Citadel-founder Ken Griffin lit up the luxury residential sector in January 2019 when he bought a super penthouse in New York City for US$240 million. This purchase followed another acquisition he made in London in which he forked out US$122 million for a 200-year old house overlooking London’s St James Park.
Griffin’s new unit in 220 Central Park South spans across four floors from level 50 to level 53 and will be delivered unfurnished. The tower, which is nearing completion, will have amenities such as private dining and entertaining spaces, a fitness centre, spa, library, basketball court, and parking.
Based on the astronomical purchase price, Griffin’s New York City pad is probably the most expensive ultra-luxury penthouse deal in the world. Its price is well more than double the previous official record for a residential sale in Manhattan, which was $100.5 million for the penthouse at One57 sold in 2014. The 11,000 sq ft penthouse comes with six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and two powder rooms. Every room is fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows to provide unimpeded views of New York City.
The most expensive super penthouse transactions that made headlines between 2014 and March 2019 are listed in Table 1. These penthouse transactions were selected based on size and price. The first group is those with floor areas of above 10,000 sq ft and the second group have areas within the range of 5,000 sq ft to 10,000 sq ft. As for price, they were all sold at US$20 million and above. The top five super penthouse deals are all located in New York City, with three of them located in the southern end of Central Park in Manhattan, an area often touted as the “Billionaires’ Row” because of the cluster of ultra-luxury skyscrapers found there.
These ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) buyers, local or foreign, are chief executive officers (CEOs) of tech companies or investment funds, and chairmen of major multi-national corporations (MNCs). They are also collectors of trophy assets who go for nothing less than the best-in-class attributes such as location, size, views, privacy, luxurious furnishings, and architectural merit.
Trophy real estate is the ultimate collectible treasure. Like buying a prized sports car or a high-value masterpiece of art, trophy residences can ignite the desires of the UHNW individuals. As such, many developers of ultra-luxury properties have conceived collectible concepts right from the planning stage, building limited-edition structures and one-and-only creations by renown international architects and designers.
SUPER PENTHOUSE DEFINED
Just what is a Penthouse? Collins Dictionary defines it as an apartment or luxurious flat at the top of a tall building. A penthouse comes with the luxury of space and furnishings and includes an outdoor area on the roof for the private enjoyment of the incredible view. A penthouse is a status symbol particularly because it usually occupies the whole top floor of an apartment block that is located in a prime residential enclave or the heart of downtown. A penthouse offers exclusivity and privacy because there can only be one “top floor.”
At the higher end of the luxury spectrum, penthouses have become larger. Encompassing generous living space as well as a recreational/ entertainment area,a private pool and sometimes even a helipad, these penthouses have evolved into what are now called super penthouses. While there is no strict industry definition of the size of a super penthouse, some are calling super penthouses at 8,000 sq ft. For this research, List Sotheby’s International Realty has set a higher bar by conferring the term super penthouse only to penthouses that are 10,000 sq ft (929 sqm) and above.
Given the prestige and luxurious lifestyle offering, penthouses naturally fetch a higher premium than standard apartments. Even more desired are those located at some of the supertalls – 1,000 ft to 1,999 ft in height – in major global cities, offering spectacular views of their surroundings. These super penthouses tend to draw much attention and set record prices.
SUPER PENTHOUSES IN SINGAPORE
For a small city-state like Singapore, the stock of super penthouses is limited. Those that are in exclusive and prestigious developments within prime locations are highly sought after.
Transactions of super penthouses in Singapore were far and few between, but growing. Only six transactions took place between 2006 and 2019 (Table 2), of which two happened in the last four years.
In the past decade, as luxury properties advanced in sophistication with starchitect design and branded finishes and furnishings, developers were able to push prices to higher limits. The prices achieved by the super penthouses in Marina Bay Residences, Goodwood Residence and Le Nouvel Ardmore, which were sold either off-plan or when newly completed, attested to this new trend.
Marina Bay Residences, located in the financial district, offers a super penthouse spread over the top three levels of the 55-storey tower and was bought by a Hong Kong investor when the project was launched. The S$2,446 psf set the tone for a 5,834 sq ft penthouse on the 63rd storey of neighbouring The Sail @ Marina Bay to be sold at S$15.5 mil or S$2,650 psf to Dr. Bhupendra Kumar Modi, global chairman and founder of Indian conglomerate Spice Corp, in August 2008.
Space, views, interior design, amenities and services offered in such one-of-a-kind penthouses are first-class and come at a price only within reach of the UHNW individuals or billionaires. SC Global Developments’ ultra-luxurious Sculptura Ardmore’s super penthouse that was sold for over S$60 mil (US$44 mil) in September 2017 set a record price for the most expensive apartment to be sold in Singapore. The 36-storey development in the exclusive residential enclave of Ardmore Park comprises luxury four bedroom units ranging between 2,800 sq ft and 4,000 sq ft, and only four units come with cantilevered private lap pools, one of which is the super penthouse. The sale was widely reported in the media though no caveat was officially lodged.
THE APPEAL OF TROPHY HOMES
The rarity of super penthouses makes demand a certainty within the luxury residential domain. It is the “uniqueness” of a super penthouse that is its main draw: the one-and-only residence on the top floor, incredible views, generous accommodation space, private lift, private pool, superior finishes and equipment and large terraces for recreation and entertainment. To own a super penthouse is a powerful status symbol to the wealthy because there are only a handful of developments where developers cater for a super penthouse.
