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Real Estate Showcase - Townhouse Living


Despite its plain brick front, a West Village townhouse that was home to actor Will Smith for five months this year is creating a buzz among buyers. Insiders say rapper Jay-Z, actor Hugh Jackman and designer Elie Tahari are among the many who have toured the manse at 13 Leroy St.

Listing broker Maria Lopez of Douglas Elliman would not comment on celebrity shoppers. She did say that Smith’s $60,000 monthly rental was the most ever paid for a downtown townhouse.

The $8.95-million, four-story, 25-foot-wide residence has 4 BRs, 4.5 bths, a double-height living/dining room, an elevator, library and a three-car garage. A temperature-controlled Koi pond runs underneath the living-room wall into the back garden. Another garden surrounds the top-floor master bath.

“Everyone who sees it says the architect did not miss a trick,” says Lopez. “They all want his card.”

The architect is New Yorker Wayne Turett, of Turett Collaborative Architects. He made the rear side of the house all glass and put a 144-SF skylight in the living room. “I was trying to get as much light into the townhouse as possible,” he says.


Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Europe may never have been worse, but to some buyers from the old country the New York City townhouse market has never looked better.

“For the first time, they want to take a serious look at townhouses,” says Joanna Kimberley, an associate broker with Century 21 William B. May who is selling a $4.9-million townhouse at 245 E. 52nd St. “Before, they always wanted to look at condominiums.”

Local crime statistics and the value of the dollar, both in free fall, are causing the demand surge. “New York is a very stable market and the Europeans get a very good buy now with the low dollar,” explains Kimberley, who is working with French, German and Italian townhouse hunters.

Jean Max Pinon, a retired businessman from outside Paris, has another reason for moving to an Upper East Side townhouse—estate and income taxes are much lower in the United States than in France.


High-rise apartments have the views, but townhouses have the square footage. Experts say buyers are waking up to the fact that townhouses often sell for less per square foot than the highest-end condominium apartments in the luxury towers that dominate the skyline.

A 19,500-SF townhouse at 12 East 69th St. is on the market for $23.5 million, or about $1,200 per square foot. That is a whopping number, but Robby Browne, a senior vice president at The Corcoran Group and one of the townhome’s listing brokers, thinks it is a relative bargain. “Here’s a house where you can get your own residence just off of Fifth Avenue at a third of the cost of a high-rise,” Browne says. He explains that a comparable apartment would cost about $60 million, or $3,000 per square foot.

The townhouse is large at 40 feet wide and five stories high. It has 13 fireplaces, high ceilings, an elevator, basement and garden.

“People think $23 million is a lot, but they haven’t thought about what the comparison is,” Browne says.

    "What most people want today is a single-family townhouse, where it used to be that the larger townhouses were broken up into apartments,” says Diane M. Ramirez, president of Halstead Property. “There’s just something wonderfully private and exclusive about living in a single-family townhouse.”