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What Celebrities Look For When Buying A Home In New York City

Zillow and Streeteasy might be a great tool for the average person, but for celebrities and high-profile individuals, the process of buying and renting homes is quite different.

There are select New York City neighborhoods that attract celebrities thanks to tucked-away locations with less foot traffic, luxury developments, and a nice neighborhood. But what do celebrities really look for in a city home, and how exactly does the process work? Million Dollar Listing New York’s real estate broker Kirsten Jordan, who leads the Kirsten Jordan team at Douglas Elliman, says it comes down to a few factors.

These days, she’s the go-to broker for many high-profile buildings thanks to her experience in the realm, dedication to privacy, and the ability to anticipate her clients’ particular needs before they even ask. Not just that, but usual sales strategies don’t apply to buildings with multiple A-list celebs. While Jordan works all over New York, there are a few buildings that stand out as celebrity havens, including 155 Franklin and 70 Vestry in Tribeca. Victoria Adamo, part of Jordan’s team, is the go-to agent for 70 Vestry.

155 Franklin’s current and past residents include Taylor Swift, Orlando Bloom, Aziz Ansari, Steven Soderbergh ,and New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. 70 Vestry’s current residents include Trevor Noah and Minka Kelly, who just signed a lease together in the building. 

“What I’ve seen at 155 Franklin versus 70 Vestry is different,” Jordan tells Forbes. “155 Franklin is a no-amenity, no-frills building that primarily has done so well with this kind of clientele because of the character and the typical Tribeca loft vibe.”

155 Franklin, located between Varick and Hudson streets, is a prewar condominium once called The Sugar Loaf Building. It was originally built in 1882 as a warehouse and constructed into a 10-unit condo building in 1996. It’s so boutique, in fact, that there’s not even a doorman. The building retains much of its original features, like its facade of horizontal stone banding, a prominent cornice, and green-painted trim, as well as red brick and beam ceilings within the units. The building maintains architectural integrity, which is why it’s so sought-after among wealthy New Yorkers with deep pockets. 

“This is a more off-the-beaten path boutique building,” Jordan says. “I’ve seen the building escalate from a standard Tribeca condo loft to a celebrity building.”

70 Vestry is another celebrity magnet with a covetable location along Hudson River Park. The building, which was completed in 2018, has 14 floors and 46 units. Built by legendary Robert A.M. Stern Architects, 70 Vestry is the epitome of elegance and sophistication with modern, warm interiors, privacy features, and wonderful amenities, including a wellness level with an 82-foot swimming pool; children’s pool; hot and cold plunge pools; a steam room and sauna; fitness center by The Wright fit; a squash court; library; billiards room; lounge; and dining suite. There are two- to seven-bedroom layouts, some of which include libraries, family rooms, fireplaces, studies and terraces. Each residence has high-end, quality finishes and impeccable craftsmanship for the most discerning clients. 

“What I see with UHNW people, whether they are CEOs of major banks or celebrities, they want exactly what everybody else can’t have, so they like the exclusivity,” says Adamo. “Apartments don’t come up in 70 Vestry often, so there’s literally a list of people that wait to get into this building. They also like how Robert A.M. Stern built this with two security booths on either side, two security entrances, and a courtyard. This building was made and built for people who want privacy, security, and who like to fly below the radar. There’s no front of the building, so you have to drive into the courtyard to get in.”

Adamo says she’s worked with a CEO at Citibank and the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia who like that their security detail can come right in and not be seen by the public or the paparazzi. She rents or sells a lot of units at 70 Vestry off-market, not in that they’re holding back inventory, but they’re seeing such a demand that people reach out to rent or buy before they even go on the market.

“That’s where broker relationships are super important,” Jordan says. “What we are seeing here is a level of demand for both 70 Vestry and 155 Franklin that precedes the availability of the actual units.”

Once one celebrity moves into a building, others flock, and not just for security purposes. Celebrities can hike up property value for both their units and the building.

It’s not uncommon for Jordan and her team to sign NDAs, especially when dealing with financials. While celebrities moving into both of these two buildings have generated lots of press in the past, Adamo says there absolutely are celebrities and public figures that have made them sign NDAs.

While many public figures do tend to be more private, the idea of having amenities within their building is appealing. Especially for celebrities with families, a children’s playroom or a pool is ideal so the family doesn’t have to worry about outsourcing children’s activities with the potential to be photographed. 

“Lots of the Tribeca families have play dates in the playrooms or kids’ birthday parties,” Adamo says. “Or they might have private dinner parties in the dinner suite. 70 Vestry also does events, like a Van Leeuwen ice cream truck in the courtyard. It’s great for families who appreciate those amenities.”

Ultimately, public figures and celebrities seek privacy, design, and comfort, but they also simply want to feel safe and happy in their homes.

In 155 Franklin, a Kevin Dumais-designed $8 million loft just sold after only two weeks on the market.

“The common feedback we got was how incredible of a job they did in making it feel like it belongs in Architectural Digest, but that also feels like a home,” Adamo says. “It’s a building with aesthetically pleasing units, but also somewhere they want to sit down and get comfortable.”

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