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Key Takeaways:

  • Multifamily sales volume dives 41% Y-o-Y across the four boroughs.
  • Manhattan prices accelerate; price per unit up 22% Y-o-Y.
  • Queens loses 60% of its sales volume Y-o-Y after strong 2018.
  • Bronx sales activity down 37%, inking a mere 155 deals.
  • Brooklyn sales volume halved, transactional activity down 32% Y-o-Y.
Graph of multifamily sales volume and sales activity in NYC between 2017 and 2019

As a blue wave swept the New York legislature in the fall of 2018, unease swept through New York City’s real estate landscape, especially in the multifamily industry.

Summarizing the situation for PropertyShark at the time, Greg Corbin, executive managing director at Besen Associates, said: “The slowdown in investment sales transactions has been a product of the perfect storm: rising interest rates, concern about new rent regulation laws and fear that the near decade-long bull market has reversed.”

It turned out that 2019 truly was a year of significant legislative changes for the NYC real estate market; keep reading for a look at the 2019 NYC multifamily market, specifically in the context of wider shifting trends.

2019 Multifamily Sales Volume $4.8 Billion Short of 2018 Figures

To put it bluntly, the NYC multifamily market shifted from bull to bear in 2019. After analyzing all arm’s length multifamily sales recorded in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, it became profoundly clear that the market has cooled. In particular, a total of 828 transactions went through in 2019 – a 32% drop compared to the year before.

That contraction also marked an increased deceleration of transactional activity for NYC multifamily assets after 2018’s sales activity came in 5% below 2017 figures. This was not a surprise, considering that, in 2018, eight months posted significant year-over-year contractions in multifamily sales, four of which were  double digits.

Graph of monthly figures for NYC Multifamily Sales Volume and Sales Activity 2018-2019

But, it’s not just that fewer multifamily properties changed hands; the decreased number of deals also seems to have targeted smaller assets. While the number of sales dropped 32% year-over-year, unit volume was effectively halved, dropping an astounding 48% compared to the year before. In particular, only 18,933 units experienced a change in ownership last year, as opposed to the 36,685 that were exchanged in 2018.

Despite sustained price growth, the reduction in units traded compounded by depressed transactional activity caused multifamily sales volume to come in just shy of $6.8 billion in the four boroughs in 2019 – a far cry from the previous year’s $11.6 billion or even 2017’s $9 billion total.

That price growth meant that, for four boroughs, the average price per unit rose 14% year-over-year in 2018 and 9% last year, resulting in a $420,140 average price per unit in 2019. The average price per square foot also continued to strengthen, albeit at a slower pace. While 2018 brought a 14% year-over-year increase, 2019 inched up at a more modest 6% to stabilize at $489 per square foot.

Manhattan Multifamily Hits $902 Per Square Foot as Sales Activity Falls 40%

As the borough with consistently the largest sales volume, the deceleration of transactional activity in the NYC multifamily market hit Manhattan the hardest in terms of actual dollar volume, effectively erasing the growth (and then some) registered in 2018.

Specifically, Manhattan closed $3.63 billion in multifamily sales in 2019 – a 36% contraction compared to 2018. While that rate of contraction was outpaced by both Brooklyn and Queens – which saw their respective sales volumes plunge 49% and 60%, respectively – in terms of actual dollars, Manhattan registered $2 billion less in sales last year than in 2018. That 36% year-over-year drop means Manhattan’s sales volume in 2019 was nearly half a billion under 2017’s $4.18 billion.

While Manhattan’s sales volume didn’t contract at the sharpest rate in NYC, its sales activity did see the sharpest decline at 40% year-over-yearhe borough recorded 218 multifamily deals in 2019 – well below the previous year’s 365 transactions and 2017’s 312 sales.

Graph of multifamily sales volume and activity in Manhattan between 2017 and 2019

Nevertheless, despite decreased transactional activity, Manhattan multifamily prices gained steam. As expected, Manhattan commanded the highest price per square foot in NYC, reaching $902 in 2019. While the price per square foot creeped up a mere 2% in 2018, that metric jumped 16% last year. As a result, Manhattan was more than twice as expensive as runner-up Brooklyn, which logged $405 per square foot.

At the same time, the price per unit rose at an even sharper rate. While the borough’s price per unit in 2018 increased at a near-negligible 1% over 2017 figures (a gain of about $7,000/unit), 2019 claimed a noteworthy 22% year-over-year gain. As a result, the average price per multifamily unit in Manhattan stabilized at $782,845 – the highest in the four boroughs, and more than twice that of Brooklyn, which commanded the second-highest price at $353,523 per unit.

Graph of monthly figures for NYC Multifamily Price per Square Foot 2018-2019

Overall, Manhattan was the sole borough where multifamily pricing metrics – both per unit and per square foot – experienced double-digit gains. For comparison, neither Brooklyn, nor the Bronx, nor Queens managed to improve either of their pricing metrics by more than 6%. In fact, price gains in the other three boroughs hovered around 3% year-over-year.

Considering the prices commanded by Manhattan multifamily assets, it should come as no surprise that the borough’s top three priciest deals in 2019 were also the most expensive multifamily transaction registered in NYC. The ultimate leader was a stunning, $796.3 million, four-property package deal inked in October, which included 1309 Fifth Avenue, 1962 1st Avenue, 1940 1st Avenue and 1990 Lexington Avenue.

