April 12, 2018 / 12:00 PM / 3 months ago

FEATURE-At New York's Trump Tower, condo prices have lost their glitter

    By Andrew Hay
    April 12 (Reuters) - For Todd Brassner, an art dealer who
died in a fire that ripped through his Trump Tower apartment
last weekend, the New York high-rise he lived in for two decades
became unbearable after Donald Trump announced he was running
for president.
    Brassner's experience trying to sell his 50th-floor
condominium in the building that is both President Donald
Trump's gilded New York home and headquarters of his business
empire is emblematic of how a high-rise that once defined luxury
has lost its luster.
    In an overwhelmingly Democratic city, the Fifth Avenue
building that blares the name of the Republican president has
fallen from favor with many New Yorkers and been eclipsed in the
super luxury market by nearby new entrants. 
    Real estate agents paint a picture of a decline in condo
prices that outstrips declines in similar properties.
    Brassner, who died on Saturday in a fire that torched his
collection of vintage guitars and Andy Warhol artwork, decided
to sell his 1,137-square-foot apartment after being ground down
by the constant presence of armed guards and Secret Service
agents, friends told newspapers.             
    But Brassner, who paid $525,000 for the home in 1996,
according to property deeds, failed to find a buyer willing to
come close to the $2.5 million value put on the condo in his
2015 personal bankruptcy filing.
    A Trump Tower condo similar in size to Brassner's sold for
$1.8 million in December, after being advertised as "PRICED TO
SELL," according to real estate website StreetEasy. 
    Many older luxury buildings on New York's East Side have
lost value after a surge in new developments that tower above
them in height and price. Even so, discounts at Trump Tower,
opened in 1983, have been deeper than the market average,
according to real estate brokers and market analysts.
   "Clearly the Trump candidacy and presidency have had a
negative impact on the real estate values" at Trump Tower, said
Wendy Maitland, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens, who last
year listed a fashion industry client's three-bedroom, $7.5
million condo, 39CD, at the tower that failed to sell.
    Since 2015, prices at Trump Tower have dropped 30 percent
per square foot compared with an 8 percent fall in comparable
properties on Manhattan's Midtown East Side, according to New
York real estate site CityRealty.com.
    By comparison, prices at Olympic Tower, a 1975 Midtown
building likened to Trump Tower that is a few blocks south on
Fifth Avenue, dropped 21 percent since 2015. That contrasts with
a 29 percent rise in prices in the area, including new
developments, over the same period. 
    At Trump Tower, "there’s currently 22 units on the market,
which is a statement in and of itself,” said Maitland, adding
that only half that number were on offer in 2015.
    
    AIRPORT-STYLE SECURITY
    Guests arriving at Trump Tower now face airport-style
security screening by the Secret Service. Brassner complained of
waiting for hours to get into the building when Trump was in
town. 
    The protests that engulfed the tower in the first months
after Trump's election victory have died down. But animosity
toward the president remains strong among some residents, in a
city where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won
87 percent of the vote in 2016.
    Richard Tayar, a salesman with real estate firm Keller
Williams NYC, said several owners wanted to disassociate
themselves from Trump after the election and put their homes on
the market.
    "There are people who want to disengage from it because of
the name," said Tayar, who is listing a two-bedroom Trump Tower
unit for $3.8 million.
    "Obviously they have different political views and want
nothing to do with it." 
    On the other hand, many international buyers covet Trump
Tower's Fifth Avenue address and see a "cool factor" in having
an apartment in the same building as the president of the United
States, he said.
    "There are people who are making offers; they are
low-balling the offers," said Tayar. 
    The Trump Organization, which manages Trump Tower condos,
said the building remains one of the most prestigious properties
in the world.
    "It has the most discerning residents and continues to be a
global icon," spokeswoman Amanda Miller said in an emailed
statement. 
    Not all Trump-branded properties in New York face headwinds.
Newer developments such as Trump Place, completed in the late
1990s and early 2000s on the West Side near Lincoln Center, have
showed price gains.
    Maitland is advising her Trump Tower client to sit tight
until prices improve and enjoy the condo when in town for
fashion shows. She describes the tower's current security
arrangements as "not a lot of fun," but does see an advantage.
    "People who live there can be rest assured they are probably
in the most secure apartment building in the city, if not in the
world," she said.

 (Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Frank
McGurty and Leslie Adler)
  
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