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Pandemic real estate finds a delicate balance for Manhattan buyers

Photo via Getty Images

BY GRANT LANCASTER

The Manhattan real estate market has reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic in a way unlike other disasters, but it may take months to get a full picture from the time of crisis, an expert from real estate website UrbanDigs said.

Typically when the city’s real estate enters a rough patch, supply increases while demand decreases as buyers hold onto their money, said Noah Rosenblatt, founder and CEO of UrbanDigs. During the pandemic, however, the supply has dwindled and demand increased as buyers try to catch a good deal and sellers determine to wait out the crisis.

There are usually around 2,000 new listings in April, but right now the market is on track for closer to 250, Rosenblatt said. Many sellers think that the pandemic’s effect on the economy will pass and the federal stimulus money will help the economy rebound, he said.

For his part, Rosenblatt thinks that the pandemic’s effect will last longer, but that the worst is behind the city.

“We’re probably in the fourth or fifth inning,” Rosenblatt said. “But the first or second inning was way worse.”

One of the problems for market experts is that price discovery is very low, meaning that they will not get data on sales from March and April until September or August, Rosenblatt said. This makes it difficult to tell if buyers have been able to negotiate good deals during the pandemic.

The information Rosenblatt has suggests that some sales are happening at a discount, ranging wildly from 5%-25%, but not all. Sellers are holding onto their properties, either willingly or as a result of not being able to show their buildings to buyers, Rosenblatt said.

For buyers, the market right now is a balancing act – waiting until August or September, when numbers are reported, could mean missing out on deals, but how good these deals are is somewhat uncertain, Rosenblatt said.

“There’s no playbook for this,” Rosenblatt said.

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