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Famous Myths Sell Homes

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It’s been about five years since real estate prices started to fall, and new data released today suggests that the US housing market hasn’t found the bottom yet. According to the S&P/ Case-Schiller Property Index, property values fell 3.7% from November 2010 in 20 major cities.

Even New York City has run into trouble. The value of construction projects has fallen 31% (a $6.2 billion decrease) since last year, costing 4,500 construction jobs.

Well, apparently, some NYC residents have come up with an interesting solution to their real estate woes. Relying on local myths -- and maybe some made up stories -- sellers are trying to convince potential buyers that someone famous once rented their apartment.

A recent story in the New York Times focuses on Michael A. Gales, owner of a studio apartment on 66th Street. Before he lived there, and before the building went co-op, Gales believes that the apartment was home to none other than Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The story goes something like this: Bloomberg moved into the building in 1966 when he was starting out at Salomon Brothers. He stayed there for nearly a decade, even after making partner, because the apartment was “perfectly adequate.”

That’s quite a sell.

The only problem is, in an interview, Bloomberg denies ever having lived in the apartment. Although he could recall precious few details of his time in the building, he distinctly remembered his kitchen being on the other side.

Celebrity histories are a burgeoning part of the New York real estate industry. In another example, a listing for a penthouse in the Bronx swore that Eleanor Roosevelt used to live there (she didn’t). Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether the buzz surrounding a celebrity apartment translates into a higher selling price.

Cars, on the other hand...

Gales remains hopeful that the Bloomberg connection will help sell his apartment. He insists that it is the mayor, and not him, who has the apartment number wrong.

In October, OWS protesters marched uptown and demonstrated outside of the homes of some of New York’s richest men, including JP Morgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and News Corps' (NWSA) Rupert Murdoch. Months later, it’s nice to see the 99% getting a little something out of rich people’s homes.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.