Transparent Motives

The phones started ringing almost immediately, says Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property. “It’s caused quite a bit of chatter on all levels,” she confirms. The source of all the agita: the bill working its way through Albany that would make public the sale prices of co-op apartments—the bread-and-butter of most brokerage firms—was working its way through Albany. Most upset are clients who are “very private, wealthy, or well known,” adds Ramirez, though they’re not the only ones. Whether people pay $700,000 or $7 million, adds broker Michele Kleier, “they like their privacy in New York. They like to keep their secrets.”

For as long as co-ops have been around, buying-and-selling details have remained undisclosed. Since a co-op is sold without a deed, it’s been a convenient way for celebrities and other figures who dislike publicity—or, occasionally, whose finances are a little shady—to keep their purchases to themselves. Online databases list the transfers but not prices. But now, says Greg Carlson, spokesperson for the Federation of New York Housing Co-operatives and Condominiums, “the Department of Finance wants to make all real-estate transactions transparent,” largely to make sure tax assessments are appropriate. Supporters say the measure, should it become law, will level the playing field for buyers. (It’s awaiting the governor’s signature, which could come at any moment, and will likely be retroactive to January 2003.) “Disclosure is good,” says real-estate attorney Steve Wagner. “If I was thinking of buying in one of these buildings, I would want to know what my neighbors paid.” (Right now, buyers rely on their brokers to gather intelligence, especially in the most exclusive buildings.)

The law is unlikely to affect prices or influence many buying decisions, says Gregory Heym, chief economist for Terra Holdings, the parent company of both Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens. The uproar, Ramirez agrees, may be not about loss of privacy but loss of fun: “To some degree, it’s going to take away the cocktail-party discussions over what [people] paid.” Next: Actors Sutton Foster and Christian Borle Put Down Roots in the Theater District

Inside the Actors’ Two-Bedroom

She’s often called one of the brightest young lights on Broadway, and now Sutton Foster and her romantic lead, Christian Borle, have put down roots in the theater district. Foster, currently starring in The Drowsy Chaperone and a Tony winner for Thoroughly Modern Millie, and her actor-fiancé (and sometime co-star; they worked together on Millie) have settled in the West Fifties, according to city records. The apartment itself is a 900-square-foot two-bedroom co-op in a pet-friendly prewar, just a few blocks from Chaperone’s home at the Marquis Theatre. The documentation doesn’t pin down how much the talented couple paid for their space, and nobody from their brokerage is talking, though a very similar apartment in the building is now on the market for a bit less than $800,000. Next: Explaining the Price Difference Between Two East 73rd Street Apartments

Same Space, Different Place
What Price Flexibility?
These two similar co-ops are separated by $50,000—nearly 10 percent. One’s on the ground floor, one’s higher up—but Unit 1D just underwent a spiffy renovation, and today’s buyers are more accepting of ground-floor space than before, meaning those factors probably cancel out. So what’s the difference? Apartment 9A’s owner has walled off the dining alcove, creating a small second bedroom. (That’s why they call apartments like this “convertible twos.”) Broker Jennifer Wilson reports that it has, in fact, attracted a steady traffic of expectant couples. Given that the birthrate among upscale New Yorkers shows no signs of abating, apartments like this are likely to carry a premium in the long run, too.

345 East 73rd Street, Apartment 1D
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 850-square-foot co-op.
Asking Price: $599,000.
Maintenance: $986 per month.
Broker: Jennifer Wilson, Bellmarc.

345 East 73rd Street, Apartment 9A
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 870-square-foot co-op.
Asking Price: $649,000.
Maintenance: $1,080 per month.
Broker: Jennifer Wilson, Bellmarc.

Transparent Motives