Patricia Duff takes custody – of a townhouse

Realty Bites: Return Policy
How to sell an apartment twice.

The apparently insatiable demand for new apartments has driven up prices faster than buildings. So developers are offering to let buyers out of their contracts before the buildings open, reselling the places for more money, and, in some cases, splitting the difference in sale prices. “They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is and buy back their apartments,” says Douglas Elliman broker Dolly Lenz. “It’s very popular,” agrees Corcoran COO Scott Durkin, who notes that bonds with apartments bought on spec aren’t as strong as those that have been lived in. Buyers at the Chatham, a nearly complete condo at 181 East 65th Street, got a letter from its developer in late September reminding them that they weren’t allowed to “even list for sale a unit prior to closing.” However, since “the current market value of your unit … may be significantly higher than your purchase price, and you could make a profit by reselling your unit,” they’d be perfectly willing to do it for you and go halfsies on the take. So far, there have been no finished deals, says Related Companies vice-chairman David Wine. They’re not the first to try this: Brokers say that 838 Fifth Avenue, 515 Park Avenue, and the Chelsea Mercantile building have also cut similar deals to take back apartments. A source familiar with 838 says the developer “facilitated the flipping” of two of its $15 million to $20 million units. At 515 Park, “I know of at least five that happened,” says one broker, who wonders why the buyers didn’t wait until their deals closed to resell and keep all the profits. The building’s developer chalks up the resales to his willingness to help out with “life changes.”

Duff Gets Custody of Townhouse
Patricia Duff’s real-estate trials end.

If Patricia Duff ends up with custody of 5-year-old Caleigh, her child with Ron Perelman, the little family will soon have a place to live: a $3.95 million townhouse in the high East Eighties between First and York Avenues. Real-estate sources say she recently signed a contract for the 4,900-square-foot brownstone, ending a process nearly as epic as Caleigh’s custody battle (which began in spring 1998). “The house is gorgeous,” attests Anne Snee, director of Corcoran’s townhouse division, who didn’t sell it to Duff but handled it the last time it sold, in July 1999, for $2.7 million. “It has a double-height living room with a glass wall looking over the garden.” Snee’s last-year buyer, who kept a place on Fifth Avenue, installed an elevator and a new façade before changing her mind and deciding not to move in. She put the house back on the market, changing brokers several times (though not as often as Duff changed lawyers). Meanwhile, Duff had given up on co-ops and harnessed several competing brokers to help with her search for a townhouse. She finally settled on this one after being outbid on an East 71st Street townhouse by a Yahoo! millionaire.

Big Deals

241 Dune Road
Nine-bedroom, nine-and-a-half-bath, 10,000-square-foot house. Selling: $9 million.

After eleven years, 10,000 square feet started to feel a bit pressing on the sellers of this postmodern oceanfront house. They’d thought about selling a couple of years ago–Bruce Willis even came a-callin’–but then the wife changed her mind. It’s not so easy to give up sunsets over Mecox Bay, a sunken tennis court, the elevator, and dual two-car garages. Maybe it was a diffident summer fading into fall, but in July they told a broker at Cook Pony Farm Realty they’d sell for $9 million. Even though the house wasn’t officially on the market, three offers suddenly appeared, two from other brokers. Cook Pony’s buyer, an international businessman who already owns a place in the Hamptons, ended up riding away with it in September. Meanwhile, the sellers plan to build a new place to better accommodate their kids and grandkids.

56 Crosby Street
Two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath, 3,200-square-foot condominium loft. Asking: $1.995 million. Selling: $1.975 million. Charges and taxes: $2,292. Time on market: two weeks.

The buyers of this loft were already neighborhood residents, but they weren’t planning to spend this kind of money to stick around. But when another deal for this new conversion fell through, they looked deep into their bankbook and decided to “step up and buy it,” says their broker, Douglas Elliman’s Sam Harper. (Elliman’s Helene Luchnick represented the developer.) Having bought a bigger place than they planned, the buyers are now expecting a new baby for their new second bedroom.

Patricia Duff takes custody – of a townhouse