Gregory J. Heym
Executive Vice President, Chief Economist
By Sharon L. Crenson
(Bloomberg) -- Parking your $115,000 Maserati in Manhattan will soon be a snap. A luxury tower planned for 11th Avenue features an elevator that lifts cars to the apartment owner's floor, where they can be parked near the entry door. The cost for 4,000 square feet: as much as $16 million.
``It's a crazy idea, but we thought it was a good idea,'' says Young Woo, a principal of the tower's builder, New York-based Young Woo Developers. ``Living in this kind of unit gives a sense of pride.''
The wealthy have never dwelt so well. Donald Trump, Miki Naftali and developers worldwide are ratcheting up the amenities, adding the use of BMWs and 24-hour restaurant service to their buildings. That's fueling a surge in luxury apartment prices in New York and London just as the collapse of subprime lenders spurs the worst U.S. housing crisis in 15 years. The Mortgage Bankers Association says a record 0.54 percent of all U.S. home loans surveyed in the fourth quarter of 2006 were entering foreclosure.
``At the high end of the market, you are dealing with wealth and not income,'' says Gregory Heym, chief economist at New York real estate company Terra Holdings LLC. ``People buy apartments with cash. Some of the factors that influence the rest of the market don't come into play.''
The new frills let developers boost prices of apartments and market their uniqueness, says Jonathan Miller, president of appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. in New York. ``Those amenities are what provide a premium for the project.'' Buyers in New York have included Wall Street bankers, celebrities and hedge fund managers.
In Dubai, the most populous of the seven states in the United Arab Emirates, changing the view from your apartment will require only a push of a button. Developer Omniyat Properties' 24-story high- rise, planned for 2009, boasts apartments that project scenic images, such as the Manhattan skyline, onto its windows. Living and dining rooms in units costing up to 9 million dirhams ($2.5 million) will also rotate 360 degrees, providing a variety of panoramas.
London is the world's most expensive city for luxury dwellings, according to CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. Londoners paying up to 12 million pounds ($23.8 million) for an apartment at the Knightsbridge building will spend a lot of time in front of the mirror. The mirrors contain cameras that take and store photos so residents can compare their appearance and outfits over time.
In March, luxury home prices in London soared 32 percent compared with a year earlier, according to real estate company Savills Plc.
Developers say wealthy buyers want entertainment, recreation and fitness facilities without having to leave home. ``They are buying a lifestyle,'' says Allen Goldman, president of SJP Residential Properties in Manhattan.
Golfing at St. Andrews
In his Platinum development on Eighth Avenue, where buyers are paying up to $7.5 million, Goldman is adding rooms for billiards, a sauna and an indoor-outdoor yoga studio. There's even a golf simulator.
A DVD player projects views of famous courses, such as St. Andrews in Scotland, on a screen. The player then hits a ball against the screen, and lasers trace its projected flight, showing where the ball would have landed on the actual course.
Trump is upgrading the lifestyles of his apartment residents. In his new Trump Plaza in Jersey City, New Jersey, they'll have access to three BMWs to run errands.
Developer Dean Geibel, who's a partner with Trump in the Plaza, is building in Asbury Park, New Jersey, what he calls the ultimate amenity: a 60-foot (18-meter) by 40-foot private swimming pool perched above the Atlantic Ocean. The pool is part of his new development's $4 million penthouse, which Geibel is keeping for himself.
Pools With Ipods
In New York, residents at 48 Bond Street will claim the latest pool perk: music piped underwater from their iPods.
The appeal of these extravagances has more to do with social status than convenience, says Christopher Carroll, an economist at Johns Hopkins University who studies savings patterns among the wealthy. ``They really get pleasure from the thought that they can spend and they can show it off to others,'' he says.
Moscow's Alye Parusa (Scarlet Sails) apartment building sells penthouses costing up to $2.7 million that come with nautical showpieces: yacht berths on the nearby Moscow River.
The escalating prices for amenity-filled apartments aren't scaring away buyers. Condominiums at the former Plaza Hotel in New York -- developed by Naftali, head of New York-based Elad Properties -- range in price from $2.5 million to about $40 million. As of March, 80 percent of them were sold, sight unseen, because the developer refused to show unfinished units.
They come with a handheld gadget for making restaurant reservations and ordering the valet to fetch the car. A video monitor shows residents when it's delivered.
Residents have only a small chance of losing money. In 2001, the combined might of a U.S. recession and a terrorist attack in New York wasn't enough to push the city's luxury apartment prices per square foot down, Miller says. They jumped 40 percent from 2003 to 2006, the appraiser says, and there's no slowdown in sight.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007