Matrix Blog

Records and Outliers

Heightened Observations on the ‘Billionaires Row’ Phenomenon

April 9, 2014 | 11:05 pm |

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[Source: Vanity Fair, click to expand]

Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic at the New Yorker and voice of design reason, penned a comprehensive overview of the “tall towers” building phenomenon in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. It’s an engrossing piece with stunning visuals as it correctly describes the global trend that is creating it.

I believe Michael Gross, the author of the new book on 15 Central Park West, Manhattan’s truly first super luxury condominium that was wildly successful and oblivious to the global economic crisis, coined the phrase “Billionaire’s Belt” which best describes this new Manhattan submarket and new housing classification. I was pushing “57th Street Corridor” as a label but there were no takers so I’ve modified Michael’s phrase to “Billionaires’ Row” as if all these buildings are fighting to be the best.

I like Goldberger’s description of the new design trend:

…the latest way of housing the rich, is an entirely new kind of tower, pencil-thin and super-tall—so tall, in fact, that one of the new buildings now rising in Manhattan, the 96-story concrete tower at the corner of 56th Street and Park Avenue, 432 Park Avenue, will be 150 feet higher than the Empire State Building when it is finished…

And that these residences provide…

a place not for its full-time residents but for the top 1 percent of the 1 percent to touch down in when the mood strikes.

One thing missing from this piece, and perhaps rightfully so is the discussion of why these projects are being built beyond the notion that the global wealthy are demanding them. In Manhattan, new construction developers have to target the super luxury market because land prices are at record highs – we just came out of a record setting building boom last decade – and few prime sites are available. With a high cost of land, inflated labor and materials costs, the math does’t work otherwise for more mainstream projects.

Our city’s obsession with chronicling lifestyles of the Wall Street rich and dysfunctional in the previous boom with prices of $3,500 to $4,000 per square foot seem downright quaint now. Now upwards of $10,000 per square foot has emerged as the price point for all participants in this market niche to aspire to.

New York City residents don’t seem quite sure what to think about these projects and their likely full time emptiness. One thing is for sure, the world’s elite are now a lot more visible and it’s a lot easier to point fingers…doesn’t One57 kind of look like it’s flipping the city off while it looks at the park?

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Source: New York Observer.

But this global pattern of the wealthy searching for hard assets to invest in doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.

And we’ll continue to appraise it.

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Manhattan Price Records from 1982 to 2013 (Will Soon Be Broken)

January 31, 2014 | 10:21 pm | nytlogo | Charts |

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[click to expand]

What I love about this chart is how Manhattan co-ops dominated the record books through the late 1990s Dot.com boom until condos started to take over. Until then, condos were seen as more utilitarian and less about luxury. Over the past decade, Manhattan condos have generally eclipsed co-ops in the record books.

As a stagnant form of Manhattan housing stock, they ain’t building luxury co-ops like that any more (actually they’re not building them anymore).

I’ve updated this chart through the end of 2013, but it’ll be obsolete fairly quickly with records expected to fall in 2014. At a minimum, anticipated record closings include a few condos and a townhouse.


Manhattan Co-op/Condo Closed Sale Records By Year

December 3, 2012 | 7:00 am | Charts |


[click to expand]

I took a look at the past 20 years of co-op and condo sales and pulled the highest closed sales for each year. I may have a few close seconds in the list. Co-op sales prior to 2006 were not a matter of public record so they were culled from our internal files.

The sales patterns show distinct eras that have been shorter in recent years (like the weather!).

Here’s my list – editorials welcome if I got any wrong. I’m going to continue to edit this list annually going forward given our market’s obsession with records.


[click to expand]


Manhattan’s 10k+ Square Foot “Trifecta” of Sales

May 21, 2012 | 11:23 am | nytlogo |

Last week’s Manhattan housing market certainly ended on a high note – literally. You know that old saying about things happening in threes? My word of the week is “trifecta” – it’s always been a favorite, along with “neat, blowhard and Muttontown.

My favorite phrase is “The Trend is Your Friend” and one needs at least 3 data points to make a trend. Sometimes I append “…until it ends.”

I spoke about The $70M Condo versus $52M Co-op Smackdown, Manhattan Style last week but there is another big sale to make headlines was scooped by Alexei Barrionuevo at the New York Times. Alexei corrected me on my Twitter feed that the price was “over” 90M.

It’s all quite breathtaking when you look at this sale in context of the entire market. After the recent record setting sale of $88M, I whipped up However what sets the last 3 sales of $52.5M, $70M and $90M+ apart is they all exceed 10k square feet. The recent $88M sale was a nominal 6,744 square feet.

This record sale won’t close until the building construction is completed next year but I am not so sure it will still be a record at that point.

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