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(Bloomberg) -- To make a sale in Manhattan’s overcrowded luxury residential market, it might just help to be president.
In a saturated market, Donald Trump was able to find a buyer last month for a penthouse apartment at Trump Park Avenue, without a public listing, for $15.9 million -- almost $2 million more than what a larger unit sold for a year earlier. The buyer of the 4,164-square-foot (389-square-meter) 28th-floor penthouse was Angela Chen, who previously lived on the building’s fifth floor. From there, she ran Global Alliance Associates LLC, which specializes in establishing “influential relationships with key decision-makers” in China for its clients, according to the firm’s website.
The last time Trump sold a unit at the tower was in January 2016. That was to Robert Tillis, chief executive officer of Jersey City, New Jersey-based Imperial Bag & Paper Co., who bought a the 27th-floor penthouse for $14.05 million, according to city property records. In Manhattan, units on a building’s highest floors often are called penthouses even when not on the top story.
While high-end sales have seen a revival in the early months of this year, “it’s not unreasonable” that Trump’s political stature played a role in the sale and price he got on the latest 502 Park Ave. deal, said Jonathan Miller, president of New York appraisal firm Miller Samuel. “It’s not the reason, but it’s reasonable to assume it’s part of it.”
Typically, an apartment identical to the one below it in size and views tends to be valued at a premium of about 1 percent, Miller said.
Chen didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A call placed to the number listed on Global Alliance’s website was answered by a woman who said it was a mobile phone, and that she didn’t know Chen. The sale was first reported by Mother Jones magazine. Amanda Miller, a Trump Organization spokeswoman, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Trump, who took office in January, bucked four decades of tradition established by U.S. presidents by not divesting from his businesses, posing unprecedented conflicts of interest. Trump Park Avenue, previously known as the Delmonico Hotel, was renovated by Trump in 2002, and his Trump Organization still owns about 20 units, public records show. The condominiums were valued at a combined $170 million by Bloomberg in July.
Manhattan’s inventory of luxury resale properties fell 26 percent at the end of the fourth quarter to 743 homes -- the lowest it’s been in four years, as sellers who weren’t successful in getting the prices they sought pulled apartments from the market, according to Miller. But there’s still plenty of competition for wealthy investors’ money from new luxury developments, where listings climbed 23 percent in the same period to 528. More than 4,000 newly built apartments are expected to reach the market in 2017, according to Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group.
Contracts for high-end Manhattan properties fell 18 percent last year, according to luxury brokerage Olshan Realty Inc. The trend has been reversing since January. Last month, contracts signed for properties priced at $4 million or higher were up 42 percent from a year earlier.
But those properties tended to sell at a discount after lingering on the market. The 21 luxury contracts signed last week came with an average discount of about 6 percent from their last asking prices and were listed for an average of 368 days, according to Olshan Realty.
“The future market condition for luxury resales is a little cloudy, though it’s not as bleak as it was,” Miller said. “The idea that luxury resale inventory is going to appreciate, I think that’s a little premature.”
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