Category Archives: Luxury Homes

Jeffrey Epstein’s $56 Million Mansion Could Become a Real-Estate Nightmare

(Jeanette Settembre) Jeffrey Epstein lived in what’s reportedly one of the largest private homes in Manhattan, where he allegedly sexually abused under aged girls, an allegation so horrific, real-estate experts say people will go out of their way to avoid walking down the block.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Epstein’s seven-story, 21,000-square-foot Upper East Side home near Central Park is reportedly valued at $56 million, and if the home ever hits the market again, the stigma from the financier’s alleged sex-trafficking scandal will likely diminish its worth.

“After an event like this occurs, and the public becomes aware of it, all of a sudden the value drops significantly,” real-estate appraiser Orell Anderson, who valued the homes where Nicole Brown Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey were murdered, told MarketWatch.

“When tragedy or crime occurs at a home, it could take years before it ever sells, even if it’s a high profile residence”

One might find what’s inside the mansion disturbing even without knowing the harrowing acts that occurred inside.The home is reportedly adorned with unsettling decor choices, like a female doll hanging from the chandelier, and a self-portrait Epstein reportedly commissioned of himself portrayed in a prison scene behind barbed wire in the middle of a corrections officer and a guard station, according to The New York Times. All of those adornments, of course, would be removed in lieu of any sale.

When tragedy or crime occurs at a home, it could take years before it ever sells, even if it’s a high profile residence. And when it does, the buyer usually gets a discount on it, and the market value could take years to bounce back, if it ever does, Anderson says.

Homes where something as extreme as a murder occurs can often decrease a property’s value by 25% because of physical damages to the house like blood stains, or the lingering smell of dead bodies, Anderson explains. Then there’s the stigma of living in a house where someone was killed, or a tragedy happened.

After O.J. Simpson’s former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her 26-year-old friend Ron Goldman were found dead outside of her Brentwood home in 1994, Brown Simpson’s family tried to sell it, but no one wanted to buy a home where a double homicide occurred.

The house was on the market for two years before it finally sold for a fraction of what Brown Simpson paid for it. She purchased the home for $625,000 and it sold for $525,000, according to realtor.com. And in 1974 when Ronald DeFeo murdered an entire family in the “Amityville Horror House,” it sold for a $250,000 loss in 2017.

“The property in the short-term would take a significant hit to what its potential would be.”

New York City-based real-estate appraiser Jonathan Miller says even cursed homes see resiliency.

“Whenever there is a tragedy, generally speaking, at least in New York, the property in the short-term would take a significant hit to what its potential would be,” Miller explained.

He said Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion is especially unique because there’s only a handful like them on the block near Central Park. “I find that within a few years that generally fades away and even accelerates when you have a unique property or housing shortage.”

How to salvage and attempt to sell a cursed property

Once the dust settles after a tragedy, there are physical changes that can be made to present the property in a new light.

“It’s best to make the house look different from the pictures of it in the media so that people don’t immediately recognize it.” Anderson says, of changing the facade. “Put in more lights or change the color of the walls so there’s a perception that things have changed.”

That could mean investing in landscapers to add more plants to the front entrance to make it look more inviting, or changing the color of the home to make it appear brand new so perspective buyers don’t associate the property with it’s dark history.

However, real-estate agents are typically obliged to reveal the history of a house, especially if there were serious crimes committed there such as a murder, to a prospective buyer.

To boost the value of Simpson Brown’s home, it underwent a massive renovation and an address change so prospective buyers wouldn’t associate the condo with its past. It took more than a decade to bounce back selling for $1.72 million in 2006, according to realtor.com.

In the DeFeo murder home, granite counter tops, a heated sun room, fireplace and home sprinkler system were added likely to help boost the value in 2016 before it sold a year later.

Homes where tragedies occur can be redeveloped, turned into memorials or destroyed

Anderson says another way to restore a property that’s been plagued by crime or violence is to demolish it and rebuild something completely new, like turning a single-family mansion into an apartment building or office space depending on what zoning and land laws permit.

“If you had the kind of money, you could tear down the home and make it into something different,” Anderson said. In other cases, like an act of terrorism or a mass shooting, sometimes homes or the place where a tragedy occurred are destroyed all together, Anderson noted.

