The second quarter of 2021 was a blockbuster quarter, proving everyone wrong that city living was dead. Manhattan has rebounded to the best spring selling season in 6 years and has had the highest sales activity since 2007.
Pent-up demand, reasonable pricing, low-interest rates, a desire to upgrade to large spaces (or those with outdoor space), increased personal wealth, and a larger pool of buyers have driven up sales volume. In sum, the city is booming, thanks to science and, in turn, a renewed optimism.
Note: for this update, I compare Q2 2021 to Q2 2019, which is much more appropriate that Q2 2020, when NYC was locked down.
Contracts signed in the quarter surged 60% over the same quarter in 2019. Many of these deals won’t close until Q3 2021, at which time we expect to see some positive price action, given the volume and mix of the apartments that went into contract in the quarter.
The super-prime market (>$10M) had the best first half on record, fueled by double digit discounts from their original pricing. In addition, there has been a notable increase in larger apartments selling, which has been great for the >$5M market.
The sales mix which included a significant shift to the sale of larger apartments, skewed price trends, bringing the , While the median sales price rose to $1,130,000, the highest since reaching $1,215,000 in Q2 2019, price trends were skewed because of the mix of sales.
Compared to the same quarter last year, the average price per square foot declined 3.6%. This has been heralded as the “Covid discount”. The first quarter saw this spread at 9%, which shows that the covid discount is quickly compressing. We expect the covid discount to dissipate in Q3 and be gone by Q4, as employers discontinue or limit “working from home.”
Avg. Price Per Square Foot
Avg. Selling Price
Luxury (top 10%)
Manhattan contract activity continued to rise to a new record in April 2021 of 1,607 contracts signed beating out March’s 14-year record of 1,500 contracts in a single month. The first week of May continues the trend and so far May is on track to match April.
At 1,607 contracts signed, that is 50% higher than April 2019, a pre-covid comparable month. April 2020 had only 213 contracts signed (presumably initiated pre-covid. As a reminder, New York City was shut down with showings prohibited, from the end of March through the end of June 2020.
On the luxury front, according to the Real Deal, there have been 652 luxury contracts signed year-to-date thru the end of April, which is more than all of the luxury contracts signed in the entire year 2020.
On the new development front, April saw 235 contracts signed up from 165 in March. It was Manhattan’s highest level of activity in the new development segment in three years.
After an extremely disappointing 2020, when the island of Manhattan was plagued by a “Covid exodus” and physically shut down for 90 days, the Manhattan residential sales market rose from the ashes in the first quarter of 2021. While the market had been creeping up in November and December 2020, the First Quarter 2021 and, in particular, March 2021 saw stunning sales activity.
Manhattan sales grew at a blistering pace in March 2021, with sales volume topping 1,500 contracts signed, the best single month in 14 years. Even January and February 2021 saw sales volume beat prior year months for at least the last three years, as shown below:
Buyers have been taking advantage of the combination of record low mortgage rates and lower prices. They are also encouraged by the new administration, which NYC is already benefiting from, in contrast to the last administration which was determined to punish New York City for overwhelmingly rejecting Trump.
While prices are down, they haven’t plummeted like some people may have assumed they would. The price per square foot for a condo in Manhattan was 8.8% lower in Q1 2021 over Q1 2020. This on top of lower pricing since the SALT cap was enacted in 2018, which had the effect of lowering prices in NYC on average by 11% according to economist Robert Schiller. Therefore, prices are way off their peak from just a few years ago and are ready to turn around. With a “blue” administration, the SALT cap, which punishes blue states, has a good chance of disappearing in 2021. This will benefit property prices and temper the exodus to low-tax states.
There are still New Development bargains to be had, as prices have been reduced significantly for projects introduced 3 years ago. Recently launched projects, however, have been priced to current market, so not a lot of discounts there. While some of the discounts are showing up in lower prices, many of the discounts are concealed in closing cost concessions. These don’t show up in the price per square figures. The magnitude of discounts on new development vary widely, as they are dependent on factors such as when the project was launched, sale velocity to-date, the number of remaining units available in a particular line, the equity partners in the capital stack, and most importantly lenders' minimum release prices (the banks really control the price, not the developer).
To get the best deal in New Development, you need to have an open mind and not get set on something that isn't going to garner the highest discounts. For instance, developers are neither offering large discounts on apartments with outdoor space nor on lines that are almost sold out.
This chart below shows how new development pricing has regained some of its footing from its lows a few months ago.
We expect property prices to start inching up in the Spring/Summer and throughout the remainder of the year as NYC becomes vaccinated. To-date, 44% of Manhattanites have already received their first dose of the vaccine and 27% are fully vaccinated. As we reach 70% of the population being fully vaccinated, activities will revert back to normal including the full opening of restaurants and movie theaters (partially open now), Broadway Shows, and Sports venues, etc. Then, we do expect additional dramatic shifts in the market. Once the country re-opens to foreigners later this year, we expect this Manhattan real estate recovery to go into overdrive!
The potential SALT cap removal, the dearth of new building permits (since new development has been put on hold over the last year), and the full reopening of the city will bode well for Manhattan property prices over the next 4-5 years, as we saw after the Lehman crisis.
If you are thinking of buying, do it now to get the best prices. Inventory is down from a record 9,600 units for sale in October 2020 to 7,000 units at the end of March 2021, which is still a bit high. But, if sales continue at the same clip as the first quarter, we will be in a sellers market by the beginning of summer. As the economy heats up, so will interest rates, making it more expensive to own the same home.
The Manhattan Market's moving...now it's YOUR MOVE!
