Manhattan resi sales fall for fifth quarter, but “the worst is probably over”

New Elliman report shows signs market may be stabilizing

TRD New York /
Jan.January 03, 2019 08:00 AM

(Credit: Douglas Elliman)

Manhattan sales declined for the fifth consecutive quarter, but there’s reason for optimism, according to Douglas Elliman’s latest market report. The number of sales fell to 2,432 in the fourth quarter of 2018, a dip of 3.3 percent compared to the same time last year. But each successive quarter in 2018 saw the rate of decline decreasing.

“The market seems to be resetting to something more sustainable,” said Jonathan Miller, CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel who authored the report, “2018 was a wet blanket laying over the market. It takes time to work through.”

“I think the worst is probably over,” said Steven James, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman’s New York City brokerage. Sellers that were willing to negotiate pricing had made sales, James said, pointing to co-op sales, which outpaced condo sales in the last quarter of the year.

Average sale price was boosted by super-luxury closings at 520 Park Avenue and 220 Central Park South, but median sale price continued to fall, slipping below $1 million for the first time in three years. James said there was a “wait-and-see” attitude among buyers in a soft market with more inventory.

New developments were hit hardest with median sales price falling by 25.5 percent since the same time last year, while resales stayed largely stable, rising 2.8 percent.

“Many sellers remain very disconnected from actual market conditions,” said Miller, “Sellers are late to the party, but buyers are early.”

Corcoran Group’s fourth quarter report blamed the decline in sales on buyer hesitancy. “Buyers remained cautious with lingering concerns over tax implications, rising interest rates, volatility in the financial markets, and the belief that prices will continue to decrease,” the report said.

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