Some buyers hire energy healers to chase away evil spirits and bad vibes

When the DeFeo murder home first sold in 1975 after he was convicted, the buyers reportedly moved out nearly a month after they moved in because they allegedly heard voices telling them to “get out.” It could be worth getting an energy healer or spiritual leader to come in and cleanse the house, Anderson says, to put potential home owners at ease.

“If your market demands it, you could get your local priest or energy healer to come exercise the bad spirits. It might sound ridiculous, but that seems to be calming for people who believe in ghosts, or have superstitions,” Anderson says.

Source: By Jeanette Settembre | Realtor.com

***

The Jeffrey Epstein Rabbit Hole Goes a Lot Deeper Than You’ve Been Told So Far

It seems like the whole Epstein thing was an elaborate professional blackmail operation intended to ensnare the rich and powerful. But who was really behind it, who was really bankrolling Epstein?

We really need to get to the bottom of this for all the right dominos fall.

Hunting For Ranches Like Penthouses Means Perks, Or Forget It

Source: T. Boone Pickens Family Office

(Bloomberg) — Buyers looking for the perfect luxury ranch, that billionaire’s take on American rural life, may have to hold out to get what they want.

Whether it’s sky-high in New York or in the Big Sky country of Montana, high-end properties seem to be hitting a soft patch: they’re harder to sell unless they come with an exclusivity where price matter less. But that means paying a premium for that perfect combination: from mountain views at sunset to proximity to well-stocked towns to wildlife or the cachet of neighbors.

While six of 38 ranches listed for sale at more than $10 million have been marked down in the past 90 days, there’s a limited supply of properties that cover the full range of features, according to Billings, Montana-based broker Hall and Hall.

“When you get all of those things working together, if you really want that, you have to pay up if it comes available,” said Hall and Hall managing director B Elfland, who goes by his first-name initial without a period.

That has some sellers betting that bigger is better. Morton Fleischer, chairman and co-founder of Store Capital Corp., is marketing his Arizona and Montana ranches together for $50 million. One selling point, he said by phone, is the millions poured into the area by GoDaddy Inc.’s billionaire founder Bob Parsons.

Private Jet, Horses

“If I was younger, I wouldn’t sell that ranch,” Fleischer, 82, said of his Scottsdale home. “It’s a good investment for someone.”

“I got out of the pressure cooker and could get on my horses,” he said. “Perhaps someone running a hedge fund who’s in their 40s and wants to live a lifestyle out west and has enough money to have a jet plane to get back and forth could do the same.’’

Nearly doubling the price to attract a buyer may seem counterintuitive. Take West Creek Ranch in Colorado, with no buyer since John Hendricks listed it for $149 million in 2017. Now the Discovery Channel founder is combining the offer with his guest resort and car museum down the road for $279 million, according to Sotheby’s International Realty.

Also on the market in Colorado for $46 million is Henry Kravis’s Westlands Ranch. Kravis has a net worth of $6.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index. Private-equity executive Charlie Gallagher is asking $36 million for his Elk Island Ranch.

Exclusive Market

That’s a far cry from what NFL and Premier League team owner Stan Kroenke paid in 2016 when he bought the W.T. Waggoner Estate Ranch in Texas listed for $725 million, which is bigger than New York city and Los Angeles combined. Kroenke has a net worth of $8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.

In Montana, “In each 2016 and 2017, there were only four sales $10 million and above,’’ said Hall and Hall broker David Johnson. “The next year, there were eight. It wasn’t a double in demand. It was a double in supply.”

Hall and Hall sold 16 ranches for more than $10 million in 2018, compared to six so far in 2019. While that may suggest a slowdown, ranch sales can’t be compared to the frenzy of big cities.

“Our market doesn’t have the dramatic swings that New York and California residential markets have,” said Elfland.

Owning a rural slice of heaven runs deep in the psyche of even the biggest victors of capitalism. Shining examples of the American Dream are the country’s biggest individual landowners, John Malone, who has a net worth of $8.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index, and Ted Turner, founder of CNN.

Life Timing

Buying a ranch can be a matter of timing, of having a job on autopilot and kids out of the house who want to visit.