While the Manhattan real estate market is still struggling due to the effects of Covid, the fourth quarter 2020, and even the month of January 2021, has seen a marked improvement fueled by:
Contracts signed in Q4 were up approx. 8% over the same quarter in 2019. January 2021 saw condo sales rise a 50% and coop sales rise 167% over the same month a year earlier. All good news! However, the current high supply of inventory for sale is a headwind for the market that will benefit buyers in 2021.
The rental market has seen a pickup in the last few months as well. But, until companies ask their employees to return to their offices, the rental market will remain sluggish. We expect a quick turnaround in leasing in a few months.
With headline news talking about people fleeing big cities, it’s no wonder why my clients are surprised to hear that signed contract activity in Manhattan has been robust over the last couple of months. Signed contracts per month in October and November 2020 averaged 855, with December 2020 on track to exceed December 2019 signed contracts of 717. Signed contract activity for the quarter thru mid-December has already surpassed the same quarter last year.
Confidence in the vaccine and the capitulation by seller’s to price discounts have brought buyers back into the market. Most of this contract activity has been in the $3 Million-and-under segment, with the luxury sector still lackluster, but improving.
As you can see below, the number of contracts signed above $5 million continues to grow and this is the segment where we are seeing the largest discounts.
Activity and confidence has brought the supply of Manhattan properties for sale down from approximately 9,600 in October 2020 to 8,000 today.
While inventory is up by 20% compared to last year-end, when inventory levels were at 6,600, we are happy to see that inventory levels have fallen 17% from its peak. This very sharp turnaround in inventory in October was likely a result of the stellar vaccine news out of Pfizer and Moderns. We hope this doesn’t embolden sellers too much.
Until the vaccine is fully rolled out, we expect deals to be had in NYC. Although as time goes on and activity picks up, we don’t expect Sellers to discount like they have been. It feels as though we are already passed the bottom of the market, but still in a period where a buyer can get, heretofore, significant discounts in NYC.
The average "Covid discount" has been around 10%, although higher in the over $4 million segment. Urban Digs analyzed closed sales in the 4th Quarter 2020, and found that
Of course, these are averages and only account for prices, not other giveaways that developers are offering to get deals done, such as closings cost credits, etc. It is important to note that the Manhattan real estate market already took a hit after the SALT tax change occurred in late 2017, with the market bottoming in Q3 2019. Therefore, prices had already taken a significant hit before Covid kicked in. The additional Covid discount is just icing on the cake to buyers.
Discounts really depend on the many factors of the building itself, such as where it is located, how many units have sold, any particular issues with the developer, lender, etc.. Also, which line of the building are you buying? If the developer sold 50% of the units of the best line in the building and 0% of another line, you shouldn't expect the same discount on both lines.
Currently, new development discounts run the gamut and it really depends on the many factors affecting the building itself. Developers are beholden to their banks, who dictate minimum release prices, so they are more prone to offer generous closing credits than outright discounts. However, we have seen a combination of price discounts and closing credits.
The average discount is 10% in new development plus closing credits, although there are some developments that are offering that on top of already reduced prices. It is not unheard of to see 20-30% off Schedule A pricing, which is the original price filed with the NY State Attorney General.
Developers have been covering at least a portion of the buyer's closing costs, including some portion of these costs:
Some developers aren’t negotiating at all or maybe they will cover just the transfer taxes if they have something very special with their buildings. For instance, Park Loggia has terraces with views of Central Park that are trading at asking prices. The Benson only has only a few units on Madison Avenue in the UES that that are trading at asking prices too. Other buildings that are self financed and, therefore, not beholden to others are not negotiating either. But, these are few and far between.
As we close out the year, we want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday. We pray that 2021 will be better than 2020.
To understand in real time what is happening in the New York City real estate market, the first metric we look at is the number of signed contracts during a particular month. October signed contracts significantly rebounded, topping out at 874 signed contracts, up by 30% from September 2020 and up by 4% from October 2019. This is clear evidence that the Manhattan real estate market has bounced back from the depths of the Covid crisis. In addition, signed contracts in October were higher than any other month during 2020, even before Covid, which is quite evident in the chart below.
Most of the sale activity was for properties under $3 million, however, several more contracts were signed in the >$25 million segment, hinting that big-ticket buyers were coming back to the market. While we won’t know what prices these traded at for a few weeks, we noted many, but not all, properties in the >$25 million segment traded at significant discounts. While all sellers are now negotiating, significant discounts haven’t been the case in the <$3 million market.
Inventory, or supply, topped out in mid October at a record 9,628 properties for sale and now looks like it is fading. Monthly new supply was down 21% from September 2020 and down 1.2% from October 2019. This indicates that the growth in inventory has slowed, however, the build up of inventory levels will take a while to get back to normal levels. This is why we think the opportunity for buyers hasn’t yet faded, although we are past peak uncertainty caused by the virus. In the last couple weeks, inventory levels have declined and, as of Friday, November 6th, are down to 9,255 properties for sale. That is a very large number of properties for sale, considering inventory last year at this time was approximately 7,700.
While sales remain at a high level in Westchester, Greenwich, Long Island, the Hamptons, sales activity has come down from its peak that hit the New York suburbs this past summer.
Now that the election is over - well, almost - and Pfizer announced a vaccine that is 90% effective, we believe the market will continue to pick up in Manhattan.
We are now three months into the reopening of the NYC real estate market. While there have been many challenges, the city is rebounding. We are starting to see signs of life in terms of increased signed contracts and pending sales. But, we still have a long way to go, which means there is a huge opportunity for smart money.
With restaurants, gyms, offices and museums reopening, NYC has taken on a much busier feel. New Yorkers are social distancing and wearing masks religiously, which has suppressed the virus in the city.
