Cutting-edge residential developers have a new rallying cry: Less is more. In this post-recession era, they are increasingly turning their backs on glitz and granite in their apartment interiors in favor of an earthy embrace of things like more functional layouts, including larger kitchens, and greener—less glass and more masonry—designs. It’s “good, solid development, but with none of the over-the-top trappings,” Jonathan Miller, head of appraisal firm Miller Samuel told The Wall Street Journal. As examples of the trend, the paper cites 124 W. 23rd St. and 5 Franklin Place. Of course, by delivering a bit less, developers are hoping to sell a bit more—by charging a little less. That’s looking like a wise move. A report Wednesday from NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate showed that in the fourth quarter, sales of homes in the five boroughs were 11% below year earlier levels, according to Crain’s. Hardest hit was the borough most prone to giddy excess, Manhattan, where sales numbers tumbled 24% year-over-year.
Meanwhile, our special reality-TV correspondent Amanda Fung continues her breathless coverage of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York, the show that follows three young brokers in their tireless quest to sell high-end apartments with this recap of Wednesday night’s Episode 4: Fresh off his very first deal on the show, Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Michael Lorber is tapped to sell 949 Park Ave., a new development with six units going for $3.98 to $5 million. The picture darkens when Elliman’s Fredrik Eklund, shows up at Mr. Lorber’s broker open house and schmoozes with 949 Park’s developer in a naked attempt to steal the job. (Mr. Eklund is already working with the developer on 471 Washington St., the unfinished condo where marketing started last week.) Landing a low blow, Mr. Eklund advises his colleague in earshot of daddy dearest—Elliman’s Chairman Howard Lorber—that as the host of the event he really should go stand by the door. Meanwhile, downtown Nest Seeker’s Ryan Serhant struggles to help Alex, a Wall Streeter with a jumpy pet—a kangaroo!—find a bigger apartment. It shouldn’t be too difficult since in Episode 2, Ryan helped a major hoarder unload her cluttered unit at 120 Trump Place. Victory looms when Alex lobs a $2.38 million all-cash offer on a triplex (the ‘roo will reside on the first floor) at 99 John St., a condo conversion that Mr. Serhant is exclusively marketing. The deal blows up when TF Cornerstone’s Tom Elghanayan (the second big-name developer to appear on the show) rejects the Aussie pet, and Mr. Serhant kisses his double commission goodbye. But not everyone loses this week; Mr. Eklund sells the top two floors of 471 Washington for $16.75 million to a couple keen to create a mega apartment. Separately, we learn Mr. Serhant has other talents: he plays a guitar and makes up telling lyrics on the fly. He croons about the industry where “banks kill deals” and sellers “want all cash.” And Mr. Lorber entertains himself by spending $762.13 on colorful swimwear and showing off his torso.