The 1990-1991 recession hit New York City particularly hard, with deep cuts in Wall Street jobs. The city has become even more dependent on financial services, so a similar or deeper contraction in percentage terms would have an even greater impact. We’re getting a first whiff via the fall-off in apartment closings.
One assumption have been that foreign buyers would hold up the market. However, as non-residents, they would add much less to the tax base, and if government services are cut back, Manhattan may not look like such a desirable place to live.
Manhattan apartment sales plunged the most in 18 years in the first quarter as buyers faced the prospect of a recession and job cuts at Wall Street securities firms.
Sales fell 34 percent from a year earlier and inventory rose 4.6 percent to 6,194 units, New York-based real estate appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report today. The median price of a Manhattan co-operative apartment or condominium increased 13.2 percent to a record $945,000.
“If it continues along this pattern, we’re in a period of transition to a weaker market,” Miller Samuel President Jonathan Miller said in an interview. “You typically see a slowdown in sales activity precede a slowdown in pricing.”
Financial companies have cut at least 34,000 jobs in the past nine months as losses and writedowns related to mortgage- backed securities climbed to at least $230 billion. Wall Street drives Manhattan real estate, with the median apartment price roughly tracking bonuses paid by investment banks since 1997, Miller said.
“There are a lot of buyers out there,” said Prudential Douglas Elliman Chief Executive Officer Dottie Herman.
“It’s not that they’re not looking, but there is no sense of urgency,” she said. “If you continue to see inventory rise, that would be a sign that you are going to see a price dip.”
Until now, Manhattan has avoided the national housing slump. Last year, the U.S. saw the first drop in existing home prices since the Great Depression, while Manhattan apartment prices rose 3.6 percent, according to Miller Samuel.
Gains continued in the first quarter, according to today’s broker reports. The Corcoran Group said the median for condos and co-ops rose 9 percent to $917,000. Terra Holdings LLC, which owns brokers Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property LLC, said the median climbed 13 percent to $855,000. The numbers vary in part because each broker includes some of its own sales that have yet to show up in the city’s public records database.
About 30 percent of all first-quarter closings were for apartments in new developments that went into contract before turmoil hit the credit market, said Gregory Heym, chief economist for Terra Holdings.
“They are pre-credit crisis, pre-Wall Street worries, pre- new mortgage standards,” he said in an interview. “You see a delay in impact in these numbers.”….
Apartments are already taking longer to sell. The average time spent on the market rose 12 percent to 146 days, according to Miller Samuel….
The average price per square foot of a Manhattan co-op rose 16 percent to $1,128 for the quarter, Miller said. For condos, the price per square foot gained 21 percent to $1,416. Co-ops make up more than two-thirds of Manhattan apartments. Residents of them buy shares in a corporation that owns the building, rather than having a deed to the property itself.
On the East Side, the greatest price appreciation was in apartments with at least four bedrooms, with the average rising 53 percent to $13.6 million, according to Brown Harris Stevens. On the West Side, three-bedroom apartments gained 90 percent to an average of just under $5 million.
Prices on Fifth Avenue jumped 63 percent in the quarter to a median of $6.5 million, and on Park Avenue the median jumped 23 percent to $3.3 million. The median price of lofts fell 12 percent to almost $1.45 million, Corcoran said.
The luxury market also saw big increases, largely due to multimillion dollar condominium sales at the recently converted Plaza, and at architect Robert A.M. Stern’s 15 Central Park West.
The median price of a luxury apartment rose 46 percent to almost $5 million, Miller Samuel said. Corcoran’s estimate was an increase of 18 percent to $4.4 million. Both companies consider apartments of more than $2.8 million as luxury.
“There is no question 2007 was the record year for real estate in New York City,” Liebman said. “I don’t think any of us will be surprised if 2008 doesn’t hold up in comparison.”