Taking a step back and looking at the big picture of the real estate market from 30,000 feet, we know it is the right time to buy in Manhattan. If you bought in 2001 or 2009, you already know that NYC will rebound stronger than ever. Therefore, I ask you take a moment and think about where you will be in 18 months. For sure, buyers sitting on the sidelines will be regretting that they didn't make a move to buy NYC sooner.
Here are our main takeaways for what's going on pn the market right now:
Courtesy charts from Urbardigs
This reduced priced oversized 2 bedroom in the East Village originally sold as new construction for $400K more that the list price at $3.4 million in 2017. This is a 2015 boutique building with amazing casement windows. Learn more.
20 West 53 Street - Unit 22A
$4,750,000 / $2,748 per ft²
Reduced $600,000 / Sold for $5.7 million in 2017
2 Beds / 2.5 Baths / 1,728 ft²
Maintenance: $3,792 / R.E. Taxes $2,414
Live at the Baccarat Hotel and Residences, one of the best hotels in New York City. The original owner paid $5.7 million for this apartment, so they are very motivated at a $1 million discount. Learn more.
540 West 28 West Street - Unit 3A
$885,000 / $1,560 per ft²
Studio / 1 Bath / 567 ft²
Maintenance: $606 / R.E. Taxes $629
This studio at +Art in West Chelsea is priced really well at $885K. Finally, sellers are listing apartments priced to sell, not the aspirational prices of a few years ago. Close to Hudson Yards and the High Line! Learn more.
To finalize, if you would like to have a zoom call to discuss the market in more detail, just pick a time slot with me below:
Around this time of year, I usually give an update of the Q2 Manhattan Market Reports. However, Q2 2020 is a completely different animal, as the Manhattan real estate market was shut down for 12 of the 13 weeks that make up the 2nd quarter.
For those who are not aware of what went on in NYC, on March 23, 2020, NYC went into lockdown mode and reemerged 90 days later on June 22, 2020. No physical showings were allowed during this time. Inventory dropped significantly during the crisis, as sellers withdrew properties on the market or delayed listing. Now, however, properties are back on the market, with inventory up 8% from the same time last year.
The market over the last month is slowly coming back, but not necessarily to normal levels just yet. Since reopening 5 weeks ago, we have seen:
We are still in the early stages of a new reality, however, in terms of COVID, New York City is now a safer bet than 80% of the country!
If New York can maintain its safety protocols and keep viral infections low, and there continues to be very positive news on vaccination trials and therapeutic drugs (like Remdesivir), history suggests NYC real estate will recover quickly.
Right now, we are past peak-uncertainty, which for NYC was the April / May timeframe, so maybe the best of the best deals are behind us. But, we believe that buyers will have the next 4 -5 months to get great deals as well. Once there is a vaccine that is known to work, and odds are we will see one in the fall, New York City will be back better than ever.
Questions? Schedule a time to chat with me.
Enjoy your summer!
In the midst of this unprecendented global crisis, we have received several questions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on Manhattan real estate market prices. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this tumultuous time. While the jury’s out on what happens next, here’s the latest information on the NYC real estate market.
In late March, New York City was put into a “medically-induced coma” so it could get ahead of the public health crisis. As a result, the New York real estate market has been totally frozen in time with minimal new contract activity over the last two months. Physical showings of Manhattan condos, apartments and homes have been banned by New York State. And, New York City has been pretty much on lockdown since mid March. However, those deals that have been in the works before the pandemic hit have been able to close virtually and banks have continued to fund mortgages.
It’s now mid-May and New York is one month past the crisis peak and has awoken from its self-induced coma. Thanks to the leadership of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York has successfully flattened the curve and is managing its way out of this crisis. While we are not 100% out of the woods yet, a staged reopening is being planned over the next few weeks and months. Many Manhattan condo buildings will be lifting their moratorium on move-ins and move-outs as of May 15th and we expect the moratorium on showings to be lifted sometime in June.
Looking in the rear view mirror to January and February 2020, contract activity was up 15% over the same periods last year, promising Spring 2020 to be a very solid selling season. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case! Currently, condo and coop inventory for sale contracted dramatically, with only 5,000 units listed for sale, 50% lower than usual Spring selling season inventory levels. Even the days on the market calculation, which counts the number of days a property has been listed for sale, has been frozen by the listing portals, as that calculation became meaningless once the moratorium on property showings was implemented. So, what has been the effect on Manhattan real estate prices?
While it is premature to draw inferences from the virus’ impact on the Manhattan real estate prices, former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman, Ben Bernanke, noted that this economic halt is more like a natural disaster than an economic depression. This is not a result of a breakdown in a financial system like in 2008 or the Great Depression. Banks are strong and well capitalized. Thankfully, the Fed moved quickly on monetary stimulus and the administration moved quickly on fiscal stimulus.
The silver lining in all of this is that NYC real estate prices will significantly benefit from record low interest rates and record quantitative easing. Asset price inflation is the intended purpose of quantitative easing, although it may take some time for the opportunity to present itself. Regardless of the level of Manhattan real estate price inflation from this record QE stimulus, ultimately, NYC is still one of the top cities worldwide and people still need housing to either buy or rent.
Ultimately, this is a health issue that can be solved, especially now that everyone is focused on the problem of Covid 19.
If you would like to have a zoom call to discuss the market in more detail, just pick a time slot with me below:
This demonstrates that the sales activity is up significantly over last year, which was the bottom of the market in terms of activity. Properties in the lower price points under $2 million are seeing the biggest rebound. We are finally seeing that demand is outpacing supply, something we haven’t seen in a while in NYC. Contracts signed in Manhattan have been up double digits in November 2019, December 2019, January 2020, and February 2020. A leading indicator, a prolonged bump in contract signed activity usually precedes price action. An unusually slow month, January saw an impressive number of contract signs, which is not common for the coldest month of the year.
