By Andrew Rice
The New York real-estate market is now the premier destination for wealthy foreigners with rubles, yuan, and dollars to hide.
The buyer, an Italian, was in town for a week, with a million or so dollars to spend. We met one Sunday morning at 20 Pine, a Financial District condo building. She wore a red scarf, jangly jewelry, and a pair of lime-green sunglasses perched atop her curly hair, and she told me she would prefer to remain anonymous. Working through a shell company, she was looking to anchor some of her wealth in an advantageous port: New York City.
The building’s lobby, designed in leathery tones by Armani, swirled with polylingual property talk. As the Italian and I waited for her broker, an Asian man sitting on a couch next to us asked, “You see the apartment?” But he didn’t wait for an answer, leaping up to join a handful of women speaking a foreign language heading toward the elevators.
After a few minutes, a fashionably stubbled young man swung through 20 Pine’s revolving door: Santo Rosabianca, a broker with Wire International Realty. The firm, run by Rosabianca’s brother Luigi, an attorney, specializes in catering to overseas investors. A first-generation American, Santo greeted the buyer with kisses and briefed her in Italian. She was searching for a property that would generate substantial rental income. “Wall Street is not my favorite place,” she told me. “But he says it is very good for rent.”
Like several other buildings she was being shown, 20 Pine was developed at the height of the real-estate bubble. After the crash of 2008, it became an emblematic disaster, with the developers selling units in bulk at desperation prices, until opportunistic foreigners swooped in with cash offers. The salvage deals are long gone, but 20 Pine retains its international appeal. The one-bedroom the Italian was looking at, on the 27th floor, had a view of the Woolworth Building, sleek finishes, a bachelor-size kitchen, and access to an exclusive terrace reserved for upper-floor residents. It was first purchased by an investment banker in early 2008 for $1.3 million, was resold in 2011 for $850,000, and was now back on the market for close to its prerecession price. Rosabianca told the Italian it would rent for more than $4,000 a month, enough to assure a healthy cash flow while its value appreciated. “There’s really no safer way to get that kind of return,” he said, “than in New York City real estate.”
Read the full article in the New York Magazine (June 29, 2014)