After Three Price Cuts, Joan Didion’s Co-op Finds a Buyer

Photo: Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty Images

Joan Didion’s longtime Upper East Side home, a sprawling 11-room apartment on 71st and Madison, has finally found a buyer after getting a new broker this fall and a third price cut. The current-listing broker Jennifer Stillman of Douglas Elliman confirmed that the listing is in contract but declined to discuss the buyer or closing price.

The apartment was first listed last winter with Serena Boardman of Sotheby’s, asking $7.5 million. In late spring, the price dropped to $6.5 million — brokers at the time pointed out that the co-op, although last owned by someone renowned for her excellent (if somewhat particular) taste, was an estate and needed work. And while massive, it had no views to speak of (it looked out on other buildings’ walls and a church roof).

Stillman took over the listing in late October. “We restaged it,” she said — the previous staging went heavy on dark color accents and put plants on windowsills that obscured the views — “and had a price that was more consistent with the market.” (Upper East Side co-ops do not command the premiums they once did; an apartment several floors down that went on the market for $4.5 million around the same time as Didion’s sold recently for $3.2 million.)

The buyer Didion’s apartment needed, Stillman says, was someone who admired prewar details and was willing take on a place that wasn’t necessarily move-in ready. “It was really for someone who appreciated the bones and had a vision. But it also needed less work than some people thought.” She says they had a lot of interest when the listing came back on in late October.

Didion and John Gregory Dunne were also initially put off by the cost of the apartment when they decided to move back to New York in the late ’80s — so much so that they even refused even to see it, according to the L.A. Times. But after the Wall Street crash and four price cuts, they finally agreed to take a look.

Listing broker Jennifer Stillman says that she focused on staging that “really showcased the beautiful details of the apartment.”

The landmarked St. James Church across the street protects what views the apartment has from being blocked by new construction.

The apartment has four bedrooms and 4.5 baths.

There are 11 rooms in total.

A view of the living room showcasing the fireplace that Didion wrote about frequently.

The kitchen has an older renovation.

Several rooms have built-in bookshelves.

The apartment has a grand layout and, according to the broker, good light, even if the views are not much to speak of.

“There was room for separate offices, a bedroom for daughter Quintana, a student at Barnard College. The kitchen was roomy, with a giant restaurant stove and an enormous refrigerator. The dining room was big,” according to a 1988 L.A. Times article on the Didion’s return to New York.

Many of the windows look out at other buildings, but there are a few leafy treetop views.

Photographs by Evan Joseph Photography

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