“The clock is running, so if they’re going to enjoy it, it’s an incentive to pay a premium,” said Johnson.

When the kids stop visiting, it can be sad.

“We sold one last year that had been on the market for 10 years,’’ he said. “The price had come down by two thirds to where the buyer would pick it up.’’

Source: by Hailey Waller | Bloomberg News

Mansion Bust: Hamptons Estate Sells For 46% Discount

Arbor Realty Trust CEO and president Ivan Kaufman just bought a 58-acre estate in the Hamptons for $35 million — about HALF of its $75 million asking price from 2003 and about $14 million less than its most recent asking price, reported the New York Post.

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The estate in Bridgehampton, called Three Ponds Farm, features an 18-hole golf course, a large pool, several gardens, a tennis court, and ponds.

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The estate was first listed in 2003 with an asking price of $75 million. Then in 2007, listed again for $68 million. It was relisted back in December 2018 for $49 million.

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Down the street, the 42-acre Jule Pond estate in Southampton was slashed by $30 million for an asking price around $145 million instead of $175 million.

The developments of the deteriorating Hamptons mansion market comes at a time when luxury real estate across the North East is under structural stress.

Several months ago, we reported about the housing crisis developing between Manhattan, Greenwich, and the Hamptons.

The median sale price of a Hamptons home has fallen to a seven-year low of $860,000, according to our report.

Some of the real estate slowdowns can be connected to President Trump’s federal tax reform, which makes it more expensive to own estates.

Across all price levels, sales in the Hamptons have declined five straight quarters. This has led to an overall decline in the median sale price of homes, down 5.5% in 1Q19 versus the same period a year ago. About 300 homes changed hands in last quarter, was the lowest sales transactions in many years.

The wealth of the Hamptons real-estate market is closely correlated with those of nearby Manhattan, another real estate market that is quickly cooling.

Source: ZeroHedge

Developers Are Pulling Out All The Stops Amid Los Angeles’ Mega-Mansion Glut

Builders and brokers are throwing blowout bashes and testing an array of marketing stunts amid the area’s spec home bubble

(WSJ) Heavy duty vehicles line both sides of many of the winding two-way streets in the Hollywood Hills, making them treacherous single-lane thoroughfares. Construction workers wave stop signs as trucks laden with glass and steel back slowly out of driveways. Empty parcels of land all over Los Angeles’s poshest neighborhoods are being transformed into lavish mansions with price tags in the tens, or even hundreds, of millions.

“Every time I drive up there for any reason, if I return without getting my car dinged I breathe a sigh of relief,” says Andy Butler, a real-estate marketing consultant.

Real-estate experts estimate that there are about 50 ultra high-end spec houses under construction in the area, from Beverly Hills to Bel-Air and Brentwood.

The unprecedented wave of development has its roots in the heady days of 2014 and 2015, when foreign buyers poured into Los Angeles and luxury markets across the country logged record sales. A couple of local megawatt deals—including the $70 million sale of a Beverly Hills compound to billionaire Minecraft creator Markus Persson in 2014—inspired the construction of bigger and pricier homes, most of which were built as contemporary cubes. Some were built by inexperienced developers; many had price tags north of $20 million.

Now, there are simply too many, and not enough buyers to go around. “It’s created its own monster,” says Stephen Shapiro of Westside Estate Agency. “We have an enormous oversupply of these white boxes. There’s years of inventory out there.”

This Bel-Air home shaped like an airplane propeller is asking $56 million. A rendering of the home. Matthew Momberger

A review of the Los Angeles multiple listings service shows close to 100 homes on the market asking over $20 million in Los Angeles County, at least 35 of which could be classified as spec homes, and more are under construction. And those are just the listed ones: Appraiser Jonathan Miller says more than a third of homes in that price category are never entered in the MLS. Some of the city’s most expensive are notably absent.

The surplus mirrors a similar situation in New York, where high-end developers rushed to build pricey condos amid a market upswing, and are now faced with enormous competition for buyers.

But unlike New York, smaller, private lenders and wealthy individuals have provided much of the financing for the Los Angeles spec homes.

