Inventory for Manhattan apartments reaches six year low: Report

This is a landmark building 305 Second Ave. in Manhattan. The units in the building, at one time rentals, are now condo conversions.
This is a landmark building 305 Second Ave. in Manhattan. The units in the building, at one time rentals, are now condo conversions. Photo Credit: Fox / Ron P. Jaffe

New Yorkers looking to celebrate spring by purchasing a new home in Manhattan might want to think twice. A report released Tuesday by the real estate group StreetEasy found that total inventory for available homes is at its lowest point in nearly six years with only 10,000 available units during the first quarter of 2014.

Coupled that with record-high median sales prices, which hit $900,000 in the first quarter, a 16.9% jump from the same period in 2013, and the picture looks dire for home hunters.”Buyers will have to act fast if they want an apartment because it will go away quickly and they should expect to pay either at the asking price or higher because of the competition,” said Alan Lightfeldt, a data scientist for StreetEasy.

The average sales price for Manhattan homes was $1.76 million in the first quarter of 2014, which was a 34% jump from the average price of $1.31 million last year. Manhattan inventory, which was at 11,551 available units last year, has seen a consistent year-over-year decline since 2010 when there were about 14,000 available units.

The neighborhoods that saw the sharpest inventory decrease over the last year were the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side and downtown Manhattan.

Lightfeldt said he couldn’t determine a specific factor behind the lack of available units in those areas. It’s unusual to not see more apartments listed during the spring and summer, he said. There is some relief in Central Harlem and Midtown West, Lightfeldt noted, as median sales prices in Central Harlem are close to $470,000 and $749,000 in Midtown West.

The trends in those neighborhoods imply they “could be friendly for first-time buyers,” Lightfeldt said.

Another Manhattan sales report released Tuesday by Douglas Elliman also painted a similar picture about the borough’s real estate. The average sales price in Manhattan jumped 30.9% from the first quarter of 2013 to the same period this year, increasing from $1.35 million to $1.77 million, according to the Elliman report..

Elliman CEO Dottie Herman said inventory remained flat and low between the first quarter of 2013 and this year, though there is some hope..

“Inventory will be up a little bit, but it won’t be significant” in the coming months, she predicted.

Although StreetEasy hasn’t conducted a citywide study on real estate prices and trends, Lightfeldt said that the lack of options in Manhattan have made plenty of home hunters seek out more affordable and available apartments in Brooklyn and Queens.

“There is intense interest in the Prospect Leffrets Gardens area and Prospect Park South in Brooklyn and Astoria,” he said.

Lightfeldt added his own batch of semi-good news, as well. “We are anticipating a pretty tough season for buyers . . . but if you look at trends historically there is a period of price stabilization or decreases after a surge,” he said.

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