New York boom time

The hard hats are on in Manhattan, where new buildings are appearing faster than Donald Trump can earn a million
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Despite recent wobbles, financial markets have boomed for more than four years and there are plenty of investors looking to splash the cash, buying anything from a condo in a Soho brownstone to a palatial residence on the Upper East Side. With a favourable exchange rate and a property market in the doldrums, British buyers are finding that the pounds in their pocket go much further in America. But, like London, New York is a special market where prices defy national trends and property remains buoyant.

“Condo (apartment) prices in New York averaged $1.5 million (£755,650) in the second quarter of 2007,” says Holly Hunt of Halstead Property LLC. “That is 28 per cent higher than a year ago and sets a new record.” New York prices average $3,500 (£1,765) per square foot, but expect to pay about $5,000 (£2,522) for anything with good views of Central Park.

Camilla Mabbott of Aylesford International advises City slickers to look Downtown, where prices represent remarkably good value. “The Downtown area of New York is finally blossoming after the devastating effects of 9/11,” says Mabbott. “There’s fascinating architecture, views over the Hudson River and an emerging social scene, so it is only a matter of time before the prices multiply. With the exemption of property tax for 10 years in the area to encourage regeneration, it’s the perfect place to invest or to keep as a city base.”

Property for sale

Smyth Tribeca and Smyth Upstairs 85 West Broadway

Construction is under way on Thompson Hotels’ new 100-room hotel in Tribeca, due to open in spring 2008. The top three floors of the 13-floor building will house 15 apartments, Smyth Upstairs, with skyline views over the city towards the Empire State Building. Owners will have full access to the hotel’s facilities, including a fitness centre and spa, room service, concierge and residents-only roof terrace.

Tribeca at night
“We are offering the experience of living in an actual hotel with all the luxury and excitement that comes with it,” says Jason Pomeranc of Thompson Hotels. “It’s the modern, Downtown version of what having a place at The Carlyle was 50 years ago.” Tribeca, on the lower west side of Manhattan, was once the industrial heart of New York. The warehouses have been converted to loft apartments, and young, hip creative types have moved in, making this an achingly trendy – and expensive - place to hang out.

Prices at Smyth Upstairs range from $1 million (£504,400) for a one-bedroom apartment up to $5 million (£2.5 million) for the three-bedroom penthouse.
Visit Smyth Upstairs, or call 00 1 212 585 4567.

343 East 51st Street Co-operative .
Many New York residents live in co-operatives, older buildings owned by companies where residents have shares based on the size of their apartment. Residents have a say in how their building is run – stars including Madonna have famously been refused permission to buy into certain smart co-operative apartment blocks - and generally impose a no-renting policy, so are not good for buy-to-let.

“A co-op apartment is considered personal property, as opposed to real estate, and no property title or deed is transferred,” says Holly Hunt of Halstead Property. “The value of a co-op apartment is based on the number of shares allocated to that space. The building’s location and the services available in the building also influence the value.”

Halstead has a co-op studio with newly fitted kitchen in Midtown for sale for $350,000 (£176,520). The apartment has a lift and is just a quick jog from Central Park. Visit Halstead Property, or call 00 1 212 381 3305

The Setai, Broad Street
The Setai Hotel brand started out on South Beach in Miami and has now branched out into apartments with a strong design theme and a very cutting-edge clientele. Billed as a cross between condos and an exclusive private club – think luxury hotel without all the noisy guests - these 167 apartments in the heart of New York’s Financial District provide a perfect upmarket residence for city slickers. There are 44,000sq ft of facilities, including a members-only club and spa, a wine cellar, business centre for conferences, restaurant and a state-of-the-art gym. The rooftop lounge features 15ft glass windows, while apartments have Brazilian walnut flooring edged with black granite.

Camilla Mabbott of Aylesford International says: “Downtown prices at quality developments like the Setai start at around £550 a square foot. The equivalent in London would be over £2,000 a square foot.”

Prices for the one- to three-bedroom apartments range from $650,000 to $6.75 million (£327,820 to £3.4 million). Visit Aylesford International, or call 020 7351 2383

Buying in America

There are no restrictions on buying property as a UK citizen, but if you want to stay longer than 90 days at a time you will need a special visa. The buying process is fairly similar to the UK, but once an offer has been accepted it is considered binding and a deposit of 10 per cent is normally paid. Buying costs – legal fees and searches - average one to two per cent of the property value. Estate agent's fees, payable by the seller, are 6 per cent.

Getting to New York

Prepare to see some dramatic changes in flights to New York thanks to the new “open skies” agreement. Not since Freddie Laker launched Skytrain in 1977 has a trip across the Atlantic been so accessible, with a rush of new airline offerings. So whether you’re looking for the cheapest (Zoom), the exclusively business class (Silverjet, Eos or Maxjet) or the regular old favourites (BA and Virgin Atlantic), the customer is king and has a stunning choice.

Canada-based Zoom offers one-way flights from £129 (the return leg will be nearer £200) from Gatwick to JFK, while BA’s lead-in return fare for the autumn is an impressive £297.40. The three business-class-only airlines fly from Luton or Stansted and cost from £838 return; they offer personal touches such as a limousine collection service, rapid check-in, swanky lounges and tip-top in-flight service.

A celebration of New York architecture

New York’s architecture is some of the most iconic in the world and a new exhibition at the Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA) in Portland Place celebrates the buildings that created this vibrant city.

Landmarks of New York takes you on a historical tour of the city from the farmhouses of the seventeenth century colonial settlers to modern day skyscrapers. Using vast black and white photographs suspended on a typical New York street grid-structure, visitors can wander past images of the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Guggenheim, admiring the work of architects from Gustave Eiffel to Frank Lloyd Wright.

The exhibition, marking the 40th anniversary of The New York City Landmarks Law which ensured the preservation of historically important buildings and landmarks, runs until 3 October at RIBA, 66 Portland Place, W1. The exhibition is open Monday to Friday (10am - 6pm) and Saturdays (10am - 5pm). Entry is free.

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