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Chasid Test

For brokers, religious Jews can be tough customers.

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The buyers interested in the second-floor co-op at 545 West End Avenue were disappointed to find out it had sold. So when Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Toni Haber heard about a similar apartment two flights up, she thought her clients would be thrilled. They weren’t impressed. Haber’s buyers were Orthodox Jews, whose specifications occasionally run counter to the rest of the market. Some, as Haber learned, are willing to pay a substantial premium for a low floor because they’re not allowed to push elevator buttons during the Sabbath, which runs from Friday night to Saturday night. Another selling point is a doorman who’s willing to operate the elevator for them, says Halstead’s Susan Ruttner, who has many observant clients. Better still is a building with a Sabbath lift that stops on every floor, negating the hassle of climbing stairs. (On a busy Saturday, however, said amenity can be an inconvenience to nonobservant inhabitants of, say, the 23rd floor.)

Elevators aren’t the only consideration, of course. Brokers say many prefer to live as close to the synagogue as possible, or place a high value on proximity to Jewish schools. Ruttner says buildings that erect a sukkah—a tent used during the harvest holiday of Sukkot—also attract many of her clientele. (LoHo Realty’s Jacob Goldman said his brother and business partner was enticed to move into an apartment that had a terrace large enough for him to build his own sukk ah.) For others, having a formal dining room in which to host friends and family members for Sabbath get-togethers is a must. “If there’s nowhere to put a dining table, that’s a liability,” says Corcoran’s Mordy Werde, who’s Orthodox. Adds Ruttner: “The difference between my seven-room buyer who’s observant and someone who’s not is that the Sabbath observers do not look at the dining room as a possible bedroom.” And then there are the storage requirements. “You have separate dishes for the dairy and meat products,” explains Werde. “I would need double the space.” Which may be why apartments that have that oh-so-coveted feature that often ratchets up the price—the renovated kitchen—may not be attractive after all, says Goldman. “People aren’t going to be paying $1,500 per square foot for a kitchen they’re going to need to rip up anyway,” he says.


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