go-it-alone romance is part of the equation. Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Leonard Steinberg says that whereas his apartment buyers usually focus on stuff like water pressure, “with townhouses, I’ve had people come to listen to the birds chirping.”

As it happens, single-families are having something of a moment. Available inventory in Manhattan is down from last year, to 516, according to appraiser Jonathan Miller. Sales, which started the year slowly, have picked up, particularly at the very high end. From June to December 2011, only one downtown house with an asking price over $9 million went into contract; in the past six months, nine did. Weirdly, cost may be a factor, even in that elite market: Luxury townhouses can be cheaper on a price-per-square-foot basis than top-shelf apartments, and prices for many single-families have yet to catch up to increasing demand.


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