NYC Multifamily Sales Volume Down 62% in Q1 as Slumping Rents & High Vacancy Rates Exacerbate Prior Slowdown

Key Takeaways:

  • After a rough 2020, Q1 2021 suggests depressed activity will continue for NYC multifamily
  • NYC sales volume remains below $1B for fourth consecutive quarter
  • Multifamily sales activity records year-over-year drop for 9th consecutive quarter
  • The city’s most expensive deal traded for a mere $22,875,000
  • Manhattan sales volume falls 70% Y-o-Y, closing only $277 million in multifamily sales
  • Brooklyn prices down across the board, average price per unit contracts $103K Y-o-Y
  • Bronx unit volume slashed by 60% Y-o-Y, only 329 units sold in Q1 2021
  • Down 9% Y-o-Y, Queens’ sales activity experiences least-sharpest rate of decline among the four boroughs

While 2020 was a year of massive change throughout the real estate industry, for the NYC multifamily sector, the downturn brought on by the pandemic was just another hit to an already cooled-down market.

First, the sweeping legislative changes of 2019 led to significant market fluctuations throughout that year. In particular, 32% fewer deals closed in 2019 as opposed to 2018, which fueled a 41% year-over-year (Y-o-Y) drop in the city’s overall sales volume. And, while 2019’s $6.79 billion sales volume was already a dramatic departure from 2018’s record $11.59 billion, 2020 closed with a mere $3.83 billion.

To put that figure into sharp context, Manhattan alone closed $3.61 billion in multifamily sales in 2019 — even during weakened market conditions. What’s more, the extreme slowdown of NYC’s multifamily sector is even more evident when considering monthly volumes, which have not surpassed $360 million since March of last year.

Citywide Sales Activity Drops for 9th Consecutive Quarter, Pandemic Exacerbates Slowdown

The hits taken in 2020 were especially painful for NYC’s multifamily landscape when comparing it to Q1 2020, which initially hinted at a possible recovery. Q1 2020’s $1.76 billion sales volume represented a 28% Y-o-Y increase, although sales activity was still trending down, with its 197 deals marking a 9% Y-o-Y drop. But, by Q2 2020, sales activity had slowed to a mere 96 transactions for a 51% Y-o-Y drop.

Now, a year later, Q1 2020 remains the strongest quarter by far in terms of sales — despite its contracting activity. In fact, Q1 2021 marked the ninth consecutive quarter in which sales activity contracted year-over-year. Specifically, Q1 2021 was down 20% Y-o-Y, closing 157 multifamily deals that comprised 169 buildings.

And, while the number of buildings sold in Q1 of this year was 29% lower than the same time last year, unit volume dropped at an even more significant rate of 48% Y-o-Y. More precisely, only 2,367 units traded in the first three months of 2021 — a far cry from the 4,543 sold in Q1 2019 and an even more dramatic drop when compared to the 7,857 sold in Q1 2018.

Pricing, too, continued to trend negatively, with the average price per unit contracting 21% Y-o-Y to slide to $318,704 in Q1 2021. At the same time, the average price per square foot declined 10% Y-o-Y, stabilizing at $400/sq. ft – the lowest Q1 price indicators since 2017. Then, in February 2021, both the average price per unit ($257,106) and the average price per square foot ($305) bottomed out, dropping to levels not seen in at least 50 months.

In the meantime, with sales and pricing indicators so depressed, the city’s multifamily sales volume was unavoidably reduced, as well, for a dramatic drop of 62% Y-o-Y. All in all, the city registered only $661 million in multifamily sales during the first three months of 2021, approaching historic low sales volumes. (Q2 2020 claimed that unfortunate distinction with a mere $450 million in sales.) By comparison, in Q1 2020, Brooklyn alone registered $571 million in multifamily sales, while Manhattan stood at $921 million.

Even the quarter’s top deals reflected the NYC multifamily sector’s struggle. For instance, Q1 2020’s most expensive deal fetched $380 million. Conversely, in Q1 2021, the city’s priciest deal traded for a mere $22,875,000. Inked in January, NYC’s most expensive multifamily sale involved two turn-of-the-century walk-ups in Greenwich Village: 140 W. 4th St. and 142 W. 4th St. Manhattan also claimed the city’s third- and fourth-priciest deals, as well, with the $21.5 million sale of 63 W. 104 St. in Manhattan Valley and the $18.1 million sale of 1414 York Ave. in Lenox Hill.

The second-priciest multifamily deal in Q1 went to Brooklyn with the $22.48 million sale of 689 Marcy Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Brooklyn also landed the fifth-most expensive transaction with the $15 million sale of 70 Prospect Park W. in Park Slope. Overall, the city’s five most expensive deals represented 15% of the total multifamily sales volume for Q1.

Manhattan Sales Volume Falls 70% Y-o-Y, Sales Activity Down 25% Y-o-Y

The Manhattan multifamily market — usually the hottest of the four boroughs — was hit the hardest by the pandemic. Here, the number of sales in Q1 2021 was down 25% Y-o-Y, with 39 deals closed in the first three months of the year as opposed to 52 during the same time period last year.

Moreover, the slowdown of Manhattan’s multifamily market was even more evident when looking at the number of buildings sold — 43 in Q1 2021 versus 76 in Q1 2020 for a 43% Y-o-Y drop — and the number of units traded: 780 at the start of 2021 versus 1,890 in the first three months of 2020.

