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

Sales 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.

dining room in 1136 Fifth Avenue, Apt 5C manhattan new york city

Found within a Carnegie Hill co-op across from Central Park, this well-maintained two-bedroom residence is on the market for $2.695 million. (Warburg Realty)

Some New York City agents attribute the uptick in contract activity to softening expectations among previously-stubborn homesellers. 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 sellers realize buyers in this market are willing to pay a premium to get it.

living room tribeca apartment new york city 25 Murray Street, 4K

This south-facing Tribeca loft features high ceilings and exposed brickwork. Asking price: $1.925 million. (Warburg Realty)

“The pandemic has sharpened everyone’s focus on what’s important. Real estate ‘wants’ have now become real estate ‘needs’,” she said. “Buyers now want to buy and settle down. So, 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.

living room in 130 East 67th Street, 3C new york city manhattan apartment

Priced at $2.995 million, this prewar co-op residence has been updated with herringbone-patterned floors, gallery walls and a new kitchen. (Warburg Realty)

“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.


Neal is the Chief Content Officer at Forbes Global Properties. A content strategist with more than a decade of experience in the sports, entertainment and real estate spaces he previously launched a sports real estate column and chronicled L.A.’s biggest home sales for the Los Angeles Times' award-winning “Hot Property” section.

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