Trump-branded condos are a steal right now in New York City, selling well below market price, but does anyone want to live in them?
Over the last year, the question of what would happen to Trump-branded properties has been swirling around real estate circles nonstop. Is the current sale and price downturn permanent? Or are investors already pouncing on the discounted prices and hoping to see them rise once the memories of the tumultuous presidency fade into the background?
In New York, there are currently eight residential buildings branded with the Trump name — from the infamous Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue to Trump Palace in the Upper East Side, and according to data recently review by Inman, these properties seem to have lost their luster.
Numbers from CityRealty Director of Content Ondel Hylton show that 2020 was the worst sales year for these buildings on record — only 17 units sold, compared to 36 in 2019 and 137 in 2004 when the show The Apprentice was topping network ratings.
In 2021, eight properties have already sold while 10 more are under contract to sell, though the asking price of $1,568 per square foot is far below the listing price of $2,058 per square foot and the Manhattan average of $1,714 per square foot.
While the onset of the coronavirus pandemic caused the luxury market, particularly condos, to take a temporary hit in the first half of 2020, a major factor for these buildings has been their association with the former president and his eponymous organization, which on Thursday, July 1, was indicted in a 15-year tax scheme. Former Trump Organization CFO Allen H. Weisselberg faces charges of grand larceny and tax fraud.
Donald Trump’s conflict-ridden presidency that culminated in the Capitol insurrection of January 6 has put off not just those who stand against Trumpian-style and politics, but even conservative would-be buyers are worried about trying to resell units in Trump buildings in liberal cities like New York. (In Florida, a state that Trump won in both 2016 and 2020, prices in Trump-branded properties have actually risen from $920,000 in 2020 to $1.03 million per unit in 2021, according to a realtor.com analysis.)
“These apartments are selling below the average Manhattan condo while they are still great buildings in terms of their service and amenities,” Hylton told Inman. “Without the Trump name, these apartments should be selling at least a little above average but because of the events that happened over the last year, they’re not.”
But Penny Toepfer, a Compass agent who spent 15 years working at Trump’s brokerage house before leaving in the 2000s, has not felt that she has a more difficult job given Trump’s tarnished reputation in the city. Throughout her career, she has sold nearly 200 units in different Trump buildings across the city and continues to see strong buyer demand from buyers with different motivations and desires — some are hardcore Trump fans while others are hoping to take advantage of the lower prices.
“Even before [Trump’s ascent into politics], there was always a moment with many buyers that would say to me ‘I’m not sure,’” Toepfer told Inman. “And I would say to them, ‘Take 20 minutes out of your day and you’re going to become a fan [of the unit.]”
As someone who is proud to have worked for Trump and to represent his properties, Toepfer believes that it’s not difficult to market “large spacious apartments with a unique layout and amenities.” She believes that for every person who wanted to get rid of the property for political reasons, there is another wealthy New Yorker who wants to either live in it or sees it is as a profitable long-term investment.
“Those final months of the election were when we had the most chaos,” she said. “During the most backlash around the raiding of the capital, I saw more properties that were selling than I had in two years. They were put on the market in October, November and December but started selling in January so it’s very hard to put your finger on the pulse and say which way it goes. Some are saying that the properties are worthless, but [in 2020] the whole market was worthless.”
In total, the Trump Organization currently lists 24 residential Trump-branded properties across seven states. The numbers show that there is, in fact, a significant fare plunge — a buyer named Lane Blue told the Associated Press that he paid $160,500 for a studio Trump’s Las Vegas while the seller paid $350,000 more for it back in 2008. Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo recently listed a three-bedroom Trump Tower condo for $7.75 million even though he bought in 2015 for $18.5 million.
As seen in the numbers provided by Hylton, sale and price drops are most prominent with Trump buildings that have the name visible on its front entrance. Across New York, there are also a number of buildings like 200 Riverside Boulevard, which are owned by the Trump Organization but not visibly “Trump buildings.”
Sales in non-branded Trump buildings are up 90 percent from 2020 while condo sales in Manhattan are up only 38 percent year-over-year. Prices in non-branded Trump buildings are down 13 percent year-over-year which points to a market in which some would-be investors are using the distaste that Trump’s ultra-nationalist policies and rocky presidency have left on the city’s real estate market into long-term profit.
“People’s memories are really short when it comes to real estate investments,” Hylton said. “[…] It definitely seems like some people living in those Trump buildings are desperate to get out but there must be a serious reason why someone would list now, when the market toward those apartments is really soft. There are some deals to be had there.”