That sharp drop in transactional activity was also starkly evident in Manhattan’s Q1 sales volume, which came in at a mere $277 million — 70% less than during the same period last year. Unsurprisingly, the average price per unit was also on the decline, contracting 22% Y-o-Y to close Q1 2021 at $446,451. The only positive change in multifamily indicators was observed in the borough’s average price per square foot, which ticked up 4% Y-o-Y to $634/sq. ft.

However, one aspect of the NYC multifamily market remained unchanged: Yet again, Manhattan was the location of the city’s top multifamily deal — even if the $22,875,000 price tag commanded by the two-building deal at 140 W. 4th St. and 142 W. 4th St. was a far cry from the borough’s typically much-pricier multifamily sales. Manhattan’s second- and third-most expensive deals were the $21.5 million sale of 63 W. 104th St. and the $18.1 million 1414 York Ave. Notably, these were also the third- and fourth-priciest deals recorded in NYC in Q1.

Brooklyn Prices Trend Down Across the Board, Average Price Per Unit Contracts $103K Y-o-Y

Brooklyn claimed some of the most expensive deals in the city, as well, with the $22.48 million sale of 689 Marcy Ave. and the $15 million sale of 70 Prospect Park W. ranking not only as the borough’s top two deals, but also as the second- and fifth-priciest in the city overall. Brooklyn’s top three was rounded out by the $8.6 million sale of 441 1st St., an eight-unit building in Park Slope.

Totaling $46.1 million, Brooklyn’s top three deals represented 19% of the borough’s total sales volume for Q1 2021. At $241 million, Brooklyn’s sales volume was 58% lower than year-ago figures, representing the second-steepest drop after Manhattan. That sharp drop was the result of contracting prices and depressed sales activity.

Specifically, Brooklyn saw 72 deals close in Q1 2021, just 14% less than in Q1 2020. Included in those sales were 78 buildings — only 10% fewer than in early 2020. However, the properties traded during the first three months of this year comprised 836 units as opposed to the 1,222 that changed hands in early 2020, resulting in a 32% Y-o-Y drop in the number of multifamily units traded in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, prices were on a downward slope, as well, with the average price per unit and per square foot both registering the sharpest rates of decline of all four boroughs. Specifically, Brooklyn’s $379 average price per square foot in the first quarter of this year was 21% lower than the first three months of 2020. Similarly, the average price per unit contracted at a slightly sharper rate of 24% Y-o-Y to stabilize at $330,618 — $103,000 less than in Q1 2020.

Queens Sales Activity & Volume Experience Least-Sharpest Rate of Decline Among the Four Boroughs

The Queens multifamily market fared somewhat better under the pandemic’s sustained pressure, closing 30 sales in Q1 2021 — just 9% fewer than in Q1 2020. However, multifamily deals targeted fewer buildings and fewer units during the first three months of this year than during the same timeframe last year. To be precise, 32 properties comprising 422 units changed hands here in Q1 2021, resulting in a 30% Y-o-Y drop in the number of buildings sold and a 32% Y-o-Y drop in the borough’s unit volume.

Pricing trends were on a downward slope here, too, with the average price per unit stabilizing at $210,755 — 19% lower than in Q1 2020 for a difference a of $50,000 per unit. Contracting 16% Y-o-Y, Queens’ average price per square foot closed Q1 at $271, a significant departure from the $400 per square foot that it commanded back in Q1 2019. Declining pricing trends, paired with the slowdown in sales activity, pulled the borough’s sales volume down 40% Y-o-Y — a significant contraction that, nevertheless, was the least-sharpest rate of decline among the four boroughs.

All in all, Queens closed Q1 of this year with $93,293,000 in multifamily sales, 42% of which was represented by the borough’s top three priciest deals. At $14.8 million, 12-26 30th Ave. in Old Astoria was the most expensive multifamily sale in Queens; followed by the $12.6 million sale of 62-82 Saunders St. in Rego Park; and 22-88 Mott Ave. in Far Rockaway, which changed owners for $12,035,000 back in early January.

Bronx Pricing Fairly Steady, but Sharp Decline in Sales Fuels 55% Y-o-Y Drop in Sales Volume

Pricing remained more stable in the Bronx, with the average price per square foot here declining just 3% Y-o-Y to hit $170. Likewise, the average price per unit ticked up 1% Y-o-Y, going from $154,999 in Q1 2020 to $156,112 in the first quarter of this year. But, transactional activity was nearly halved: The Bronx registered only 16 multifamily deals in Q1 of this year — 43% fewer than during the same time period last year.

Furthermore, those 16 deals comprised 16 buildings — 45% fewer than in Q1 2020. Here, too, investors seemed to have reoriented toward smaller properties, with the borough’s Q1 unit volume totaling a mere 329 units — 60% fewer than the same period last year. Along the same lines, the three most expensive multifamily sales in the Bronx totaled 143 units at the start of this year, as opposed to the 210 units that comprised the borough’s three priciest sales in Q1 2020.

Specifically, the Bronx’s top deals in Q1 2021 were the $10.8 million sale of 1971 Webster Ave., a 69-unit building in Fordham; followed by the $5,675,000 sale of the 49-unit  2775 Morris Ave. in Bedford Park; and the 25-unit 260 Brook Ave. in Mott Haven, which changed owners for $5 million. Totaling close to $21.5 million, the three priciest sales made up 44% of the borough’s total Q1 sales volume. Coming in at $49,275,000, the Bronx’s multifamily sales volume for Q1 2021 was 55% lower than the $110 million totaled in Q1 2020.


For this Q1 2021 multifamily snapshot, we considered all multifamily building sales registered through deeds between January 1 and March 31 in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, 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 sale prices 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 writes for both PropertyShark and CommercialEdge. Reach her at [email protected]