UWS Townhome Could Make Over 100 Times Owners’ Original Investment

Donna and Bill DeSeta bought the townhome at 323 W. 80th St. in 1970 for $170,000. At the time it was a single room occupancy residence with 20 rooms. Through the years, the couple fixed up the building, adding special touches by hand, according to the New York Post.

Bill wanted to buy stained glass windows from a nearby church, but it was too pricey. So Donna took a course at the local Y and made her own, while Bill turned leftover parquet floors into an oak dining table. Their home is now configured as a 3,000-square-foot owners’ duplex.

The townhouse recently had eight apartments, but will be “delivered vacant,” according to the Post.

They recently put it on the market for $19.95 million. The house is on “an unheard of 43 foot lot,” the listing notes. It’s got six stories, 31 rooms and a private garage.

Check out the listing here, and then go back to 1970 and buy a few townhouses.

Photo via Compass.

Correction: We initially got Donna’s name wrong.

REAL ESTATE | 39 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      WSR, please consider writing a story about the eight tenants living in the building.

    2. Roger lodger says:

      $1,070,000 in 2017 dollars so your headline is misleading

      • Cato says:

        The headline is accurate. The tax authorities don’t consider “present value” of past dollars when assessing tax on profit. And it is certainly, accurately, factually the case that, if the owners sell at their asking price, they will make over 100 times the amount they originally invested.

        Maybe not, if you really need to quibble, 100 times the *current value* of what they originally invested, but that’s not what the headline says.

        • Rodger Lodger says:

          Taxes are not the measure of the wealth increase in real world (practical) terms. You’re conflating tax basis with spendable profits (money). If IRS values your car very highly in an unrealistic manner, however in compliance with tax regulations, will you feel that much better.

          • Cato says:

            So if I give you one dollar bill today, and a year from now you give me back two one-dollar bills, I really have only a dollar and eighty-seven cents in my pocket?

            • Sarah says:

              Yes, actually, if you consider it in terms of what those dollars can buy. Which is what is important, not the nominal amount.

              Don’t believe me? Give me $10,000 today; I will happily give you $10,000 one year from now. It’s an even exchange. By your theory, costs you nothing!

    3. Cintra says:

      That is so cool how this couple can take a building and convert it into an expensive fortress. It definitely was determined hard work. I wish them the very best in finding a buyer for the building. It’s also a good area to live in. I live nearby for over 30 years.

    4. AC says:

      I would walk by this residence every day on my way to the park throughout my youth. I was always fascinated with this residence, as it was the only one with a private garage on West 80th Street (from RSD to CPW).

    5. Colette says:

      If this City doesn’t start making correct decisions the QUALITY of life in the City will deteriorate to a point where no one will want to pay that kind of money to live here
      i.e. The bike lanes too many homeless too many parades that jam up traffic too crowded subways etc etc

    6. Christine E says:

      Good for them – sweat equity, literally!

      But WSR can you please consider the gender bias of the article. The opening line “Bill DeSeta and his wife Donna” is offensive to employed (and any) spouses IMO. Try saying “Donna DeSata and her husband” to see what I mean.

    7. Sherman says:

      Interesting story. Good for this couple.

      I’m confused, however, about the eight apartments being vacated. Since this is such an old building the apartments are likely under some kind of rent regulation. I don’t get how they got the tenants out. They must have offered them a lot of money.

    8. joe says:

      There are numerous stocks that, if purchased in 1970, would give you way more than 100X on your investment…

    9. Scott says:

      Riverside Drive was downright scary in the 70s and 80s…good for them!

    10. Laura Murphy says:

      There are stories like this all over the UWS! and living on the UWS in the 70’s was NOTHING like it is today. Pioneers and visionaries for sure!

    11. Steven says:

      If they get $19.95 million, that works out to a 10.7% annualized return on their purchase price of $170,000. For comparison, the US stock market has compounded at 10.5% per year over those same 47 years, so 10.7% is pretty much the same. And of course, they didn’t really earn 10.7%, because they had to keep paying out more money over the years, for things like property taxes, upkeep of the building, etc.

      • nycityny says:

        They probably purchased with a down payment and financed the rest. So the return really is based on what they put down, not the purchase price.

        • Steven says:

          True. I also left out the fact that they were receiving rental income. I was really just trying to make the point that the price appreciation was not as stunning as it seemed on the surface. Compounding works wonders over 47 years.