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Don Hankey, a California businessman known as the king of subprime car loans, says one of his companies has provided close to $300 million on high-end homes in the Los Angeles market, including on spec homes. Public records show Hankey Capital provided about $82.5 million in financing to “The One,” an almost-built megamansion by Los Angeles developer Nile Niami, who plans to list it for $500 million.

That asking price is more than twice the record paid for a home in the U.S., a record set earlier this year by hedge funder Ken Griffin’s purchase of a nearly $240 million penthouse in New York. The record price for a Los Angeles area home was set by the $110 million sale of a Malibu mansion in 2018.

“You have to be concerned,” Mr. Hankey says of the oversupply. “We’ve cut back. We’re not as aggressive in the financing.”

Other lenders on pricey spec homes include Axos Bank, formerly Bank of Internet, which financed a massive $180 million monolith built by plastic surgeon and newbie developer Raj Kanodia.

The debt load for developers can be substantial. “If I’m living in my house and I put it on the market for sale, I’m still living in my house,” Mr. Shapiro says. “These are empty houses, and the developer is spending a lot every month to keep them.”

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Andy Warhol’s 1974, two-toned, Rolls-Royce Shadow can be included in the deal for a new Trousdale spec home that’s branded around the artist. Photo: Darren Asay

In this environment, and amid signs that prices are falling, developers and their agents are going to extraordinary lengths to differentiate their listings from the pack. They are throwing themed bashes in lieu of traditional open houses, thinking up gimmicky new amenities and hiring marketing experts to reimagine homes as individual brands with their own names, logos and stories. Some developers are relisting plots of land, hoping to get their money out without sinking more money into construction.

“People come to us because they want to stand out,” says Alexander Ali, whose marketing and public relations firm the Society Group is finding a growing business in creating brands for megamansions. “There are so many new homes coming to the market every day.”

Mr. Ali’s latest exercise: Turning a roughly 7,600-square-foot contemporary home in Trousdale into “WARHOL 90210,” a property branded around artist Andy Warhol. Mr. Ali and the developer, Wystein Opportunity Fund, joined with a local gallery to display Warhol prints in the home. At a Warhol-themed disco to be held on site, a Warhol look-alike will be filmed striding through the party; the resulting video will be blasted out on social media. (The house has no connection to Mr. Warhol.)

Amid a surplus of luxury spec homes, developers and their agents are going to extraordinary lengths to differentiate their listings from the pack, like throwing themed bashes in lieu of traditional open houses. Photo: Joshua Bobrove

David Parnes, Mauricio Umansky and James Harris of The Agency, which threw the party. Photo: Joshua Bobrove

Mr. Ali convinced the agent that Mr. Warhol’s onetime car—a 1974, two-toned, Rolls-Royce Shadow—and the Warhol prints featured in the home should be included in the deal. “It defines the house as a collector’s dream,” Mr. Ali says. The whole package seeks $17.75 million. The house can be sold separately for $15.625 million.

In February, Mr. Niami threw an elaborate party inspired by Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” in a home he is listing for $39.995 million. Its three levels were organized into heaven, earth and hell, and models in colorful tulle dresses swam in the property’s glass bottomed pool, said Mr. Ali, who organized the party.

There were actors posing as Adam and Eve while hosting a virtual reality game that allowed guests to enter a rendition of the Bosch painting. People drank whiskey infused with the body of a dead cobra, and dancing women dressed in leather, whips and chains. A camel stood at the entrance to greet guests.

Another performer floated on the surface of the pool in a transparent bubble. Photo: Joshua Bobrove

In Bel-Air, real-estate brokerage firm the Agency recently threw a “Great Gatsby” themed event to launch a $35.5 million spec house. A female performer in a bedazzled costume hung upside down from a trapeze to pour champagne for guests, while another floated on the pool in a transparent bubble.

Mr. Ali says developers will pay anywhere from $20,000 to hundreds of thousands to throw such events.

In addition to the parties, developers are always on the hunt for creative new amenities. “It’s about the wow factor,” says spec home developer Ramtin Ray Nosrati, whose under-construction mansion in Brentwood includes a secret room for growing and smoking marijuana.

