'Whisper listings' are one of the best-kept secrets in NYC luxury real estate — and they give wealthy buyers exclusive access to penthouses other people don't even know about

James Leynse/Corbis via Getty ImagesAn $US80 million mansion owned by a Mexican billionaire wasn’t selling, so it was pulled off the market and turned into a ‘whisper listing.’

At 520 Park Avenue, one of New York City’s ritziest new buildings on Billionaires’ Row, only one residence is officially on the market: a full-floor, four-bedroom condo for $US31 million.

But what you’d never know by scouring real estate listings is that the tower is also selling a 12,398-square-foot triplex penthouse for a whopping $US130 million. To even know this penthouse exists, you’d have to be connected – and probably a billionaire.

Some of the city’s most exclusive multimillion-dollar homes are bought and sold as “whisper listings” that you’ll only find out about via word-of-mouth, The New York Post reported.

These whisper listings include an $US80 million mansion right across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that’s owned by Carlos Slim, the richest person in Mexico. According to the Post, Slim unsuccessfully tried to sell the mansion for years and then took it off the market to instead be marketed through billionaires’ word-of-mouth.

Woolworth building new york cityBen Hider/Getty ImagesA view of the Woolworth Building and other towers in New York City in 2011.

In the historic Woolworth tower downtown, a five-floor, $US110 million penthouse was briefly on the market in 2017 and then mysteriously disappeared. On the building’s website, the most expensive unit is selling for $US18.8 million. But according to the Post, the $US110 million penthouse is still on the market for those with insider knowledge – and those who have the cash.

According to Bloomberg, these whisper listings can also be a sneaky strategy for keeping properties off sites like Zillow, which displays price cuts and how long the listing has been on the market.

It can also be a matter of privacy for wealthy individuals who don’t want to flaunt their sizeable real-estate transactions.

“There’s so much talk today about income inequality and the 1% versus the 99%,” Jason Haber of Warburg Realty told Bloomberg. “There are people who would prefer to avoid any glare and would prefer to sell it off market.”

This trend of secrecy extends to the worlds of hospitality and fashion, too. At some ultra-luxury hotels, the most expensive and exclusive rooms aren’t posted online. They’re available only for well-connected clientele who know of the rooms through word of mouth and have the funds to pay for them, as Business Insider’s Lina Batarags previously reported.

And then there’s Goyard, a two-century-old Parisian brand that does virtually no advertising for its products.

Goyard’s prime press strategy is silence,” Hillary Hoffower previously wrote for Business Insider. “It forgoes any advertising, e-commerce, and celebrity endorsements. It rarely grants interviews and very occasionally makes products available to the mass market.”

This world of secret spaces and products is clearly betting that in some cases, super-wealthy buyers want discretion and exclusivity above all else.

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