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Analyzing 2019 sales activity in the NYC residential market’s most exclusive segment

Key Takeaways:

  • June sales activity surged 185% month-over-month, inking 262 deals above $5 million.
  • H2 2019 recorded lower transactional activity than the single month of June, as the new mansion tax took hold.
  • TriBeCa was the #1 neighborhood for ultra-luxury sales, claiming 14% of all NYC deals.
  • Central Park South was the most expensive neighborhood for ultra-luxury deals with a $23.7M median.

New York City’s luxury residential market was defined by legislative changes in 2019. In particular, the new progressive mansion tax and the new transfer tax on million-dollar home sales that went into effect on July 1 had a profound impact on the local residential market overall – and especially on the highest-priced segments of the market.

Moreover, the effect of the July legislative changes was further compounded by the ongoing contraction of this market segment, which has trended toward negative growth in transactional activity in the past 3 years.

Mansion Tax Heats Up Q2 Luxury Sales & Slows Q3 Sales Activity

Considering NYC real estate prices, the effect of the mansion tax was immediate. In fact, Q3 2019 was the first time that Manhattan’s median sale price fell below $1 million since the last quarter of 2016. By comparison, Q2 2019 posted an all-time high median sale price of $1,340,361 – which was majorly influenced by a forceful push by both buyers and sellers to fast-track deals in the second quarter in advance of the regulatory changes.

As such, when looking at NYC’s ultra-luxury residential segment (homes priced $5 million and above), June was an explosive month for sales, with 262 deals signed, representing 31% of city-wide sales activity for the entire year. July stood at the other end of spectrum, with only 35 ultra-luxury deals inked, representing a mere 4% of 2019’s total sales activity in this market segment.

Likewise, monthly sales data from the city’s ultra-luxury residential segment (homes sales priced at $5 million and above) in 2019 shows a very clear uptick in activity in the months leading up to July 1, when the new progressive mansion tax was scheduled to take effect. Specifically, April saw 73 deals signed city-wide – 24% more than March – while May sales activity was 26% higher than April.

Then, June sales activity surged off the charts with 262 deals closed above the $5 million mark. That represented an astonishing 185% month-over-month surge in transactional activity as buyers rushed in to avoid the new sales tax and anxious sellers looked to divest properties in what has become a buyer’s market, especially as the expectation is that market forces will push owners to swallow the cost of additional taxation by factoring it into the listing price.

As the new legislation went into effect, the ultra-luxury residential market almost came to a halt with only 35 deals inked in July, a whopping 87% month-over-month plunge in sales activity. While the market rebounded somewhat in subsequent months, sales activity between August and November remained well below its Q1 levels, closing between 40 and 46 transactions per month.

In the second half of 2019, December was the most active with 50 deals signed, marking the first month that was more in line with Q1 transactional activity. However, it’s worth noting that fewer deals above $5 million were closed in the entire second half of 2019 than in the single month of June – 257 sales between July and December compared to 262 in June.  

Since 2016 Peak, Manhattan Ultra-Luxury Sales Continue Downward Trend

However, the slowdown in ultra-luxury sales activity isn’t completely new; it’s been an ongoing trend in NYC for several years now. The Manhattan ultra-luxury market – which accounts for the overwhelming majority of city-wide sales – experienced a steady growth cycle between 2009 and 2016.

In 2009, as the recession took full hold, only 325 residential deals closed at more than $5 million. Subsequently, each year leading up to 2016 saw an increase in ultra-luxury transactional activity; the exception was 2011, when four fewer deals were signed than the previous year, marking a negligible .8% contraction in sales activity.

Eventually, the ultra-luxury market peaked in 2016, recording 1,114 sales in Manhattan. Since then, the market has been steadily decreasing, with 2018 sales activity contracting 17% year-over-year and 2019 coming in 6% below 2018 figures. As the year unfolds, it remains to be seen how the market will adjust to the recent legislative changes in the context of this ongoing market contraction.

Cobble Hill Is Brooklyn’s Most Expensive Ultra-Luxury Submarket, Brooklyn Heights Most Active

Breaking down ultra-luxury transactional activity to the neighborhood level, it becomes clear that there are really only two NYC boroughs in terms of this residential market segment: Manhattan and Brooklyn. And Manhattan dominates to an overwhelming degree, inking 820 of the city’s total 847 sales closed at $5 million or above – a 97% market share. The remaining 27 deals were closed in increasingly pricey Brooklyn.

Brooklyn’s foray into the ultra-luxury market meant that 10 of its neighborhoods registered residential sales with price tags of at least $5 million; in fact, seven of these neighborhoods recorded only one such deal in 2019. Midwood noted two such transactions, Cobble Hill had eight and Brooklyn Heights became the borough’s most active submarket with 10 ultra-luxury sales in 2019.

