Even though, traditionally, autumn has been a strong season for sales of luxury condos and real estate in Manhattan, sales these days have been harder to come by. This decline has put brokers and real estate pros in a bind, because many buyers and sellers are waiting until the spring to make their moves. Over the past few years, New Yorkers have turned their attention towards spring in lieu of buying or selling Manhattan luxury real estate during the fall. According to Streeteasy.com, Manhattan October sales have declined from 868 in 2009 to 371 in 2011. This precipitous drop may not be as bad as it as sounds - this isn’t a long-established pattern - but as of right now it appears that a slow autumn season may become the norm, as the market shifts from autumn to spring. But is there a benefit to this slowdown for Manhattan buyers?
This autumn was an exceptionally quiet one for a variety of reasons. Rosh Hashana - usually celebrated right after labor day - didn’t take place until September 29th, so the window to buy or sell luxury real estate before Thanksgiving was unusually short (It’s well established that the Jewish holidays create a lull in the real estate market). This brevity made many sellers deeply reluctant to list their luxury condos for fear of having to put their properties back on the market in the winter, the slowest selling season for luxury real estate in Manhattan, even in coveted areas like SoHo and Tribeca. The higher hurdles to obtaining mortgages for most buyers only exacerbated their fears.
Another big reason that sellers often choose to wait to list their luxury condos until the spring is the anticipation of Wall Street bonuses. Wall Street employees may not receive the extravagant bonuses that they did back during the boom times, but bonuses are still an institution. Even though they aren’t as large as they used to be, those bonuses create a wave of new buyers, so sellers often wait until spring to take advantage of this trend. Properties now sell much more rapidly during the spring; according to streeteasy.com, 609 units went into contract in the spring of 2009, while 1,010 units went into contract in spring 2011. This shift shows no signs of reversing itself, but whether this is a temporary trend or a permanent change in the Manhattan luxury real estate market remains to be seen.
Either way, those hoping to buy real estate in the autumn may benefit from less intense competition, as the trend of bidding wars is likely to become less common as the season progresses and buyers become less fierce. Less competition may also mean more perks tossed in for condominium and co-op buyers, like a speedier closing process and more buying options across the board, as landlords and owners brace for the quiet of winter and push to close sales in autumn.