Following the Money

Photograph courtesy of Frank Lumia Real Estate

Want a luxury loft? A classic six? Broker Frank Lumia has nothing for you. Walk into his new office on N. Moore Street, and you’ll see pictures of woods, farmhouses, pastures. That’s because Lumia markets nothing but properties in the Catskills, and is likely the first upstate broker to open a storefront in Manhattan. The décor says it all, juxtaposing antique snowshoes and Sharp Aquos flat-screen TVs, old milk bottles and cinder-block walls. Why open now? “Nearly 100 percent of our customer base is from metropolitan New York,” he says.

There’s always room for more buyers upstate, though, further marking the Catskills as a fashionable alternative to Hamptons traffic and congestion. “If you’re purchasing 200 acres up there, you literally have your own world,” says sales agent David Grossman, a former Lumia client who now works for him. “Where are you going to get that in the Hamptons?” But coaxing Manhattanites to commit to the region can still be a hard sell. The area’s huge, and city folk who think of everything north of Yankee Stadium as a blur of squirrels and apple trees don’t know where to start looking. That’s where Lumia’s downstate office comes in. “New Yorkers are busy, and it’s hit or miss to drive up to the country and respond to random ads,” he explains. He has therefore set up virtual tours and video footage of listings; once potential buyers come up with a list of places that fit their requirements, Lumia or one of his agents squires them around.

The strategy seems to be paying off. Since Lumia hung out his shingle last month, three clients have gone into contract. “The doorbell hasn’t stopped ringing,” says Grossman, a Harlem resident who also owns 266 acres in the Catskills. Todd Nation, an Upper East Side entrepreneur who checked out Lumia’s offerings last week, appreciates the service. “This way I get a good feel for what I’m looking for,” he says. And Lumia’s competitors are certainly paying attention. “I think it’ll give the gentleman an advantage,” admits Ron Guichard, a fellow broker based upstate. Still, he has no plans to follow suit. “He’ll bring business to the local real-estate offices here,” Guichard predicts.

Just how much business is unclear, however. Take Carl Vanderbush, who lives next door to Lumia’s office but has yet to drop by. Though he concedes the Catskills has its appeal, he’s not sold on it as a Hamptons replacement. “I’m a beach person,” he insists.

Houses of Style
Supermodel Gisele Bündchen may not be moving in with her beau, Leonardo DiCaprio (who’s bunking at Hudson Blue in the far West Village), but she won’t be far away. Sources say the nearly six-foot stunner, who also owns a condo on West 11th Street, has just gone into contract for a townhouse off Bedford Street. Real-estate sources say that she’s been looking at property steadily in recent months, with and without Leo but always downtown, including one reported visit to a co-op at One Fifth Avenue. Bündchen’s broker, Reid Price of the Corcoran Group, refused to comment on the rumored transaction, citing the unwelcome attention the Brazilian bombshell tends to draw from overzealous fans. Bündchen will be a short stroll from the townhouse that Jeffrey Kalinsky, proprietor of the meatpacking-district shopping mecca Jeffrey, just bought for a little more than $4 million. Kalinsky, who has hired the design firm Pierce/Allen to oversee renovations, says he “was looking for an escape from the city but in the city, and this was it.”

Same Space, Different Place
Approval Makes All the Difference
There are, admittedly, a few small details that differentiate these West Village studios: The smaller of the two is in perfect shape and has a lower maintenance fee, whereas the larger one, admits listing broker Robert Rosa, is “in bad shape,” with a shabby kitchen and bathroom and bad floors. But the real difference is invisible: The cheaper apartment is owned by the co-op’s sponsor, which means the buyer doesn’t have to worry about being accepted by the co-op board. “As long as you have the down payment required by the building and an approved mortgage, you get a free pass,” says Rosa. No wonder it sold in half the time the other one did.

23 Waverly Place, Apartment 4D
The Facts: 550-square-foot studio.
Asking Price: $405,000.
Monthly maintenance: $687.
Broker: Robert Rosa, Dwelling Quest.

23 Waverly Place, Apartment 3Y
The Facts: 500-square-foot studio.
Asking Price: $385,000.
Monthly maintenance: $583.
Broker: Robert Rosa, Dwelling Quest.

Following the Money