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Rooms With a View (and How Much You’ll Pay for Them)

Rooms With a View (and How Much You’ll Pay for Them)


Not all New York City views are created equal.

Direct Central Park views may be the most valuable amenity in Manhattan real estate, but in a market filled with soaring new developments — some of which wind up blocking the views of other buildings — even a partial glimpse of a river, park or the city skyline can also command a hefty premium.

To get a sense of how much people are willing to pay for the city’s most sought-after views, Jonathan Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, looked at several buildings that have stunning vistas and compared the sale prices of apartments with similar layouts in each building — those with views and those without.

New Yorkers, he discovered, are generally willing to pay 10 to 25 percent more for an apartment that allows them to wander over to the window and take in the sights — whether that’s a boat moving up the river or the rolling lawns of Central Park.

Mr. Miller calculated a rough percentage of an apartment’s value that could be attributed solely to the view by winnowing out the other surcharges that might affect a property’s value, like a floor-level premium, which Mr. Miller said ran “about 1 percent for every floor you go up.” (In other words, all other things being equal, apartments along the same line typically increase in value at about 1 percent per floor.)

He also found that two apartments of different sizes but with the same view command the same premium. “The dollar amount may differ, but the percentage of the property value associated with the view remains the same,” he said.

Mr. Miller’s research suggests that the most costly views are in buildings where there is no possibility of having those views obstructed — like a view of Central Park that can’t be lost because the building is right on the park. He also found that park-view premiums run higher than those for river views, but that expansive vistas of the city are valued just about the same as limited or narrow views of Central Park.

“Even complete views above the 50th floor of a super-tall building are not guaranteed in this town, because the skyline is always changing,” Mr. Miller said. “Helicopter views can be partially interrupted by another super-tall building across the street.”

Thirteen years ago, when Jerry Bovino and his wife, Ester, bought a seven-room co-op directly on Central Park, at 875 Fifth Avenue, it was the view that sold them.

“The very first thing I did was walk to the window,” said Dr. Bovino, a retired retina surgeon who also has homes in South Florida and Aspen, Colo. “I took one look at the view and said, ‘I’ll take it.’”

While many apartments along Fifth Avenue have only two exposures (east and west), the Bovinos’ 18th-floor co-op offers 270-degree views to the west, south and east — including dramatic above-the-tree views of Central Park from the living room and bedrooms.

Now that he and his wife, a real estate and mortgage broker, have retired, Dr. Bovino is selling the co-op, so they can move closer to their grandchildren in Colorado. The asking price is $11.5 million.

“Some New Yorkers are willing to sacrifice good views for square footage,” Dr. Bovino said. “But with these kind of views, you’re bringing the outdoors in and creating the illusion of more space.”

It should be no surprise that a front-row seat at Central Park commands a hefty premium. After comparing the closing price of Dr. Bovino’s 2,000-square-foot co-op in 2006 with two other sales in the building — one measuring 2,400 square feet and facing the park that sold for $11.5 million and the other measuring 1,700 square feet but with rear views of rooftops and a partially obstructed cityscape that sold for $4.2 million — Mr. Miller determined that park views in the building came at a 25 percent premium.

“Water views tend to command the highest premium everywhere else,” Mr. Miller said. “I like to quip, ‘Manhattanites are inward-looking, because we place a premium on a Central Park view versus a river view.’”

Across the park, Teresa Sommers has dreamy, direct tree views of Central Park from the casement windows in the living room and the master suite of her third-floor Classic Six on Central Park West. Ms. Sommers and her family have put the apartment on the market for $4.495 million, because the children are grown and have moved elsewhere.

“It makes you feel like you’re in the trees,” she said. “Just to be able to have some of outdoors inside is valuable in itself.”

How valuable exactly? Mr. Miller compared the sale price of Ms. Sommers’s condo in 1991 with that of a unit in the northwest corner of the building that does not face the park, but that clears the roofline of the buildings across the street, and he concluded that a tree-line view of Central Park in that building comes with a 20 percent premium.

“Virtually no view is guaranteed, so perhaps the Central Park premium is worth more than any other view in the city, because it is unlikely that it would change in our lifetime,” Mr. Miller said. “Even river views can be obstructed.”

While you may not ever lose a front-and-center view of Central Park, other properties that face the park a few blocks away may not be so lucky.

At One57, a 6,200-square-foot penthouse fills the entire 87th floor of the 90-story building. Designed with walls of glass in most rooms, the condo offers panoramic views of Central Park, the downtown skyline, and the East and Hudson Rivers. But the building is still on West 57th Street, while the southern boundary of the park is West 59th.

“One of the biggest challenges when looking at the premiums for Central Park is that most buildings being built now are taller and positioned closer to the park, obstructing views from older buildings,” Mr. Miller said. “So taller buildings drive a higher premium.”

