Real estate rules govern, even in NYC


"Nobody can sell this 'Versailles in Manhattan", according to the Post, but as the article makes clear, it's not the fault of the twelve different brokers engaged over the past fifteen years, but the owner's absurd, inflated opinion about its value. There's nothing in the Post story that will be new ti readers of this blog on Greenwich real estate, but it's always nice to see that there's also nothing new in the general real estate market, either.

At 163 E. 64th St., near Lexington Avenue, stands a 15-room neo-Georgian townhouse that has been billed by brokers as an “architectural masterpiece” and even “Versailles in Manhattan.”
Some of them also label it “unsellable.”
That’s because the circa-1872 manse — with ornate, belle epoque- and Louis XIV-style interiors — has languished on the market for 15 years. Since April 2003, per property records, the owner, commercial real estate broker Kenneth Laub, has tapped at least 12 teams of residential brokers to try and offload the five-bedroom home. Newly co-listed with Douglas Elliman and Corcoran, the property asks $19.75 million, which is a precipitous plunge from its peak $35 million price tag in December 2007.
According to city real estate experts, it appears that no other Manhattan townhouse has ever spent so long bouncing on and off the market. And it’s become the laughingstock of the brokerage world, viewed as a casualty of location, price inflation and an ego-driven seller living in a fantasy land.
“You’d like to think that an owner would learn after seven, eight brokers in that period of time,” said a Manhattan townhouse expert. “Initially, [sellers] have aspirations, and they want to ask 15 or 20 percent more than what it’s worth. If you linger, then [you’re] not a real seller, or you’re so far off from where the market is.”
Laub, 79, who declined to speak with The Post for this story, told the Observer in 2009 (when the home was still asking $35 million), “If I’m overpriced then so be it. If someone feels that the house is worth what I think it is worth, then they’ll buy it. And if not, then they won’t. And it’s not the end of the world one way or another.”
That said, Laub — who reportedly purchased the home in 1986 for $4 million and lives there alone — has reduced the price considerably, although the discounts seem to give him cold feet. He dropped the ask to $29.95 million in July 2011, then $27.5 million in June 2013. He took the home off the market between December 2013 and July 2014, when it returned for $27.5 million. In February 2015, the price slipped to $25 million, falling to $23.9 million eight months later — only for the listing to disappear once again. In April 2017, the townhouse returned with a $25 million price tag, then hit $23.9 million that same year before Laub changed his mind again.
“It begs the question: Do you even want to sell?” a luxury broker said of Laub. “If you don’t think you’ll ever be OK with what somebody’s going to spend . . . you shouldn’t be wasting the brokers’ time or your own time.”Now, however, Laub could finally be in a realistic range — if he leaves his home on the market long enough for a buyer to actually snap it up.
Among the 36 now-listed comparable properties — located in Lenox Hill and measuring over 5,000 square feet — the average price is $25.1 million, according to a comparables report; average recorded sales come in at $21.82 million.
After all, it’s not exactly outlandish for a 20-foot-wide, four-story townhouse on the Upper East Side to fetch a pretty penny. The problem with this one, experts say, is that it’s in a bit of a no-man’s land — not far west enough for Central Park or Fifth Avenue prestige and not far east enough to have the cachet of an exclusive neighborhood like Sutton Place.
“Some [high-priced-townhouse] buyers will not look at anything farther east than Park [Avenue], only Fifth and Madison,” said Paula Del Nunzio, of Brown Harris Stevens. “You can show them extraordinary properties [beyond Park] and they won’t be interested.”
Laub has tended to price his place as if it were blocks west of where it really is. An eight-bedroom townhouse at 7 E. 67th St., between Fifth and Madison, closed for $28.5 million in April. Meanwhile, a five-bedroom townhouse at 110 E. 64th St., between Park and Lexington, sold for $9.5 million in a deal that closed in January, the comparables report shows.
“If ego overtakes data, you’re not going to sell,” said the luxury broker.
(Douglas Elliman and Corcoran declined to comment.)
Also, unlike homes that offer more of a blank canvas, the selling potential of 163 E. 64th St. may be hobbled by its over-the-top interiors.
“Will someone pay a premium for something completely unique? Yes,” said the luxury broker. “Is that this property? Not sure.”
The home boasts an original English pine library, a Louis XIV-style living room with 10 painted canvas panels — inspired by the Fragonard Room of the Frick Collection — and a bar area with a Lalique-styled glass ceiling. There are also 90-foot-deep floor plates, which make for grand indoor entertaining spaces but mean there’s hardly room for a ground-level garden — and sources say that’s something townhouse buyers demand. Instead, there’s a roof garden, which floor plans show one must walk through a bedroom to reach.
But for buyers who aren’t into such an old-fashioned, museum like look, it’s the kind of gut renovation that comes at a gut-churning expense.
Some sources even called foul on what they categorized as a square-footage mis-measurement. The city Department of Finance, in 2017 documents, measures the home at 6,716 finished square feet — while listings, which count the finished basement, have proclaimed it’s 8,000 square feet. Some sources say basement square-footage is not supposed to be counted in the total. “It’s misleading,” said the real estate industry source.
“It looks like a better [dollar-per-square-foot] deal if they are using 8,000 square feet,” said a luxury-market expert.
Furthermore, sources say, the home may just be tarnished after sitting on the market, unloved, for 15 years.
“[When] your days on market increase [and] your price continues to get chopped down . . . people wonder what’s wrong,” the luxury broker said.
Still, she added, “At least [Laub’s] making some . . . progress. I’m shocked he agreed to [list] it under $20 million.

