In a market where even those shopping for the city’s most opulent co-ops are barely missing each other in the elevator, the sale of an apartment for eight figures is like a death knell. Thus, on April 16, when a 14-room apartment at 740 Park Avenue, an exclusive 1929 co-op designed by Rosario Candela, changed hands for $13 million, a massive sucking sound was emitted by Manhattan’s high-end brokers.
“There’s so little available, it’s pitiful,” said MacRae Parker Jr., a vice president at Brown Harris Stevens L.L.C., which manages the building. “And there are quite a few buyers out there in that price range.”
Even the perception of an inadequate supply of ultra-luxe apartments is driving prices up with the Dow. According to real estate executives, the $13 million sale at 740 Park–a 17-story Art Deco building on the northwest corner of 71st Street and Park Avenue–represents one of the highest prices ever paid for a Park Avenue co-op. The 14th-floor apartment was sold by Donald Rynne, a private investor who, until recently, lived in the apartment with his wife, Trinka Rynne. Real estate sources said the buyer is the chief executive of a firm outside Manhattan. Four brokerages were marketing the apartment: Alice F. Mason Ltd., Edward Lee Cave Inc., Stribling & Associates and Douglas Elliman. The buyer was represented by both Edward Lee Cave Inc. and Sotheby’s International Realty.
The apartment was on the market for a year before it prompted a two-party bidding war. But both potential buyers survived the scrutiny–financially, at least–that brokers conduct prior to presenting an offer to owners in the building, which has one of the city’s most demanding co-op boards. (“We were requested to prescreen clients with a minimum of $100 million net worth,” said a broker involved with the deal.) The resulting sale was for $1 million below the final asking price set last December; the monthly maintenance is $10,892 per month.
Manhattan’s highest-ever co-op transfer was the sale of Australian newspaper heiress Lady Mary Fairfax’s triplex space in the Pierre hotel at 795 Fifth Avenue near 61st street, which closed in February for more than $20 million. The buyer, securities executive Martin Zweig, had been waffling on the deal for a year–at one point even losing his 10 percent down payment on the apartment, only to recoup the loss six months later by completing the sale.
The next highest co-op sale–and the highest so far on Park Avenue–was the 1994 purchase by buyout king Henry Kravis of the 26-room apartment of the Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the twin sister of the late Shah of Iran, at 625 Park Avenue, for $15 million; Mr. Kravis moved there from a 16-room apartment in 740 Park. Mr. Kravis and his wife, Marie-Josée Drouin, reportedly went on to spend $7 million on redecorating.
In 1996, Microsoft Corporation co-founder Paul Allen paid $14 million for the 11th-floor co-op of real estate developer Martin Raynes at 4 East 66th Street.
The $13 million Rynne apartment consists of four large bedrooms, each resembling a master suite (one of which was being used as a study), seven and a half baths and, of course, several servant’s quarters (one of which was being used as a gym) and a private elevator landing. It is one of the only single-floor apartments in a building of 31 units–mostly duplexes, with a triplex penthouse; the apartment has two terraces facing Park Avenue. The reception rooms are “rather palatial,” said one broker who has toured the apartment recently; it also has “exquisite light and superb details.” In fact, the apartment still has almost all its original details.
No. 740 was home to titans of industry, including John D. Rockefeller, before an influx of Wall Street money in the 1970′s and 80′s. One report says the building boasts the highest ceilings and the widest hallways on Park Avenue. Mr. Rockefeller’s 50-room penthouse triplex has been divided, and 34 of his former rooms belong to Reliance Group Holdings chairman Saul Steinberg, who bought them for $225,000 in the early 70′s. Other current residents include Brown Harris Stevens co-chairman Kent Swig, former ITT Industries chief executive Rand Araskog, Courtney Ross, widow of Time Warner chairman Steve Ross, and Ronald Lauder, chairman of Estee Lauder International.
Mr. Rynne, who has signed a contract to purchase another apartment on Park Avenue, could not be reached for comment.
VANITY FAIR W RITER HOPES GOOD REVIEWS HAUNT HIS NEW HOME. Having converted a September 1998 Vanity Fair story on Billie Holiday’s 1939 recording of “Strange Fruit” into a book contract, David Margolick purchased a two-story house on Bay View Road in Noyac, L.I., for $425,000 on March 24. The shingle-style home on only a quarter of an acre was rented last summer by Melissa Bank, while she finished her much-anticipated book The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing , a humorous antidote to The Rules .
Mr. Margolick, 47, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair , became acquainted with Ms. Bank, 37, and the home he would later purchase, last summer, when he had a share in the house next door. Ms. Bank spent the summer putting the finishing touches on Girls’ Guide , a short-story collection based on a heroine who tries to follow the advice of a book called How to Meet and Marry Mr. Right . Girls’Guide , Ms. Bank’s first book, will be published in late May by Viking, which has already tripled its original press run based on good advance reviews; she’s writing the screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola.
“I’m hoping that the muse inhabits the floorboards,” said Mr. Margolick, who admired Ms. Bank’s book and wants to knock off one of his own this summer. “It’s a very modest place, and it’s a good place to read and write.”
Built in 1940, Mr. Margolick’s good luck charm comes complete with a guest cottage. It has been owned since 1994 by a Sag Harbor vacationer named Seyed Hashemi. The lot boasts about 100 feet of waterfront and a floating dock on Little Peconic Bay. As far as Hamptons go, this neighborhood is fairly low-key; one local real estate broker described it as “not a particularly upscale area,” filled with “modest, resort-y, true summer homes–not these palatial things.”
