$21.5 million Manhattan townhouse is a steal?

$21.5 million townhouse a steal?
$21.5 million townhouse a steal?   

A sum of $21.5 million might seem like a lot of money but, in the outrageous world of New York real estate, you might be surprised by how little it will actually buy. Except when it comes to 232 East 63rd St., better known as the Upper East Side Versailles.

This 12,000-square-foot townhouse is now back on the market reduced from its original $27 million 2011 listing.

Of all the shocking features this residence has, perhaps the most startling is that the property's broker calls it a bargain at $21.5 million. Warburg Realty's Jason Haber insists: "This is the best townhouse on the market right now. Asking less than $1,800 a square foot quite frankly makes this house a steal."

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The numbers inside are even more eye-popping than the price: 25 feet wide, 12,000 square feet, 12 bathrooms, 10-seat theater, six floors, five bedrooms, three terraces, three fireplaces, one pool, one elevator, one gym, one sauna, one roof deck, one private garden and one extra-long garage.

Billiard room at 232 East 63rd St., New York
Source: Rich Caplan
Billiard room at 232 East 63rd St., New York

Even more unique for Manhattan than the indoor pool and second kitchen on the roof is the garage. In New York City you can't just cut into the curb and create a driveway. You have to petition the city for a permit and they are very rarely granted. But, this townhouse already has one and it leads to an enormous garage long enough to fit, you guessed it, a stretch limousine. And that's not all. Once you're inside the garage you can take the elevator upstairs, bypassing potential business associates waiting on the first floor.

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Another rarity is the width of 25 feet, which is 5 feet wider than the gold standard for Manhattan townhouses.

Other available properties on the Upper East Side right now include a 17,850-square-foot townhouse on 81st Street for $59 million, a 13,567-square-foot condo on 68th Street for $39.5 million, an apartment on 74th Street with 5,577 square feet at $39 million and a 3-bedroom apartment on Fifth Avenue for $22 million. All much more per square foot than the Upper East Side Versailles.

Ukrainian-born billionaire Alexander Rovt bought the townhouse in 2008 for $6.96 million and began a five-year gut renovation that cost a whopping $18 million. According to Haber, the owner has been involved in every detail of the renovation. Shockingly though, he has never spent a night there. In fact, no one has. The townhouse has not been lived in since Rovt purchased it from Benihana's Rocky Aoki. There is a full-time housekeeper who cleans the massive space daily, but she doesn't reside there.

Pool at 232 East 63rd Street, New York
Source: Rich Caplan
Pool at 232 East 63rd Street, New York

Rovt went for a neoclassical design often mimicking elements from the First French Empire. The master bedroom resembles Napoleon's at the Palace of Versailles. The mammoth renovation was an international affair with artisans flown in from around the world to complete the detailed job. Bathrooms feature white, pink, red, green and gold onyx tiles.

Some of the bathrooms have hand-painted sinks and toilets. There are gold-leafed murals in the billiard room. The walls are venetian plaster.

"It has the finest level of finishes anywhere in New York and, for that matter, anywhere in the world. This owner demands the very best and the very best was put into this house," Haber said.

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How do you protect all these expensive details? With a top-of-the-line security system, of course. Monitors over the front door and throughout the six floors show the exterior of the house. There are hidden cameras in nearly every room and Rovt can monitor all activity remotely. Plus, the push of a button triggers bulletproof metal shields to drop down over all of the rear windows.

So why hasn't it sold? Haber suspects because the renovation was so specifically tailored to Rovt's personal taste it is less appealing to potential buyers who may prefer a more traditional design. To market the property, Warburg Realty produced materials in English, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin.

"I don't know who the buyer will be but they'll be using cash," Haber admitted. "Rubles or whatever type of currency. I don't expect any financing."