Anecdotally, we have noticed when calling other brokers to set appointments, at least 25% of the time these units already have Accepted Offers. Nothing like 12 months ago. The units that are going into contract either have been on the market for a while and went through several price cuts, or new ones that were correctly priced from the get go. Also, in the last case, we are seeing packed open houses & a few bidding wars (a remnant of a different era).
Discounts across New York are getting deals closed and in January we saw a median listing discount of 6.4% (a high rate for New York) which shows sellers have capitulated and deals are not getting done. While the highest increase in sales activity has been for units below $3 million, we have seen some improvement on the high end as well.
For instance, the Olshan report noted: "Twenty contracts were signed last week at $4 million and above, the third straight week of 20 or more sales. The average price-drop from the original asking price was 18%, a total that was skewed by the top 2 sales."
"The average days on market was 803, a total that was elevated because half of the properties were sold by developers and had been on the market for years. That was the highest total this report has ever recorded since we began tracking this particular stat in 2012."
Central Park Buyers: If you’ve been watching the Billionaire's Row and Central Park market, opportunities are out there. Now may be the time to jump in before the market turns around. For example, for someone willing to live at Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle, one can pick up a great direct Central Park view 3 bedroom for $3,300 per square foot (below). DJT won’t be president forever and this building will bounce back at some point. In addition, we have seen strong discounts at One57 and Time Warner Building as well, although the price floor for direct Central Park view in these and other ultra luxury buildings is hovering around $4,500 per square foot.
Note that we keep hearing from buyers in this segment that they hear more inventory is coming on the market. While that may be the case for other neighborhoods, there are no new buildings coming into Billionaire’s Row. Furthermore, the inventory level below $20 million with an unobstructed Central Park view is limited, as most of these buildings have an average sale price of $30+ million.
New Developments priced 2-3 years ago are lagging on the market and the reason for that is that there’s a disconnect between developers and their banks and investors.
What we are telling our buyers: there are tons of opportunities in the resale market with properties priced anywhere between $1,100 per sq. ft. to $1,800 per sq. ft.
Of course, there are opportunities in the new development segment and have seen discounts of 15% in some buildings. Many of those buildings where you are seeing double digit discounts, however, were launched years ago. In contrast, we have seen buildings launched in 2019 with pricing that reflects the current market, offering few discounts from low asking prices, but still picking up many of the buyers closing costs.
The market is very price sensitive and dollar motivated. Is well known that a shadow inventory exists. These are units that were taken off the market from unrealistic sellers, or new development projects in fringe neighborhoods. Buyers are very savvy these days and know how to spot a good value. If you purchased it in the last 5 years and are trying to sell it now, you are probably under water or at break even. Therefore, prepare for a bumpy ride. Gimmicks and tricks - there are many - won’t make an overpriced property sell.
After some softness over the last couple of years, rental rates are up significantly year-over-year. From the Real Deal - As apartment hunters try to figure out what on earth is going on with broker fees, they now have other news to give them pause: Rents were 5 percent to 6 percent higher last month than a year earlier in all three boroughs covered by the Douglas Elliman market report.
Mortgage interest rates have plummeted since the same time last year and are resting near record lows. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate clocked in at 3.65%, while the stock market was close to a record high of over 26,900. In comparison, over the last 30 years, the same mortgage rate has averaged about 6.25%. In the last 10 years, the only 2 times that the rate has been lower was in September 2016, with a low of 3.42%, and in November 2012, with a low of 3.32%.
It is unlikely rates can go much lower, as we are already near historic lows. We are, therefore recommending that our clients refinance now or finance their new property purchases to take advantage of this artificially low mortgage rate phenomenon before it's too late.
While it is too soon to determine what the impact of the health scare may have on the real estate market, it should be noted that the New York real estate market has been anchored by domestic buyers and foreigners have been all but absent. Mainland Chinese buyers have been absent in the NYC market since 2016, Europeans have been absent as their currency has been low for an extended number of years. Latins and Brazilians have been largely missing as their currencies have depreciated.
Therefore, we don’t expect this to negatively affect the NYC market in the near term. Should the dollar fall and the health scare abate, the market might take off. Finally, certain Asian countries may see limited investment opportunities while authorities try to stem the spread leading to more investment in New York City, a risk free locale.
A lot of clients have been asking what is going on in the NYC market, so I wanted to send you a quick update via a video from Noah at Urbandigs.com. He has done a a great job of distilling what is going on in the Manhattan real estate market.
For a while now, we have been telling our clients that the bottom of the market, in terms of activity, was around Nov & Dec of 2018. The numbers in November and December 2019 confirmed our view, as contracts signed increased in the double digits compared to the same month last year. Due to the weather in NYC, we have some distinct selling seasons, so we always need to look to the prior year month or quarter to see how we are doing. [Toward the end of the Urban Digs video, he confirms what we have been telling our clients by comparing Pending Sales].
The numbers for 2019 were confusing because a hike in mansion taxes were announced in April for purchases after June 30, 2019. This brought forward a significant number of high dollar sales into Q2 that would have naturally closed in Q3. This made Q3 2019 look terrible, in comparison, but when comparing a combined Q3 and Q4 in 2019 to the same period in 2018, sales volume was down only 4%.
The bad press from a disastrous Q3 2019, however, resulted in sellers (including developers) offering higher discounts. This, in turn, has resulted in an increase in transactions, both in the resale market and the new development market.
We firmly believe that the market correction in Manhattan is purely a policy driven reset in pricing caused by the $10K SALT cap. Robert Schiller estimated that NYC properties lost 11% in value because of this new tax law. The press discusses a supply issue too, but we don't necessarily see excess supply in the most prime neighborhoods. Of course, there is excess supply "C" neighborhoods like Financial District and Lower East Side, but prime UWS, UES, Greenwich Village, Tribeca, there just isn't. That being said, developers and sellers are offering some good discounts to move the product knowing the people tend to real the headlines and not focus on the details.
