Realty Bites

Realty Bites: Careful, Co-ops!
Boards may have to back off a bit.

CARL SWANSONIn mid-April, brokers say, the co-op board at 2 East 67th Street turned down yet another buyer for the 6,500-square-foot, $14.5 million apartment there that’s been for sale since 1997. “That makes seven,” declares one broker. It’s an especially picky building, though the unchecked power of boards to handpick their neighbors has always been part of the real-estate game. But the rules may be changing: On April 11, in a case involving an interracial couple, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that individual board members could be held liable in the event of discrimination. Suddenly, everyone’s getting more careful. “I represent a dozen or so co-ops, and I’ve had meetings with them about how careful they have to be in the things they say or do,” says real-estate lawyer Eric Gonchar, who has delivered the same spiel to Brown Harris Stevens. “It’s important that the brokers don’t go back to prospective buyers and say, ‘Oh, they don’t let Jews in the building.’ You’ve got to be very careful about this kind of stuff.” At the top co-ops, “they think they can do whatever they want,” says another broker, because “most of the fancy buildings’ reaction is that they’re not doing it on the basis of race or color or sexual preference but on the basis of who’s going to fit in.” Lawsuits are unlikely because high-level buyers “don’t want anyone to know they’ve been rejected,” as another broker put it. Besides, “the $3 million-and-up boards don’t care because they have tons of lawyers.” Which doesn’t mean Realtors won’t try to make the court’s decision work for them. The board of 271 Central Park West has been sitting on a buyer’s package for a $7 million apartment for months, refusing to rule. So the broker sent them a copy of the decision.

Unfashionable Strings Attached
Designer Richard Tyler’s living requirements nix building sale.

Richard tyler’s eccentric demands apparently made a buyer pass over his house last week. Brokers were buzzing that he’d found a taker for his $18 million townhouse at 19 Gramercy Park South. The house was built in 1845 by a prominent Whig politician, who sold it to the Stuyvesant Fish family. This century, it was owned by P.R. guy Ben Sonnenberg, who combined the old house (which has been erroneously labeled a Stanford White structure – even in the Douglas Elliman brochure for it) with the six-story apartment house behind it. Today, it weighs in at 37 rooms. Tyler paid $3.5 million for it in 1995, then put it up for sale back in February. A suitably rich buyer showed up this month. Brokers say the deal fell through because Tyler wanted all but $2 million up front – and for the buyer to move in only after the designer had found a new place. Not surprisingly, the buyer balked.

Big Deals

Upper East Side
781 Fifth Avenue
Two-bedroom, three-bath, 2,300-square-foot prewar co-op. Asking: $1.3 million. Selling: $1.2 million. Maintenance: $6,600. Time on market: three months.

If you lived in the Sherry-Netherland, you might feel like Eloise – or maybe the Eloise knockoff in New York Stories, what with twice-a-day maid service and transient neighbors like Francis Ford Coppola. Some of the co-ops serve as hotel suites when their owners are out of town, but this place isn’t one of them. It’s a tenth-floor apartment overlooking the Plaza and the park, but it took a while to sell: The bathrooms need work, the kitchen is old, and the maintenance is $6,600 per month. The buyer, says broker Joanna Simon of Fox Residential Group, was a Sherry resident who wanted a better view and put in a bid after another applicant failed to clear the board. (The co-broker was Jarmel Sloane of Sloane Square.) Three other purchasers were interested, but the winner offered to pay cash.

158 Mercer Street
Four-bedroom, three-bath, 4,600-square-foot loft. Asking: $3.5 million. Selling: $4.8 million. Charges and taxes: $1,644 and $2,083. Time on market: five days.

The new museum is featuring a show called “Picturing the Modern Amazon,” about female body builders, and the condo lofts that take up the rest of its 1895 building are having their own ‘roid rages. Take this place: The sellers paid $1.2 million two years ago. After one prospective buyer met their $3.5 million asking price the day it went on sale, a bidding duel raised the price to $4 million. When a contract was drawn up, a third bidder offered $100,000 more. Finally, their lawyer, Eric Gonchar, had all three send in signed contracts with certified checks for their offered down payment,. The first bidder won, for $4.8 million. (The seller’s broker was Farrah Kleiner of Sloane Square; the buyer’s was Harriet Kaufman of Ashforth Warburg.) Elapsed time: one week. Says Gonchar: “It was better than watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Realty Bites