By the end of 2017, Manhattan will have 5 years of excess inventory: analysis

More than 14K units to come online between 2015-17

Developers, those most antsy of creatures, would be wise to start getting patient.

Roughly 14,500 units are expected to hit the market between 2015 and 2017, according to a new analysis by Miller Samuel for The Real Deal. But by the end of 2017, just over 5,000 of those units are expected to have sold, and going by the current rate of sales, it would take more than five years to sell all that excess inventory.

The analysis looks at all new units that have launched or are set to launch in Manhattan over a three-year period, across all price points. It assumes the same rate of sales the new development market saw during the second half of 2015, which equates to just under 1,850 closed sales per year.

Based on that absorption rate, more than 9,400 new units would be unsold by the end of 2017, according to the Miller Samuel analysis.

“The takeaway is that we have anywhere from four to six years of excess supply, assuming the rate of sales holds steady,” said Miller Samuel CEO Jonathan Miller, who cautioned that the analysis is imperfect since it measures closed sales and not contract activity. “You’re still selling during this period, but you’re not selling as much as is coming on. You can’t burn it off fast enough.”

In 2015, roughly 5,500 new condos came online, with another 6,000 and 3,000 projected to hit the market in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

“It’s confirmation to me that we’ve entered a new market of rational exuberance, as opposed to irrational exuberance,” said Leonard Steinberg, president of Compass. “It’s a solid market, but it’s a market about patience or price.”

The extreme speed at which apartments sold and the massive price escalations has “tempered,” he added.

The long runway for absorption poses a real question for developers, said Olshan Realty’s Donna Olshan, who tracks contract activity for residential properties $4 million and up. “It’s worrisome,” she said, but added that predictions don’t always come to bear. “If you used that model in 2000, you’d think we’d be under water for a long time.”

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Developers operating in the market should take a long-term view, according to Olshan. “They can’t have projections of selling out quickly,” she said.

A few more caveats: Units will sell faster or slower depending on the neighborhood, price point and variety of other factors. While demand for ultra-luxury product has certainly slowed, Olshan pointed out that there remain few choices  for buyers looking for one-bedroom condos under $1 million.

Dave Maundrell of Citi Habitats concurred, saying “there are no broad strokes” in the current market. “It’s really product specific,” he said. “When a client calls and says, ‘I want to do a condo in Williamsburg, can I get $1,300 a foot?’ I need to ask a lot of questions before I can answer.”

Still, Maundrell said new development units are taking longer to sell today compared with two years ago, both because of more product on the market and an increased willingness on the buyer’s part to venture into a larger group of neighborhoods.

“In 2006 when we were marketing condos, people said ‘Williamsburg or Park Slope,’” he recalled. “Now, people are bouncing from neighborhood to neighborhood, and building to building.”

Douglas Elliman’s Frances Katzen said some developers are (wisely) repositioning projects based on the current market. “The old adage that once you go up [in price], you can’t go down? We’ve seen people do it and do very well. There’s been no shame in it,” she said.

Extell Development, for example, has lowered its expectations at One Manhattan Square, dropping its total sellout price by more than $200 million to $1.87 billion, as TRD reported. Toll Brothers has also dropped prices at 1110 Park Avenue and 400 Park Avenue South, and World Wide Group and Rose Associates have done the same at 252 East 57th Street.

“Everything has adjusted to a new normal and that’s okay” Steinberg said. “The market is far from dead. There are a lot of deals happening. If you have a property at the right price and are not expecting to sell within a few hours of listing, you will be fine.”