The ventilated room, accessed by hitting a button hidden inside a living room bookcase, will have tinted windows that darken for privacy. The house, slated to ask between $30 million and $40 million, will also come with a budget for an employee to supervise growing and harvesting. Mr. Nosrati compared the amenity to “having your own vineyard.”

Despite all this, price cuts are the order of the day. Bruce Makowsky, a handbag designer-turned-developer who sold the Minecraft property, lowered the price of his latest project, a lavish Bel-Air house with a candy room and a helipad, to $150 million, down from its original $250 million asking price. Mr. Niami slashed the price of a sprawling 20,500-square-foot house known as Opus to $59.995 million, down from $100 million.

Developer Ario Fakheri has chopped the asking price for his Hollywood Hills home with a roughly 300-gallon indoor shark tank to $26.995 million from $35 million.

Sales are still happening: Approximately 11 deals have closed for more than $20 million in Los Angeles so far this year, and a Saudi buyer recently paid $45 million for a spec home built by diamond manufacturer Rafael Zakaria. But buyers know they have the upper hand. “People are making lowball offers,” says Mr. Shapiro of Westside Estate Agency. “They’re not being shy.”

Doug Barnes, the founder of Eyemart Express, sold a contemporary home in Beverly Hills for $34.65 million in April, or nearly 40% off its original $55 million asking price, records show. British restaurateur and Soho House co-owner Richard Caring is listing a home he bought in Beverly Hills for $29.995 million; he paid $33 million for it in 2016, records show.

As for “The One,” the $500 million property was originally slated to come on the market in 2017 but has yet to be listed. The developer blamed construction delays.

Corrections & Amplifications: Stephen Shapiro of Westside Estate Agency said buyers know they have the upper hand in negotiations to purchase high-end spec homes. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that sellers have the upper hand. (May 30, 2019)

Appeared in the May 31, 2019, print edition as ‘The Spec Home Bubble.’

Source: by Katherine Clarke | The Wall Street Journal via @kathieClarkeNYC

‘Too Big To Sell’ – Boomers Trapped In McMansions As Retirement Looms

More wealthy baby boomers are finding themselves trapped in homes that are too big to sell. They want to downsize but can’t get what they paid.

This was guaranteed to happen, and did. Baby boomers and retirees built large, elaborate dream homes only to find that few people want to buy them.

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Please consider a Growing Problem in Real Estate: Too Many Too Big Houses.

Large, high-end homes across the Sunbelt are sitting on the market, enduring deep price cuts to sell.

That is a far different picture than 15 years ago, when retirees were rushing to build elaborate, five or six-bedroom houses in warm climates, fueled in part by the easy credit of the real estate boom. Many baby boomers poured millions into these spacious homes, planning to live out their golden years in houses with all the bells and whistles.

Now, many boomers are discovering that these large, high-maintenance houses no longer fit their needs as they grow older, but younger people aren’t buying them.

Tastes—and access to credit—have shifted dramatically since the early 2000s. These days, buyers of all ages eschew the large, ornate houses built in those years in favor of smaller, more-modern looking alternatives, and prefer walkable areas to living miles from retail.

The problem is especially acute in areas with large clusters of retirees. In North Carolina’s Buncombe County, which draws retirees with its mild climate and Blue Ridge Mountain scenery, there are 34 homes priced over $2 million on the market, but only 16 sold in that price range in the past year, said Marilyn Wright, an agent at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Asheville.

The area around Scottsdale, Ariz., also popular with wealthy retirees, had 349 homes on the market at or above $3 million as of February 1—an all-time high, according to a Walt Danley Realty report. Homes built before 2012 are selling at steep discounts—sometimes almost 50%, and many owners end up selling for less than they paid to build their homes, said Walt Danley’s Dub Dellis.

Kiawah Island, a South Carolina beach community, currently has around 225 houses for sale, which amounts to a three- or four-year supply. Of those, the larger and more expensive homes are the hardest to sell, especially if they haven’t been renovated recently, according to local real-estate agent Pam Harrington.

The problem is expected to worsen in the 2020s, as more baby boomers across the country advance into their 70s and 80s, the age group where people typically exit homeownership due to poor health or death, said Dowell Myers, co-author of a 2018 Fannie Mae report, “The Coming Exodus of Older Homeowners.” Boomers currently own 32 million homes and account for two out of five homeowners in the country.