Contract activity is a leading indicator of pricing. If we continue to see double digit increases in contracts signed, we expect that pricing will rise and these discounts will shrink.
On average, buyers received a discount of 5.7% from the Last Asking Price to Final Selling Price in November 2019. That discount was the greatest in more than 8 years! That's a pretty big spread for NYC and a great opportunity for buyers.
Smart buyers have taken notice of the discounts available in the market and, as a result, contract activity of condos rose by 15% versus November 2018. A bright sign after a tumultuous year for NYC real estate (i.e., SALT caps, Mansion Tax changes and WeWork).
The Related Group needs another 5-7 units for the Offering Plan of 35 Hudson Yards to be effective (they need 15% sold before people can move in), so they are offering some steep discounts on a few units for a short time.
With the discount applied, the price per square foot for these units, which start on the 57th floor, is between $2,250 and $2,400 per square foot! Quite inexpensive for what they are delivering. 35 Hudson Yards has Four Season-style finishes that are some of the best we have seen in Manhattan.
Foreigner friendly with hotel services (a la carte) from the Flagship Equinox Hotel in the base of the building, residents of 35 Hudson Yards will experience true five-star living.
If you are not interested, do you know anyone who might be? You don't see this every day in NYC, and especially with the Related Group.
Let us know if you would like to learn more about this price incentive at Hudson Yards. We would be happy to share the images and video tours of each of these units.
As predicted by us, 15 West 61 Street continues to be the best selling new development in Manhattan. In only 6 months Park Loggia sold over 65 units as off December 1st.
And why? Location, Location, Location!
After 3 weeks on the market, The Lantern House is signing lots of contracts. No doubt the pricing and location have intrigued buyers. Meatpacking District and the West Village are only 4 blocks south. The Hudson Yards is 10 blocks north, a straight shot up Tenth Avenue or along the High Line. The area around the High Line is now fully built, so we won't see any more buildings here. It is what it is....and West Chelsea is now one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Manhattan.
That's why it is refreshing to see such good entry level prices at Lantern House. It is the only new development on the High Line that has 1 bedrooms under $2 million (with very few as low as $1.45 million and 2 bedrooms under $3 million (with very few as low as $2.4 million). Of course, if you want River views, Manhattan real estate prices are higher, but still not at crazy levels like its neighbor XI.
In the last few weeks, NYC has solidified its position as the second most important tech hubs in the world with massive leases signed in and around the Hudson Yards neighborhood. Tech companies are scrambling for prime Manhattan real estate to attract the city’s large and well-educated talent pool. The synergy with related industries makes NYC the right choice for these Tech giants.
These sensational headlines sell a lot of newspapers and clicks, but don’t serve their readers in telling them what really is going on Manhattan real estate prices.
Yes, the 3rd quarter sales activity and prices were way down, but that was really because buyers rushed to bring sales forward to the 2nd quarter to avoid an increase in the mansion tax. Plain and simple.
What is this tax about? On July 1, 2019, the mansion tax, a NY tax paid by the buyer at closing, rose from a flat 1% for properties $1 million and over to a sliding scale percentage ranging from 1.25% to 3.9% for the most expensive properties.
While not booming, the Manhattan real estate market isn’t quite as bad as described in these headlines.
In addition to Record Low Mortgage Rates and Trump's détente with China (as of today), as the NY Post notes, there is “reason to cheer” if you are a buyer.
Knowing that these headlines will stick around in buyers minds for the quarter or longer, some developers of newly released projects have significantly dropped prices just in the past week. Notably, two of our favorite UES new developments (Hayworth and Beckford) dropped pricing 8-11% on in the last few days. See more info about them below:
It is clear that the Manhattan real estate market has gone through a reset. This was brought on by the 2018 tax law which made owning a primary home in New York more expensive. Now that the market has reset, we feel that there are opportunities for long term investors.
Interest rates are artificially low and it appears that positive steps are being made toward Trump's trade war, as we had predicted. It is impossible to time the bottom of a market, but we think we are past the worst of it.
The Beckford House and Tower, just received a significant price adjustment 2+ weeks after its soft launch. Thanks to the media, I’m sure!
As we noted in our September 21st newsletter, we consider this project one of the best new developments in New York. Now, with a discount of 8-11% from their initial launch prices, it’s even a better deal now. The quality of the building and its finishes are comparable to 135 East 79 Street & 20 East End Avenue. And, we expect similar rental rates for Beckford, over $100 per square foot per year when delivered (in Spring 2020 for Beckford House and in Spring 2021 for Beckford Tower).
The Hayworth, another UES project that launched during the Summer, just reduced their prices today. For example, apartment 8A just got a price cut of 11%. With this reduction, 8A is priced at $2,101 per sq.ft., an outstanding price for this caliber of product. The Hayworth is a boutique building with only 61 units is situated at the corner of Lexington and 86 Street and across The Lucida. It will be one of the best condo buildings in the UES when completed in Spring 2020.
Many seller's have finally come to terms with the market resulting in significant price cuts. In some cases, we are seeing a return to 2014/2015 pricing for resale units. Not in all cases, but certainly for some. Those properties that are not priced to the current market, however, will languish on the market. Those that are well priced have been selling.
With a strengthening rental market and declining real estate prices, yields are quite good, considering yields worldwide are compressing because of negative rates.
Those trying to time the absolute bottom of any market (real estate or stock market) will find it next to impossible, but sometimes there are clear signs...
A significant uptick in sales activity in April suggests the bottom may have passed!
