Manhattan market’s “steady upward slog” persists as suburbs and Brooklyn see gains

Contract activity posted annual gains in every NY market except Manhattan


Demand for single-family homes, even within New York City limits, continued to command housing markets both in and outside of the city last month.

Contract activity and new inventory in Brooklyn and the surrounding suburbs continued to rise last month, while Manhattan lagged in pending home sales and new listings, according to Douglas Elliman’s monthly report.

As contracts can take months — or even years, in the case of some new developments — to be finalized, the report represents a leading indicator for closed sales, which the brokerage reports quarterly.

Signed contracts in Manhattan were down 16 percent for co-ops and 17.5 percent for condos in November compared to the same period last year. The biggest annual declines for co-ops were for properties asking over $4 million; for condos, it was properties asking more than $10 million. New inventory for both co-ops and condos dropped significantly year-over-year, to 27 and 46 percent respectively.

Jonathan Miller, the appraiser who writes Elliman’s report, said that though Manhattan contract activity is down, it is approaching last year’s levels, albeit gradually — what he called a “steady upward slog.”

“It’s the last market in the region to wake up,” he said. “The residents that moved out aren’t in a hurry to move back in.”

Single-family homes in Manhattan, which account for about 2 percent of the borough’s sales market, were a bright spot. There were 16 contracts signed last month compared to six in 2019, an annual increase of about 167 percent. The number of Manhattan townhouses listed for sale last month was down by 50 percent.

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In Brooklyn, where townhouses have dominated contract activity week after week, the number of deals made for single-family homes was up a stunning 292 percent, with 184 contracts this month compared to just 47 a year ago. Contracts for co-ops were up 72 percent, and condo units were up 50 percent. Inventory across all three asset types continued to grow.

A similar story continues to play out in New York’s suburbs. Long Island, the Hamptons, the North Fork and Westchester reported annual gains in signed contracts, and inventory continued to grow.

In Connecticut’s Fairfield County, however, signed contracts for single-family homes ticked up 8 percent while listings fell more than 30 percent year-over-year. Condo sales in the area were nearly flat with a 1 percent annual increase, although inventory grew by over 30 percent.

In Greenwich, Connecticut, signed contracts for homes skyrocketed nearly 201 percent, with 127 deals compared to 41 the previous year. There were 25 condo contracts signed last month, up from eight a year earlier, and listed inventory grew by 167 percent.

Miller said that while the number of contracts inked continues to rise, growth is tapering off as the stream of buyers fleeing the city — and Manhattan in particular — has dropped off.

“Outbound migration is a shadow of its former self,” he said.

Miller noted that about 30 percent of single-family suburban homes sold above asking price, which could make homes in the city appear more attractive.

“That actually reduces the suburban market’s competitiveness to the city,” he said.