Amenities are catnip for the potential condo buyer. Whether we choose to admit it or not, most of us can't help but be enticed by shiny new things. Not a big swimmer? Okay, but it's still nice to know that the pool is there in case you change your mind, right? Allergic to most pets? Maybe this in-house doggie spa can convince you to find an exception. We may well be experiencing an upswing in luxury amenities, with a Forbes piece by Eustacia Huen released in late May describing lavish benefits of living large from 'in-house lifestyle curator' to a 'feng shui consultant.' Not everyone wants—or can afford—a 'lifestyle curator,' but most buyers are looking for more than just an aging laundry room with fluorescent lights buzzing overhead.
Seeing the Light
There's been a concerted push of late to take advantage of natural light and greener features in amenities—and as we've now officially entered summer, the desire to flee the confines of one's apartment and feel some grass between one's toes is palpable. "I manage one property with an amenity that they refer to as 'The Courtyard,' and that I call 'The Italian Garden,'" says Ira Meister, founder and president of Manhattan-based Matthew Adam Properties. "On one side, there's a plot where people grow vegetables, flanked by grapevines. A string of glass bulbs runs across the roof, illuminating the area, and on the other side, there's a 50-plus inch television. So people can congregate out there, and it looks and smells beautiful."
Outdoor fitness equipment is another trend aimed at drawing people outside. This kind of amenity for adults is expensive to implement in the city, says Meister, but in more suburban communities, outdoor leisure equipment manufacturers have noticed an increasing demand for workout equipment flanking children's play spaces, so parents can supervise their kids while getting some exercise of their own.
Speaking of the children, the sky remains the limit when it comes to innovative playground design and location. "We're about to build an outdoor playroom on the roof of a building, 35 stories up," says Meister. "It's going to be entirely fenced in, obviously, and have netting, like what you'd see surrounding a tennis court. If a kid bounces a ball, it won't fly off the side of the building. The property is close to Central Park, but parents still want to have something local and contained where their kids can play during the summer."
Michelle Kleier, president of Manhattan-based brokerage Kleier Residential, echoes this sentiment. "My clients with kids at The Kent at 200 East 95th Street are loving what they've dubbed 'Camp Kent.' It's the only amenity of its kind in a residential property, as far as I know. They have a treehouse, a teepee, and a picnic table for arts and crafts - all outside in their own private park."
Lest one worry that The Kent caters mostly to the Fisher-Price set, the building also offers a 'sound lounge' designed by pop star Lenny Kravitz. "Anyone can go and practice an instrument, there's a dance floor and a stage for performing," says Kleier. "It's an amenity that my clients are going crazy for."
Kleier herself lives in a co-op on Park Avenue where they installed a basketball court years ago to compete with amenities being offered by condos at the time. "I only know one other co-op in New York City that has one," she says. "I actually get people who call me and say 'I have three teenage boys, and I need an apartment in that building because they'd kill for a basketball court.' It's an unbelievable amenity; people will throw parties there, and they'll use it all the time."
When it comes to lavishness however, 111 Murray Street may be the address to beat. "As far as new buildings are concerned, that address has the most amazing amenities I've seen anywhere," says Kleier. "They have a private jet service! And they serve complimentary breakfast from a patisserie for everyone in the building every day. They even have what's called a hammam, which is a Turkish bath."
Food-focused amenities may well be on the rise—especially in the city. With varied and increasingly popular services like Fresh Direct or Blue Apron delivering both meals and raw ingredients right to a customer's door, residents have a growing desire to see shopping made easy, even if they're still dedicated to preparing their own food. And the foodie trend isn't limited to New York City proper; a new 145-unit development in Larchmont is responding directly to this trend, says Jeffrey Stillman, vice president of Stillman Property Management in Harrison. "We're opening a building with what is essentially a refrigerated package room, dedicated specifically to food deliveries. It's not yet finished, so I can't attest to its usage, but it's about 10' x 10' and outfitted with shelving, so I think that it could cater to a good number of occupants."
But while amenities certainly have their allure, one prominent broker who preferred not to be named urges buyers to not lose focus on the true value. "I know of one building where they're aiming to install a golf simulator," she says. "It's yet to open, but I think that the developer believes that this will attract a bunch of guys. Amenities go in cycles. When you don't know what to do and you want to raise your price, you keep adding amenities. But the truth is, if the apartment doesn't offer value, those amenities are useless. Good floor plans and well-done finishes sell your product. The rest doesn't matter."
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer and reporter for The Cooperator.