Besides being an exclusive residence, a super penthouse also has functional advantages to a top executive or chairman of an MNC. A super penthouse could double up as his office – where he could work in absolute privacy, or hold meetings with his management team – or as a private venue to entertain his clients, away from the public eye.
Furthermore, there are usually ownership restrictions in some countries which limit the choices for foreign investors. For example, Singapore does not allow foreigners to buy landed residential properties (except in Sentosa Cove). As such, these investors will look to buy a luxury penthouse or super penthouse which befits their status and purpose.
Although such trophy assets are not immune from the swings in property cycles, they are generally less susceptible to market volatility because of their scarcity.In some instances, the sale of a super penthouse can help to restore confidence in the market. For example,Ken Griffin’s purchase of the Central Park South super penthouse lifted the gloom in the Manhattan real estate market, which has cooled off since the Global Financial Crisis. Similarly, in Singapore, the sale of the penthouses in Le Nouvel Ardmore (2015) and Sculptura Ardmore (2017) took place during the property market downturn period. Such exclusive sales can sometimes lead to market recovery. It is no surprise that at the peak of a market cycle, prices of super penthouses could hit stratospheric levels.
All said, a super penthouse will remain the epitome of luxury homes, reserved and attainable only by a selected few - the niche billionaire buyers who can own this rare asset class.
Unblocked views, lots of light, higher ceilings, lifts that open directly into the apartment and private outdoor space are standard—and often de rigeuer—in penthouses. Penthouses often have amenities that the rest of the building may not have, such as butler service, private and large roof terrace, allocated parking lot, observatory and fireplace (in continental countries).
Prime luxury properties will be the asset class of choice among the wealthy. In every city, a limited stock of homes bearing the most exclusive of residential addresses remains evergreen in popularity among the wealthy around the world. Examples are 57th Street and Park Avenue in New York, Knightsbridge and Hyde Park in London, Peak Road located at the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong and Avenue Princesse Grace in Monaco.Ownership of property in these locations is labelled with widely-acknowledged prestige. In Singapore, the most prestigious residential enclaves are found close to Orchard Road – such as Ardmore Park, Nassim Road – as well as the financial district.
CHOICES FOR TROPHY HUNTERS
There are at least ten super penthouses around the world that are currently on the market (Table 3) based on listings from 2016 to April 2019. One of the most outstanding properties is the uber-exclusive Tour Odeon Tower Sky Penthouse in Monaco, which is set to become one of the most expensive luxury homes in the world with a price tag of US$335 mil. Sitting atop the second tallest building on Europe’s Mediterranean coastline, the 35,500 sq ft five-storey penthouse embraces unparalleled 360-degree views over the sea with a stunning outdoor rooftop circular infinity pool linked to a balcony by a water-slide, making it the quintessence of a luxury lifestyle beyond imagination.
In New York, the Crown Penthouse at 212 Fifth Avenue* is in a class of its own. The 5-bedroom super penthouse spans three floors with over 10,000 sq ft of living space and 5,730 sq ft of terraces. A private lift leads to the foyer which opens into an atrium with a bronze staircase as its centerpiece. This level comprises a grand ballroom, a library with a fireplace, kitchen,dining, three bedrooms, and the seven-room master suite. The second level boasts a sky-lit entertaining space and colossal outdoor oasis while the third-floor observatory opens onto a 950 sq ft terrace.
Other reputable super penthouses currently looking for buyers include those in Eighty Seven Park and One Thousand Museums (both in Miami) and Pacifica Towers (Auckland).
In Singapore, there could be six super penthouses for sale. The biggest of these is the super penthouse in Wallich Residence. The five-bedroom ‘villa in the sky’ spans three floors and has a total floor area of 21,108 sq ft and a dedicated private lift and lift lobby. Standing at 951 ft (290 m) above sea level, it has unobstructed views of the Central Business District, Marina Bay, and Sentosa Island from its pool, cabana, jacuzzi, and entertainment areas.
The next in line is the 17,642 sq ft super penthouse at The Marq on Paterson Hill. The opulent home is fully decked out and meticulously curated in a designer house’s furniture, furnishing fabrics, wallpapers, carpets, tableware, bespoke leather upholstered items. For now, the developer SC Global Developments is content to hold on to the trophy asset for its corporate use.
Along the same vein, the developer of Concourse Skyline, Hong Fok Corporation Limited, collaborated with Robb Report Singapore to transform one of its two super penthouses into a magnificent home with a carefully curated selection of state-of-the-art furniture and products brought in by more than 20 luxury brands such as B&B Italia, Devialet, Kaldewei, Lladro, Montblanc and Orientalist amongst many others. The Concourse Skyline Penthouse presented by Robb Report was opened for preview in late April 2019.
The super penthouse in Hilltops has an expansive internal space of around 12,600 sq ft. It also comes with a dedicated private lift that leads from the ground floor directly to the penthouse.
Reflections At Keppel Bay is an iconic residential waterfront development by Keppel Land and world-renowned master architect Daniel Libeskind. Perched atop the stunning crown of the 41-storey tower is an exclusive 13,293 sq ft super penthouse offering panoramic views of Keppel Bay, Sentosa and the open sea. Spanning three stories, the six-bedroom apartment is so spacious that the owner is able to pursue personalised lifestyle options, such as creating a private spa, gymnasium or art gallery.
*Update: As of early June 2019, the Crown Penthouse at 212 Fifth Avenue, N.Y., was reportedly sold.