Don Draper Penthouse Watch: Is it really only worth $85,000?

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Not to harp on the topic, but we find ourselves back on the Mad Men real estate beat because this past Sunday's episode, Don's long-suffering broker named the selling price—$85,000 to be exact—and it was pretty shocking to hear a five-figure number attached to a Park Avenue penthouse. Last time we looked into it, similar spaces at the time were going for $191,000 and $526,500. But that was, we assumed, in the early part of the year; by the time 1971 rolled around, the market had apparently worsened.

A New York Times Magazine article by Peter Benchley has Manhattan in the throes of a recession by September 1970, and Sally's bus trip points to the episode happening right around summer, so it's possible the gloom had already set in. Co-ops were especially stagnant, and Don's penthouse is presumably one of them. According to a report by appraiser Jonathan Miller of the NYC real estate market from the 1910s to the 2010s for brokerage firm Douglas Elliman, the 1970s saw prices at about $45 per square foot, so assuming Don's apartment is close to 2000 square feet, an $85,000 asking price isn't out of the norm for the decade.

Then again, a classified ad that ran in July 1970 did advertise an entire four-story house with a garden in the East 80s for $165,000, so $85,000 for an apartment seems appropriate, even if it's a penthouse.

Besides, the $85,000 price may also reflect the apartment's condition or, in Don's case, vibe. (That red wine splotch screams, This home has seen enough metaphorical wounds it might as well have this stain to represent them.) As Don's broker noted, an empty unit "reeks of failure" (and, too, neglect), making it harder to sell.

Experts tend to agree; in a story we ran in 2013, staging expert Cheryl Eisen said "staging is about putting enough furniture in a space so that buyers can envision themselves living in the home and how their own furniture will fit in." It follows then that an empty apartment may actually fetch a not-so-impressive price.  

Either way, adieu Penthouse 17B. We hardly knew ye.


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