Ultra Luxury Housing Market Shows Strong Gains

by 26 Mar 2012

(WallStreet Journal) -- The ugly duckling of top-end Manhattan real-estate listings is a six-story building on Fifth Avenue at East 62nd Street divided into a dozen offices and apartments.

The asking price for the 25-foot-wide former Italianate mansion at 815 Fifth Ave. was $25 million when it went on the market last week. But brokers are saying it is attracting competing offers from around the world and will likely trade for more. The would-be buyers are looking to restore long-hidden details and transform the property back into an elegant private mansion.

The listing came to market as part of a surge this year in ultra-expensive residential listings, the strongest segment of the Manhattan market.

Because of the active market, the listing broker, Darren Sukenik of Prudential Douglas Elliman, has set a noon Tuesday deadline for the submission of sealed bids. He said four buyers had shown "strong interest" soon after the property was listed last week.

"If you want to live on Fifth Avenue in a private home, this is it," he said. "It will sell for well over the asking price."

Other brokers said the listing was catching a strong wave in the luxury market, with a rare chance to re-create a Fifth Avenue mansion for a relatively low price. Another, larger 25-foot-wide mansion that has more original details but is in need of work has been listed for $49 million since last June.

The 62nd Street building, one of the oldest surviving structures on Fifth Avenue, was stripped of most of its ornamentation in the 1920s. Still, it has touches of glory: carved fireplace mantels tucked behind desks in offices; intricate moldings; oval ceiling details; and an elaborate wooden banister.

An open house for buyers and their architects and contractors has been scheduled for Monday morning, and brokers said the interested buyers include a Russian, a Chinese, a Brazilian and an American.

Kirk Henckels, director of private brokerage at Stribling & Associates, said said he expects the house to sell at $40 million or more.

"This is going to be a real bellwether test of the market, especially the foreign market," he said.

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