Gregory J. Heym
Executive Vice President, Chief Economist
By WILLIAM NEUMAN
A SALE on Convent Avenue in Hamilton Heights appears to have smashed the record price for a town house above 110th Street, although the new owner says the transaction may not be all that it appears.
A deed filed with the city states that the five-story house changed hands on March 15 for $3.89 million. That would be nearly $1.3 million more than the previous record for a town house in Upper Manhattan.
But maybe not.
"It sold for significantly less than that," said the buyer, John Geanakoplos, whose signature appears on the property transfer report below what the document calls the "full sale price" of $3.89 million.
The buyer is the James Tobin professor of economics at Yale University and a managing director of the Ellington Management Group, an investment firm. In his younger days, in 1970, he won the United States Junior Open Chess Championship, according to an online biography posted by Yale.
Professor Geanakoplos, 51, said the deal for the Convent Avenue house was structured with a contingency that could, in some way that he would not explain, result in a lower price than the one shown on the deed. "That's the maximum price it could rise to," he said of the $3.89 million figure.
He would not say what the contingency was nor would he reveal the lower price. The documents indicate that $54,460 in state taxes were paid at the closing, the correct amount for a $3.89 million sales price. Professor Geanakoplos said that if the price is adjusted, he expects part of the taxes to be refunded.
Sam Miller, a spokesman for the city's Finance Department, said that buyers and sellers were required to supply accurate information when reporting sales to the city. "Whatever's on the deed is the official price," Mr. Miller said.
The house was owned by Robert F. Van Lierop, a lawyer who has represented Spike Lee, the movie director, and has served as the representative to the United Nations for Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific. Mr. Van Lierop has also gained recognition as a filmmaker, having made two documentaries in the 1970's about Mozambique's fight for independence from Portugal.
City records show that Mr. Van Lierop bought the Convent Avenue house for $292,500 in 1993. He refused to discuss the sale to Professor Geanakoplos.
Two of the brokers involved in the deal, Brian Phillips of Sotheby's International Real Estate, and Shelley Rankin of the Warburg Realty Partnership, said they were bound by confidentiality agreements that barred them from talking about the transaction.
The previous record price for a town house sale north of 110th Street was $2.6 million for a house on 138th Street that sold last May, according to Gregory J. Heym, the chief economist at Halstead Property.
Listing information for the Convent Avenue house, which is nearly 20 feet wide, said it had eight bedrooms and five bathrooms. A broker who had toured the house said that much of the original detail was intact but that most buyers would want to update the kitchen and bathrooms.
Professor Geanakoplos refused to say what his plans were for the house.
Sunday, May 21, 2006