To some, selling your New York apartment solo is akin to performing a root canal on one's own mouth. Better leave it to the experts. Not so for entrepreneur and semi-professional race car driver Alan Wilzig, who generated considerable noise when he recently put his Tribeca townhouse on sale for $43.5 million. He is marketing the place himself—known as a FSBO, pronounced fizz-bo and short for "for-sale-by-owner"—and also as an "open listing," meaning that any broker is free to publicize the place, but he hasn't hired one to represent him exclusively. Needless to say, most sellers with eight-figure homes don't go this hybrid route.
The buzz probably also had something to do with Wilzig, a former banker who was briefly portrayed in "The Wolf of Wall Street," and the home itself. Attached to a condo tower, it's a 7,500-square-foot, three-level, six-bedroom spread with bulletproof windows, alligator handrails, a 64-color lighting system, and a 14-foot aquarium filled with white butterfly koi. We spoke to Wilzig, who enlightened us on why he opted not to hire a broker, the feedback he's gotten from real estate professionals, and what he'll miss most about his dream home:
You and your wife, Karin, a jewelry designer, paid about $4.5 million for the place in 2003 and added $1.5 million in renovations. How did you arrive at the asking price?
It’s a combination of what [comparable] single-family residences are selling for or asking, and similarly what people are paying for penthouses. [Wilzig used listings services like StreetEasy for research.] We consider this one of the few townhouses that someone who would otherwise be a penthouse buyer would consider. It has artisanal details, it’s on the street level and not hidden away in a condo tower, with a 2,500-square-foot roof deck and a 1,000-square-foot backyard patio. If we don’t get a fair price we are no under pressure to sell it, it will be more of a pied-a-terre than we need.
Why sell without a broker?
I didn’t list it myself because I am anti-broker. I am expecting and thrilled to pay a commission [to the buyer's broker]. But I spent my whole life either studying or practicing marketing and no one knows the house better than me. It would take me 30 days to teach even the best broker the elements of the house, the different components and how they were built, so it’s easier for me to be part of the process. We bought the home because we wanted the safety net of being connected to the Hubert [condo tower] services, the security, snow shoveling, all of it. So I’m a hybrid lister of a truly hybrid home!
Are you enjoying the process?
I really am. The New York real estate professional community is as diverse and interesting as New York itself. So people who have come through here, whether they have 20 minutes or 20 years in real estate, they all appreciate the place and it’s not just out of politeness.
What has been their reaction?
They all came in astonished because the home didn’t look like those over-lit photos [that went with the listing originally]. Those were shot for a lighting magazine and were super saturated. [Wilzig has since posted new photos of the home shot in daylight.] We also just filmed a video tour to show it exactly as it presents in real life, a warm wood, neutral palette, modern family home.
Who is the likely buyer?
Something this large and lavish could serve as pied-a-terre for someone who is so fabulously wealthy they have six trophy homes around the world and don’t care what they cost. If you want to live in the Louis XV style, it’s not for you, but if you like contemporary architecture, it is pretty much pleasing to all.
Any offers yet?
In the two weeks since the listing went live, 24 brokers have come through, and 22 more have appointments coming up. I have had one offer for $31.5 million from a foreign buyer [which he turned down]. We will see the interest, but this is early in the process.
What's the biggest selling point?
It’s one of four or five marquee properties in Tribeca. It’s a townhouse of the future, with the overall home automation and lighting design. All the technology is up to date. I did build it to entertain and we have done that, though the first time the house went blue was for the bris of my son, and it went pink for my daughter’s birthdays.
Why leave now?
We have a 274-acre farm upstate [near Hudson, N.Y.] and it’s a very special place for us. [The 1860s farmhouse comes with a professional-scale 40-foot-wide racetrack and a lake.] This year we spent a lot of time at the farm … and we realized we wanted to live up there. So it wasn’t primarily a business decision. We will be looking for a loft in the city, most likely in Soho.
Is today's hot real estate market also a consideration?
There is an element of favorable market conditions. While no one who is savvy when it comes to real estate expects to get their asking price, I estimate the price will end up being north of $35 million. But who knows, we will see what happens with 2 North Moore [currently listed at $48 million].
What will you miss about the townhouse?
I will miss nearly everything. I know we will never live like this in Manhattan again, but I am ready for the change.