Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Whew! That was fast. Summer is over, September is almost in the books and it’s time to share a summer wrap up, an autumn outlook (hint: looks ARE everything) and a fresh look at some of NYC’s famous icons.
Touring My Own Town
My family has been busy hosting a high school exchange student from Madrid this fall, which gives us the chance to do something New Yorkers often take for granted: play tourist in our own town. As we all rush to discover the next big thing or secret spot, we often neglect those famous icons that are right under our noses. Already this month I’ve been to Grand Central Station—such a wonder, from the celestial ceiling to the world’s largest Tiffany clock on the entrance—plus trips to the museums I walk past daily but rarely make time to visit with any regularity. Our Spanish "daughter" was enthralled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the exhibit, “China: Through the Looking Glass” registered a final tally of 815,992 visitors after concluding its four month run (it is now among the Met's top five most-visited exhibitions of all time). She was fascinated by the Butterfly Conservatory at the National History Museum, one of the greatest natural history museums in the world. Don’t miss it this Halloween, where you can trick-or-treat through its iconic halls. We also hit the Empire State Building on a Saturday night, where we had a quintessential NYC experience: jaw dropping view from a sky scraper while jockeying for prime photography position, bruising from the hoards of tourists, and capped off with a shouting match in the elevator. Most extraordinary to me is how fast the ESB was built back in 1931. Even during the Depression, it only took one year and 45 days to build—that’s 4 ½ full floors every week, a pace that even today’s fast-moving builders would surely find jaw-dropping. We wrapped up the final weekend of September with a boat tour around lower Manhattan and a stroll through one of my favorite places, Washington Square Park. If you are interested in urban planning or NYC history, pick up a copy of Wrestling with Moses. Chronicling activist Jane Jacobs’ efforts to thwart Robert Moses’ plan to run a roadway through the park by extending Fifth Avenue, it is a fascinating David versus Goliath tale.
Secret Spots: Unseen in the Parks
l cannot talk about urban planning without a nod to our extraordinary parks—NYC masterpieces in their own right. Central Park, Riverside Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Battery Park are a few I’m sure you’ve all been to before, but there are some amazing upcoming events occurring in each that don’t get as much play as other high-profile happenings. The Discovery Club for Families in Central Park is a five-part immersive woodland adventure as you walk through the park’s beaten paths learning about the area’s diverse plant and animal life. The group meets Saturdays and Sundays at 10am. Every Wednesday there are terrific park tours taking you to the various iconic landmarks, including the Conservatory Garden, where you can brush up on your botany with lessons from the conservancy staff. Head to Riverside Park on Wednesday nights to calm your mind, body and soul with an “Evening Salute to the Sun” as you engage in traditional Hatha yoga. It’s no coincidence that it happens weekly (mid-week, when we need it the most) on the waterfront at 6:30pm through September. There is still reason to head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park even if you missed the city’s premiere outdoor photography event held there, Photoville, which is free and features more than 60 shipping containers with curated photography collections from some of the finest photojournalists in the world. Every Wednesday through October, the Park Conservancy provides interactive walking tours that cover the park’s history, sustainability, design and horticulture. Each excursion has a unique focus, like this great seasonal bird-watching walk on September 30th. Keep a little extra quiet on that one! FiDi is booming right now, with immense development and an influx of neighborhood amenities. But Battery Park remains a faithful city relic of good times in the outdoors. Kids can learn all the “Buzz About Bees” and take home handmade paper flower crowns to remind them of the importance of pollination in our environment. The park’s conservancy offers free horticulture lessons as well in exchange for volunteer work throughout their 92,000 square feet of colorful gardens.
955 Park Avenue
Only two short blocks from Central Park is a gorgeous Classic Seven on Park Avenue. This three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom home in a revered white-glove co-op offers both grandeur and comfortable elegance. Flawlessly renovated and designer decorated, experience true luxury and relaxation in the wonderfully proportioned living room under soaring 10-foot ceilings and lovely crown moldings. The formal dining room has gorgeous custom built-in cabinetry, while the gourmet windowed kitchen and butler’s pantry feature high-end finishes, plenty of storage space, and top-of-the-line appliances by Sub-Zero and Miele, including a dishwasher and wine cooler. The home office communicates thoughtful design with a built-in desk and cabinets, though this flexible space offers many opportunities to customize. More charming pre-war details are present throughout, including lovely hardwood flooring, complemented by modern conveniences such as central air in the public rooms. This pet-friendly building offers the best value on Park Avenue and a newly renovated lobby which mirrors the building’s simple elegance.
Looks ARE Everything!
If you read about the real estate market this summer, you probably noticed the reviews have been mixed. Sales volume is down 11.4% from last year. An in-depth report on StreetEasy outlines how home value growth has slightly sputtered, with July marking an 18-month slowing trend. The market also saw a 17% Y-O-Y drop off in sales numbers during August, although it should be noted that the summer vacation season is usually the slowest time of the year.
My shoes on the street experience offered a contrasting view as my buyers were shopping this summer in all parts of the city, closing on apartments in Carnegie Hill, Greenwich Village, Fifth Avenue in the 60s and Sutton Place. And for the limited inventory that is out there, prices are indeed still going up. Recent data on Urban Digs reveals a tremendous 11.1% jump in the median sales price of all Manhattan properties when compared to this point in 2014. Urban Digs also offers a preview of Q3 market reports—showing a full 49% of Manhattan properties sold at or above asking price. So for those out there actively looking this summer, it didn’t really seem like things were slowing down, thanks in large part to sellers’ market awareness and proper pricing—a trait that will be vital for sellers as we move into fall.
Still, September’s stock market swoon hasn’t helped. The ultra-luxury market may see a dip in sales, with new developments being especially hard hit as several countries, most notably China, are already feeling the impact of this economic speed bump. Frederick Peters recently wrote on his Warburg Realty blog: “buyers will enter the fall season more cautiously and carefully than in a bull market ... their flexibility within negotiations more limited,” and I agree with him. Satisfactory transactions can happen in any market atmosphere, during any season. It just takes smarts and diligence on the part of both parties, beginning with sellers recognizing that this is not a time to test the market by overpricing their assets. In fact, time on the market has serious implications. As I shared with The Real Deal last month, the longer a property sits on the market, the harder it becomes to sell. First impressions matter now more than ever and sellers have one chance to make buyers fall in love. Even for estates or apartments in need of substantial renovation, staging is everything. Painting, uncluttering, changing out furniture is transformational, bringing a feeling of warmth and serenity that creates real added value. In this case, looks (and price) really are everything!