Manhattan real estate closes 2018 as worst year since the financial crisis

Real Estate

Manhattan real-estate suffered its worst year since the housing crash of 2009, as tax changes, stock-market turmoil and jittery foreign buyers hurt sales in 2018.

Home sales in Manhattan fell 14 percent last year, the industry’s steepest drop since 2009, according to a report from Manhattan real estate companies Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel. In the fourth quarter, the median price for an apartment in New York City fell below $1 million for the first time in three years. And the decline in sales in the fourth quarter was the fifth-straight quarterly drop.

“What we saw was a big wet blanket thrown over the market in 2018,” said Jonathan Miller, CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

Miller said 2019 is unlikely to improve, even though the drops may not be as severe as 2018. Manhattan real-estate has been hurt by a convergence of economic forces. An oversupply of high-end apartments, especially new condo towers, hit the high end of the market. At the same time, demand from foreign buyers cooled, as new rules aimed at money laundering took effect and overseas economies began to slow.

The new tax law, which limits the deductbility of state and local taxes, also hurt demand for real-estate in high-tax cities like New York.

Volatile stock markets at the end of the year are expected to keep buyers on the sidelines for at least the beginning of 2019. While prices and sales could continue to fall in 2019, the decline won’t likely be as steep as it was in 2018, Miller said.

“We’re going to see continued weakness, but it will be a more moderate decline,” he said. “I think most of the heavy lifting was done in 2018.”

Miller said that while the “starter market” in Manhattan – studio and one-bedroom apartments – was weak last year, he said it will likely hold up better than the luxury market, with homes priced at $7 million to $10 million or more. There is now a 16-month supply of homes in the Manhattan luxury segment, defined as the top 10% of the market by price.

“I don’t think the luxury market will change all that much,” he said.

But don’t expect any real bargains anytime soon. The average price of a Manhattan apartment is still just under $2 million. The average price per square foot is now at $1,684.

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