Not Just the South

It’s not just big houses across the Sunbelt. It’s big houses everywhere. If anything, I suspect it’s worse in the north. There is an exodus of people in high tax states like Illinois who want the hell out.

Already big homes were hard to sell. Now these progressive states are raising taxes.

Triple Whammy

  1. Millennials trapped in debt and cannot afford them
  2. Millennials wouldn’t buy them anyway because tastes have changed.
  3. Taxes are driving people away from states like Illinois

Good luck with that.

For the plight of Illinoisans, please consider Illinois’ Demographic Collapse: Get Out As Soon As You Can.

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,
Source: ZeroHedge

The Man Behind Billionaires’ Row Battles to Sell the World’s Tallest Condo

(The Wall Street Journal) Gary Barnett was sitting in his Manhattan office one morning in the fall when his old-fashioned flip phone started to buzz. On the line was a real-estate agent who was marketing the New York developer’s latest condo project, a soaring 1,550-foot tall building known as Central Park Tower. With a total projected sellout of more than $4 billion, the skyscraper is the country’s priciest-ever condominium project and, when complete, will be the tallest residential building in the world.

The agent had bad news. Mr. Barnett had…

Gary Barnett was sitting in his Manhattan office one morning in the fall when his old-fashioned flip phone started to buzz. On the line was a real-estate agent who was marketing the New York developer’s latest condo project, a soaring 1,550-foot tall building known as Central Park Tower. With a total projected sellout of more than $4 billion, the skyscraper is the country’s priciest-ever condominium project and, when complete, will be the tallest residential building in the world.

The agent had bad news. Mr. Barnett had agreed to reduce a condo’s asking price, but now the client refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement concealing the details of the deal. Mr. Barnett’s response: Turn him away. “If we’re going to give someone a special deal, we don’t want them saying it all over the market,” he said.

This is a harsh new reality for Mr. Barnett, who has made a fortune fulfilling the real-estate dreams of the world’s elite. The Extell Development Co. founder kicked off the U.S. condo boom with One57, the first of the supertall towers that line the 57th Street corridor now known as Billionaire’s Row. The building’s penthouse sold for $100.5 million in 2014 to tech mogul Michael Dell, the record high for New York City.

His success opened the door for other high-end towers across the city, permanently altering the Manhattan skyline. “The frenzy around One57 gave everyone the idea that this was a market that was ripe to be harvested,” said real-estate appraiser Jonathan Miller.

Central Park Tower is by some measures more audacious than anything that’s preceded it. The supertall skyscraper will feature panoramic views of the city and offer amenities like indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a 1,000-foot-high private club and a basketball court. Of the building’s 179 units, no fewer than 18 are priced above $60 million.

Gary Barnett kicked off the U.S. condo boom with One57. Central Park Tower, shown in a rendering, is the company’s latest project on Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row.

Mr. Barnett is marketing this super-luxury tower in a challenging climate: Manhattan home sales plunged by 14% in 2018, the steepest drop the industry has seen since the financial crisis in 2009, according to a report by brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Today, developers are slashing prices amid an oversupply of new luxury condos.

Some people wonder if Mr. Barnett will become a victim of the condo explosion he helped create. The great Manhattan condo boom “started with One57,” said Mr. Miller, “and it may end with Central Park Tower.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Barnett announced that he had hired Sush Torgalkar, formerly the chief operating officer of Westbrook Partners, as CEO to assist in managing the company’s growth. Mr. Barnett will stay on as the company’s chairman.

A self-described “poor boy from the Lower East Side,” Mr. Barnett grew up as Gershon Swiatycki, the son of a Talmudic scholar. His entry into the world of luxury goods came in 1980s, when he met his first wife Evelyn Muller, whose father owned a diamond business. Mr. Barnett traded precious stones in Belgium for over a decade before starting to invest in U.S. real estate.

