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Real Estate Sales Continue to Stagnate in Manhattan

The number of apartments sold in the last three months was down by 46 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

While restrictions on in-person showings were lifted in June, sales in Manhattan remain far from pre-pandemic levels. Credit...Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

Despite hopes that New York's real estate market would spring back to life over the summer after the coronavirus lockdown was lifted in June, the number of closed sales in Manhattan was down by 46 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period in 2019, according to new sales data.

Inventory was up by 27 percent — the highest gain since 2009, according to a new report from the brokerage Douglas Elliman — and demand remains soft. The median sales price for apartments, $1.1 million, was 7 percent higher than at the same time last year.

"The Manhattan market is crawling out of lockdown and has clearly been the outlier in the region in terms of coming back."

said Jonathan Miller, a New York appraiser and the author of the report.

Sales at the lower end of the market, below $2 million, fell in the third quarter by 50.7 percent, compared to the same period last year. Despite a weak market, Mr. Miller reported an increase in bidding wars for properties priced under $2 million toward the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter, with 3.6 percent selling above the last asking price. Urban Digs, a data reporting site, noted that 52 percent of contracts signed since Mar. 23 were for properties under $1 million, while 26.3 percent were in the $1 million to 2 million range.

Sales of higher-end properties, especially those in the resale market, remained flat between the second and third quarters, suggesting that sellers in the luxury sector aren't as flexible about negotiating prices and don't have the same sense of urgency about selling quickly. The number of condo and co-op sales in this sector dropped 47 percent this quarter compared to this time last year.

One category of the market that saw a relative boost was new development. Sales of new apartments in Manhattan represented 15.6 percent of all sales this quarter, and median prices jumped by 18 percent, to $2,886,098, from $2,449,020 in the third quarter of last year.

But these prices aren't reflective of the overall market, as prices of larger properties tend to skew the numbers on all new developments sold. For example, 16 units closed this quarter at 220 Central Park South, Robert A.M. Stern's luxury condominium complex, including one for $99.9 million, and all of those sales went into contract before the pandemic.

The month of September was the most active, by far, since the real estate market picked up again. Shaun Osher, the founder and chief executive of CORE Real Estate, said two factors led to this shift: the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. As people returned to the city, the number of in-person showings skyrocketed.

"If I had to guess, the number of showings are up 10 times what it was in August."

Mr. Osher said.

But the increased interest hasn't translated to sales yet. According to the Elliman report, the number of new signed contracts on co-ops in Manhattan was still down 33 percent in September, compared to this time last year, and condo sales were down by 51 percent.

Brooklyn is a different story, as the number of new signed contracts in September slightly exceeded 2019 levels there.

"By no way still, shape or form are we seeing the strength that previous markets have shown. But the city is showing signs of recovery, and I'm cautiously optimistic that next spring will show robust numbers."

Sales in the suburbs are also plateauing, indicating that the outbound migration from the city may be waning. The number of new contracts signed for single-family homes and condos on Long Island, for example, was higher than 2019 levels, but the spike in sales seems to have topped out in mid-July and has been declining sharply since then.

Editor: Johnoy Harrison

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