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Tesla-charging stations and dog spas: What New York’s luxury real-estate buyers want right now

  • Sub-$10 million apartments aren't considered ultra-luxury in New York City's real-estate market, says "Million Dollar Listing" star Ryan Serhant.
  • Luxury buyers are increasingly looking for amenities like Tesla charging stations, movie-screening rooms, indoor playgrounds for their kids and dog spas.
  • Some luxury buildings are offering stand-out features like a salt-water pool in the living room, a bowling alley, a Turkish bath and an adult treehouse.

Ryan Serhant, a New York real-estate agent and star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing,” pictured at 118 W. 76th Street in Manhattan.
Source: Alex Abaunza
Ryan Serhant, a New York real-estate agent and star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing,” pictured at 118 W. 76th Street in Manhattan.

I remember from back when I was a hedge-fund trader in 2004, shopping for my first apartment with a $3 million budget. I was looking for something with the "it" factor. So, I bought a 2,200 square foot open loft that had a Jacuzzi room that fit eight people, with multiple shower heads on the ceiling, a drainage floor and a vapor-proof steam shower door.

Watching the Dow — and real-estate prices — go up every day, it made me wonder: What are the hot new amenities buyers are looking for in New York right now? So, I reached out to several Wall Street professionals and "Million Dollar Listing" star Ryan Serhant.

"It used to be that buyers really cared about proximity to public transportation," Serhant explained. "Now that's as easy as a click of a button on your phone. I've got more and more clients who need to find a place where they can charge their Tesla. And buyers want big, extravagant play areas for their kids. The kiddos have become a big area of focus when shopping for a new home."

A Tesla Inc. Model S 90D electric vehicle is charged.
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A Tesla Inc. Model S 90D electric vehicle is charged.

I spoke with several Wall Street professionals and ex-financial industry people in the market to see what luxury items are currently on their list.

"I want to live like I'm at a hotel," Edward, a private equity partner said. "Like a concierge and rooftop swimming pool."

Others desired amenities include a dog spa, screening room, spa, wine cellars and fully staffed fitness rooms.

"I'm single so I really want a place to entertain," Andrew a bulge-bracket sales trader said. "So basically I'm looking for a $5 million man cave, tastefully done of course. I want a direct elevator to my place, great views, a full bar and a fireplace. But I'm still looking."

"Building in New York is all about attracting the right buyers," Serhant said.

Some developers have gotten creative in this competitive market. Soori High Line, which is located along the elevated park known as the High Line, will have four-foot-deep saltwater heated pools in the living room in more than half of the apartments. The design will partially open to the outdoors and is surrounded by glass. It was designed and developed by architect Soo K. Chan from Singapore. There will also be wellness programming for residents, including aquatic therapy and meal planning. The new apartments are expected to be completed this month and will run between $3 million to $22.5 million.

A four foot deep salt water pool off of the living room at the Soori High Line
Source: SCDA
A four foot deep salt water pool off of the living room at the Soori High Line

"Sub-$10 million apartments aren't considered ultra-luxury," Serhant explained. "The definition changes as prices move higher with inflation."

Other builders are focusing more on providing an experience for their tenants at a lower price point. One Manhattan Square is an 800-foot tall modern tower being built on the edge of the New York Harbor. The developer is pitching a "vertical village" of 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities. The perks of living here will include a bowling alley, an adult treehouse, a Turkish bath, outdoor fire pit, culinary lounge and demonstration kitchen, multiple swimming pools and gardens.

Two-lane Bowling alley and lounge at One Manhattan Square's sports club
Source: Wordsearch
Two-lane Bowling alley and lounge at One Manhattan Square's sports club

One really interesting turn of events in New York's luxury market is that, with deep-pocketed buyers from China, Russia and all over the world competing with the city's 1 percent to purchase a home, buyers are expanding their search beyond Manhattan – something many never would've dreamed of in a million years!

"The outer boroughs are really starting to heat up," Serhant said. "We're seeing $16 million sales in Brooklyn, which used to be unheard of. And I'm getting requests from foreign buyers for places like Greenpoint and Harlem."

The market isn't just expanding horizontally across the river and into other boroughs, it's also expanding vertically – buildings are getting taller.

"It's not that long ago where the Woolworth building was the tallest in the city," Serhant said. "But now it's the 25th tallest." One 57 was briefly the city's tallest residential building, and the first to break the once unfathomable $100 million barrier in 2015. The building is 1,000 feet tall. A few months later, 432 Park surpassed One 57 by hundreds of feet with the highest unit coming in at nearly 1,300 feet. And now, The Central Park tower is set to be the tallest residential building at 1550 feet when it's completed construction.

As part of One Manhattan Square's Entertainment and Recreation amenities, they offer a Screening room and performance area.
Source: Wordsearch
As part of One Manhattan Square's Entertainment and Recreation amenities, they offer a Screening room and performance area.

I asked Serhant if he's been seeing a lot of Wall Street money enter into the market.

"It's there," he said. "It's always going to be there or at least for the foreseeable future."

But, he's noticed fewer financial industry people looking to flip or buy as an investment.

"I used to own seven properties," Kevin, an ex-sales trader said. "It was nuts, but now I only own the place I live in."

One of the many outdoor amenities at One Manhattan Square is a fire pit
Source: Wordsearch
One of the many outdoor amenities at One Manhattan Square is a fire pit

But not everyone has given up on investment properties. Hedge-fund titan Bill Ackman purchased a penthouse in One 57 for $91.5 million. What does that kind of coin get you? About 13,500 square feet, six bedrooms, six and a half baths and a 50 foot wide enclosed winter garden. He thinks he'll be able to flip it for $500 million someday.

That may sound crazy, but a few years ago, $100 million sounded crazy, too. Welcome to New York! If you have any other questions, I'll be swimming in the living room with my dog while the Tesla is charging.

Commentary by Turney Duff, a former trader at the hedge fund Galleon Group. Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, "The Buy Side." He is a commentator on CNBC's "Filthy Rich Guide" and a consultant on the Showtime show, "Billions," starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCOpinion on Twitter.

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