April signed contracts in Manhattan rose by double digits compared to last March (up 15.6%) and same time last year (up 11.6%), according to Urban Digs. Signed contracts are a leading indicator in any real estate market. A significant increase in the number of signed contracts usually precedes positive price movement. We will be keeping an eye on this number as we move forward in 2019, but these green shoots are a very good sign that the market is stabilizing and even starting to turn around. Very welcome news after a disappointing first quarter.
The new tax law that was passed in December 2017 really sucked the life out of the Manhattan market over the last year. But, now that people have a better understanding of its affects after filing their 2018 taxes (due April 15th) some of that uncertainty has dissipated. If you recall, the law capped at $10K the amount of state income and local taxes (i.e., property taxes) (SALT) that a primary homeowner could deduct from their federal tax return, a miniscule amount for a New York primary homeowner. This was a total surprise to most New Yorkers and caught many off guard. But, while the SALT cap did suck the life out of the market due to uncertainty, it had less of an impact on the high end of the market because of offsets in the form of lower tax rates, a higher AMT threshold and other loopholes.
With the tax change behind us and a tick up in sales activity, we think 2019 is the right time to buy a condo in Manhattan. Consider the following on this report from Douglas Elliman:
With lower prices, adjusted seller expectations, recently cut rates, certainty about the tax change’s impact and latest sign of a booming NYC and US economy, buying now is very attractive. We expect to look back on Q1 2019 as the absolute bottom of this market cycle.
Today, we feel that the current Manhattan housing market is a once-in-a-decade or possibly a once-in-a-generation investment opportunity. In Q4 2018, Manhattan evolved into a pronounced buyers market, as inventory rose, sales slowed and median asking prices declined. There is significant new supply coming online this year at a time when there are still unsold new development units from the past 2 years. The market has been weak and sellers are highly negotiable. At the same time, New York City's economy is robust. We believe the combination of these factors make it a great time to make a long-term investment - setting up 2019 as the perfect time to buy.
This is a very rare occasion. Over the last 20+ years, Manhattan has been in a buyers market only two other times: in 2001 right after 9/11, which lasted just six months, and in 2008-2009 after Lehman Brothers collapsed triggering a credit crisis that lasted one year. The current buyers’ market began in late 2015, but only in the ultra-luxury segment, a small sliver of the market. Since then, however, the buyers’ market has widened. First to the luxury segment in 2016 and 2017 and now to all inventory segments, especially in 2018 after the new unfavorable federal tax law was enacted (discussed at length in our previous updates) which pushed many buyers to the sidelines.
As you can see from the chart below from Compound, if you buy Manhattan real estate at the right time (i.e. during a buyers market), the rewards can be plentiful:
As for details on how the 4th Quarter of 2018 performed:
Well, what does all of this mean?
Keep in mind that this rare occasion is happening at the same time the NYC economy is booming and in a position to keep growing and growing in years to come (i.e Google West Soho expansion, Hudson Yards opening in March 2019, etc.).
While deals are happening, a lot of potential buyers are sitting on the sidelines in a wait-and-see mode. Our caution to them is that it is impossible to time the bottom of any market. Often, a buyer will wait too long, miss the dip and lose their leverage. Interest rates have come off their 2018 highs, making it a good time to enter or renter the market, before they start ascending again.
Warren Buffett said it best, "Price is what you pay, value is what you get . . . It is wise to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."
Some recent reports on real estate in New York City have made some people fearful. When we look at the broad picture and the overall statistics in those reports it is fairly clear as to why those people are fearful, however, one must dig deeper to understand the whole story.
Manhattan condo buyers remained cautious in the 3rd quarter 2018 due to concerns over the new tax law (FN1) implemented at the end of 2017, despite a very strong economy, record breaking stock market, and still relatively low, although rapidly increasing, interest rates.
Manhattan real estate is seldom in a buyers market, so if you are interested in a safe long term investment, now may be the time to buy. This is not going to be a prolonged event or repeated any time soon. In fact, during Q3, the high end of the market (>$5M), which began a correction in 2016, started to bounce back somewhat, as discussed below.
While headlines regarding the quarter have been concerning, they don't tell the entire story. We need to look at what is happening today in the market and not 1, 2 or 8 quarters ago, which is what the quarterly market reports usually focus on. If you look at the number of Contracts Signed in the quarter, a leading indicator, this quarter was roughly the same as the same quarter last year.
Signed contracts in Manhattan showed a slight 1% decrease over the number signed in Q3 2017.
The best performing segment in terms of contracts signed was $5M - $10M (which saw a 30% increase in contracts signed primarily driven by sales at two new development, The Belnord and 100 E 53rd).
The second best segment was for homes price at $10M+, which saw a 10% increase in activity.
While we won’t know what units are under contract for, prices these units will be ultimately traded at until they close and are recorded, which could be many months from now, the bounce back in activity from a prolonged slumber is reassuring. For sure, discounting played a role in these sales.
Closed sales in the 3rd quarter 2018, however, show a different picture. When looking at closed sales, you are assessing only units that closed in the quarter, regardless of when the contract was signed. In the case of New Development, that could have been 3 years ago in some instances. Therefore, closed sales info can be somewhat dated, albeit still good information to capture trends.
Photo credit: 111 Murray
To sum it up, we feel that this is a pretty good buyers’ market to be in, especially compared to 2008.
Drilling down into the detailed numbers suggests New York City real estate market is strong. Most people will read the broad reports, but the astute buyer will listen to real estate specialists. To paraphrase Warren Buffett said when others are fearful this may just be the right time to buy in NYC.
