NEW YORK—Sitting high above the Hudson River in Martha Stewart’s old penthouse, broker Suzun Bennet talks of a walkabout that landed her in the middle of New York City’s real estate scene.
Hailing from Australia, Bennet arrived in the Big Apple six weeks before the 9/11 attacks. She had spent the last 20 years as a chiropractor and osteopath and knew nothing about real estate.
“I had checked off so many goals in Australia,” she said. Bennet sold her business and her house and timed her move to New York to synch up with her daughter’s move to the city.
Her initial goal was to find a footprint in New York for contemporary Australian Aboriginal art.
“I met a lot of arts people,” she said, “but I found it hard to introduce a genre that wasn’t contextualized here.”
Four years later, and after repatriating a lot of art, Bennet was looking for something else. “Everything I expected was changed 180 degrees,” she said. “Someone told me to take the [real estate] exam and get my license.”
So she did. “I wanted to learn about Manhattan and the bricks and mortar; to learn about the people, the culture, the buildings.”
Moving from being a health care practitioner to real estate broker was not as big a jump as it seemed—it’s important to be a people person for both, Bennet said.
“It’s helped me a lot to have worked as a counselor,” she said. “I’m very positive, and I really care about the people I work with. I’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.”
Now vice president at Halstead Property, Bennet has several listings in the multi-million dollar range and she is bringing clients in from Australia and Norway.
Old friends and contacts are reconnecting with Bennet; the market is ripe for foreign investment.
“They’re looking for their dream,” she said. Ironically, she said, the television series “Sex in the City” was a huge hit in Australia, and subsequently a great advertisement for wanting a slice of New York City.
The Australian dollar often sat around the 70 cent mark before the financial crisis. Now, at about 90 cents to the dollar, the market is open. Bennet’s foreign clients are interested in mixed-use buildings.
“They’re going to hold for a long time and they’re buying with cash,” she said.
173 Perry Street
The penthouse Bennet looks out from is at 173 Perry Street, West Village. She is selling the three-bedroom duplex for $15.9 million and brokers were calling to view the place during the interview.
A potential triplex, she has since sold the lower condo for $5.6 million, leaving the 3,200 sq. ft. duplex up for grabs. With more than 300 sq. ft. in outdoor space, including four balconies, the new owner can look out at the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, and a dynamic skyline.
‘Architect-ready’ for custom layouts, this loft-like duplex is quiet, with climate-controlled environment, and triple-glazed, UV-protected windows.
A glance across at the matching Richard Meier-designed building affords a view of Calvin Klein’s apartment. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman own several of the lower levels. This is no ordinary neighborhood.
Bennet is optimistic about the market this year. In 2008 she sold a property every two weeks, last year sales plummeted, but she said this year has been bright so far.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of business. Not much change in price, but lots to buy and lots selling,” she said. “People’s circumstances change.”
As well she knows.