      • Ted says:

        But of course the story is a bit more complicated than that. Over all those years they had the benefit of a permanent residence and whatever rental income the property provided. Without those numbers it is not possible to really value the total benefit of this investment.

        • B.B. says:

          Then or now no one rents out units in a townhouse/brownstone or whatever if they don’t need the income.

          Buying a place with RS or whatever tenants in place is one thing. However the couple built this mansion back up from basically the rubble of an empty SRO. They were not required to convert any part of it into rental housing.

          Fact that doing so at the time placed those apartments under RS, again tells one at least owners needed rental income to make things work.

          Market value for this property has steadily increased over past ten or so years, which in turn affects assessed values. This couple is likely looking at very dear sums in property taxes. Unless you can afford to keep a place as a private home *and* pay those dear taxes, main alternative is rental income.

    12. Billy D says:

      Uhhh…that’s a 10% average yearly return. Nothing extraordinary. That’s basically the average return of the S&P 500 since 1970. Taking into consideration the taxes and upkeep they had to pay, it’s not that great of a return on investment.

    13. Drg says:

      The owner of a building can use an owner occupancy proceeding to non-renew rent stabilized leases and force tenants out. With very few exceptions, apparently. Different for rent control.

      This is only if the owner is planning to personally use the units for his/her own family. So I believe that’s what was probably done here. Btw, there is NO limit on the number of units, as long as it’s for personal use. This is covered on several NYC legal web sites

      • Cato says:

        Is that what happened here? That’s the question that’s been asked by several people — not what might have happened here, or what could have happened here, or what maybe perhaps sortakinda happened here.

        What *did* happen here? Does anyone know?

        • dannyboy says:

          I guess that if commenters can airbrush out the 8 apartment tenants ending their tenancy, they can get back to the more important stuff…like getting BIG $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ for your residence.

        • B.B. says:

          Scores of brownstones/townhouses/row houses all over Manhattan and Brooklyn have been emptied of tenants by owners using the “family occupancy” clause of RS laws.

          Indeed one of the reasons you have seen a decline in overall numbers of RS units is because many brownstone/town house buildings were converted *back* into single family homes. I say this because often when originally built these properties were single family homes. Over the years and for various reasons they were carved up into apartments.

          “Regarding the number of apartments an owner can take: The Rent Stabilization Law and Code is a little vague about the number of apartments that an owner may occupy: “…only one of the individual owners of any building, whether such ownership is by joint tenancy, tenancy in common, or tenancy by the entirety to recover possession of one or more dwelling units for personal use and occupancy.” However, the DHCR informs us that an owner can take more than one unit for the occupancy of his or her relatives.”


          See also: http://www.nytimes.com/1984/08/05/realestate/personal-use-evictions-tightened.html

          Note the OP merely states that the property “recently had eight apartments….”, but makes no mention if those units were occupied. There are plenty of rental buildings in NYC large and small that have “X” number of units on paper, but at any given time apartments are vacant.

          In a small building like this unless owner needs the income, they are likely to leave vacated apartments empty. More so when units are under RC or RS because of difficulty in removing tenants (and or their heirs, spouses, etc…) once rented.

    14. B.B. says:

      A bit of history for the property, bought to you by, well *Moi*!

      Charles Henry Davis Residence: http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/ResDavisCH.html

      Back to the real estate listing.

      Persons who have the wherewithal to spend $20 million on a property rarely simply just move in; rather the place often is renovated either fully (gutted) or partially to suit the tastes of new owner.

      So when you see these astronomical prices for apartments or private homes add on millions more for the renovation and decoration work.

      One downside is that the corner building is a tall high rise; thus there is likely little privacy on the back terrace and garden. Also depending upon time of day little sunlight as well.

      On the upside the property comes with one of the most highly sought after amenities in Manhattan today; a legal curb cut and garage.

    15. Sean says:

      This property is being sold by casting agent Donna DeSeta and her husband. Maybe a star will live there?

      • B.B. says:

        We shall see!

        Couple were offered $12million several years back but declined.

        While the UWS historically and still is home to many in the entertainment industry; the big money and or at least many of the younger “stars” all seem to prefer downtown; that is the area below 34th street.

        My guess is “foreign” money such as Russian or something will be the likely buyer.