No More Russian Buyers for the New York Real-Estate Market

The stereotype of a Russian buyer pushing a wheelbarrow full of cash is a thing of the past

Fri, Jan 16, 2015
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Another unforeseen consequence

This article originally appeared at Zero Hedge


For uber-wealthy Russians, "an apartment in Miami, even the most glorious beachfront apartment, is not a priority right now," warns one real estate attorney, as The New York Observer reports Russian buyers no longer felt they had the liquid assets to carry on with the transaction and were looking to break closed real estate contracts.

"Your average Russian buyer tends to be someone who works in the $5, $10, $15 million range. Obviously very wealthy people, but also people who are much more likely to feel a pinch given the economic situation and the exchange rate," and with maintenance costs sky-high, the trophy apartments have shifted from 'safe-deposit-boxes' out of reach of sanctions to burdensome drains.

The New York Observer reports:

Just before the holidays, a handful of unusual business proposals made their way to the desk of Marlen Kruzhkov, an attorney at New York’s Gusrae Kaplan: Russian buyers were looking to flip closed real estate contracts.

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The buyers who approached the attorney and his clients had placed sizable down payments on the apartments but following Russia’s increased economic woes, no longer felt they had the liquid assets to carry on with the transaction.

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“They were offering to sell the contract at a loss, willing to take a fifty percent loss on a down payment as not to take a hundred percent loss. Due to the exchange rate, they did not have the liquidity to finish the transaction,” Mr. Kruzhkov told the Observer. Second and in some cases third homes of this kind stopped being a priority for Russian buyers. “An apartment in Miami, even the most glorious beachfront apartment, is not a priority right now.”

Troubles with Russian buyers have also found their way to the New York real estate market, materializing in a slightly different way as buyers look to escape contracts during the negotiation process. Several wealthy Russian buyers canceled deals based on Russia’s increasingly strained relationship with the western world. “I have had Russian clients who were about to purchase properties in New York change their minds within days of Russian occupying Ukraine,” attorney Petro Zinkovetsky told the Observer. One of the buyers was purchasing a $10 million home; another was looking to spend over $17 million. Mr. Zinkovetsky promptly canceled both deals.

While the stereotypical Russian buyer is a billionaire handing over a briefcase of cash for a park view penthouse, the true buyer is a millionaire who considers both financing options and bustling downtown lofts.

Billionaires unaffected by the stumbling ruble are, in fact, infrequent buyers in the American real estate market compared to mid-range millionaires.

“Your average Russian buyer tends to be someone who works in the $5, $10, $15 million range. Obviously very wealthy people, but also people who are much more likely to feel a pinch given the economic situation and the exchange rate,” Mr. Kruzhkov explained.

As that pinch becomes increasingly uncomfortable, Russian buyers consider less expensive apartments they can rent out more easily in neighborhoods that may have previously been overlooked.

Even Russian buyers who purchased trophy apartments in the city years ago are now looking to rent them out.

A client of Mr. Zinkovetsky’s has owned a New York apartment for two years but spent only five collective weeks in the space. Last month, he decided it was time to rent it in an effort to level out the increasingly burdensome maintenance costs. “[Russian buyers] view United States real estate as a ‘safe deposit box’ that occasionally comes with a good view. Their objective is to move money out of their home country and safeguard their assets by placing them in the U.S. real estate… [But] at this point, it becomes expensive to maintain a ‘safe deposit box’.”

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