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The New York Times

Trump’s Childhood Home Goes Back on the Auction Block

Published: 9/17/2019
Source: The New York Times
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Viewed 95 Times

Featuring Patrick Smith:

After an unsuccessful attempt to sell at $2.9 million and time on Airbnb, the Tudor-style home in Queens seeks a highest bidder.

President Trump’s childhood home in Queens, N.Y., is once again heading to the auction block, after an unsuccessful attempt to sell at $2.9 million earlier this year.
 
The auction will conclude on Nov. 14, after a review of qualified bidders who submit written offers and a refundable 10 percent deposit. There is an undisclosed reserve price, meaning the seller may choose not to sell below that threshold, and no starting bid will be announced.
 
It last sold for $2.14 million in 2017 to a limited-liability company represented by  a law firm that specializes in Chinese foreign investment, but it is not clear that the home where Mr. Trump spent the first four years of his life is now owned by a Chinese investor. The property taxes on the roughly 2,000-square-foot home were $9,587 this year.
 
The home, a relatively modest five-bedroom, Tudor-style house in Jamaica Estates, is in the middle of a tree-lined residential block in a neighborhood where single-family homes have recently sold for a median $980,000, according to StreetEasy.
 
“The value here has nothing to do with the real estate,” said Misha Haghani, the principal of Paramount Realty USA, the auction company, which has sold the property twice before — in 2016 and again in 2017 — both times at a significant premium for the neighborhood. Finding a buyer who might actually want to live in the house has been a challenge, given the inflated price.
 
In late 2016, shortly before Mr. Trump was inaugurated, the home closed for nearly $1.4 million — 78 percent more than when it sold in 2008 for $782,500. The buyer, Michael Davis, a real estate investor, quickly flipped the property, reselling it about three months later for $2.14 million, a 54 percent premium on what he paid.
 
The buyer and current owner, a limited-liability company called “Trump Birth House,” listed Michael X. Tang, a lawyer, as its representative. Mr. Tang is the managing partner of a law firm in Flushing, Queens that specializes, in part, in real estate investment made by overseas Chinese buyers. Mr. Tang said that he would not comment on the owner, and noted that he is no longer the representative for the limited-liability company. Mr. Haghani, who  would not name the owner, said it was not someone in the Trump family, and that his client had bought the property as an investment.
 
In February, the owner listed the property with the brokerage Compass for $2.9 million, with staging that included a life-size cutout of Mr. Trump, and a framed sign in a bedroom that suggested the future president may have been conceived in the room. Just 10 days later, the listing was taken off the market, said Edward Hickey, the listing agent, because of overwhelming response, much of it from the media. Mr. Haghani’s firm was brought in, because of its past experience selling the home at auction, and is now partnering with the brokerage.
 
Built in 1940 by Mr. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, a real estate developer, the house is where the president lived until he was 4 years old, before moving to a much larger house behind the property. Mr. Trump’s childhood home is a short walk from the last stop on the F train in eastern Queens, a good distance from his current New York residence, a triplex penthouse on Fifth Avenue in a tower that bears his name.
 
Recent owners have tried to capitalize on the presidential connection. In 2017, the home was listed for rent on Airbnb at more than $725 a night, despite less than five-star accommodations. A Times reporter who stayed there that year noted that two of the toilets kept running unless you jiggled the handle.
 
The increased attention may have irked some neighbors, because an anonymous complaint filed with the Department of Buildings led to an inspection: The house was cited for an illegal conversion of the cellar into a living space with unapproved plumbing and inadequate egress. A spokeswoman with the buildings department said the violation was still open, and would remain so until the condition was corrected and the house was reinspected.
 
The owner is counting on a different kind of buyer.
 
“I’m sure there are investors, especially Trump supporters — and maybe even some Trump haters — who would love to buy the property,” said Mr. Haghani, perhaps to make a political statement. He suggested that kindred groups might pool their resources through crowdfunding to win the highest bid. The owner, he added, was not particular about what a buyer would do with the house.
 
Bidders must pay a nonrefundable $100 entry fee, which earns them a survey of the property and a copy of Mr. Trump’s birth certificate with the home’s address, among other materials. Mr. Haghani is also running a promotion on his website, listingnut.com, in which he said the company would award $10,000 to the person who came closest to guessing the final sale price of the home.
 
Marketing may be the key to a sale.
 
“I would say the group of buyers is pretty limited,” said Patrick W. Smith, a Corcoran agent in Queens who is not involved in the deal. “They’re at a price point now that no one would buy it to live in it.”
 
And for those who might turn the home into an attraction like a museum, there may be zoning issues or neighborhood opposition, never mind the fact that the home is about an hourlong subway ride from the tourist attractions in Midtown.
 
There are, however, trophy hunters for whom the math doesn’t need to pencil out. “It’s a collectible” to a certain class of buyers, Mr. Haghani said, like a rare sports car.
 
Might a member of the first family be tempted to buy?
 
“Trump likes to present that he buys low and sells high,” Mr. Smith said. An overture now would betray the art of the deal.
 
Susan Beachy contributed research.
 
Copyright © 2019 The New York Times Company. Reprinted with Permission. Sam Hodgson/The New York Times.
 
 

 

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