When Your Landlord Is a Cat

Corcoran broker Wendy Sarasohn’s 85-year-old client threw down the gauntlet recently: If her warring children didn’t find a way to get along, she said, she’d bequeath her Fifth Avenue apartment to her beloved pets. She was half-kidding—one hopes—and everyone jokes about such situations, usually in reference to the crazy cat lady next door. (If you don’t have one, perhaps you are one.) It’s not so far-fetched, though. A pair of cats really have owned an apartment, in New York City, in the 21st century. “It presented an odd set of circumstances,” remembers Brian Tormey of TitleVest, the title-insurance agency that handled the transaction, with a laugh. He’s willing to tell the story, though out of respect for his client’s privacy, he won’t name names.

Apparently, two sisters, who lived together and died within months of each other in late 1999, left their two-story, 1,400-square-foot home on 47th Avenue in Queens to their kitties. (The will appointed a female executor whose sole purpose was to tend the cats and the house. Essentially, she was there at their behest.) The sisters “were very nice. They loved the cats,” says their neighbor, a Mr. Sourek, whose yard abutted theirs. All was well until the guardian ­decided the animals would be ­better off on a farm ­somewhere—­upstate, perhaps, or in Pennsylvania. That’s when the story gets complicated, since the whole deal had been made on the assumption that she’d stay put, with the landlords. If they were even still alive. “You can get a birth certificate and identify them when they’re humans,” says Tormey. But the caretaker had taken in strays by the dozens, the house was overrun with cats, and nobody was sure exactly which were the owners. “[They] had free rein over the entire property,” including a pool out back, says Tormey. In the end, she got the green light to move. The cats—and the caretaker—did quite well, cashing out for just under $1 million. The house sits on a large parcel of land that the new buyer is now using for development.

“Nothing quite like this has ever come across our desk before,” says Tormey, who still finds the whole incident a mite surreal. Sarasohn’s irritated client, meanwhile, hasn’t made good on her threat—but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she did,” says Sarasohn. “The dogs are dining on filet mignon and living a wonderful life.” Next: Uma Thurman Moves Back to Her and Ethan’s Address

Uma Gets Her Key Back

You can go home again after all, at least if you’re Uma Thurman. The My Super Ex-Girlfriend actress (and real-life ex-girlfriend of hotelier turned real-estate developer André Balazs) not only escaped the city’s recent heat wave by fleeing to her old stomping ground, Fire Island—she’s also just signed on to purchase a Gramercy Park duplex in the same building where she lived with Ethan Hawke. (And yes, it comes with a key to the park.) City records show that Thurman paid $2.65 million for the apartment a few floors above her and Hawke’s former abode.

Farther downtown, Horst Rechelbacher, environmentalist and founder of the ecofriendly Aveda beauty products empire, has just closed on a penthouse in a white-glove Art Deco prewar on lower Fifth Avenue overlooking Washington Square Park. Though it has only two bedrooms, the co-op sold for $4.3 million. Next: A Triple Assessment of 2 Horatio Street

2 Horatio Street, Apartment 2G
1,350-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath co-op.
Asking Price: $1.9 million.
Maintenance: $1,568.
Broker: Gigi Van Deckter, Bellmarc.
Apartments in the prewar buildings built by Bing & Bing are highly desirable and command top dollar. This West Village co-op is a prime specimen, with all the touches you’d want—beamed ceilings, generous proportions. But in this ambivalent market, is that enough to get nearly $2 million for an apartment where you have to cut through the bedroom to get to the toilet?

Holly Sose, City Connections Realty: “The block, the entrance, the prewar feel—it’s all charming,” says Sose. “I would take half the furniture out—there’s way too much … It’s also very specific to the owner’s personality, so it’s hard for others to visualize making it their home.”
Her assessment: $1.8 million.

Armanda Squadrilli, JC DeNiro & Associates: “I’d live here in a minute,” she says, adding that she’d up the commission to 7 percent to attract more brokers. “[But] the en suite bathrooms may be a drawback for anyone who might want to entertain.” If a powder room can be added, Squadrilli predicts an easier sell.
Her assessment: $2.145 million.

Alan Pfeifer, Halstead: “For a second floor, the light is decent,” says Pfeifer, though buyers may be concerned about the tower rising across the street. Plus, he says, “the flow of the apartment isn’t easy to understand … It doesn’t give a sense of how big the apartment is.”
His assessment: $1.595 million.

When Your Landlord Is a Cat