Fractional Lives Chapter 3: Bill Rosenfield and Gary Gunas
Fractional Lives Chapter 3: Bill Rosenfield and Gary Gunas, owners at The Phillips Club, New York City
The third in our series of interviews with people who have taken the plunge and become fractional ownership buyers.
Bill, (above left) a playwright and executive producer of original cast recordings of Broadway shows, and Gary (above right), a retired theatrical producer, live in London, but travel frequently to New York. They have bought a share in a one-bedroom unit at The Phillips Club in Manhattan.
Bill says: “I had heard about the Phillips Club when Gary and I lived in New York. I was working in the record business and one of the guys in our office lived up in Connecticut but did a lot of work with the Metropolitan Opera, and he came in one day and said 'I'm thinking of buying in to this place'. He explained it all to me and I thought what a stupid, stupid thing! You don't own the apartment, and you're paying a lot of money and it just seemed a ridiculous idea. Especially for him because I didn't know when he would be able to use it, and it just didn't make any sense to me.”
“But then a couple of years later we found ourselves living in London and decided to stay there, and buy a place there. In order to do that we had to sell our place in New York, but we didn't want to cut our ties with New York entirely. So I said to Gary, there's this place – I think it was at 66th and Broadway and I don't remember the name of it – but I think it's what we need.”
“So I went down to 66th and Broadway and wandered around, and when I found the Phillips Club I walked in and asked for some information. They gave me some brochures, and when I brought them home and investigated it, it made so much sense and seemed so good, we were immediately suspicious! We just couldn't figure out how it could work out. But what we ended up doing was selling our apartment and buying a share in a one-bedroom unit at The Phillips. I guess that was in 2004, and since then it's been great. There have only been three times when I haven't been able to get in when I needed to.”
It's fair to say that Bill and Gary get more use from their fractional than most owners. Bill says: “I work a fair amount in New York so I am there a lot. I was at The Phillips for a total of about nine weeks last year, and the previous year about the same amount. There was one year I was there for 15 weeks. The staff there have been very helpful in helping me work the system – that's one of the things that is daunting when I explain the concept to friends, they don't understand the different types of reservations. People's immediate response is “what if you can't get in?”, but my reply is for the most part you can, and if you can't, God knows you have friends in New York, or maybe you end up staying in a hotel. That's never happened to me I've never had to stay in a hotel, the worst that has happened is that I've stayed with friends a couple of times.”
"The Phillips booking system is much more liberal than any other fractional. You get one annual reservation – solid week that you choose a year ahead of time. You can't move that. Then you get two one-week reservations that you can use anytime you want and as often as you want. But when there is availability, I've been able to get six continuous weeks by leapfrogging the reservations. In addition to those two one week reservations, you get short notice, short stay availability, which is five days' notice and a five day stay. Other fractionals that we have looked at tend to say you get 30 or 45 days a year, and that's about it. In terms of our lives in New York, some years we want to be there more than others.”
As with any reservation system, there are imperfections: “There is a flaw that they are trying to address – If I am flying to New York and need to be there, say for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but then I'm going to Boston, let's say, for Wednesday and Thursday, and then back to New York for Friday and Saturday – they would count that as two reservations, where I want to be a good tenant and offer up the unit to somebody who might need it for Wednesday and Thursday. At the moment I can't do that, so I end up keeping the whole week, even though I'm not going to be there for two of those days. When I came up against this problem last year, I spoke to a couple of the guys in management, and they said the computer can't figure that out – there's a human willingness to do it, but somehow within the program it becomes a second reservation rather than one reservation with a break in it.”
But on the whole, the ownership experience has been a very positive one: “The purchase has worked really well,” says Bill. “It cost us $153,000 and the resale now is in the $210,000s, but we have no intention of selling it – a decent hotel room in New York is $200 to $400 a night, and with that you don't get all the advantages of The Phillips. We can get on a plane here in London, with just a carry-on bag, and have our New York wardrobe at The Phillips.. Even if we're not staying in New York we always fly there so that we can go to The Phillips and have our wardrobe pulled up, and pack a bag from there and continue our travels across the States.”
Bill and Gary are soon to become fractional sellers as well as fractional owners: “We have a house in the Dordogne – a barn that we renovated six years ago. We rent it out on a regular basis and do very well with it, but we would get to stay in it more if we fractionalised it. So we are looking to divide it up in to six parts,” says Bill.
“Most of our friends who have holiday homes spend, at the most, four or five weeks a year at them if they are lucky. Because the barn is an income-producing property for us, we only stay there two to three weeks a year as it gets rented out the rest of the time. We love the income but it's our house! We built it, we designed it, we furnished it. In the first year we spent seven months there, which was fantastic. We'd like to spend more time there, we just need to make the numbers work.”
Watch this space for an update on Bill and Gary's French fractional project.
For more information on The Phillips Club click here.