In the case of 157 West 57th Street, Unit 87, currently listed for $58.5 million, Mr. Miller estimated that a buyer will pay a 25 percent premium for those soaring views, compared to what it would cost to buy an apartment on a lower floor. As he noted, “360-degree views don’t exist on lower floors. The views can still be expansive, but often they’re more obstructed.”

New Yorkers’ preference for a park view apparently extends beyond its iconic park.

Chris and Mary Ann Lotito have views in every direction from their 20th-floor apartment in the Caledonia, one of the first luxury buildings built along the High Line. Designed with floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the entire condo, the 21-foot-long great room has south, east and west exposures offering views of the Hudson River, the downtown skyline and the park below. The building is just two blocks from the Hudson River.

“You get the best of both worlds in the same room,” said Mr. Lotito, owner of Lotito Foods, a food importing and manufacturing business based in New Jersey. “The pulse of the cityscape and the tranquillity of the barges and boats going up and down the water.”

To determine which is more valuable, a view of the High Line or of the Hudson River, Mr. Miller compared the price Mr. Lotito paid for his condo with one in the same building with river-facing views (and none of the High Line). He found a 10 percent High Line-over-Hudson premium, supporting his theory that Manhattan homeowners are “inward-looking.”

“When the High Line was built, new developments started popping up,” Mr. Miller said. “So this could prove to be a short-term statistic since, unlike direct views of Central Park, these views change over time.”

Now that they are retiring, the Lotitos have listed their condo for $4.895 million, and are also selling their home in New Jersey, so they can buy a larger property in the same area of Manhattan, with similar views.

“We’re going big for retirement,” Mr. Lotito said. “We want double the space and the good views.”

But in the concrete jungle, where access to expansive greenery is valuable and rare, how do views of gardens compare with those of the cityscape and the skyline on a higher floor?

On a quiet block on West 12th Street, Colyer and Kate Curtis have south-facing views of large trees and gardens — in the backyards of townhomes across the street — from every room of their third-floor condo in a 13-story prewar building.

“It feels likes an oasis in the middle of New York City,” Ms. Curtis said. “The views of the gardens and trees create a sense of calm and quiet that is so precious in this city.”

The Curtises listed the condo for $3.55 million after buying a larger apartment for their growing family in the same building, a few floors up, with views of treetops and some of the cityscape.

Looking at sale prices in the building over the past decade, Mr. Miller discovered that while soothing treetop views command a certain price, they come at a 15 percent discount when compared to the prices of apartments on higher floors with open city views.

“From a marketability standpoint, having views of greenery is valuable — but still not as valuable as one from higher levels,” he said.

“It also implies that there’s an exclusivity of greenery in parks,” he added. “A tree outside your window doesn’t have the same permanence as a park across the street, and that’s where the value premium lies.”

After falling in love with views of the river and skyline from his 52nd-floor condo at 30 Park Place in the financial district, Mark Mohrmann was perturbed when a new development partially obstructed those views.

His two-bedroom spread at the Four Seasons Private Residences initially offered somewhat limited views of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as views of the Hudson River and downtown skyline — but then 25 Park Row popped up next door. While the condo’s southern exposure still has a view of the Hudson River and the downtown skyline, the new building looms large in the vista to the east.

Mr. Miller estimated that an apartment on a higher floor with nearly unobstructed views of the water and downtown skyline came at a 25 percent premium when compared to a condo with obstructed city views on a lower level.

For Dr. Mohrmann, an orthopedic surgeon who owns Five and Dime, a coffee and cocktail bar in the neighborhood, and his wife, Alexandra, that was the push they needed to find a new place for their family.

“With our new family, my wife and I wanted to provide our kids with more room to grow, better views of the river and easier access to the Seaport,” Dr. Mohrmann said. “This inspired us to look for a bigger property that was closer to the water.”

The Mohrmanns put their condo on the market for $4.525 million and have bought a new condo a few blocks away, at 130 William Street. From their 49th-floor unit, the family can take in expansive, unobstructed views of the downtown skyline, the East River and Hudson harbor, because the building is closer to the water.

They also bought one of five available private cabanas on the building’s rooftop, which has 270-degree views of the water and the Statue of Liberty.

After analyzing the sale price of the Mohrmanns’ new condo with that of one on a lower floor with partially obstructed skyline views, Mr. Miller determined that the spectacular water views came at a 25 percent premium.

“You can move the same apartment on Central Park and sit it on top of one of these towering buildings with expansive views of the harbor, and it starts to be about the same premium,” he said.

“It all comes down to marketability, because every view premium an apartment enjoys is based on the apartments it competes with,” he added. “Even for the best of the best.”

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