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Selling New York Episode 8: The Out-of-Towners

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Every Thursday night, HGTV's Selling New York rides along with boutique brokerages CORE, Gumley Haft Kleier and Warburg as they try to sell fabulous properties fabulously. Here, our recap of how the NYC real estate industry is portrayed to the world, penned by Molly Reisner.

Buying an apartment in New York City is no friggin' joke, as anyone who has come to accept that 25 bucks for bacon and eggs at a diner is par for the course can tell you. Now let's take two Big-Apple-loving out-of-towners, introduce them to the eye-popping prices of Manhattan real estate, mix them with a couple of been-around-the-block-brokers, and what do you get? Last night's episode of Selling New York, that's what.

First we meet a famous (in a "if you listen to Top 40 country music" kind of way) Nashville singer who's looking to buy a slice of a Central Park view for him and his sweetheart to gaze out upon. And in the other corner, a San Francisco-based artist has dreams of relocating to a downtown space that's big enough for livin' and masterpiece creatin'.

New York is a sexy town, but will she be able to charm the down payments out of these inexperienced suitors?


Last night's episode kicked off with the Kleiers, specifically Samantha Kleier Forbes, who we see with gal pal/former boss/celeb publicist Susan Blond, walking off their shopper's high after a productive visit to Bergdorf. As they sashay down the rainy street, Susan mentions she has a country singer client, Clay Walker, who lives in Nashville and wants a place in Manhattan. Sam wants to know how many records (AKA how important is this guy I've never heard of) Clay's sold. Susan starts counting...

...and estimates in the range of 10 million. Daaang, that is a bushel of twang. Susan's all gung-ho about pairing up Clay with Sam, and Sam is excited to have a new, fully-loaded client.

Next, the sun-dressed Kleier krew "drops in" to Susan's Midtown office to meet Mr. Walker. "I love your music," gushes Sabrina, pretending she didn't just pull up a clip on her iPhone for the first time that morning. For a moment, the women stand in an adoring semi-circle around Clay, absorbing his country boy wondergrit:

Mama Michele breaks the ice by demanding to know "Why New York? You live in Nashville, right?" Clay shares that he met his wife in NYC and they love Central Park cuz it reminds them of when they fell in love and yadda blah blah boring, they want a love nest overlooking said park. "How romantic!" Michele coos. But! They're building a house in Nashville so he doesn't want a place that will require lots of work. Clay admits to us that he's "out of his element" with this apartment search but excited. Sam agrees, saying to the camera that "he has no idea what he's in for."

A couple weeks later, and Clay has blown into town with his beloved Jessica to see Sam's Central Park picks. The first visit with a view is at 353 Central Park West, where a 14th floor classic seven awaits their cowboy bootsteps. Elliman broker Sue Caplan says how-do to the trio, then let's them amble about the 4BR/4BA property. Care to take a look-see?

Fave part #1: When Clay comments that the galley kitchen gives him claustrophobia, and Sam smiles and repeats the c-word like it's an amenity. Fave part #2: When Jess opens the window to fill her nostrils with Central Park air. "There's nothing like the smell of NYC and some people don't get that," Sam drills home. Wait, selling the city based on smell? Come visit on garbage day in peak summer, Jessica. There's nothing like it!

The pair seem thrilled with the memory-lane-filled view (Clay compares it to the countryside), but less so with the ornate fixtures and stuffy vibe. While Clay tickles the ivories in the living room, Sam interrupts him to give him a dose of pricing reality. The apartment can be his for the tune of $6.75 million. Stunned, Clay remarks that he knew prices were steeper in New York, but "this is an avalanche." Plus, he estimates a million in renovations which adds up to a thank ya very much, but we'll pass. Even this poodle with pink bows circulating around the apartment couldn't sway Clay:

Armed with the knowledge that the country lovebirds are on the road 85% of the time and don't have time to renovate, Sam shuttles them south a couple blocks to the El Dorado Building at 300 Central Park West, where guess who is waiting for them? None other than the man, the myth, the Lil' Shvo 2.0, Elliman agent Oren Alexander! It's his listing, and he ushers them in to another classic seven with a much more modern, open layout. At 2,800sqft, this 3 bed/3 bath might just be what floats Clay and Jess's gravy boat:

What's that? Bono AND Alec Baldwin own pads in the building? Moby used to own as well? Sam knows how to appeal to the celeb in Clay. With the attractive simplicity of the design, the Walkers are ready to walk right in, take off their shoes and nestle their toesies into the plush, white carpet of the master bedroom:

At $6 million, the unit is a little less than the previous one, but still...that's a lot of concert halls to fill. At the end of the tour, Clay is exuberant about Sam's skill in nailing down the perfect place to hang his ten gallon. The couple seal their love for the apartment with a kiss, while Sam wonders, "Are they gonna dig their little country boots in Manhattan?" More importantly, Sam just wants Clay to report back to Susan Blond that she's good people so that the high-profile referrals will keep on coming.

