Rupert Murdoch Buys $6.5 Million SoHo Penthouse

SoHo

RUPERT MURDOCH FINDS HIS WAY HOME. Rupert Murdoch’s downtown real estate search may finally be over. Real estate sources said he signed a $6.5 million contract on a Prince Street co-op Jan. 25. The News Corporation chief, who split last year from his wife of three decades, Anna Murdoch, has been living since October in SoHo’s chic Mercer Hotel with 31-year-old Wendy Deng. He is said to have been searching for a new home since October.

The 67-year-old media mogul, whose holdings include the New York Post and 20th Century Fox, has spent recent years living bicoastally with his now-estranged wife. She filed for divorce last April, citing irreconcilable differences. By September, when it was announced that Anna Murdoch would step down from the board of News Corporation, Mr. Murdoch had put their Los Angeles quarters, a home on Angelo Drive for which he paid $6 million in 1991, on the market for $19.5 million.

On this coast, the longtime Fifth Avenue resident had sold his East Side apartment to buy the Angelo Drive house, and had been living with Mrs. Murdoch in a smaller property on Central Park South. Just months after their split, he was romantically linked to Ms. Deng, the vice president of his Asian satellite television conglomerate, a relationship that reportedly brought embarrassment to his three children because of the couple’s difference in age. By December, rumors of an engagement had surfaced as Mr. Murdoch and Ms. Deng searched for a downtown apartment together.

The space Mr. Murdoch has agreed to buy is a 6,000-square-foot penthouse loft on Prince Street near West Broadway. The bilevel apartment features a 1,000-square-foot living room with eight arched windows facing south, and a wood-burning fireplace. Listed originally at $7.4 million in September 1998, the price was reduced a month later to $6.95 million. Mr. Murdoch’s $6.5 million will also get him five bedrooms, five baths and 3,000 square feet of exterior space–including an outdoor shower, a greenhouse studio and extensive landscaping.

Howard Rubenstein, the spokesman for Mr. Murdoch, had no comment at press time.

Hamilton Heights

60 Hamilton Terrace

Four-story town house.

Asking: $699,000. Selling: $650,000.

Time on the market: 15 months.

SURROUNDSOUND AND SIGHTS. Designed in 1897 by the architect Henri Foucheaux, this Harlem town house resold for the highest price ever paid, according to broker Willie Kathryn Suggs. She attributes its record cost to three factors: its location, its prewar details and the fine condition of the interior. Both the seller and the couple who lived in the house before them had worked hard to modernize the house and add fun amenities. The ground level is equipped with an automated movie screen that can be seen from practically every room and, thanks to the 11 Surroundsound speaker modules, it can be heard in every room, too. The kitchen has black-and-red granite countertops and a matching bar. Outside, there’s a large yard with a patio for dining, a slate walking path and a landscaped terrace with various exotic plants labeled by species. Upstairs, the décor is traditional: bathroom tubs with clawed feet and pull-chain toilets (not the original plumbing). The master bedroom on the third floor, its traditional spot in the old Harlem mansions, has his-and-hers dressing rooms, original vanity cabinets, 20 feet of closet space and sterling-silver sconces on the walls. Upstairs, the children’s rooms have sconces, too, but they’re pewter. There are also two laundry centers, two kitchens, a skylight of stained-glass, a dry sauna and a whirlpool. After a long negotiation period-the sellers had hoped for a bid closer to the asking price-a doctor and his music-executive wife, soon to be parents, finally won out. Broker: Willie Kathryn Suggs.

Upper East Side

420 East 72nd Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,400 square-foot postwar co-op.

Asking: $520,000. Selling: $510,000.

Charges: $1,131; 48 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three weeks.

DOG DAYS AHEAD. At all costs, the empty-nesters who bought this apartment wanted to live in a pooch-friendly pad. “That was numero uno ,” said Toby Gamsu, who found the 12th-floor co-op between First and York avenues after a few months’ search. Besides being a place where Fido needn’t sneak in and out for his daily walks, the apartment features a fully reconstructed living space, with the kitchen’s orientation changed from vertical to horizontal, an enlarged dining room and new prewar-style features added to enhance the apartment’s charm. “Really, it was the first time I had ever seen a reconstruction that was better than the original construction,” said Ms. Gamsu, who had seen the original floor plan. “They walked in, and it just felt like a home.” Broker: William B. May Company (Toby Gamsu); Tree Top Homes (Barbara Reisenbach).

