If you’re talking market slowdown, here’s a reminder of what that looks like

During the Great Recession, residential sales brought in more than commercial in NYC for an entire year

TRD New York /
Mar.March 15, 2016 01:43 PM

With all the talk of slowdown, TRData dusted off its way-back machine to examine the last time New York’s commercial and residential sales markets hit a real dip.

New York’s elite office properties can trade for billions of dollars, so it’s not surprising that the city’s commercial real estate market normally accounts for a significantly higher dollar volume than residential home sales. But not always. During the nadir of the last financial crisis, the city’s residential real estate market actually had a higher sales volume.

Commercial real estate had a record year in 2015, surpassing $74.5 billion in total sales, a significant increase over the previous record year of 2007, according to Cushman & Wakefield. (Note: this sales figure includes partial interest sales and other transactions not included by TRData).

While a typical month shows the dollar volume of commercial sales far outweighing residential, the Great Recession created an outlier moment, when up was down and cats and dogs lived together in harmony.

As the financial crisis kicked into full gear in 2008, banks started pulling the plug on most commercial lending. The full impact of that move wasn’t felt until 2009, according to JLL broker Stephen Shapiro.

As illustrated in the chart, residential sales volume also dropped in a big way during this time, but it somehow managed to significantly outpace commercial sales for 13 months, from August 2009 to August 2010.

That’s likely because Manhattan’s residential market wasn’t hit as hard from a financing standpoint.

“When banks decided they would stop lending,” Shapiro said, “residential sales in Manhattan could still continue because many of the purchasers were either all cash or very low leverage and because liquidity still existed for residential purchases.”

Banks would still lend to residential buyers with steady jobs and income streams, whereas on the commercial end the uncertainty and risk ran much deeper.

“No one was quite sure if the commercial markets were even going to be viable [again] given the scope of how bad things were,” Shapiro said.

In 2008, there were just 66 commercial transactions of $10 million or more in Manhattan totaling $3.6 billion, according to a report from JLL. Compare that to 346 of the same class of transactions worth $48.5 billion just two years before.

Meanwhile, although the citywide residential market wasn’t impressing anyone, it never fell quite as far as the commercial market did — $530 million total in commercial sales across all five boroughs in April of 2009 in TRData’s count.

Yoryi DeLaRosa contributed research and data analysis to this report.

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