Manhattan mega-rentals: Why buy when you can rent a New York super-home for $150,000 a month?

214 Lafayette Street, listed at $100,000 a month

By Sarah Trefethen

Homeownership may be an American ideal, but not everyone with the means to buy a property chooses to do so.
And far from being limited to budget-conscious offerings, Manhattan’s rental listings include some truly jaw-dropping properties.

From 80 Washington Place in Greenwich Village (listed with Douglas Elliman for $95,000 per month) to 247 Central Park West on the Upper West Side (Sotheby’s International, $90,000 per month,) super-high end rentals can be found throughout Manhattan.

Factors that lead people to eschew a purchase in favor of a high-end rental are as varied as the individuals involved, but there are some common themes, brokers say. Among them are convenience, flexibility and, in some cases, the opportunity to live in a space that simply isn’t available for sale.

“Many people just prefer renting,” said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats. “They have investments tied up in other assets they don’t want to liquidate.”

At the Waldorf Towers, located within the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Margaret Bay of Brown Harris Stevens handles rentals with lease terms of one month or longer.

Among the listings currently available in the towers is a 6,000 s/f, five-bedroom apartment that was home to the composer Cole Porter from 1934 to 1964. The apartment — like all the residences in the building — comes with hotel amenities, including maid and room service, and is listed for $150,000 per month.

Other listings available at the East 50th Street address include two three-bedroom apartments, one for $135,000 and the other for a mere $95,000 per month.

Some tenants stay only a few months, Bay said, while others stay for decades. Rentals are popular with families whose homes are going through renovations, and people who are only planning to stay in New York for a few years.

One 10-year tenant moved in after a divorce because she simply didn’t want to go through the process of disclosing her finances to a co-op board, Bay said, while the towers are also popular with corporate tenants and diplomatic missions.

“We’re very accommodating,” she said. “We can really make anything happen. If you need 20 bedrooms in six apartments we can do that.”

The apartments are usually rented furnished, Bay said, but with the right lease terms tenants can arrange to redecorate and even renovate to suit.

At 214 Lafayette Street in SoHo, on the other hand, the furnishings are part of the deal.

“We would consider it for the right number, but really it is furnished to perfection. The vibe of the furnishings perfectly match the space,” said Steve Halpern of Citi Habitats, who leases the 13,000 s/f, three-bedroom townhouse. “I don’t think you’re going to love the house and not love the furniture.”

The owners, horror movie director Marcus Nispel and his songwriter wife Dyan, spent over ten years renovating the former power station that Halpern describes as “an architectural masterpiece.”

The stonework in the bathrooms came from an old monastery in the south of France and the indoor swimming pool was featured in the music video for singer Beyonce’s video ‘Halo.’

The appeal for tenants is “not just the luxury the apartment allows, but it’s also in just how unique it is to live there,” Halpern said. The space is available at a day rate for parties and photo and video shoots, but it was rented for three months over the summer and Halpern said he’s shown it to a number of parties interested in one-year leases.

In addition to a prime location and unique setting, the meticulously finished home offers turn-key convenience.

“On the very high end of the rental side, people are not looking to rent apartments that need work,” Malin said.

Renting also saves residents the uncertainty of having to sell later in what might turn out to be a down real estate market.

“A lot of people like to rent the dream as opposed to buying the dream,” Malin said.

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