Residential market picks up in Brooklyn and Manhattan, sinks in suburbs

Annual contract activity comparisons are starting to look normal again

Making sense of the residential market has been a challenge throughout the pandemic. It began with a ban on showings, and listings falling like the Mets in September. Then came a surge of demand as work-from-homers sought more space, renters accelerated their homebuying plans and single-family-home investors spiked the punch.

As Covid erupted, retreated, came back and receded again, the New York area market’s traditional ebb and flow was distorted almost beyond recognition, skewing year-over-year comparisons.

The wacky numbers are finally nearing an end, according to the appraiser Jonathan Miller, although his latest monthly report for brokerage Douglas Elliman shows they haven’t just yet.

The report examined October contract signings and listings for homes in New York City and its suburbs.

Manhattan and Brooklyn outpaced suburban markets, as they have in recent months, with new listings and contracts on the rise.

In Manhattan, condominium deals were up 77 percent from last October, although co-ops accounted for the bulk of the 1,203 contracts signed. Some 1,777 new listings appeared, meaning more supply was added than lost.

In Brooklyn, more contracts were signed for condos than for co-ops. Year-over-year, deals rose 45 percent for condos but only 5 percent for co-ops, which tend to be older and have stuffier boards policing the gates.

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“It doesn’t mean Brooklyn’s weaker,” Miller said of the lower increase in signings there than in its rival borough. “It was already performing better than Manhattan so the uptick is not as significant.”

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On Long Island, not including the Hamptons or the North Fork, supply and contract signings tumbled last month. The 27 percent decline in contracts for single-family homes was largely because few homes were available: Only 2,451 new listings appeared in October, down 30 percent from last year.

Listings also fell year-over-year on the peninsula’s East End, limiting potential signings. Purchase agreements for single-family homes fell 34 percent in the Hamptons and 54 percent on the North Fork.

The drops signal that the market is returning to its pre-Covid state, said Miller. He added that the decline in the Hamptons is partly because the boom of last year poached future sales, depriving sellers and agents of the robust October they would normally enjoy.

New supply in Westchester fell by 38 percent, a drop largely related to the distortion of last year, Miller said.

Unlike in Westchester, the distortion caused by the pandemic in Fairfield County’s single-family sector is long gone. Contract signings in the Connecticut county swelled by 39 percent even as listings fell 36 percent. In Greenwich’s single-family market, contracts fell 40 percent and new listings fell 56 percent.