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Condo hotels like The Ritz-Carlton Residences NoMad, which recently sold out, offer high-end amenities and gorgeous living space. (Douglas Elliman) Condo hotels like The Ritz-Carlton Residences NoMad, which recently sold out, offer high-end amenities and gorgeous living space. (Douglas Elliman)
From the opulent Ansonia Hotel on the Upper West Side to the storied women-only Barbizon on Lexington Avenue (both of which have since closed and been converted to regular condos), New York has long been home to hotel-style living. While these residences may be best known for their luxury features and famous residents, most were originally constructed for a practical reason—a desire to bypass local zoning bylaws. As per the Tenement Act of 1867, residential buildings had to adhere to height and lot size restrictions. Hotels were exempt, creating a convenient loophole to build higher-density residences while still appearing to comply with local laws.

Like their apartment hotel predecessors, New York’s latest class of condo hotels offer high-rise construction, coveted addresses, and luxurious amenities. However, a new business model allows owners to have access to their pied-a-terre and release the apartment to the hotel’s management, which will lease out and manage the units on their behalf, when they are not in town. Not only does this allow for convenience and peace of mind, but Bisnow has mused that new short-term rental restrictions could lead to new appreciation for this type of short-term housing.

What is a condo hotel?

By definition, a condo hotel, sometimes described as a “condotel,” “hotel condo,” or a “contel,” is a building that legally functions as a condominium and hotel. Two things set condo hotels apart from their historical predecessors. First, unlike a room at the Ansonia and Barbizon during their heyday, condo hotels are typically legal apartments with full kitchens (most old-style apartment hotel units didn't include a full kitchen). Second, condo hotels can be occupied by owners and not simply renters, though this doesn't mean you won't find condo hotel units for rent.

The Difference Between Condo Hotel, Timeshare, and Pied-a-terre Units

Many condo hotels are purchased by people who own other properties and, as a result, only live in their unit part-time. As a result, they are often confused with two other types of residences that are common in New York City—timeshare residences and pied-a-terre units. In fact, condo hotels are very different from these other types of residences, and nearly always more convenient and flexible.
Timeshare units or fractional ownership condos are generally attractive to buyers because owners only pay for the time they spend in the unit. For example, if you only need to be in New York City six weeks of the year on average, you can purchase a unit at a fraction of the regular costs that gives you access to just six weeks. However, unlike a condo hotel, timeshares come with two restrictions. First, it may not always be possible to have access to the unit when you need it. Second, you can’t leave your belongings in timeshare properties. While some timeshares, such as The Phillips Club on the Upper West Side, do permit residences to leave belongings in a “portable wardrobe closet,” which is hand-delivered to their door upon return, in most cases, timeshares are fully “pack-in-and-pack-out” residences. By contrast, condo hotels enable owners to show up whenever they like without notice and to leave their belongings in their unit at all times.
Another option for anyone who intends to spend only part of their time in New York City is to purchase a pied-a-terre. Although many buildings permit pied-a-terre ownership, co-op and condo boards often subject the owners of these units to strict rules, even policing who is permitted to occupy the unit in the owner’s absence. Since condo hotel units are already located in buildings where the guests are always changing, they tend to be far more flexible. After all, in contrast to most coops and condos where there is often a strong desire to create a certain type of community, this is rarely a concern in condo hotel buildings where the primary focus isn’t on community, but rather on ensuring owners have access to high-end services and amenities.

Benefits and Amenities

Many luxury condos describe their amenities as "five-star hotel" caliber, but that is truly the case at condo hotels. As an example, owners of the Ritz-Carlton Residences in NoMad won't just be able to enjoy a well-appointed apartment with spectacular city views, but they will also have access to two Jose Andres restaurants, a rooftop bar, a fitness center, a spa, event spaces, and, of course, the Ritz-Carlton's concierge staff. It has proven an irresistible combination: The 16 penthouses on top of the hotel rooms are sold out.

Additionally, though many New York City buildings permit pied-a-terre ownership, co-op and condo boards often subject the owners of these units to strict rules, even policing who is permitted to occupy the unit in the owner’s absence. As condo hotel units are already located in buildings where the guests are always changing, they tend to be more flexible in this regard.

The Dominick, #4105 (Weichert Properties)

One Central Park West, #408 (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

ONE11 Residences, #37E (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

400 Fifth Avenue, #32G (Corcoran Group)

J.W. Marriott Essex House, #1607 (The Agency Brokerage)

The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria, #4107 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

The Plaza, #1511 (Compass)

Residences at the Mandarin Oriental, #71E (Compass)
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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.