The new US tax law, implemented on January 1, 2018, has created a lot of noise in the media. If you look at the fine print, however, the law will be a boon to corporations and real estate investors, including foreign buyers. For current homeowners, especially in Manhattan, it's a bit more complicated.
In Manhattan, uncertainty around the ultimate effects of the new law, which limits state and local tax deductions and reduces the amount of deductible interest on primary homes from $1 million to $750K, created a jittery market and is reflected in the latest Q1 market reports, which show Q1 activity down by 10%, according to Corcoran. The weakness in volume was found across price points, but, especially, was felt in the high end. Q2 sales activity appears to be recovering.
To mitigate the tax law’s negative effects, Governor Cuomo has made significant efforts to change state tax rules. We expect some uncertainty to remain in the market, which will put buyers in the driver's seat for the next few months, at least until the economy starts to heat up, an anticipated byproduct of tax reform.
It is worth noting, however, that many luxury buildings in prime Downtown Neighborhoods like NoHo, SoHo, Tribeca, West Village and Flatiron, and the core of the Upper West Side, for example, are faring quite well. Well-priced condos are still moving fast, pending sales are up over prior month and year, and we are still seeing 20% of deals being made above asking price, not an insignificant number.
The US Economy and New York City, in particular, have been experiencing strong economic performance in early 2018.
We expect to see more positive effects of the new tax reform later in the year and potential Phase II tax reform reducing capital gains taxes. Stay tuned...
There continues to be strength and activity in the core Manhattan market for condos. Record high equity markets, inexpensive and readily available financing, and clarity have helped propel the market. One year ago, there was great uncertainty regarding the US Election, interest rates were prematurely spiking and everyone was shocked by Brexit. Select statistics for Q3 2017:
"Buyers — A price correction already occurred, and over the last year or so the broader market has shown signs of stabilization and normalization. If you have a real need to buy and you find the right property, utilize this slow period for any leverage you can get in negotiations — you never know when a seller has had enough, and is ready to hit that bid."
Read the full article at: medium.com
We agree with Urban Digs. The Manhattan RE market has already corrected, especially in the luxury segment, and buyers have more leverage now than they did than from 2014 - 2016. We expect this leverage to continue in 2018, as confusion about new tax changes takes place. We have found, however, that resale inventory supply is still low.
We have looked at resale inventory supply levels in four prime neighborhoods that are popular with our primary home buyers and investors: Tribeca, Chelsea, Upper East Side and Upper West Side. We looked at the $5 - $10 million segment, $2 - $5 million segment and $1 - $2 million segment.
Of all Manhattan real estate for sale in the $5 - 10 million segment, there were only 17 resale units for sale in Tribeca, 8 resale units for sale in Chelsea, 5 resale units for sale in the Upper East Side, and 4 resale units for sale in the Upper West Side. That's a total of 34 resale units in these four neighborhoods, which cover a lot of the island of Manhattan.
Shifting down market, of all Manhattan real estate for sale in the $2 - 5 million segment, there were only 22 resale units for sale in Tribeca, 15 in Chelsea, 21 units in Upper East Side, and 32 units in the Upper West Side (including the Riverside). That's only 90 units available in the $2 - $5 million segment across these four neighborhoods.
In the entry level market, of all Manhattan Real Estate for sale between $1 - $2 million, there were only 2 resale units available in Tribeca, 11 resale units in Chelsea, 15 resale units in the Upper East Side and 19 resale units in the Upper West Side. That's a total of 47 resale units available for sale in the $1 - $2 million segment across these four large neighborhoods.
As Urban Digs noted, it is true that seller's are more receptive to negotiations these days, especially compared to 2014 - 2015, but the supply of good resale condos is still relatively low. And, new development is selling at a high premium. When we start narrowing down to the best Manhattan real estate available for sale, by particular building, exposure, those that are not overpriced, the number of good options drops significantly. Therefore, if you are a buyer that has housing needs or looking for investment, keep this short supply story in mind.
Charts courtesy of UrbanDigs
The fourth quarter of the 2017 real estate market in Manhattan is one best described as stable, with the last three out of four quarters showing an increase in closed sales activity. 2017 was a much better year than 2016, although there has been a marked drop in the number of signed contracts in the quarter year-over-year that can be primarily attributed to non-market factors such as tax reform and political climate.
When looking more closely at the property types, however, we see significant variation. Resale co-ops segment was the most active with a third consecutive quarter of growth in sales. Signed contracts for resale condos, however, have been hurt by continuing high prices, and new development closed sales were faced with a 12% decrease due to the current cycle and timing of building developers. With all of this in mind, and uncertainty around the new tax reform, we can surmise that Manhattan real estate is slowly becoming a buyer’s market.
Uncertainty regarding tax reform effects played out in Q4 in the resale condo sector, causing a decline in sales activity and flat prices. For the second consecutive year, the market underperformed and saw the fewest sales since 2011. Inventory of available units fell correspondingly with a 3% decrease across the board. Many are pointing to a disconnect in pricing, as active inventory was saddled with a double-digit premium per square foot when compared to Q4 closed sales.
Resale Co-ops ended 2017 as the year’s best selling real estate product, continuing to outperform other options by increasing in sales for the third consecutive quarter. Additionally, the high demand for co-op resales found the average length of a property remaining on the market dropping by 5%. In so doing, the market responded by increasing the available inventory by 15%.
As one might expect, the new development condo market numbers tend to increase or decreased based on the progress of ongoing building construction. No new buildings commenced closings in the 4th quarter and a number of large developments, such as 125 Greenwich and 91 Leonard launched sales, causing inventory to soar by 30%.