But even with the deed to the place next door, Mr. Margolick will not likely miss the companionship of last summer. “As one of my friends said, when I told him I was going to buy out there, ‘Let the schnorring begin,’” he laughed. “I’ll leave it to you to spell that.”
UPPER EAST SIDE
345 East 81st Street (Eton House)
Two-bed, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $399,000. Selling: $399,000.
Charges: $1,252; 61 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: three weeks.
401 East 84th Street (Dunhill)
Three-bed, three-bath, 1,700-square-foot condo.
Asking: $665,000. Selling: $625,000.
Charges: $1,250. Taxes: $666.
Time on the market: five months.
CLAUSE FOR ALARM. In January, Jacky Teplitzky-Dobens came across two combined condos for sale for $665,000 in the Dunhill, a 28-story building on East 84th Street near First Avenue. She bid $625,000 immediately and started to market her current apartment–two bedrooms, 1,200 square feet, in the Eton House, 345 East 81st Street, at First Avenue–for $399,000. But when the contract for the Dunhill apartment arrived, Ms. Teplitzky-Dobens discovered a section that horrified her: a time-is-of-the-essence clause stating that if she didn’t finalize the deal within 60 days of signing the contract, she would lose the apartment–and her $6,250 down payment. Of course, if Ms. Teplitzky-Dobens, a broker with the Corcoran Group and mother of two, didn’t sell her current home first, she wouldn’t have the money to finalize the sale, anyway. So she hired a lawyer, who haggled with the owner of the Dunhill apartment–the building’s sponsor–until the clause was removed. Meanwhile, at her first showing of her current apartment, at an open house on a rainy afternoon in late January, a couple offered her the price she was asking. Those legal fees can just be written off as a victory for the I.P.O.-impaired. Broker: Corcoran Group (Jacky Teplitzky-Dobens).
UPPER WEST SIDE
514 West End Avenue
Two-bed, two-bath, 1,400-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $669,000. Selling: $667,500.
Charges: $1,316; 70 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: five weeks.
HER BIRTH RITES. A woman in her late 20′s who works on Wall Street seems to have had the perfect pedigree for this two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in a 17-story co-op on West End Avenue near 84th Street. Two of her siblings live within a few blocks and vouched for her in letters to the co-op board. Much to her alarm, however, her purchase was delayed when the woman selling the apartment gave birth to her second child. But the two women were never that much at odds: The sellers were making a tidy profit on the 1,400-square-foot apartment, which they got for a bargain several years ago when the building converted from a rental to a co-op. Broker: Corcoran (Janice Throckmorton and Joy Weiner).
210 West 21st Street
Three-bed, one-bath, 900-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $350,000. Selling: $315,000.
Charges: $893; 60 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: three months.
SPORTS HACK AND PH.D. CANDIDATE SWIPE 400 MORE SQUARE FEET. A New York Newsday sportswriter and his graduate-student wife were renting a 500-square-foot apartment on St. Mark’s Place when they decided they wanted to buy this Chelsea co-op near Seventh Avenue: a 900-square-foot penthouse (well, it’s on the top floor, the seventh). The building was recently refinanced, which has encouraged previously wary banks to lend to would-be buyers again. The apartment’s layout is railroad-style; there are three small bedrooms. The young couple, who presumably need space for writing and studying, will sleep in the largest bedroom–the one closest to the kitchen–and use the other two for their respective cubicles. Broker: William B. May Real Estate (Mark Midensky).
60 Horatio Street
Four-story town house.
Asking: $1.75 million. Selling: $1.625 million.
Time on the market: seven weeks.
A LAWYER IN A DOLLHOUSE. A couple with two children bought this 1845 house near Hudson Street in 1991 for $990,000. It didn’t especially need renovation, but the couple–a physician and an attorney–installed new bathrooms, a landscaped garden and some heavy decorations, anyway. Eight years later, they have decided to move uptown. “These are like dollhouses,” said broker Patricia Warburg Cliff of the buildings on this picturesque block in the West Village, where the price of town houses is unsinkable. “They’re not very deep. But they’re charming.” About 14 people saw the place before a divorced lawyer, also with two kids, came by. Over a drink, the sellers and the lawyer cut a deal for $1.625 million. For the new bachelor, “dollhouse” isn’t exactly what he had in mind. He will start by toning down the Laura Ashley accouterments. Broker: Douglas Elliman (Patricia Warburg Cliff).
471 West Broadway
Two-bed, one-bath, 1,800-square-foot prewar co-op loft.
Asking: $799,000. Selling: $765,000.
Charges: $600; 40 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one month.
VIOLINIST ON THE ROOF. With David Bowie plunking down nearly $4 million for a couple of condos on Lafayette and Houston streets, a SoHo penthouse selling for $765,000 seems insufferable. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.) But in this case, there are several flights of stairs involved. And for the woman who will move into this 1,800-square-foot, fourth-floor co-op, there’s a piano that has to be transported from Washington, D.C. Broker Viviane El-Yachar believes that the upstairs hike is discouragement enough against any significant renovations on the space. Luckily, the seller added skylights and central air-conditioning–and the apartment comes with exclusive rights to the roof. Broker: Corcoran (Viviane El-Yachar).