The lowdown on Pamela Wallin’s low condo price

A studio apartment, priced to move

Coming soon: Anne Kingston's cover story on Sen. Pamela Wallin.

In this week’s issue of Maclean’s — on stands Thursday — Anne Kingston explains how the senator’s high-flying life came crashing down.

Of all the twists and turns in the scandal over Sen. Pamela Wallin’s expenses, of which she must repay $100,000 by Sept. 16, came news of the sale of her New York City apartment.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the story is the price at which she’s reportedly selling it—$349,000.

A 500-square-foot “oversized” Park Avenue studio, just two blocks from one of Donald Trump’s luxury towers, for $349,000? It sounds hard to believe. Real estate watchers in the city are scratching their heads. Local realtors say there are a couple of explanations for the low price (which is $30,000 lower than what Wallin paid for the apartment in 2005).

1. She’s trying to get rid of it fast. The 12th-floor residence went on the market in late June and as of mid-August was “in contract,” meaning an agreement has been reached with a buyer but not finalized. “She did price it aggressively,” says Les Meyers, a real estate agent with New York’s Citi Habitats, adding he “wouldn’t be scared” to push for more. It’s entirely possible, he says, that Wallin’s goal was to move the apartment quickly or incite a bidding war.

2. It’s a co-op, not a condominium. Condo buyers legally own the property and can rent it out as they please, whereas co-ops are owned by a co-op board—the purchaser owns a share of the building but not the individual unit, making the latter less desirable. “You can’t compare co-op to condo in terms of purchasing power,” says Meyers. A similarly sized condo just a few blocks away is going for $550,000, he says.

3. Condition/views. Although the listing describes the Co-op, Plaza Towers, as “a proper White Glove Co-op” with a full-time doorman and concierge and well as a “fabulous roof deck,” Meyers says many of the suites need renovating, which can make prices fluctuate. A one-bedroom on the 33rd floor is selling for $500,000 but it needs to be gutted, he says. And while an apartment on the floor below Wallin’s recently sold for $950 per square foot, another unit identical to hers went for $570/square foot. If Wallin’s place does close for $349,000, it’ll fall somewhere in the middle at $700/square foot.

4. It’s a studio. Pete Culliney, director of research and analytics at New York City’s CityRealty, says people are desperate for bigger apartments. “There are a lot of studios and folks are not buying them nearly as fast as they used to,” he says.

Another reason the listing seems so low-priced to Canadian observers is that co-ops are far less common in Canada—we think of everything in terms of condo prices. In Toronto, there are only about 20 co-op units currently for sale as compared to more than 5,100 condos, according to David Fleming, realtor and author of Toronto Realty Blog.

“In today’s day and age, people want to just live on their own and according to their own rules and regulations,” he says.

Likening the Park Avenue neighbourhood to Toronto’s Yorkville, he says a price of $349,000 for a 500-sqaure-foot condo would be absolutely unheard of.

“You’d be looking at at least double that,” he says. “I haven’t seen prices like that for condos in Toronto in 10 years.”

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