High school senior pranks

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Out in Wisconsin, the cops congratulated kids who staged a mock "crash" into their principal's office. No harm, no foul. 

Here in Greenwich, back in, maybe, 1969?, kids disassembled a VW Bug, carried it to the third floor of the high school (which is now Town Hall), and put it back together again, pretty much completely blocking the hallway. I was in one of the last classes to attend the old school — we graduated in '71 from Hillside — and we were all awed by our predecessors' stunt. All these years later, I've never understood why the GPD arrested the kids instead of, like their Wisconsin counterparts, applauding them for their genius.


So Harry and Betty Boop got married

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Caught some of the ceremony on the internet, and was struck by (a), the Brits know how to stage pomp and circumstance, and (b) how utterly irrelevant the kingdom is to world affairs.

Britain has 80,000 soldiers — the US fields 1.1 million — only 60,000 of whom are deemed fit for combat, has no naval fleet, and basically no air force. The country just built an aircraft carrier, but has admitted that it lacks the funds to procure airplanes to station on it. A preacher at Harry's wedding went on and on about the "power of one", and I suppose that's how the Brits intend to rule the world. Fat chance.

It was interesting to see from that live feed — it was from the "Today" show — how supposedly adult correspondents were reduced to dripping puddles of fawning adulation over "royalty". I haven't witnessed such mindless mewing since Obama left the scene. 

Dairy Road sale


(March contract). 5 Dairy Road closed at $5.2 million, down substantially from its year-ago price of $6.350, but above what the sellers paid in 2010, $4.7. Of course, these owners added 2,000 sq.ft. to the house and pretty much re-did everything else.

Different markets. In 2010, the house was priced at $4.695 million, and sold in 19 days via biding war for $4.7. This time around, it took 488 days and $1,150,000 in price cuts before a buyer showed up.

 Unlike the other side of Dairy, houses on the east, especially this one, have a pretty spectacular view.

Unlike the other side of Dairy, houses on the east, especially this one, have a pretty spectacular view.

As predicted


I wrote about 18 Interlaken Road on Tuesday, describing it as a bargain, and predicted that it would sell quickly.

Accepted offer today; unfortunately, the buyers weren't my clients.

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead.

CORRECTION: Jumped the gun. There are offers, but none accepted yet (apologies to listing agent, Joy Metalios). This its really a no-brainer: put, say, $200,000 into it, get a house worth $2.3 million. 

Lucas Point continues to sell

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15 North Crossway, asking $6.995 million, is reported as pending by its listing agent Joe Barbieri just a little more than a month after hitting the market. (I've given up on Gideon adopting me, so I'll now shift my attention, and affection, to Joe).

The sellers paid $6.5 for it in 2009, put some money into renovations in 2010, and they're coming out just a little out-of-pocket — compare that with, say, $20,000 per month for rent over nine years, and even with property taxes and maintenance, they've done just fine.

 It's a lot to pay for a view on the wrong side of Lucas Point: better to see down the Sound to the New York skyline, but what the heck 

It's a lot to pay for a view on the wrong side of Lucas Point: better to see down the Sound to the New York skyline, but what the heck 

If Obama was hailed as our first black president, why isn't Meghan Markle being acclaimed as Britain's first black princess-in-waiting?


Or whatever the Brits call the wife of a junior member in the Royal line. Obama had a white mother, black father, while Markle has a white father and a black mother. Is there a difference? If so, why?

I'm not raising this question out of any kind of racism, but rather a matter of curiosity.

 Admittedly, she wasn't born in kenya, but ....

Admittedly, she wasn't born in kenya, but ....