NYC Luxury-Condo Buyers Await New Towers as Sales Slow

One57 Tower Rendering
At One57, where sales began in 2011, about 25 of the 94 condos remained as of June 30. Source: Extell Development Co. via Bloomberg

Sales at One57, the ultra-luxury Manhattan condominium tower that set off a high-end residential construction boom, have slowed to a trickle amid competition from newer properties reaching the market.

Only two units at Extell Development Co.’s Midtown property went under contract this year through June 30, according to filings on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, where the company sells debt to investors. There were no sales in the final three months of 2013 at the building, which had earlier found buyers for two penthouses at more than $90 million each. About 25 of the 94 units on the market were unsold as of June 30, the filings show.

“This is not a normal pace,” Jonathan Miller, president of New York-based appraiser Miller Samuel Inc., said in an interview. “This building had many price increases when it was the only building out there, so maybe they overdid it. In other words, the sky is not the limit.”

The slowdown at One57, the 1,004-foot (306-meter) tower piercing the sky near the southern end of Central Park, indicates buyers are pulling back on deals at buildings already on the market in anticipation of more choices for new super-luxury homes. At least six residential properties aimed at multimillionaires, including Zeckendorf Development Co.’s 520 Park Ave. and Vornado Realty Trust’s 220 Central Park South, are under construction in or near Midtown, with plans to begin sales in the coming year.

Contracts Down

Contracts for newly built Manhattan apartments priced at $10 million or more declined 18 percent in the first half of the year from the same period in 2013, data from brokerage Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group show. The number of available units jumped 74 percent to 129.

What’s offered for sale is also getting more expensive. For listings of at least $10 million in new developments, the median asking price climbed 3 percent from a year earlier to $16.5 million, the brokerage said.

“People are feeling that, at that kind of price, when they know and read about more new development coming, they’re slower to do a deal,” said Ryan Schleis, vice president of research and analytics at Corcoran Sunshine. “They want to see what the other options are.”

Across Manhattan and in all price ranges, 13,000 more new-development units will be brought to market from the third quarter through the end of 2016, according to the brokerage.

At One57, where sales began in 2011, the units that have been slow to find buyers are those adjacent to the construction crane, Extell filings on the Tel Aviv exchange show.

Buyer Views

Crews working on the 90-story skyscraper used those units to house building materials, making it difficult for potential buyers to view them, Extell said.

The tower’s condos sit atop a 25-floor Park Hyatt hotel, which opened in August and may become Manhattan’s first five-star lodging property in more than a decade.

“Certainly there is more competition at the very high end (although no other comparable project has a five-star hotel),” Jeff Dvorett, Extell’s vice president of development, said in an e-mail. The range of choices is affecting all ultra-luxury developments, not just One57, he said.

A slowdown in contracts is natural for an under-construction property that has sold as many as 70 percent of its units, Dvorett said in the e-mail. Deals will pick up once clients can enter the completed building and see actual homes rather than make decisions based on floor plans, he said.

After Crash

Extell was a pioneer when it broke ground on One57 in 2009, after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. ushered in the real estate rout. The building, planned as Manhattan’s tallest residential tower, reached $1 billion in sales after six months. Bill Ackman, founder of New York hedge-fund firm Pershing Square Management LP, is said to be part of an investment group that purchased one of the upper-floor duplexes for more than $90 million.

Extell raised prices at One57 at least twice, according to filings with the New York State attorney general’s office, which monitors condo transactions. A 6,200-square-foot (576-square-meter) apartment on the 88th floor, for example, was initially marketed for sale in June 2011 at $52.5 million. By September 2012, it was listed at $67 million. At the end of 2012, 53 of the building’s for-sale homes, or about 56 percent, were under contract, the Israeli filings show.

Less Urgency

“When you’re the only one offering apartments in this segment, then you have much more control over pricing,” said Miller, who is a Bloomberg View contributor. “When other choices start appearing, there’s not the same urgency.”

