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Manhattan Real Estate: Signed Contracts Spike In March As Buyer Focus Sharpens

Sale contract volume in Manhattan hit its highest monthly pace in more than a decade in March, but even as homebuyers continue to move swiftly, brokers say there are still deals to be had.

As of last week, there were 878 contracts signed month-to-date, which represents the highest monthly pace seen in Manhattan since March 2007, according to a report from real estate data provider UrbanDigs. Newly signed contracts grew 148.5% week-over-week (from 304 to 328), while new listings increased by over 200%, jumping from 403 to 455.

After an overall decline in sales volume last year due to COVID-19, Manhattan’s housing market is ramping up to active-season levels, thanks primarily in part to a homebuyer pool with lots of options, good negotiating power and lower mortgage rates.

Some New York City agents attribute the uptick in contract activity to softening expectations among previously-stubborn homebuyers. Specifically, Manhattan sellers who waited out 2020 in hopes of a rebound recognize that they want to capitalize on the market activity, according to Mihal Gartenberg, an agent with Warburg Realty.

“Most sellers, at this point, recognize that they want to sell while buyers are buying,” Gartenberg said. “There are buyer’s markets without any momentum, and we went through that a year ago. Now, sellers want to cash out and move on.”

As for buyers, Gartenberg said that a year of living in lockdown has given many a clear picture of what they want in a home, and many are willing to pay a premium to get it.

“The pandemic has sharpened everyone’s focus on what’s important. Real estate ‘wants’ have now become real estate ‘needs’,” she said. “If someone needs an extra bedroom, they are no longer in the market to quibble over 2015 prices — they, too, want to move on.”

But for every Manhattan seller wanting to cash out and move on, there’s a seller digging in their heels, according to Rowena Dasgupta of Warburg Realty.

Dasgupta said that sellers who were slow to adjust to the market conditions during the pandemic are the same ones buoyed to the idea that positive headlines touting market recovery will yield desired price improvements.

“Some of this is pure psychology for sellers who have taken the view that since New York City is coming back, then prices should firm,” she said. “It’s a pretty binary thought process, but understandable.”

In Manhattan’s rental market, the average daily pace of signed leases for March 2021 saw a slight decline week-over-week (135 per day) but remained near active-season levels of around 140-150 per day, according to UrbanDigs. The number of new rentals fell slightly week-over-week (745 to 735) but were up 89.9% year-over—a figure likely attributed to the pandemic.


Warburg Realty is an exclusive member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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