320 East 57th Street

One-bed, one-bath, 900-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $265,000. Selling: $250,000.

Charges: $944; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: four months.

LUCK AND A PRAYER. Sometimes a little divine intervention is called for, even in a real estate deal. In this case, broker Ellen Morgan had a lovely one-bedroom in a 1928 Art Deco building that she just couldn’t sell. One day over lunch, she told a friend about her dilemma. No problem, said the friend. Simply take a statue of St. Joseph, the patron saint of family, stick it upside down in a geranium plant, say a little prayer over it and bam!, you’ll make your sale. The friend told her she’d seen the magic herself: After her own little ritual with St. Joseph, she’d been able to sell a house in Pennsylvania into which she’d sunk thousands of dollars, then put on the market after deciding she hated it. Ms. Morgan thought the idea was kind of crazy, but she was desperate. And, voilà ! The very next looker made an offer. When his hopes were dashed by the board’s disapproval, Ms. Morgan was about to give up on St. Joe. And that’s just when the real deal came through. Broker: William B. May (Ellen Morgan); Helene Fields Real Estate (Helene Fields).

Midtown

200 Central Park South

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,900-square-foot postwar co-op.

Asking: $1.35 million. Selling: $1.2 million.

Charges: $2,098; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: five weeks.

LIFE IN THE CITY, ACT 2. Having spent 29 years in the real estate brokerage trade, Nina de Rovira has some definite ideas about the right way to sell a listing. “I did not have an open house,” she said of this recent sale. “I don’t believe in them. I go strictly by appointments. If you do it to the open public, a lot of lookers who just can’t afford it come and browse.” Instead, she describes an apartment’s layout thoroughly to a buyer over the phone, then makes an appointment. In this case, the buyers-a former co-op board president and his wife who had moved to the Berkshires, then made a U-turn back to the city after realized they missed it too much-had discerning taste. They liked the “Cleopatra-style” bathtub with heated steps the broker described. And the 180-degree views from the 11th floor knocked their socks off. There was just one hitch: In the midst of their negotiations with the sellers, the buyers were informed that the board was considering a ban on pets in the building. “There was a terrific fight,” said Ms. de Rovira, “because a lot of the tenants were afraid that if their pets passed away, they wouldn’t be able to replace them with a new doggy.” But the animal-lovers prevailed, and man, wife and poodle have been in residence since last fall. Broker: Corcoran Group (Nina de Rovira).

Gramercy Park

105 East 19th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,000-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $399,000. Selling: $384,000.

Charges: $904; 64 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

ACROSS THE RIVER.While building a weekend home in Long Beach Island, N.J., a middle-aged engaged couple knew they wanted a Manhattan home, too. At the time, she worked at New York University Hospital, and he worked on Staten Island. No sooner had they hooked up with Jane Marder and begun looking at listings on the East Side when he was transferred to his company’s New Jersey office. While reconsidering neighborhoods, they eased their commutes by renting a place in Jersey City. Their broker suggested Gramercy Park and the Flatiron district, which would be accessible both to the tunnels to New Jersey and to New York University Hospital and began hunting for good listings. One morning, a broker took the fiancée to see this fourth-floor co-op off Park Avenue. By lunch time, the fiancée was back for a second look. Later that day, the husband-to-be was on his way over from New Jersey to see it. That night, they began negotiations. Their next challenge? Wedding plans. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Jane Marder and Lynne Weinlandt).

Greenwich Village

18 East 12th Street

Five-bed, three-bath, 3,395-square-foot prewar condo.

Asking: $1.65 million. Selling: $1.56 million.

Charges: $1,794. Taxes: $841.

Time on the market: six months.

VILLAGE PROFITS. In the late 1980’s, when residential real estate was at its low, an attorney and her husband bought two second-floor apartments and combined them into one. The lofts went for a song: $414,000 for the five-room unit, which they bought in 1987, and $92,500 for the 3.5-room adjoining unit two years later. In today’s whirling residential market, that’s pretty much highway robbery. True, the apartments are one level up from the ground, so the views are of passers-by and cars. But 3,500 square feet is a lot of space, particularly when you’re situated between Fifth Avenue and University Place in one of the few doorman condo buildings of the Central Village. So, warp-speed to 10 years later, and the sellers were able to unload their condos for close to a million dollars’ profit, not including their expenses for renovations. The buyers are a young family of four, and both parents are attorneys, so you can bet there was no funny business on this one. Broker: Corcoran (Viviane El-Yachar).