John Burger is a proper broker. He lives on the Upper East Side and summers in Water Mill; he helped break the New York co-op record when his client Rupert Murdoch paid $44 million at 834 Fifth, and again this year when his 1060 Fifth listing sold for $46 million.
But even brokers like Mr. Burger are running into a bit of trouble these days. This July, a New York surgeon and his wife signed a $2.6 million contract on one of Mr. Burger’s listings, a three-bedroom prewar co-op at 1111 Park Avenue.
In August, back before Wall Street’s free fall, the couple was turned down by the board.
Over the next few weeks, according to Mr. Burger, his sellers, an estate’s executors, got several new offers, but weren’t thrilled. “Their response to each of the four bidders was, ‘We just had a contract fall through at $2.6 million, that’s the price we’re looking to achieve.’ But that’s when the tide started going out.”
By the end of last month, when that tide was ebbing considerably, the estate changed its mind about one of those bidders, a 40-year-old investment banker for a major U.S. institution. They accepted her $2.35 million offer—nearly a 10 percent drop from the surgeon’s contract.
The banker walked away from that discounted deal last Wednesday. Talking to The Observer this week, on the condition that we call her Laura (from her high-school fake ID), she felt she deserved a crisis discount. “A few months ago, this thing would have gone at $2.6 million, and everyone would have said, ‘Oh, what a great deal,’” she explained. “I don’t think people are going to walk out and pay the same.”
Laura isn’t poor (she owns a two-bedroom condo on the Upper West Side, and is selling an Upper East Side place she co-owns), but figured that the Park Avenue co-op’s renovation and maintenance costs would make it too expensive now. “There’s a lot of fear,” she said.
This Monday, the apartment’s tag went down from $2.65 million to $2.495 million. When asked if he’s worried, Mr. Burger said, “I don’t see the doom and gloom. But, then again, I’m also being very honest and saying there’s a lot we don’t know yet.”