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Manhattan luxury-home buyers are back, lured by deep discounts

New York

CONTRACTS to buy Manhattan luxury homes are faring well even in the pandemic, with more deals signed in the past three months than in the same period last year.

There were 227 contracts for homes priced at US$4 million or more from Sept 1 to Dec 6, showed a report on Monday by brokerage Olshan Realty. A year ago, there were 219.

Rising stock portfolios and deep discounts on some of Manhattan's most exclusive homes are luring buyers back to the luxury market, even as New York remains largely shuttered due to Covid-19. Low mortgage rates are an added motivator, along with consumer optimism that vaccines will be available soon, said the report.

"Many of the buyers are New Yorkers, who obviously believe in the city's eventual recovery," Donna Olshan, president of the luxury brokerage, wrote in the report.

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Last week's biggest deal was a resale of a 58th-floor condo at One57, the Billionaires' Row tower that touched off Manhattan's luxurydevelopment boom a decade ago. The 416-square-metre apartment, on the market since March, was last listed at US$22.25 million.

That is at least 35 per cent less than what the seller paid in 2014, though the actual sale price would not be known until the deal closes.

"It's a tough deal for the seller, but a great deal on the buy side," Ryan Serhant, the broker representing the purchaser, said in Olshan's report.

Last week's second-biggest contract was for a full-floor unit at the Benson, a condo project under construction on Madison Avenue near 80th Street on the Upper East Side. The 15th-storey apartment found a buyer who agreed to pay the full asking price of US$14.15 million, said Miki Naftali, chief executive officer of the developer, Naftali Group.

Sales started at the Benson in September, just as well-heeled buyers who had retreated to country homes across the Untied States were starting to become interested again in city living, he said.

"I hear from more and more people who moved to the Hamptons, Connecticut or New Jersey, that they are eager to come back," Mr Naftali said. "Some of them are starting to be bored where they live."

Others coming to look at the project are people who at last were able to sell their lavish homes in suburbs like Greenwich, Connecticut, and are free to make the move to Manhattan, he said.

Including last week's deal, four of the Benson's 15 units have gone into contract - all at the asking price, including a penthouse listed at US$35 million, Mr Naftali said.

In the same three-month period in 2018, there were 260 signed deals at US$4 million or more, Olshan's data showed. In 2017, there were 308. BLOOMBERG

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