Even though luxury real estate brokers are all horribly optimistic by nature, this summer there was a lot of stoic head-nodding about Manhattan’s fall from absurd exuberance back to reality. They called it the adjustment.
“Everybody likes to make money,” the broker A. Larry Kaiser IV sighed last month, “but you become realistic.”
So the big annual batch of post–Labor Day listings was supposed to be exceedingly humble. The thinking went that if even Julian Schnabel had eventually learned to cut his $59 million tag for the top two apartments at Palazzo Chupi by more than half, then most of the city’s autumn sellers would be getting with the program, too.
But stubbornness thrives.
The broker Raphael De Niro just listed a $28 million duplex penthouse at the Park Laurel that belongs to the philanthropist and investor Ephraim Gildor, records show. That’s only $3 million less than its last asking price from early 2008—and $2.5 million more than the tag was when Dolly Lenz listed it ages ago.
“The sellers are not desperate,” Mr. De Niro, the actor’s son, explained. “I wish people would slash the prices on these higher-end apartments, because more of them would move, but it’s not really happening, unfortunately,” he added later. “Yes, it is frustrating, but I truly believe, and this is no bullshit, that $28 million is a reasonable asking price.”
It’s not clear how much Mr. Gildor paid for the duplex. But this week, The Observer reported on the Web that Westchester corrugated-cardboard businessman Dennis Mehiel cut the price of his Carhart Mansion duplex from $34.9 million to $29.5 million, still $14 million more than he bought it for.
Following the progression of price cuts is like watching ambition slowly fade away. Last October, the personal injury lawyer Simon H. Forgette listed his townhouse at 333 East 65th Street for $15 million, even though it’s between First and Second avenue. He had paid $2,925,000 for it two years earlier. “That’s what he feels the property is worth,” the listing broker said at the time. Then the cuts came: The listings Web site Streeteasy shows that the price was $7.5 million in June; there was another fall a month later; and this month the tag was cut to $5.95 million.
“I’m looking for a profit, but not a lot of money,” said Mr. Forgette, who added that the original $15 million tag was an error, and that he wasn’t aware of the $7.5 million asking price. He declined to clarify.
Then there are the bigger townhouses. The century-old 120 East 70th (pictured), which records show belongs to Lois and Georges de Ménil, the collector Dominique de Ménil’s son, is now asking $28 million with Sotheby’s. That’s a relatively petite step down from its old $33 million asking price with Brown Harris Stevens’ Paula Del Nunzio. On Tuesday, Ms. Del Nunzio, who has five current listings above $25 million, explained that sellers will sometimes purposefully ask more than they know they can get, aware that buyers will want to haggle. “In other cases,” she said, “the seller’s absolutely in the clouds, and nothing’s going to change them.”
“If I’m overpriced, then so be it,” Kenneth D. Laub, who is asking $35 million for his Upper East Side townhouse, told The Observer in June. “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.”