Manhattan property investment performance

Posted by Wei Min Tan on January 3, 2019

Manhattan property investment performance from 1997 to the most recent Q4’2018 shows that price per square foot increased from $480 to $2,152 during the 19 year period.   

Property downturns

There were two downturns during this period and those were during the recession of 2009/2010 and the current correction from Q4’2017 through Q4’2018 which was driven by changes in the tax law, uncertainty from global trade wars and rising interest rates.  In 2009 and 2010, prices were down by 12 percent and 4 percent respectively. In context, the rest of the U.S. went down by 35 percent during the 2009 recession.  From 2017 to Q4’2018, price per sqft was flat while transaction volume in Q4’2018 decreased 13 percent.  

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Manhattan investment performance over time

The average appreciation per year during the 19 years is 8 percent, which is a very healthy return.  Since property is often purchased with leverage, an 8 percent appreciation can be leveraged to twice or 3X that return depending on the equity invested in the property and financing used.


Graph Data:  Miller Samuel

Rental yield

The current rental yield for a Manhattan condominium is around 2.5 percent.  This is based on the gross rents less common charges and property taxes as a percentage of property price.  An analysis by Streeteasy talks about this rental yield.  Meanwhile, Bloomberg has an article that says Manhattan condos barely yield more than government treasuries.


Manhattan property is for stability, not yield.

The reason investors globally invest in a Manhattan condo is for the stable appreciation and not for the rental yield.  “Barely yielding more than treasuries” (the Bloomberg article) is not a good comparison because treasuries do not appreciate like Manhattan property.  A lot of safe and liquid investments would yield more than a Manhattan condo. For example, savings accounts in certain countries or stock dividends can easily exceed 3 percent in yield.


Global investors buy Manhattan condos for portfolio diversification.  Manhattan and London have the most desirable property in the world. In Manhattan, merely 10 percent of housing units are condominiums which partly explains the consistent appreciation.  Seventy percent of housing inventory comprise of rental buildings and the other 20 percent are Cooperatives (which are not investor friendly).


Investors buy a Manhattan condo property for asset diversification, preservation and as a badge of pride in owning a piece of Manhattan.  


Manhattan property prices appreciate with inflation

The appreciation in Manhattan is driven by inflation.  About 40 percent of the CPI (inflation) index is attributed to housing cost.  Prices increase because of inflation (labor and material costs go up over time).  In Manhattan, appreciation is not because of speculative activity. In fact, investors make up only about 30 percent of buyers in Manhattan.


When clients ask whether Manhattan is at its “peak,” I answer that as long as there is inflation, there can never be a peak.  Having a ceiling to property prices is like saying prices of goods and services must have a ceiling as well. We all remember how much goods, services and property costed 20 or 30 years ago and know what the same items cost now.  


Key is getting the right property

While the above are market-wide trends, the investor buyer needs to select the right apartment in the right building in the right location.  This is where local expertise becomes critical.


We serve global investors who are buying Manhattan condominiums to rent out and we track every condo building in Manhattan.  The analysis on which is a good buy goes into the micro level details such as which apartment line is more desirable, has a view, has a “wow” factor etc.  These are the details that play a very important role in the long term investment performance of a Manhattan property.




Related Articles:

Foreign buyer guide to New York property

How to invest in Manhattan property for maximum profits

Best Manhattan property agents


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Wei Min Tan is a property broker focusing on Manhattan, New York luxury condominiums and foreign buyers. He is often interviewed by the media including CNN, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on the subject of foreign buyers of Manhattan property.