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James F.D. Lanier House, #TH (Christie's International Real Estate Group) James F.D. Lanier House, #TH (Christie's International Real Estate Group)
Last week’s top Manhattan contracts included the longtime home of documentary photographer Elliot Erwitt, which entered contract with an $11.5 million asking price. The listing notes that it had been his family’s home for 55 years and that it is in estate condition. Nevertheless, its address in a prestigious Central Park cooperative and richness in prewar details like coffered ceilings and a classic floor plan undoubtedly contributed to the high price it commanded.
The signing took place a few months after Mr. Erwitt’s death in November 2023. Indeed, between the rise of certain New York neighborhoods over the past several decades (e.g., Lincoln Center and the Village) and the fact that certain aspects of Old World craftsmanship are incredibly challenging, if not impossible to replicate in new construction, it is not surprising that some would choose to hold onto their city homes as long as possible, sometimes even until death.
When an apartment or townhouse has not been listed in several decades, prospective buyers are often advised to “bring your architect” so as to get an idea of how to bring an older home’s infrastructure, appliances, and layout into the 21st century. However, we can only hope that this does not come at the expense of the architectural details and impressive proportions that made previous owners so possessive of them in the first place.

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