As a result, Brooklyn’s borough-wide median sales price for ultra-luxury residential assets in 2019 was $6,104,409. Brooklyn Heights’ median for this asset class closed 2019 at $6,325,000, while Cobble Hill’s ultra-luxury median was $6,440,500, making these two Brooklyn neighborhoods the #20 and #18 priciest ultra-luxury submarkets in NYC, respectively.

TriBeCa Is Most Active Ultra-Luxury Submarket with 14% of NYC Sales; Lenox Hill Closes In with 13%

As expected, Manhattan was the setting for the overwhelming majority of the city’s ultra-luxury residential sales, claiming 97% of its total sales activity. Specifically, 31 Manhattan neighborhoods recorded residential sales of $5 million or more, 17 of which logged 10 or more deals in this price range.

Although TriBeCa was dethroned by Hudson Yards in 2019 as the most expensive NYC neighborhood when taking into account all residential transactions, TriBeCa remained miles ahead of its upstart rival as the most active neighborhood for ultra-luxury sales in NYC, recording 120 of the city’s total 847 sales – a whopping 14% market share. Not only that, but the median sale price for ultra-luxury homes in TriBeCa was $7,950,000 in 2019 – nearly $1 million higher than Hudson Yards’ ultra-luxury median of $7,004,719.

Lenox Hill followed with 106 deals priced over $5 million to claim 13% of the city’s most exclusive residential deals; it also had the third-highest median for this asset class at $9,237,500. The Upper West Side completed the podium as the setting for 9% of all NYC ultra-luxury sales with 79 deals closed above $5 million; its ultra-luxury median came in just below Hudson Yards at $6,978,763.

Billionaire’s Row Lives Up to Its Name with a $26 Million Median for Ultra-Luxury Sales

Looking beyond the three most active neighborhoods for ultra-luxury residential sales, Carnegie Hill came in at #4 with 67 deals – and an $8 million median. But, if we were to treat Billionaire’s Row as its own neighborhood, it would claim Carnegie Hill’s spot with 69 sales. Moreover, Billionaire’s Row would be the most expensive ultra-luxury submarket with a jaw-dropping $26 million median sale price for this asset class.

As things stand with the city’s established neighborhoods, when it comes to sky-high prices, Central Park South commanded the most exclusive prices, posting a $23,725,225 median sale price for ultra-luxury homes from 53 deals closed in 2019. It was followed at a very comfortable distance by Central Midtown – which closed 23 sales greater than $5 million last year for a $17 million median sale price – and Lenox Hill’s $9,237,500 median.

Check out the table below for NYC’s top neighborhoods for ultra-luxury sales in 2019:

NeighborhoodBoroughNumber of Ultra-Luxury SalesMedian Sale Price for Ultra-Luxury Homes
TriBeCaManhattan120$7,950,000
Lenox HillManhattan106$9,237,500
Upper West SideManhattan79$6,978,763
Carnegie HillManhattan67$8,000,000
Central Park SouthManhattan53$23,725,225
Hudson YardsManhattan47$7,004,719
Lincoln SquareManhattan47$6,600,000
Greenwich VillageManhattan43$9,000,000
West VillageManhattan37$8,000,000
ChelseaManhattan31$6,400,000
SoHoManhattan26$6,707,500
Gramercy ParkManhattan26$5,717,500
Central MidtownManhattan23$17,000,000
NoMadManhattan17$6,650,000
Hudson SquareManhattan16$6,950,000
YorkvilleManhattan13$5,650,000
Brooklyn HeightsBrooklyn10$6,325,000
Turtle BayManhattan9$6,000,000
Flatiron DistrictManhattan8$7,675,000
NoHoManhattan8$6,900,000
Cobble HillBrooklyn8$6,440,500
Financial DistrictManhattan8$5,795,834
NoLiTaManhattan7$7,070,000
East VillageManhattan7$6,600,000

Methodology

To determine the most active ultra-luxury residential submarkets in New York City, we analyzed all residential transactions above $5,000,000 that closed between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019. We took into account condo, co-ops, and single- and two-family home sales. All package deals were excluded.

For an accurate representation, we calculated the median sale price of ultra-luxury residential properties only in neighborhoods that registered a minimum of five such transactions outside of package deals.

When compiling the month-by-month evolution of ultra-luxury sales, transactions were included in the monthly stats of the month in which the deals were signed.

We defined Billionaire’s Row as 220 Central Park South, 432 Park Avenue, 520 Park Avenue and 157 West 57th Street, as 252 East 57th Street, 111 West 57th Street, 225 West 57th Street and 53 West 53rd Street had no ACRIS-registered transactions in 2019.

Eliza Theiss

Eliza Theiss

Eliza Theiss is a senior writer reporting real estate trends in the US. Her work has been cited by CBS News, Curbed, The Los Angeles Times, and Forbes among others. With an academic background in journalism, Eliza has been covering real estate since 2012. Before joining PropertyShark, Eliza was an associate editor at Multi-Housing News and Commercial Property Executive. Reach her at [email protected]