Manhattan Real Estate Recovery Lags


The real estate market in New York City and its suburbs has seen huge changes during the pandemic. The near-total shutdown of the industry predictably put it on pause, but the reopening has sparked a booming, competitive seller’s market, at least in the suburbs. Manhattan is lagging, even in comparison to Brooklyn.

This week’s chart compares Manhattan’s recovery with that of the city’s suburbs using data drawn from a new type of monthly Elliman Report, compiled by Jonathan Miller, of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. Traditionally, total listings and final sales are reported — combining existing listings and new ones, and counting new sales based on closings, including homes signed into contract and removed from the market months prior. These new metrics from Elliman and Mr. Miller look at only the month’s new listings and new signed contracts, compared to a year ago. Explained Mr. Miller: “What properties are entering and leaving the market right now?”

Westchester’s recovery has been notable by this measure. Signed contracts during July 2020 were more than double the number in July 2019, and new listings were 68 percent higher. Long Island and Connecticut have similar tales to tell. In Brooklyn, not exactly a suburb, signed contracts and new listings were up for co-ops and condos compared to a year earlier, as were new contracts for single-family homes, by 130 percent.

Manhattan was a different story. Listings were up, but signed contracts were way down. “This is about mobility and wealth,” Mr. Miller said. Those who could afford it moved from Manhattan to a “co-primary” home, existing or newly purchased, many if not most holding on to their Manhattan pads. There has been far less inward migration.

Is Manhattan real estate going to suffer long-term? “I remember a similar discussion after 9/11,” said Mr. Miller. “Cities are bad, you’re more vulnerable. That lasted three years.” But if working from home becomes the norm, he suggested, more office buildings and apartments could remain vacant for a lot longer.


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