Prestige And Pricing: It’s Often in the Stars
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Prestige And Pricing: It’s Often in the Stars

A “starchitect” name adds to a building’s allure—and how much an apartment may sell for.

By V. L Hendrickson
Mon, Apr 12, 2021 12:02pmGrey Clock 6 min

When it comes to real estate, some people reach for the stars.

Many affluent buyers are as drawn to properties designed by so-called starchitects—architects who have achieved celebrity status for their exceptional projects—as they are to luxury cars or haute couture.

“Look at Birkin bags. Why are they worth so much? It all comes down to the brand,” said Ryan Serhant of Serhant brokerage in New York.

But starchitect projects also offer quality alongside the cache. Buyers also want to know their investments are safe, especially in a volatile market. Buildings by architects whose past projects have sold well and retained value are a safer bet.

“Buyers are not willing to take risks on those unknown developments, especially if they are not finished or don’t have a good percent sold,” said Vickey Barron, a New York City-based agent with Compass. She served as director of sales for the converted Walker Tower, built in 1929, and two other buildings by Ralph Walker, once called the “architect of the century” by The New York Times.

Ultra-high-net-worth buyers, or masters of the universe as Ms. Barron calls them, may be dazzled by the stars of the architecture world, but they also want value.

Mr. Serhant, who is something of a celebrity himself after nine seasons of Bravo’s television series “Million Dollar Listing New York” and its spinoff “Sell it Like Serhant,” agreed.

“In a new building, what you’re buying is the architect,” he explained. “You’re not just buying concrete and wiring and drywall, wood and metal. Anybody can create that. But if yours was designed, handled, studied, pored over by a famous architect who has a history of creating great properties that hold their value, then it works.”

Big Names Leave Big Impressions

Robert A.M. Stern is one such architect. His classic Manhattan towers are some of the most sought after in the city, according to Ruthie Assouline, a Compass agent in New York and Miami. She and her husband, Ethan, represented Mr. Stern’s 20 East End Avenue, an Upper East Side construction completed by the architect in 2015.

“Whenever we show in his building, and we’re speaking about Robert Stern, it’s always very impressive to people,” she said.

A new residential development by Mr. Stern on the Upper East Side, 150 East 78th, launched sales in January. The 17-story, limestone-clad tower will bring 22 residences to the neighbourhood and feature interiors by designer Robert Couturier and a rooftop terrace with Central Park views. Prices range from $5.2 million to $20 million.

An exterior view of 150 East 78th. Hayes Davidson

Some high-net-worth buyers even go so far as to collect apartments by the same architect, Ms. Assouline said. One example: Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, who have bought in several of Mr. Stern’s buildings, including a nearly $66-million penthouse at 220 Central Park South.

An interior view of a residence at 150 East 78th. Hayes Davidson

Others look to starchitects when they are moving to a new city, Ms. Assouline added.

“In New York, talking about the architect was hugely important, and I see a lot of those same architects are now in Miami,” she said, noting examples such as architects like Renzo Piano, Jean Nouvel and the late Zaha Hadid. “That gives people a sense of trust and comfort, especially people from overseas…They don’t know the location as well, but they know who they’re buying, whether it’s people that they’ve read about, or their friends have bought in homes with that architect.”

Jean Nouvel is another collection-worthy architect. His eponymous firm is behind the new Monad Terrace in the South Beach neighbourhood of Miami, including the interiors and landscaping as well as the architecture. The project will feature a “reflection machine” between its reflective facade and the pool and lounge area, called the lagoon, at the centre of the property.

Exterior view of the new Monad Terrace in the South Beach neighbourhood of Miami. Monad Terrace / JDS Development Group

“He’s a master of art and light,” Marci Clark, managing director of strategy at the project’s developer JDS, said of Mr. Nouvel. The reflection machine is “this living art piece that is constantly changing, not just throughout the day and whatever’s happening with the clouds, but also with the seasons and time of year.”

Monad Terrace will have 59 units, with two- to five-bedrooms available. Prices start at US$3.36 million, and move-ins are set to start by early March. Other amenities include extensive outdoor space for residences and one of the largest green walls in Miami, Ms. Clark noted.

Back in New York, Mr. Serhant is representing the soon-to-be-launched 101 West 14th Street by Eran Chen of ODA New York, which will bring 44 homes by the in-demand firm to Greenwich Village in Manhattan.

Exterior rendering of 101 West 14th Street Binyan Studios

“[Chen] is a great architect because he’s created buildings that stand out from the crowd while also blending in,” Mr. Serhant explained. “He doesn’t design on a rectangle, then draw it out and see what fits in the rectangle. He created 44 individual homes, then had to put them together like interlocking puzzle pieces, which makes every single unit unique and specific to that owner.”

