Clients of mine are looking for preferably a four-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I accompanied them this past weekend to look at some 11 candidates.
They would have seen more, but two or three of the ones that interested them became unavailable virtually overnight.
One had a Sunday open house canceled because a contract for it was signed on Friday. The seven-room condo (below) had been on the market for all of three weeks at an asking price of $3.1 million.
Another apartment that they were eager to assess was just listed at $2.35 million and had a two-hour open house scheduled on both Saturday and Sunday by appointment only. A total of 16 prospective buyers were able to sign up for a 15-minute increment almost immediately, and another 35 – 35! – will have to wait until after Feb. 14 to see the place. (The broker assured me no decisions will be made until everyone has had that opportunity.)
Of the apartments we saw yesterday, maybe half were overpriced, some by as much as 20 percent in my estimation. You won’t have to hurry to make an offer for them because they surely will linger on the market.
One we visited in a recently completed condominium was offered at around $3.3 million, and the broker let me know that it might go for as little as $2.7 million. A couple of years ago in our overheated market, big apartments found buyers about as quickly gluttons empty platters of shrimp at a cocktail party–there was hardly anything left to show. Last year, such listings were like a forlorn wedge of Limburger cheese at that same party–everyone turned up their noses at that food.
I got to wondering whether we were experiencing an anomalous situation or the beginning of a trend. So I did an embarrassingly crude and limited analysis of the broker database, OLR. (Please bear in mind that rare is the broker who changes a listing to “contract signed” within the 24-hour time period mandated by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).)
In the 90 days ending Saturday, there have been 120 active listings on the Upper West Side of at least three-bedroom apartments with asking prices between $1.5 million and $4 million. Eighty-four properties were under contract in that period, 70 percent of the active number.
In the past 30 days, active listings amounted to 114, and the number of signed contracts was 83, or 73 percent.
In the past seven days, there were 97 active listings and 74 under contract, or 76 percent.
And in the past three days, again ending Saturday, the number of active listings fell to 88, the number of apartments under contract was 69, and the proportion under contract went up to 78 percent.
Heavens knows I’m no mathematician, and my analysis may well prove so.
I’ve belatedly learned that New York magazine also looked at sales activity. It reported the following:
“According to Streeteasy.com, 122 Manhattan properties priced between $1.5 million and $5 million went into contract between December 15 and January 15, up 171 percent from the same period a year ago.
“’It’s surprising, given the current climate,’” acknowledges Sofia Song, the site’s vice-president of research. ‘But with these bonuses, you get a larger pool of buyers for this price range.’
“The sweet spot? Between $2 million and $3 million, which accounts for more than a third of those contracts.”
It seems to me that the steadily declining number of active listings of big apartments along with the steadily rising percentage of those under contract on just the Upper West Side suggests a trend and supports the anecdotal evidence that my clients and I have observed.
Those apartments are disappearing at a surprising rate, which is far from headlong but may be telling. And whether the same phenomenon is occurring with condos and co-ops of all sizes, I can’t say that I either examined their numbers closely or outside the Upper West Side, though inventory is low, low, low at all price points everywhere, and those Streeteasy numbers are compelling.
Time to lace up those running shoes if a big and rationally priced apartment is in your sights? Perhaps so.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022