New Yorkers buy, sell apartments despite coronavirus restrictions

Despite the coronavirus’ shutdown of all essential businesses, people are still buying and selling apartments — thanks to walk-throughs, co-op interviews and closings that are all performed virtually. Here’s a look at how the local real estate industry has stayed active during the pandemic.

There’s a ‘captive audience’ for new listings

For Home271 central park west 9th floorcredit: Dolly Lenz Real Estate
Dolly Lenz will begin virtually marketing this Central Park West abode online.

Dolly Lenz Real Estate

For Home271 central park west 9th floorcredit: Dolly Lenz Real Estate

Dolly Lenz Real Estate

For Home271 central park west 9th floorcredit: Dolly Lenz Real Estate

Dolly Lenz Real Estate

For Home271 central park west 9th floorcredit: Dolly Lenz Real Estate

Dolly Lenz Real Estate

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Now that California has listed real estate as an essential industry during coronavirus — though open houses are banned and all showings must be done virtually — Big Apple brokers hope New York will follow suit.

Potential buyers still want to know what’s out there, so Dolly and Jenny Lenz, of Dolly Lenz Real Estate, will list a grand Central Park West home on Thursday for $23 million.

Bruce Willis
Bruce WillisWireImage

“We plan to start marketing it virtually, with targeted mailings and e-blasts,” says Dolly. “We look forward to showing it as soon as we are allowed to. We are listing it now because people are home. People may not have paid attention before, but they have less to do. We have a captive audience … and we want targeted buyers to know the property is listed for sale, so they can put it on their lists to see once the ban [on in-person showings] is lifted.”

The full-floor unit is on the ninth floor of 271 Central Park West at 87th Street — a building that in the past has housed stars like Bruce Willis, Meryl Streep and Robin Williams.

The 6,000-square-foot spread, which is on the market for the first time in 30 years, features stellar views of Central Park, the reservoir and the city skyline. Inside, there are six bedrooms with room for a seventh, a library, oversize windows, high ceilings and a wood-burning fireplace.

Sealing the deal online

A Chinese investor closed on architect William Lescaze's former townhouse in Midtown East even though the final walk-through and closing were online-only.
A Chinese investor closed on architect William Lescaze’s former townhouse in Midtown East even though the final walk-through and closing were online-only.DuplexNYC

Sage Realty Corporation, a division of the William Kaufman Organization, sold a William Lescaze-designed modernist townhouse at 211 E. 48th St. for $3.8 million.

The buyer of the striking-looking home, we hear, is a Chinese investor.

The entire closing and final walk-through occurred online-only.

“Despite the old-fashioned, face-to-face nature of real estate transactions, we closed late last week in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. The final walk-through of the property, title-closing and close of escrow were all done virtually,” says Matthew Lesser, who listed the property with Ravi Kantha. Both brokers, at Leslie J. Garfield & Co, repped the buyer.

The townhouse first listed in 2018 for $4.95 million. The 16.6-foot-wide property stands four stories high. It was the personal residence of Lescaze, the famed architect, where he lived and worked.

Co-op interviews, but via Zoom

Actor and retired Brooklyn high school theater teacher Annie McCormack hasn’t let the coronavirus stop her from finalizing the deal for her new apartment. She just completed a virtual co-op board interview for an Upper West Side apartment — and was approved.

The one-bedroom pad McCormack is in contract for is located on a Central Park block and measures 700 square feet. She’s in contract for $560,000 — down from its $575,000 asking price.

Annie McCormack
Annie McCormackAnnie McCormack

The co-op board interview was conducted via Zoom. “It was a first, for them and for me,” says McCormack. “I had never done a board interview before. It was very unusual … We were all going through the very same hard experience outside the interview, and that was kind of moving in a way. Here I am in one room, and they were in four other rooms. They were all isolated, just like me. Having never gone through it before, I didn’t know if it was quick or slow, but it felt very calm. They took their time, and asked a lot of questions about where I was and how I was doing that they may not have asked in another situation.”

The Upper West Side deal comes on the heels of an active year in real estate activity for McCormack. She bought and sold a Park Slope townhouse, then bought a two-family townhouse for her adult children and their spouses to share in Bushwick. Her daughter is a lawyer working from home; her son is a film crew worker whose project is on hiatus. This Manhattan co-op for herself.

A Brooklyn native, McCormack moved to western Massachusetts two years ago, and she will stay put there while COVID-19 rages. “I miss my children, my work and my city,” she says, “so I decided to find a place in the ‘inner borough.'”

Next up: a virtual closing, says McCormack’s broker, Wendy Maitland, of Atelier by Wendy Maitland.

Virtual closings

For Home404 East 76th Street, 17DCredit: Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios
This Upper East one-bedroom traded hands via a virtual closing for nearly its $849,000 ask.

Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios

For Home404 East 76th Street, 17DCredit: Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios

Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios

For Home404 East 76th Street, 17DCredit: Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios

Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios

For Home404 East 76th Street, 17DCredit: Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios

Kenneth Chen/Evan Joseph Studios

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Coronavirus concerns may keep most New Yorkers at home, but they haven’t stopped apartments from trading hands — thanks to virtual closings.

“People’s leases are still up, and some people have to move,” says Douglas Elliman broker Sabrina Saltiel.

She recently did a virtual closing for a one-bedroom at 404 E. 76th St. The 711-square-foot unit sold for close to its $849,000 asking price.

“The seller had already moved out,” she says. “Before the closing, there is always a walk-through to make sure the apartment wasn’t damaged by the move-out and to ensure the apartment is delivered as per the contract … In this case, the buyer did a physical walk-through and FaceTimed the brokers so we could see in real time if there was a problem or not.

She continues, “For buyers who are ready to move forward, it just takes coordination. But it seems like everyone is trying to accommodate each other, which is good.”

The building, known as The Impala, includes a gym and a 15,000-square-foot courtyard with a garden. There’s also a children’s playroom and, for adults, a business/conference room.

For the ‘work from home’ lifestyle:

215 East 12th
215 E. 12th St.Sotheby's

Developer John Zaccaro Jr., the son of late vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro and the current mayor of the Fire Island community of Saltaire, is listing an unrenovated East Village townhouse for the bargain price of $7.8 million.

The 5,024-square-foot, seven-bedroom property, at 215 E. 12th St., was built in 1848. It is slated to hit the market Thursday.

The home has been repurposed as a multi-family building but is ready to be restored back to single-family mansion status. Listing broker Michael Bolla, of Sotheby’s International Realty, says it would make an ideal live/work space, and has the zoning for it, too. That’s especially important as the city’s lockdown response to coronavirus makes working from home not only desirable for workers in many professions, but necessary for at least medium term.

“Live/work spaces are the way to prepare New York for a better future,” says Bolla. “People only want two things right now: to be close to their families, and to be closer to nature.”

The 24-foot-wide, four-story townhouse has a red brick facade with five bathrooms and a large garden. Inside, there are high ceilings, a skylight, floor-to-ceiling windows and original plaster moldings.