Manhattan real-estate sales just booked their worst first quarter since the financial crisis

Manhattan real-estate sales just booked their worst first quarter since the financial crisis

new york empire state building storm dark clouds

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Storm clouds pass over the top of the Empire State Building in New York, June 13, 2013.

  • Manhattan real-estate sales just had their slowest first quarter since the financial crisis.
  • A combination of new tax laws could be behind softer activity.
  • Experts expects slower activity over the next couple of years.

Manhattan real estate just had its slowest first quarter in a decade.

Sales slid 2.7% to the fewest since the period between January and March since 2009, according to a report released Tuesday by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, a brokerage company in New York City.

Total purchases in Manhattan fell for a sixth straight quarter to 2,121, a 12.8% year-over-year decline and more than 16% below the two-decade average.

The slowdown reflected softening activity in real-estate markets across the country. At the same time that lower mortgage rates could pull some Americans from the sidelines, new tax laws have reduced incentives for homeownership.


"We're still seeing the effects of uncertainty in the market and some potential buyers waiting that out," said Steven James, CEO of New York City, Douglas Elliman.

There were 6,673 units listed as of March, a nearly 9% increase from a year earlier. Inventory growth was the largest in studio and one-bedroom markets.

Real estate costs edged lower in the borough, with median sales prices falling 0.2% to $1,075,000. While apartment prices slipped, the report said, townhouse prices rose due to the increase in average sales size.

Jonathan Miller, chief executive of the real-estate-appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said he expects slower activity through at least 2020.

The overall housing market has been a soft spot in the US economy, which is expected to slow in the coming months. In Manhattan, potential buyers will also soon face one-tax on apartments that sell for more than $1 million.


"I don't see any short-term changes here," Miller said. "I do think that we have a year or two more of lower levels of sales. And with that comes more inventory and softer prices."