Arriving at the sales office in a dark suit with black sneakers and a bold, flowered tie that he said is “probably 20 years old,” the 63-year-old developer is an unlikely purveyor of luxury homes. An observant Jew who largely eschews the flashy trappings of the industry, Mr. Barnett lived in Queens until moving recently with his wife and children to the heavily Orthodox suburb of Monsey, N.Y., about an hour’s drive north of the city. (He keeps a one-bedroom unit at One57 to make more time for work.)

Mr. Barnett’s refusal to give up the antiquated flip phone is a source of indulgent eye-rolling from colleagues. He often avoids computers, said a person who has worked with him; instead, his assistant prints out his emails and leaves them on his desk, where he annotates them in what one employee describes as “serial-killer scrawl” for staff to decipher.

He’s “a total nerd,” real-estate agent Nikki Field said affectionately. “He’s not a New York developer personality in any way.”

Other Manhattan developers thought Mr. Barnett was crazy when he started building One57 in 2010, the depths of the real-estate downturn. And after no major U.S. lenders would back him, he turned to the Middle East to obtain financing from two of Abu Dhabi’s wealthiest investment funds.

His gamble paid off handsomely. As One57 started sales, U.S. economic growth snapped back. As one of the few new luxury condo buildings on the market, One57 attracted billionaires from Russia, China and the Middle East. The condominium is the first ever New York City building to break the $100 million threshold for a single condo.

Central Park Tower faces a far more crowded field of competitors—including One57, where Extell still has units to sell. Approximately 3,763 new Manhattan condo units are in the pipeline for 2019, followed by an additional 4,539 in 2020, new development marketing firm Corcoran Sunshine said late last year. By contrast, in 2011 when One57 started sales, only 277 Manhattan new units launched.

Today, the builders of pricey mega-towers “are going to find themselves in a lot of trouble,” said Andrew Gerringer of the Marketing Directors, a development-marketing firm. “Those are just going to be really difficult to sell.”

But Mr. Barnett is pulling out all the stops. In a newly opened sales office at Central Park Tower, potential buyers sip Champagne and Johnnie Walker Black Label amid a onyx-clad walls and Lalique crystal chandelier. In a dimly lighted room with 14-foot ceilings, strains of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” fill the air as New York City landmarks are projected on the walls—Yankee Stadium, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building. “Is there any place that has symbolized individual success and collective ambition as boldly as New York?” booms the voiceover, describing Central Park Tower as “1,550 feet of steel, ambition and aspiration anchored to 40,000 square feet of Manhattan schist…a shimmering beacon of class, optimism and chutzpah.”

Central Park Tower has already overcome some hurdles. When real-estate company Vornado Realty Trust started planning a competing condo two blocks north, Mr. Barnett stalled the project by taking control of a parking garage on Vornado’s property in addition to other property and air rights it owned on the block. Then Mr. Barnett refused to let Vornado tear down the parking garage to make way for its tower. The dispute was eventually resolved in 2013 when Vornado agreed to pay Extell $194 million for development rights on the block. As part of the settlement, both developers agreed to move their towers slightly so they both could have Central Park views.

Lining up financing for Central Park Tower was also a challenge, since banks have pulled back from financing ultra-luxury condos amid worries of oversupply. Mr. Barnett cobbled together debt from a public offering on the Israeli bond market and tapped the EB-5 program, which grants green cards to foreigners who invest in the U.S. He also brought on SMI USA, the U.S. subsidiary of the real estate investment firm Shanghai Municipal Investment, as a co-developer. Ultimately, Mr. Barnett began construction on Central Park Tower using Extell’s own funds before securing the money to finish it, an unusual move on such a large project. He had built more than 10 stories before J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. agreed to provide a $900 million construction loan. Now he must sell $500 million in apartments at Central Park Tower by December 2020 and pay down $300 million of his loan to J.P. Morgan Chase by the following year, according to information disclosed to Israeli bond investors, who have money in the project. If he fails to meet those deadlines, the bank can increase his interest payments.

Extell has many units to sell in addition to Central Park Tower, including One Manhattan Square on the Lower East Side, which has roughly 800 units.