Manhattan’s and NYC’s second-priciest transaction was the $237.5 million sale 796 Avenue of the Americas, recorded back in April, followed by the $159.5 million sale of 220 East 72nd Street, recorded in July. All in all, the three top deals represented one-third of the borough’s annual sales volume.

Brooklyn Multifamily Sales Volume Halved, Sales Activity Down One-Third

When it came to pricey multifamily deals, Brooklyn was second only to Manhattan. The borough’s top deal was the $130.4 million sale of 88 Richardson Street in February 2019, followed by the mid-year sale of 564 St. Johns Place, with the Crown Heights property selling for $117 million. The property at 39 Waverly Avenue rounded out the borough’s top sales, trading hands at $67.25 million to become November’s priciest multifamily deal in the city.  

While Brooklyn’s top multifamily deals may have fetched attractive prices, these three properties accounted for more than one-fifth of the borough’s sales volume for 2019, which totaled $1.65 billion. While that figure was the second-largest sales volume among the four boroughs, it also represented a stunning 49% year-over-year drop and was $850 million below its 2017 figures.  

Graph of multifamily sales volume and activity in Brooklyn between 2017 and 2019

Sales activity in the borough also took a hit last year, closing 32% fewer multifamily deals than the previous year. This marked the second consecutive year in which transactional activity trended decidedly downward in the borough – Brooklyn saw 19% fewer deals close in 2018 than 2017. As a result, last year saw 301 multifamily deals registered, compared to 550 in 2017.

Pricing was the only area of positive growth in the borough; Brooklyn had the second-sharpest price gains for multifamily assets in the city. However, its growth was nowhere near Manhattan’s double-digit growth; Brooklyn’s 4% year-over-year gain brought the price per square foot in the borough to $405 – less than half of what Manhattan commanded last year.

The borough’s price per unit grew at a slightly livelier pace of 6% year-over-year, bringing Brooklyn’s price per multifamily unit to $352,523. That figure was the second highest in the city, but still less than half of Manhattan’s.

Bronx Sales Volume Outpaces Queens, Which Crashes 60% Y-o-Y

While 2019’s shifting market conditions continued to put downward pressure on the Bronx, sales in the Queens multifamily market crashed. Specifically, although 2019 marked the second consecutive year in which sales volume trended downward in the Bronx, its 21% year-over-year loss doesn’t even compare to Queens’ 60% year-over-year freefall.

So, while the Bronx’s sales volume contracted 12% in 2018, posting an annual volume of $1.13 billion, Queens surged 55%, accelerating to an annual $1.54 billion – of course, this also influenced the large contractions registered in 2019. In fact, in 2019, both boroughs came in below their 2017 sales volume figures, with the Bronx posting a 2019 total sales volume of $890 million, Queens lagged behind at a mere $623 million.

Graph of multifamily sales volume and activity in Queens between 2017 and 2019

Of that $623 million annual sales volume, about 21% was represented by  Queens’ top three priciest transactions. The most expensive multifamily deal last year in Queens was the $47 million sale of 41-15 29th Street, with the Long Island City asset ranking as NYC’s third-priciest transaction in November. Fetching $42.5 million in June, Flushing’s 14030 Ash Avenue was the borough’s second-most expensive transaction, followed closely by the $40.4 million sale of fellow Flushing property 13327 39th Avenue.

The Bronx, too, owed about one-fifth of its $890 million total sales volume to its top three multifamily deals, all of which were recorded in April. Its number one deal was the $87.9 million sale of 2001 Story Avenue, followed by 3240 Henry Hudson Parkway, which traded hands for nearly $35.6 million. The borough’s third-most expensive sale was a two-property deal for $29 million that included 708-710 East 243rd Street and 740 East 243rd Street.

Graph of multifamily sales volume and activity in the Bronx between 2017 and 2019

While the Bronx multifamily market is usually more active than that of Queens, the two almost tied when it came to sales activity in 2019. In particular, Queens had 154 multifamily sales in 2019 – down 9% year-over-year – after experiencing a 6% contraction in sales activity in 2018.

Sales activity in the Bronx, however, dropped at a much sharper rate, with 37% fewer deals signed last year than in 2018. Its 1% sales activity contraction in 2018 was negligible, translating to only two fewer deals. But, the 155 multifamily transactions signed last year in the Bronx were a glaring departure from the 249 sales registered two years prior.

Graph of multifamily sales volume and activity in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens between 2017 and 2019

Additionally, when it came to pricing metrics, both boroughs experienced rather modest gains. The price per unit for Queens multifamily gained 3% year-over-year, – closing 2019 at $277,929 while the price per square foot went up only 2% year-over-year, reaching $363 per square foot.

The Bronx, of course, posted the lowest pricing figures. Here, the price per square foot gained a negligible 1%, which translated to a mere $2 per square foot increase. As such, the Bronx closed 2019 at $200 per square foot, while the price per unit crept up 4% to reach $180,673 per unit.

Methodology

For our 2019 annual multifamily snapshot, we took into consideration all multifamily building sales registered through deeds between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2019, in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. All sales were counted for the month they were registered in.

All deals between related parties were excluded, and all deals included in our report were verified to be arm’s length transactions. Properties with fewer than five units were also excluded, as were deals with a sale price of less than $100,000.

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. Eliza also writes for CommercialEdge. Reach her at [email protected]