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Monday, February 6, 2012

A stable Manhattan real estate market

Here is the latest real estate sales data in the forth quarter 2011 report on the Manhattan market. Download the full report here, with a breakdown of by sub-markets. Here's my take.

Corcoran Fourth Quarter 2011 Real Estate Market Report
Condo inventory shrinks, coops are where the deals are
Corcoran Manhattan market reportSales began to slow toward the end of 2011, however in prime downtown markets like Chelsea, the Village, and Tribeca, there was a distinct lack of quality inventory in almost all sized homes. Indeed, market wide Q4 inventory shrank by about 6% from Q3 to 8440 units on the market. Way down from 12,300 available for sale back at the market's bottom in early 2009. In my opinion, the inventory trending is one of the best indicators of where prices are going. Shrinking inventory means prices increase. Some of this was due to the lack of production of new condos, because of the market forces affecting the development pipeline. It is simply very difficult for builders to get construction financing right now. This also has created different trends for coops and condominiums, which are far more scarce. So it seems as though the boom years' inventory bump, has been largely absorbed by the market, and has not been replaced. According to Corcoran's report, condo inventory decreased 11% from a year ago, but in contrast, co-op availability remained even. I personally felt that my coop buyers got very good deals last year because of this. If you are looking for a primary residence, this is where the values are most likely to be found.
Past five years of Manhattan inventory
click image to enlarge
Manhattan real estate inventory absorption Q4 2011
At the end of Fourth Quarter 2011, there were 8,440 units listed market-wide, a 6% decline from Third Quarter 2011 and a 4% decrease from Fourth Quarter 2010. The decrease in total inventory from last year is a net byproduct of condo inventory having decreased 11% while co-op availability remained even. New listings added during the quarter were 27% lower than Fourth Quarter 2010 and 16% lower than Third Quarter 2011. Since reaching its peak in First Quarter 2009, listed inventory has dropped 32%.

I've observed that the downward pressure on many coop apartments continues. For example, median prices on the upper east side were down across the board year over year. I'm not speaking of Park Avenue mansions (which actually accounted for the top 4 sales last quarter, the highest at $27 million); but there is a glut of less distinguished post-war units out there, with high barriers to entry like down payment requirements on purchases of 50% or more. Buyers sometimes seemed hesitant to plunk down 50% equity to buy into these mid-twentieth century buildings, often without in-unit laundries, and limited, if any amenities, beyond a doorman and maintenance staff. These units often require updating as well. A $1 million coop apartment, requiring a 50% down payment of $500K, completes with more recently developed condos where 20% to 25% down is possible. That means the same down payment can leverage a $2 million to $2.5 million purchase, often with amenities like fitness centers, spas, kid's playrooms, private lounges, even screening rooms. Coop boards restrictive financial requirements cut down on the potential buyer pool, and result in lower selling prices. Many folks don't want to buy into mom and dad's coop, choosing newer developments, and/or early resales of them. They are taking advantage of the incredibly low cost of borrowing, and leaving themselves more capital to invest in other ways; and I believe acquiring a very marketable asset in the future.

In January, the market started coming out of it's post-holiday season doldrums. We'll see a small bump in inventory as the first quarter selling season begins, but I don't foresee a huge change. If your thinking of buying or selling, the market feels really well balanced for you to succeed. Realistic exceptions vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. If you need to sell in order to buy, the real trick is to tap into the experience that your broker brings to make that a smooth transition. It doesn't need to cost you extra financing, or holding two properties for a length of time. What questions do you have about your next home?

Download the full Q4 2011 Manhattan Market Report »