Second's time a charm, but will it be enough to make Clay strum out several million Susan B. Anthonys? Cue to Susan's office later where Sam and Sooz take a conference call from Clay. He tells Sam what she already knew: the price for what you get in NYC can't compare to Nashville's bang for your buckaroo. Bright side! He promises to work with her when they're ready to purchase. And...ding dong! Who's there? It's another referral from Susan for Sam. Friends in high places go a long way in these here parts.


Calling all art lovers: Did you know that every four months, Warburg hosts an art show at their Tribeca office featuring local talent? Now you do! It's there that Warburg agent Deborah Lupard and President Frederick W. Peters get to know San Fran artist and buyer, Darren Waterston. This is what casual gallery gabbing looks like:

Darren has a gorgeous Victorian home and art studio combo, but has come to NYC to set up a new studio that can also double as a home. He recognizes that the space downsize "seems like madness," but he's inspired by the interest rates to take the plunge into buying some downtown Manhattan magic. How deep a dive? About $900k's worth. Deborah suspects finding Darren the square footage he wants in primo nabes like the Village and Chelsea will be one in a million, and primes him for the reality of the market. Frederick pipes up that buying in NYC, no matter where you come from, is a bit of a shockarooski. Ya don't say?

Next, Deborah marches on over to Darren's short-term $3k/month studio rental to check out his much-loved space. He's performed miracles shape-shifting one space into different "rooms". Who needs real walls anyway?

Deborah takes stock of the exposed brick, high ceilings and lovely light, noting with a wagged finger towards Darren that it's going to be hard for her to find a comparable place. In other words, he's got it gooood. Unfortch, his rental is being sold, and not for a starving artist price. Now it's up to Deb to show him a studio that can fit: easels, two grown men (he's got a partner, Jason), and two dogs. That's a lot of hearts beating in one room.

Onward to see Artist Garrett Possibility #1! Jason (he's here!), Darren and Deb meet to see an East Village 2 bed/1.5 bath duplex. It's 872 square feet and $895k of this:

"Oh my god, it's so tiny," Darren says in hushed tones. Yeah, they are not feeling the rooms and corners and narrow staircase to haul giant canvases up and down. The duo requires at least 500 square feet of straight-up studio space for their art nook, and this pad is not in their palette. Jason shoots Darren a "we hate this place, don't we?" look:

Annoyed, Deb tells us "for anyone buying their first apartment in NYC, it's always a rude awakening." Sing it, girl! Darren and Jason reiterate their desire to see BIG, OPEN space a la one of those Soho lofts artists lived in during the '80s when Soho was more druggie, less Dean and Deluca-y. Keep dreamin' boys.

But alas! Deb and Darren have found an intriguing apartment in the Financial District at none other than Philippe Starck's Downtown Insanity Palace, 15 Broad Street. While we only see the interior of the unit, the building's sad, single-lane bowling alley is old news at Curbed. Jason and Darren are immediately into the spareness and airiness of this 1080-square-foot 2 bed/1 bath abode. And at $899k, it falls within the budget:

Jason thinks it's "very promising" and the twosome start to kibbitz about which walls to break down for maximum studio square footage. Very interested, Darren suggests that he wants to put in a bid and see what happens. It's a go! Or not...

Because soon after, Deb is having an intervention lunch with Darren. His friends have talked him out of buying and now he has freezing, cold feet. Over poached salmon, he bares his financial soul to Deb, explaining the costs are too much for him. With a million-dollar mortgage on his San Fran house, he would need to use a private lender and pay 50% of the down payment on the NYC place up front. Seems like something you would note before you start looking, though Deb doesn't seems too fazed. Darren's romantic notion of the live/work apartment may be squashed for now, but he pinkie swears that once he sells his Victorian, he's calling Deb for the hook-up. Which is exactly what the text box tells us!

Episode grade: Buyers love New York, but more as a friend, which means just 2 out of 5 cackling Kleiers!

· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]

The El Dorado

300 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024

15 Broad Street

15 Broad St, New York, NY 10005