The building’s West 57th Street neighborhood, fringing Central Park, has emerged as a billionaires district, where developers are racing to build skyscrapers of record-setting heights aimed at buyers seeking an investment haven. Macklowe Properties and CIM Group’s 432 Park Ave. has surpassed One57 in height and is slated to reach 1,397 feet when completed. A penthouse there is under contract for $95 million.

The high-end construction boom has spread south. Adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue, Singapore-based Pontiac Land Group is joining Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Hines to build a 1,050-foot condo tower with 145 apartments. Sales are starting in the first quarter. China Vanke Co., that nation’s biggest publicly traded developer, and Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC are working on a 61-story property at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street, where sales also will begin next year.

‘Five Seconds’

“In New York, a new club lasts like five seconds and then there is something new,” said Jacky Teplitzky, a luxury broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “And then the old club, which is not really old, becomes old.”

Prospective buyers considering One57 or 432 Park Ave. increasingly are asking about pricing at Vornado’s 220 Central Park South, which broke ground this year, Teplitzky said. Ninety apartments are planned for that tower, according to the attorney general’s office. Sales haven’t started yet.

The dual-tower project has drawn interest because it will be located at the southern border of Central Park, compared with several blocks west of the park, where One57 and others are.

“It will have an unobstructed view,” Teplitzky said. “It’s row one. If you think of One57, it’s like row two.”

Cash-rich investors also are searching for properties beyond Midtown, she said. The same would-be buyers who are interested in towers along the park are inquiring about Silverstein Properties Inc.’s 30 Park Place in lower Manhattan, where 157 condos are being built atop a Four Seasons hotel.

The Best

“People are taking a bit longer to to pull the trigger,” Teplitzky said. “Whoever is buying 15, 20, 30 million-dollar apartments, they want to make sure they’re buying the best of the best.”

Other condo projects in the Midtown area include JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group’s planned 1,400-foot tower at 111 W. 57th St., half a block from One57, where sales of the 60 units will start in the second quarter of next year; and Zeckendorf’s 520 Park Ave., with sales beginning in early 2015. A triplex penthouse there will be offered for $130 million, Arthur Zeckendorf said in an interview yesterday, making it New York’s most expensive listing.

Extell also is building about 184 more units at 225 W. 57th St., a project that will reach 1,488 feet and have Manhattan’s first Nordstrom department store at its base, the developer said in its filings in Israel.

Same Pool

All those developments will be pricing units at more than $5,000 a square foot, putting them in competition for the same pool of ultra-wealthy buyers, said Donna Olshan, president of Olshan Realty Inc. and author of a weekly newsletter on the New York luxury market.

“There is a lot of building that is proposed for the Midtown corridor, and the question is how many units can be sold for north of $10 million at the same time?” Olshan said.

Buyers at One57 in 2013 agreed to pay an average of $6,333 a square foot, according to Extell filings. The two apartments that went into contract this year sold for $5,824 a square foot and $8,734 a square foot.

Extell expects the unsold units at One57 to find buyers by the end of the year, according to the filings. In the meantime, the developer refinanced its debt on the site, taking out a $337 million mortgage with Deutsche Bank AG in July.

Park Hyatt

Extell also sold its stake in the 210-room Park Hyatt to Hyatt Hotels Corp., rather than keeping a 33.33 percent interest as initially planned, filings show. Hyatt in an Aug. 5 statement said it acquired the entire hotel for about $390 million.

Extell declined to comment on the sale of the hotel stake to Hyatt. The Chicago-based hotel operator bought the property because of its prominent location in a top market, which will boost the brand’s visibility, said Jamie Rothfeld, a Hyatt spokeswoman.

The Park Hyatt’s opening may be the marketing jolt that helps Extell sell the remaining apartments above it, according to Olshan.

“If you’re really rich, you’re thinking, ‘This is a good place to park my money and I don’t have to wait around for the other stuff to be built,’” Olshan said. “It’s new, and it’s done.”

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