February Sales Market Activity Exceeds Pre-Lehman Levels

Market activity for Manhattan sales is on the riseThe recent slowdown in the Manhattan sales market is on the way out. Despite the fact that sales have been way down in the past two financial quarters, buyers of luxury apartments in Manhattan signed 871 contracts in February. This strong showing exceeds pre-Lehman market activity in 2008, and it shows just how far we’ve come – at the nadir of the sales market in February 2009, only 484 signings took place. Even more impressive: a severe decline of supply in luxury condos and co-ops has done very little to deter activity. Supply dropped from 7,346 units-for-sale in 2011 to 6,738 in 2012, yet 2012 saw more signings. In other words, luxury apartments for sale in Manhattan are more popular than ever before, especially on the higher end of the market and more popular Manhattan neighborhoods.

If anyone is happy about this, it’s brokers. Many are fielding multiple offers for high-end condos from buyers who are all too aware that they have few other options if they fail to outbid their competitors.  Pamela Liebman, president of Corcoran Group, told the Wall Street Journal that, "Anything that comes on in a good building at the right price is selling extremely fast. Open house traffic is up, the number of buyers is up. There is a severe shortage of new development product." Perhaps it should be unsurprising then that the high-end of the market is compensating for mid-range luxury apartments, many of whose buyers have elected to rent instead.

One more crucial distinction should be made. The numbers above, all of which were compiled by urbandigs.com, is a sign of things to come. While sales in February were mundane, it’s the signings – when REBNY member listings changed from ‘Active’ to ‘Signed’ – that rose dramatically. Since it usually takes about 3 – 6 months for a signing to officially close when the city register files a transaction, sales market signings in Manhattan usually manifest as sales at least 90 days later. So with the busiest Manhattan real estate season on the way, these numbers bode well for our immediate future. For buyers, this means that if you want to purchase a luxury apartment in Manhattan, make your move, because there’s not much to go around.

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