Luxury Manhattan Real Estate Could Fall Another 50% - Barron's

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Includes: ICF, IYR
by: Judy Weil

Even Barron’s, which forecast in November a New York real estate decline, seems surprised by the velocity of NYC’s luxury market crash. Sales were down 40% while prices declined 20% in Q408. Look out, says Barron’s Leslie P. Norton: High end NYC apartments and townhouses could fall by another 30%-50% and recovery will be protracted.

Two years into a nationwide downturn, NY is just starting to feel housing pain. Yet feel it it is as the city faces a perfect storm of harder-to-get “super-jumbo” ($650K+) loans, higher down payment and credit score requirements, disappearing Wall St. jobs and a glut of condo conversions. Purported housing bubble inflators such as foreign buyers and hedge fund managers have retreated. Even the merely affluent are feeling stock market shock.

The average Manhattan apartment still costs $1.6 million, while top apartments are going for as high as $65-80 million. Yet high-end inventory rose 65% in Q408 even as ultra luxe residential projects like the refurbished Plaza Hotel cut prices. Condo conversions city-wide are barely selling.

Manhattan 'burbs offered no shelter: Greenwich, Conn. and Westchester, NY, for example, saw a 30%+ drop in sales.

Housing expert Ivy Zelman says NY’s housing bubble was particularly frothy. Zelman foresees a 46% decline before prices become “normalized” again. Goldman Sachs predicts condo price declines of 35%-44%.

True that once-in-a-lifetime deals like Brooke Astor’s $46 million penthouse can now be had for $29 million, but how much less will that be in 2009? Buyer beware.

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Nick Gogerty figures out that a reversion to the mean could cause Manhattan real estate prices to decline by 60% within 12-18 months.