The luxury segment is determined by the top 10% of closed sales based on price. The entry-level price, or “threshold”, fell by roughly $500,000, ending at $3.882 million. Additionally, the average price dropped by 10%, and price per square foot fell by 12%. These drops can be attributed to a shift in closings in the quarter from ultra-luxury and super-luxury closings, such as 432 Park, Greenwich Lane, and 56 Leonard, at the end of 2016, to more modest luxury buildings in outlying locations, such as One West End and 252 East 57th St. However, we have seen a more competitive market with an increased inventory, leaving sellers with little other option than to drop the prices to satisfy customer demand. This represents a real potential for investors in the luxury segment, as these luxury units are low and ready to move.
In conclusion, the Manhattan market remains stable and 2017 was healthier than 2016. That being said, the market continues to show trends skewing toward the side of the customer, or in other words, becoming a “buyer’s market”. An increase in available inventory, new development projects, and a lowering of the luxury threshold have created a market in which owners and developers are inclined to discount prices to keep up with dwindling sales. Because of uncertainty with the tax reform, 2018 will be a good year for the buyer, and not so good for the seller. For those standing on the sidelines, it might be a good time to enter the market, before the positive effects of Trump’s tax reform kick in.
Never before has America had a New York City property developer and real estate broker (yes, he has a NYC broker’s license) sitting in the White House. While many of us may not agree with Trump’s behavior and policy positions, one thing for sure is that Trump will be pro-property and pro-real estate.
While some postulated that a Trump presidency would be a black swan event, rather than plunging, both the US dollar and stock market rose today!
If you are wondering how the policies of President Trump affect US Real Estate, here are insights as to how Trump will likely operate once in office.
Will he use real estate to kickstart the economy?
Trump is a property developer and real estate broker. He has used real estate himself as an investment all his life and has said that he’s interested in boosting homeownership. Given that his family business is real estate, either through his own company, the Trump Organization, or his son-in-law’s, Kushner Properties, we expect Trump to continue his love affair with property.
What will happen to mortgage rates?
Rates are poised to remain low for a while. “Mortgage rates are falling because investors are seeing safe yields in U.S. mortgage backed securities, reflecting their confidence in the relative safety of the U.S. housing market,” wrote Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin in a statement the day after the election. “Furthermore, the Fed is likely to delay a December rate hike because of global economic turmoil. Both effects mean short term win for borrowers, and we’ll likely see an increase in mortgage refinancing if rates continue to plummet.”
Will he lower taxes for real estate investors?
Republicans retained control over the House and Senate. As a result, the republicans have unfettered control over the future of tax policy, meaning there will some big changes that will affect taxes for real estate investors. Trump has proposed to:
And while he may not get everything he wants in terms of tax reform, our tax law is ripe for change (both the Republicans and Democrats have called for this), and that change is likely to come before August 2017 before election season begins for 2018.
Could it become easier to borrow money?
Reduced regulation, one of the hallmarks of his campaign, would allow banks to step up lending, something that has been very subdued since 2008. Another way that a Trump presidency could make it easier for consumers to own homes would be to lower premiums for FHA loans or cutting guarantee fees for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
How will regulations be affected?
Much of Trump’s platform has centered around deregulating the financial market in order to more fully revive it, and that alone could also give a boost to real estate. This is something that Trump — and the Republican party as a whole — has been vocal about.
Trump has proposed to reduce both Banking regulations and Building regulations. Loosening regulation on lending could boost homeownership by making it easier for consumers to obtain loans. As for Building regulations, at a National Realtor Association meeting, Trump estimated that 25% of costs to build a house related to regulations. He would like to get that down to 2%. If construction is deregulated, this would mean more affordable homes for consumers.
Will the mortgage interest deduction go away?
No! Last year, a tax plan that Trump shared specifically and explicitly mentioned that he would preserve the mortgage interest deduction.
Will he continue the 1031 exchange program?
Trump, who came under immense criticism for aggressively using the tax code to reportedly not pay federal taxes, would likely preserve the controversial 1031 tax-free exchanges, which allow landlords to sell property without paying capital gains taxes if they plow the proceeds of a sale into other real estate investments. This 1031 exchange program policy is one of the underlying bedrocks of the real estate industry and Trump will preserve this policy.
What about immigration?
Trump’s immigration policy has undergone many changes since he first announced his candidacy, and immigration reform won’t be an easy bill to push through Congress or the Senate, so it’s difficult to determine whether this will influence the NYC real estate market to any large degree.
Will Trump be able to implement all his campaign positions?
For those of you who are feeling emotional about Trump being president after some of his outrageous rhetoric and behavior, remember that the US President does not have unrestrained power. Our founders did not want power to be controlled by just one man or one group with the possibility of winding up under the rule of another dictator or tyrant. Accordingly, our government is divided into three branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. This is why many of Trump’s more outrageous campaign policy positions will not be a reality – either they will be opposed in the legislative branch or overturned by the judicial branch.
No question that this election was very divisive. But, now that the election is over, the American people will come together as we have always done. As Obama said of Trump: “We are all rooting for his success”.
Once a month we sent a curated selection of current best buys to our clients. This selection includes small pied-a-terre's priced from as low as $600k, investment properties with excellent price per sq.ft., just discounted properties that we believe are good opportunities and new developments that have just been or are about to be launched.
You'd be surprised how effective it can be to just include a warm, smiling photograph of yourself. Or maybe you wouldn't be so surprised. Maybe you just don't surprise easily. Or maybe you're just incredibly wise. Yes. That must be it. Wise and warmly smiling. What a winning combination.
Shawn Bristow HubSpot, Inc.
You'd be surprised how effective it can be to just include a warm, smiling photograph of yourself. Or maybe you wouldn't be so surprised. Maybe you just don't surprise easily. Or maybe you're just incredibly wise. Yes. That must be it. Wise and warmly smiling. What a winning combination.
Shawn Bristow HubSpot, Inc.