Many of the residences, which start at US$1.25 million, are duplexes with double-height living areas and private outdoor space. Amenities included a landscaped courtyard and a roof deck with an outdoor kitchen and views of the city.

Interior rendering of a residence at 101 West 14th Street Binyan Studios

Word Gets Around

Projects with big names attached to them often mean more publicity, with real estate publications eager to report on the projects of renowned architects. That was the case with the Lost House in London, a 2004 design by architect Sir David Adjaye, which went on the market in the fall, according to listing agent Guy Bradshaw of United Kingdom Sotheby’s International Realty.

“When it first launched, it got picked up all over,” he said. “People were fascinated by it.”

The home’s starchitect pedigree also attracted fashion shows and television filmings, Mr. Bradshaw noted. Scenes from British shows like “Spooks” and “Silent Witness” were shot at the home, which is listed for £6.5 million (US$8.9 million).

The ultrachic backdrop didn’t hurt, either. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom home boasts an open living space with three light wells that flood the space with light and create interior courtyards. It also features an indoor pool, an office above the garage and a sunken entertainment room whose lime-green walls and couches are in stark contrast to the rest of the home’s black walls and floors.

Mr. Adjaye is also the architect behind 130 William, an 800-foot tower with 242 residences in Manhattan’s Financial District. The project also includes five furnished homes designed by the luxury car company Aston Martin that come complete with an Adjaye-designed Aston Martin DBX. Prices range from about $700,000 to $8.2 million.

130 William, an 800-foot tower with 242 residences in Manhattan’s Financial District. Michael Kleinberg

The building launched sales in 2018, but during the pandemic, people who’d already signed contracts in the project wanted to upgrade, according to Scott Avram, senior vice president of the Lightstone Group, its developer.

Interior view of 130 William’s lobby. Michael Kleinberg

Closings began in December, and since then, 12 buyers opted for larger units at 130 William, according to Lightstone. An additional 13 residences were sold in March, and there were no discounts on the closing price.

“People who not only know New York, but also know the building best, are willing to reinvest in the building because they see that value,” he said.




Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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Philip Lowe’s comments come amid property industry concerns about pressures on mortgage holders and rising rents

Wed, Jun 7, 2023 2 min

Leaders in Australia’s property industry are calling on the RBA to hit the pause button on further interest rate rises following yesterday’s announcement to raise the cash rate to 4.1 percent.

CEO of the REINSW, Tim McKibbin, said it was time to let the 12 interest rate rises since May last year take effect.

“The REINSW would like to see the RBA hit pause and allow the 12 rate rises to date work their way through the economy. Property prices have rebounded because of supply and demand. I think that will continue with the rate rise,” said Mr McKibbin.  

The Real Estate Institute of Australia  today released its Housing Affordability Report for the March 2023 quarter which showed that in NSW, the proportion of family income required to meet the average loan repayments has risen to 55 percent, up from 44.5 percent a year ago.

Chief economist at Ray White, Nerida Conisbee, said while this latest increase would probably not push Australia into a recession, it had major implications for the housing market and the needs of ordinary Australians.

“As more countries head into recession, at this point, it does look like the RBA’s “narrow path” will get us through while taming inflation,” she said. 

“In the meantime however, it is creating a headache for renters, buyers and new housing supply that is going to take many years to resolve. 

“And every interest rate rise is extending that pain.”

In a speech to guests at Morgan Stanley’s Australia Summit released today, Governor Philip Lowe addressed the RBA board’s ‘narrow path’ approach, navigating continued economic growth while pushing inflation from its current level of 6.8 percent down to a more acceptable level of 2 to 3 percent.

“It is still possible to navigate this path and our ambition is to do so,” Mr Lowe said. “But it is a narrow path and likely to be a bumpy one, with risks on both sides.”

However, he said the alternative is persistent high inflation, which would do the national economy more damage in the longer term.

“If inflation stays high for too long, it will become ingrained in people’s expectations and high inflation will then be self-perpetuating,” he said. “As the historical experiences shows, the inevitable result of this would be even higher interest rates and, at some point, a larger increase in unemployment to get rid of the ingrained inflation. 

“The Board’s priority is to do what it can to avoid this.”

While acknowledging that another rate rise would adversely affect many households, Mr Lowe said it was unavoidable if inflation was to be tamed.

“It is certainly true that if the Board had not lifted interest rates as it has done, some households would have avoided, for a short period, the financial pressures that come with higher mortgage rates,” he said. 

“But this short-term gain would have been at a much higher medium-term cost. If we had not tightened monetary policy, the cost of living would be higher for longer. This would hurt all Australians and the functioning of our economy and would ultimately require even higher interest rates to bring inflation back down. 

“So, as difficult as it is, the rise in interest rates is necessary to bring inflation back to target in a reasonable timeframe.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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