Of the 179 units in Central Park Tower, no fewer than 18 are priced above $60 million.Photo: Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

In an email to brokers last month, Extell advertised major incentives at its projects, saying it would pay three to five years of common charges on any Extell condo purchased before the end of 2018—at Central Park Tower, that could save the buyer of a full-floor apartment about $120,000 per year. That incentive wasn’t renewed for 2019, although Extell is still paying a 50% commission to brokers and says it will roll out new incentives soon. With buyers “saying they’ll wait a little bit and see if prices come down more,” Mr. Barnett explained, “we want to give them an incentive to act.”

He declined to say how many units he’s sold at Central Park Tower, noting only that traffic had been “decent” and that he isn’t concerned about missing financing deadlines. “We’re certainly going through a dip in the market, but we’re priced for that dip,” Mr. Barnett said confidently. In the current market, he added, “you’ve got to be a little more flexible on price.”

Extell is also leveraging the roster of billionaires it accumulated during One57’s glory days. But the strategy could backfire, especially as sellers who bought condos there a couple of years ago are suffering losses. In one instance, Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll sold a One57 unit for $54 million, over $1 million less than what he paid in 2014. One57 has even seen a foreclosure, a rarity in New York’s high-end real estate. In 2017, an apartment that had been owned by shell companies linked to a Nigerian businessman sold in a foreclosure auction for $36 million, far less than the $50.9 million purchase price in 2014.

But these challenges seem to be part of the allure for Mr. Barnett, who said in comparison to his former business, he relishes the complexity of New York City real-estate deals. “These buildings are amazing buildings—they’re complicated, they’re fine-tuned,” he said. “Diamonds are a much simpler business.”

‘Billionaire’s Row’ Boom

Completed in 2015, One57 helped turn nondescript 57th Street into ‘Billionaire’s Row.’ Photo: Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

Since the emergence of ‘Billionaire’s Row’ in Manhattan, home values in the area have skyrocketed.

An analysis of sales data looked at transactions between 2010 to 2018 of homes from 57th to 59th streets between Park Avenue and Broadway. During that time, the median sale prices leapt 64.3%, from $1,261,406 in 2010 to $2,072,500 eight years later, according to Streeteasy.com. By comparison, the median home sale price across Manhattan rose 25.7%, from $835,000 to $1.05 million, during that same period.

Source: by Katherine Clarke and Candace Taylor | The Wall Street Journal

US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Lists Park Ave. Apartment For $33 Million, Three Times What He Paid For It

No sooner did we report that the housing “recovery” over the last 10 years has skipped many “underwater” communities in the United States, than we found confirmation of the opposite: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is selling his Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan for three times the price that his aunt paid for it 18 years ago. He has listed the apartment for $32.5 million. His Aunt is listed as the broker on the sale.

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The sale is happening at the same time that residents of numerous commuter towns across the United States have seen the values of their houses collapse to less than half of what they were in 2006, prior to the housing crisis.

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Mnuchin recently listed the 6500 square-foot, 12 room apartment that he bought from his aunt in 2000. It was purchased then for just $10.5 million. It had been in his family since the 1960s and, when he turns around to list the property this time, he stands to net $22 million more than what he paid for it, if his asking price is met.

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The apartment is being listed by Warburg Realty and is located inside of 740 Park Ave., inside the historic Rosario Candela building. Other famous former tenants of this building include the Rockefellers and the Kochs. Currently, Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group, lives there. The building was developed by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ grandfather.

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Other than that, it’s just your average ordinary run of the mill apartment on Park Avenue: five bedrooms, a wall wood paneled library, a wet bar, a formal dining room, a private elevator, 11 foot ceilings, marble floors and a sweeping spiraling staircase that still has its original banister.

The first floor of the apartment has six bathrooms and an 800 square-foot living room.

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Upstairs, the apartment has a master suite, walk-in cupboards, study, two more bathrooms and three extra bedrooms. The apartment spans two levels in the building on both the eighth and the ninth floor and it also has a large kitchen with a “breakfast nook”.

While that all seems extremely glamorous, Mnuchin hasn’t even used this apartment as his main residence, reportedly. Mnuchin was living in California before his appointment to the Trump administration, but has since bought a $12.6 million apartment in Washington DC.

We’re glad to hear that Mnuchin was able to ride out the housing crisis successfully. We were worried about him for a moment.

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Source: ZeroHedge