Five Minutes With Howard Lorber

It's been an incredibly turbulent year for the Manhattan real estate market, to say the least. Are things looking up? Is there more pain still to come? For a little insight, we interrupted a very busy Howard Lorber, the chairman and co-owner of the real estate giant Prudential Douglas Elliman and the chairman of the board of Nathan's Famous. We didn't pester Lorber with any questions about hot dogs, though. Just real estate.

Q: It's been a scary time recently, obviously. Are things still heading downhill? Are we seeing a bottom?
A: I think things are stabilizing, actually. We're seeing people buy again.
Q: Really? Is this turning into a busy month for the company?
A: This is July. And July is never our busiest month even when the market is perfectly healthy. But we're definitely seeing activity. Don't get me wrong. Buyers are still looking for exceptional value. But they're buying.
Q: What's been on your agenda recently? After quite a bit of drama, you're now actively marketing the Apthorp, and a long list of celebs have stopped by for a visit. How's that going?
A: The Apthorp is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. These kinds of buildings don't come along every day, that's for sure. A major capital improvement program is underway. And the prices have been reduced to below market value. But they'll be going up eventually, which makes it very attractive.
Q: What other trends are you seeing? Are the specific parts of town that are particularly active?
A: The buying isn't restricted to a single neighborhood. But broadly-speaking, we're seeing activity pick up. At the high-end, we just sold a townhouse for $18 million and another one for $12 million. So things are moving.
Q: That's nice.
A: We're not getting overly optimistic. But, yes, it's nice to see things stabilizing.

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