NEW YORK – What is the hottest real estate property in New York? No, it's not a penthouse overlooking the Statue of Liberty, nor is it a luxury building with a panoramic view of Central Park. In fact, the most wanted house in New York is not even located in Manhattan.
In order to reach the property, you'll have to take the subway and travel for at least 30 minutes to Crown Heights, a modest neighborhood in Brooklyn. Once you arrive at the house, you may be disappointed: The building, built with red bricks, is not very impressive and is more than 100 years old.
So why are Jews from all over the world ready to pay an exorbitant price to get their hands on the keys? Because of the neighbor.
The house is located just several meters from the home of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was the seventh rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement and is considered by some of his followers to be the messiah.
The property's address, 760 Eastern Parkway, is just a few seconds walk from the address potential buyers are really after, which has become a sort of symbol: 770 Eastern Parkway, the Chabad-Lubavitch central headquarters.
Tens of thousands of Jews have made pilgrimages to this house since Rabbi Schneerson was crowned leader of the Hasidic movement in 1951 until his death in 1994. From commoners to Israeli prime ministers – they all stood in line, hoping to get a personal meeting with the rabbi, listen to his advice and receive his blessing. Many other were given the famous dollar bills, which the rabbi handed out for charity purposes.
Today, 19 years after the Lubavitcher Rebbe's death, the house serves as a Chabad library and study center.
Hasid Rabbi Meir Itkin lived in the adjacent residence for 50 years with his large family. Itkin was considered a well-known and popular figure in Crown Heights and used to join the daily prayer at his famous neighbor's home. He died in 2007 at the advanced age of 96, and his heirs recently decided to sell his home.
Rumor on sale spreads like wildfire
The timing of the sale is likely not accidental: Soaring apartment prices are driving more and more residents away from Manhattan, and after Williamsburg and Park Slope have become expensive too – Crown Heights, home to a large Jewish community, has turned into a desirable neighborhood.
Rumors that the property next to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's home is up for sale has spread like wildfire. "I have been in this field for many years, I've seen quite a few interesting and sought after deals, and yet I find it difficult to recall a property which created such a buzz in the real estate world," says Shoshana Tal, a real estate agent handling the sale.
"I have received a huge amount of appeals, including phone calls from Australia, South Africa and Israel," she adds. "Everyone wants this house, and this house only. They're not looking for anything else. Seventy percent of the potential buyers are religious and they all feel a special connection to the rabbi and want to be the happy owners of this unique property."
The two-story house, which has dwelling accommodations for two separate families, was built in the early 20th century. The building has a square footage of 3,416 and includes a large backyard, eight bedrooms and basements.
So how much will it cost you to live so close to the place where the Rebbe spent his prime years? According to New York real estate websites, the current market value is around $800,000. Tal refused to mention a sum, but clarified that "the published prices do not reflect in any way the price of a property of this kind, which reaches at least $1.5 million."
In other words, the buyer will have to bid farewell to some $2 million, if not more.