Why many New York penthouse listings are sitting without a buyer

As skyscrapers get taller and taller across Manhattan, living the high life is beginning to look less appealing

Long considered the epitome of wealth and status, New York penthouses are not getting snapped up as fast as they once were in the past.

As first reported by the New York Post, many of Manhattan’s mega-rich no longer want to live the high life in Manhattan’s tallest structures, in part because skyscrapers are being built higher and higher.

“A lot of my clients find new penthouses to be too high,” Herbert Chou, of Christie’s International Real Estate, told the Post. “The perspective is actually a little better in the 28th-to-40th-floor range, depending on the neighborhood. From a penthouse, you are looking down. You are so far up that you are detached from your surroundings.”

Much of the change comes from the major height differences between modern skyscrapers and luxury towers of the past. Classic penthouses on Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue are approximately 250 feet high. The twin penthouses of the tony San Remo building, built in 1929, on Central Park West, sit at 400 feet above the park. One57, which was built in 2010 and nicknamed the “Billionaire Building” due to it popularity among the super-rich, sits at 1,004 feet. 432 Park Ave, which is the home of Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez, has 96 stories — the couple, however, chose to live on the 36th.

“I got super-nauseated when I toured the penthouse of 432 Park,” a visitor to the 95th floor of the luxury tower told the Post. “Buildings that high sway. I was freaked out by the swaying.”

Back in January, billionaire and hedge fund manager Ken Griffin made the most expensive real estate purchase in the U.S. — an extravagant New York apartment with a view of Central Park for $238 million. Griffin did not chose the top of the 65-story building but rather a 23,090-square-foot pad on the 50th to 53rd floors.

“He wanted to feel more in touch with the city,” the broker, who was familiar with the transaction, told the Post. “It’s because he had lived at the top of 820 Fifth Avenue. Nothing on Fifth Avenue is that tall and he was used to [his old] view.”

Most uber-affluent buyers feel that a modern penthouse is too high — you see only tiny specks rather than gorgeous views of the city. The perfect view of Central Park and New York streets actually comes from a mid-level apartment.

“They actually want to relate to what’s outside their windows: the trees, charming townhouses and people walking by,” Compass agent Vickey Barron told the Post.

Others, however, shy away from the “penthouse” due to its ostentatious nature. With people now expecting celebrities to live on the top floor of a mansion, privacy is also more likely to be guaranteed on a lower floor.

“It’s about values,” a bank executive who told Douglas Elliman’s Georgia Kaporis not to even say the word penthouse. “For me to even be quoted in an article about penthouses goes against my style. It’s like buying a McLaren [an extremely rare and expensive car]. It’s flashy. It’s something I am never going to do.”

As a result, real estate prices are now changing to reflect the changing interest of real estate buyers. Penthouses stand without a buyer (the price of the 432 Park Avenue penthouse had to be cut in half) while development company JDS Development recently raised the cost of the mid-tower units at 82-story building 111 West 57th — a 42nd-floor apartment is now going for $28.5 million.

“There are definitely Masters of the Universe who will always buy at the top,” said luxury broker Ian Slater of Compass. “But as you get farther from the ground, you lose more and more of the buyer pool.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko