(Bloomberg)—At $5,250 a month, a one-bedroom apartment at Manhattan’s Trump Tower comes with a lot of extras: a month of free rent, beefed-up security in the lobby and the ability to say you share a home address with the U.S. president.
It’s the cheapest entry point into the Midtown skyscraper that President Donald Trump built more than three decades ago and made the crown jewel of his real estate portfolio. But the unit at Trump Tower is facing the same challenges as the rest of New York’s luxury-apartment market, and the asking rent has been cut 30 percent since it was first listed in June.
“There’s a lot of competition, and you have a lot of choices,” said Hon Sing Kevin Tsun, the Citi Habitats broker who’s marketing the 1,052-square-foot (97-square-meter) home on the 35th floor.
It’s difficult listing a luxury apartment in Manhattan these days, and it’s no different for the building that carries the prestige of being the northern White House. A construction boom that added thousands of high-end condominiums to the market has created competition from wealthy investors trying to rent out their units. At Trump Tower, potential tenants also have to weigh dealing with protesters, metal barriers and the Secret Service.
In Midtown, where new condo towers have proliferated, 42 percent of the 914 luxury apartments on the market for rent last month have had their prices cut, according to an analysis by StreetEasy. The property-listings website defines luxury as the top 20 percent of units by price.
The statistics are similar for Trump Tower, the full-time residence of First Lady Melania Trump and the couple’s son, Barron, until at least the end of the school year. Of the 16 condo units listed for rent there in December, seven had lowered their asking price, StreetEasy data show. The median asking rent for units listed for lease was $8,000, about 5.9 percent less than what owners were seeking a year earlier.
The rent decline is in line with the drop in all Manhattan luxury apartments, according to data from appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
“The luxury-rental market has definitely seen a little bit of a slowdown,” said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats. “From a client’s perspective, whether it’s Trump Tower or not, it’s a matter of value: what are you getting and how does this stack up? They have options and they want what’s easy on their lifestyle.”
Trump Tower, which has 238 condo units, offers amenities such as valet and maid service and a 24-hour concierge, according to marketing documents. Its location on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th streets puts it in a prime spot in one of the world’s busiest shopping districts and two blocks from Central Park. Yet it’s also close to newer condo towers that have apartments available for wealthy renters, such as One57 and the Baccarat, without the security headaches.
“It’s a luxury building, and if you have a car service come pick you up and it’s pouring rain, and you have security checkpoints, you’re looking at walking around the block,” said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel. “It’s a layer of inconvenience on top of a building that’s got a good location. But you’re adding this complication for day-to-day accessibility.”
Trump Tower tenants report that services like Seamless food delivery have been curtailed and dry-cleaning dropoff is difficult, said Joseph George Jr., a broker with Vision Realty Co. who has a listing on the 39th floor seeking $10,000 a month in rent. But Trump’s ascendancy means that George has been getting more calls to look at the renovated two-bedroom apartment he’s marketing -- even from those who are just curious to get a peek inside the building.
“The questions they ask you -- you can tell if this is a voyeuristic showing rather than a real showing,” George said in an interview before Trump’s inauguration. “People ask, ‘Is he on the elevator?’ Questions where you can kind of tell they’re not serious.”
For those who are serious, the application is similar to other area condo buildings where units are leased out. Would-be renters submit to a credit check, a criminal background review and an assessment of their personal finances, and must be approved by the condominium’s board, said broker Julius A. Liu, whose firm, NY NY Condo Inc., manages and rents several units at the building on behalf of overseas investors.
Liu, who listed a one-bedroom Trump Tower apartment in November, decided that the best course of action was to be upfront with would-be renters about the security hassles. He told them they’d be questioned in the lobby, and to prepare to have their bags searched. He figured the extra security could appeal to select people-- those who handle cash, for instance -- even as he conceded that it might turn off many others.
“It’s an inconvenience to some, but there are people who say, ‘You know what? This is the safest building in the city now,”’ Liu said. “You can’t get any safer than where we are now.”
Liu priced his unit at $6,500 a month -- less than he would have a year ago -- and his calculation paid off. He found a taker who was approved by the condo board this month and moved in last week.
“I’m very, very happy,” he said. “I really thought it was going to take a longer time than this.”
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