The Celtic Tiger Cashes Out: Centria Shifts From Irish Investment Vehicle to Asian One

The Celtic Tiger cashes out.

Goodbye Celtic Tiger.

During the last real estate boom, Irish buyers were falling over themselves to buy in the Centria, a glossy tower 35-story tower at 18 West 48th Street overlooking Rockefeller Center. Sight and site unseen, cash-flush Celts were buying off floorplans, in multiples, with gleeful abandon—those were the days!

When New York’s real estate market tanked, buyers in the building—which opened in 2007—saw the value of their investments (they were nearly all investments, rented out while they waited for their pay-out) plummet. Turned out that Manhattan real estate was not always the best way to go about Dublin your money (sorry!).

Most buyers have been selling for losses, and Asians have been the biggest beneficiaries. Two investors from Dublin sold their condo to Ting Cheng for $1.25 million in December, taking a loss on the $1.3 million they paid in 2007. Another, from County Cavan, lost about $14,000 on their unit after selling it to the Youssefs from Clearwater, Florida, and the Gallaghers from County Kilgare lost nearly $200,000 after selling to a couple from Hong Kong.

But at least one group of Irish investors seem to have made it out alright. George McGarry, Robert Kehoe and Christy Dowling, who listed their address as in Dublin, bought their 32nd-story unit in June of 2007 for nearly $1.7 million, but somehow managed to avoid the fate of their compatriots.

After renting the unit out for a few years, they turned to Sabrina Kleier-Morgenstern and John Mehigan at Kleier Residential who did the impossible: she actually made them money at the Centria.

“We actually had several bidders,” Ms. Kleier-Morgenstern told The Observer. “People with all cash, people who could act very quickly.”

The bidding war resulted in a $2.27 million sale of the two-bedroom unit, with Banafsheh Kalantari and Xuekang Dai, whose address is listed in city records as being in Dubai, emerging as the lucky bidders. According to Ms. Kleier-Morgenstern, the couple intends to live in the apartment, not rent it out.

For the sake of the new buyers, we hope all of this talk of a new housing bubble about to burst is just idle speculation. But the latest sale illustrates a somewhat uncomfortable truth about Manhattan real estate—it’s often a good investment, but it’s less frequently a great one. Or  a terrible one—if you can afford to wait the market out, that is.