New York flat on sale for $60m despite slum
The US Sub-prime crisis has led property markets crashing worldwide. House prices have sharply corrected and hit bottom in USA. The US property market has collapsed with such ferocity that almost a third of homebuyers are trapped in negative equity with mortgages outstripping the value of their homes but in the world of New York real estate one building remains apparently untouched: 740 Park Avenue.
This week Courtney Ross, widow of the funeral parlour director-turned legendary Time Warner entertainment mogul Steve Ross, quietly put her 32-room apartment in 740 on the market for in excess of $60m (£37m).
"It's going to be the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York," predicted the sales agent. The property, Edward Lee Cave said, was not officially for sale and would be shown to just 10 prospective buyers "because there will only be 10 people who are appropriate to see it".
The building is considered so exclusive that last year it saw the publication of its own biography, 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building, by the New York society writer Michael Gross.
Indeed, the building - described as the "noblest of all" New York apartment buildings by Vanity Fair - is a road map of American wealth and society since it was built in 1929.
Where it was once home to Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and Chryslers - Jackie Kennedy, then Bouvier, grew up there - it now houses the new-monied elite of banking, hedge funds and private equity: Henry Kravis, David Ganek, Saul Steinberg, John Thain and Stephen Schwarzman.
The Ross apartment, while not considered the most elegant, is the largest in the building. But scraping together $60m plus is no guarantee of entry. Under New York's co-op vetting system, applicants will have to go undergo rigorous background checks. At a minimum, a buyer must put at least half down in cash and prove he or she is liquid to at least three times the total value of the sale - and that's even before a stringent social evaluation is undertaken by the building's board members.
While the rest of Manhattan considers a property crash - as many as 80,000 luxury flats were built during the boom and hardly any are selling - agents are confident the Ross apartment will find a buyer. "It's not going to be 'at least' $60m," Cave said. "It will be over $60m."
But with money fleeing collapsing hedge funds and private equity firms forced to write down the value of their assets, the mood in the city's rich addresses is souring.
"I've never seen a mood quite like this one," Holly Peterson, daughter of the Manhattan private equity king Pete Peterson, noted in Newsweek last week. "Everyone is just plain scared, but no one is talking specifics.
"The thing about rich people is you never know exactly how rich they are or where their money is."