Co-ops Carried An Unusually Slow 2011 Sales Market

Manhattan high-end sales market slowed down in 2011For apartments on the Manhattan sales market priced at $5 million or more, 2011 was a mixed bag. Headline stealing deals like the $88 million purchase of Sandy Weil’s 15 Central Park West penthouse obscured larger trends in the market. Overall, the 2011 high-end market was pedestrian: sales rose by less than 1% from 2010. Those gains were unevenly distributed too, as co-ops outperformed all other types of Manhattan luxury apartments. High-end market gains since its 2009 nadir are largely due to the increased presence of eager international buyers - the buyer of Sandy Weil’s apartment was a Russian billionaire - but New Yorkers have been much pickier during that time. And if the high-end sales market in Manhattan is going to fully recover, it needs them to start signing deals.

The evidence of this need for hometown support is well documented by a recent market report by the brokerage Stribling and Associates. When compared to 2010, the median prices for Manhattan condos and townhouses that sold for more than $5 million fell by 0.6% and 2.1%, respectively. And in sales volume, the number of homes sold in Manhattan fell by 0.9% for condos and 5.8% for townhouses from 2010 to 2011. Kirk Henckels, the director of Stribling and Associates, told the Wall Street Journal that, “Unlike the peak of the market when almost any level of quality would sell, over the past two years, buyers have become extremely sensitive to condition, overall quality and value."

On the other hand, co-op sales are booming. During that same time frame, the median price for co-ops rose 4.5% and overall sales volume rose 19.2%. The median price for co-ops that sold for more than $5 million even exceeded condos in that same range; their average prices were $7,525,000 and $7,083,960, respectively. And of course, prices and sales volume are way up across the board when compared to 2009’s numbers. But having a handful of international billionaires will only go so far; Manhattan luxury apartments still need a broader base of support that can only be found at home, and with the rental market soaring and likely to keep rising in cost, some renters might enter back into the fold.

Judging by the recent listings, this slight slowdown hasn’t deterred asking prices at the very top of the high-end market. Christopher Jeffries, a founding partner of Millennium Partners, put his large duplex apartment at 50 Central Park South on the market for $77.5 million. 3 large Fifth Avenue co-op apartments on the Upper East Side owned by the late heiress Huguette Clark went on the market this week for combined price of $55 million. And numerous other luxury apartments bordering Central Park are also priced in the $12 million - $19 million range. While these are certainly encouraging signs, the market as a whole still has a lot to prove.