In time, porcelain chips, silver tarnishes, silk fades and even the bubbliest trophy market goes flat. Nothing lasts forever, least of all the giddy highs of the ultra-luxury housing market, particularly one whose effervescence involves a lot of hot air.
Alas, the deal that kicked off 2012’s trophy craze—the $88 million sale of Sandy Weill’s 15 Central Park West penthouse—looks more and more like a one-off with each passing month. The biggest sale of 2013, a six-story “loft mansion” at 144 Duane Street, clocks in at less than half that amount—a mere $43 million—and $11 million less than the top co-op sale of 2012. The bloom is off the rose. Or rather, the shine is off the trophy. Seems there are only so many Russian billionaires to go around.
The top townhouse sale of the year, the Ellen Biddle Shipman house at 21 Beekman Place, which sold for $34.35 million, also paled in comparison to last year’s priciest townhouse, a $42 million Gilded Age Stanford White mansion on Fifth Avenue. Meanwhile, 2013’s biggest co-op sale, a $24 million penthouse at 720 Park Avenue, was even more of a disappointment compared to the 12,000-square-foot duplex penthouse that Denise Rich sold for $54 million to David Geffen in fall 2012.
So 2013 was the year the residential market returned to reality, a comedown after the heady excesses of 2012, but not a shocking one—the party couldn’t go on forever. And we are still far from the touch-and-go days of the recession, when sellers felt compelled by embarrassment and fear to whisper-list their palatial Park Avenue spreads. So the trophy market was a little over-hyped, but the high-end residential market is thriving, with a number of $30 and $40 and even $50 million units having gone into contract this year, many of them Downtown.
Indeed, as the top deal of the year (barring any late December closings), the $43 million Duane Street sale marks a new milestone for the Downtown, which has long been gaining ground on the rarefied Parkside precincts. Even as the most popular Downtown condos look increasingly like the pre-war co-ops lining Fifth and Park. To wit, 18 Gramercy, Walker Tower and the Abingdon at 607 Hudson. But 15 Central Park West, Lincoln Square’s historicist triumph, still shone, with two of the biggest sales of the year.
While the trophy market has returned to earth, sellers have been slow to follow. The triplex penthouse at the Pierre was listed for $125 million this year. River House, in its eagerness to modernize with the times, is trying to sell the River Club as a $130 million mansion. And just last week, the townhouse at 12 East 69th Street hit the market for $115 million.
Meanwhile, 2014 looks more promising, with $90-million-plus contracts at One57 and 432 Park poised to close, along with Roman Abramovich’s $75 million buy at 828 Fifth. But for now, the top twenty deals of 2013, as compiled by Miller Samuels.