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It’s Hard to Imagine Who’d Want to Buy Trump’s Seized Properties

Former President Trump Struggles To Make Bond On Civil Fraud Case
40 Wall Street. Trump owns the ground lease, and Attorney General Letitia James cited the building as one that the government could seize. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Time is running out for Donald Trump to come up with nearly a half a billion dollars before the Monday deadline in his fraud case. If he can’t find the cash or secure a bond, which his lawyers say he can’t, the state may make good on its threat to seize some of his properties. That kind of fire sale would mean “textbook irreparable injury” for the former president, his lawyers say, from the “massive, irrecoverable losses.”

Which is probably true. A flash sale tends to mean bargain basement prices. When the government seized luxury property after a verdict over the 1MDB scandal — wherein a Malaysian government fund was pilfered to pay for bribes, shopping trips, and even to produce Wolf of Wall Street — a study found that two hotels and six homes flipped for 41 percent less than defendants had paid. That’s because the Feds “don’t care about the market” and are “not here to set comps,” Ryan Serhant said at the time. (His client got a bargain on a seized apartment.) Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, a professor of real estate at Columbia University, agreed: A fire sale “is never a good option” for a property owner, or even for a government seller, if it wants to make the most money with the least paperwork. And these properties — tied to the reputation of a volatile, public persona and caught up in the middle of a legal appeal — are a kind of wasp’s nest that any buyer may not be willing to deal with, except for a bargain, bargain basement price.

If the government tries to sell before Trump exhausts his appeals, whoever picks up a Trump-seized property will take on an inordinate amount of risk. If Trump prevails, he could get his buildings back. Which might come only after the buyer has laid down money to inspect the property, pay brokers and attorneys to review paperwork, and figure out the logistics. This kind of sale is “fraught with risk and uncertainty,” says real-estate attorney Massimo D’Angelo, so a buyer would “have to buy at an extremely reduced price to make the uncertainty worth it.”

Then there’s the matter of reputation. Someone who buys a former Trump office tower faces the risk of Trump besmirching their reputation, or even rallying supporters to boycott them. And those interested in the smattering of units he still owns at his branded buildings could face a sort of inverse problem — having to face Trump protesters. One study showed the price per square foot of condos in buildings that carry the Trump name fell 49 percent between 2013 and 2023. Kirsten Jordan of Douglas Elliman got a listing at Trump International Hotel and Tower in 2022 — it’s still on the market. (Yours for only $27.5 million, a bargain compared to its 2016 price tag of $40 million.) Potential buyers loved the layouts, the luxury finishes, the location off Columbus Circle, but wondered, “What if he becomes president again and people are rioting in front of our building every day?” Jordan said. “You can’t tell people the Trump name is going to be worth good money in the long term.”

It’s Hard to Imagine Who’d Buy Trump’s Seized Properties