Manhattan property investment performance

Posted by Wei Min Tan on July 10, 2020

Manhattan property investment performance from 1999 to the most recent Q2’2020 shows that price per square foot increased from $480 to $2,014 during the 21 year period.


Property downturns 

There were two downturns during this period and those were during the recession of 2009/2010 and the correction from Q2’2017 through 2019 which was driven by changes in tax laws, uncertainty from global trade wars and ultimately, the down cycle typical after an up cycle (2011-2017).  


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. 


Manhattan experienced a correction from mid 2017 through Q4’2019 during which price per sqft of condos was down 4 percent between 2017 to 2018 but went up 2 percent between 2018 to 2019.  But it was sales volume that was down significantly. 




Read about Wei Min’s style in Best Manhattan property agents and Role of a buyer’s broker

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Coronavirus 2020

In Q1 2020, the market can be divided into pre-March 15 and after March 15.  Up to March 15, it seemed like we were starting a market recovery as evidenced by a sales transactions increase of 19.2 percent compared to prior year.  Up to March 15, the coronavirus had an impact and many sellers decided not to list their property for fear of strangers coming into their homes and depressed prices.  Property showings were still going on albeit with hand sanitizers and fist bumps (instead of handshakes).


But after March 15, the coronavirus hit New York City at unprecedented levels.  We became the global epicenter of the virus.  The entire city, apart from essential workers, came into lockdown mode.  The market just stopped.   We in New York are now waiting for the crisis to be over, after which hopefully things will slowly go back to normal.  The market will be depressed and obviously, it will be a bad time to be a seller while buyers who are ready will have a huge advantage.


The published numbers for Q2′ 2020 shows price per sqft of condos decreasing to $2,014.  Compared to the 2017 price of $2,149 per sqft, Q2’2020 came down by 7 percent.  Price per sqft didn’t move that much but it was sales volume (number of sales) that went down 58 percent in Q2.


I do not know how long it would take to get back to normalcy, whether it would be a “V-shaped recovery” etc.  The Federal Reserve decreased rates to zero and the $2 trillion stimulus plan by the government will not be enough given the shock of this crisis.


Read the latest Manhattan property report



Manhattan investment performance over time

The average appreciation per year during the 21 years is 7.5 percent, which is a very healthy return.  Since property is often purchased with leverage, a 7.5 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.  


Read our Foreign buyer guide to New York property



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.  


How to invest in Manhattan property for maximum profits



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.


Weimin’s article, Investing in West Village



What We Do

We focus on global investors buying Manhattan condos for portfolio diversification and long term return-on-investment.
1) Identify the right buy based on objectives
2) Manage the buy process
3) Rent out the property
4) Manage tenants
5) Market the property at the eventual sale


Wei Min’s media interviews by CNBC, CNN, New York Times on the subject of investing in Manhattan property


Deal Examples

1) The Sutton, Turtle Bay, Midtown East.   This Toll Brothers development only required 10 percent reservation deposit.  Represented multiple buyers at the $2 million price point.  Location, classic style windows and luxury finishes make this a good investment.  Close to United Nations, Citigroup Center, Blackstone, Blackrock.  Rented to quality tenants from the beginning.


Weimin’s article, Pros and cons of new property launches in Manhattan


Manhattan property investment performance



2) 200 Chambers Street, Tribeca.  Top quality building in Tribeca.  Convenient location next to Whole Foods.  Building is priced at premium but rents are also at a premium.  This corner unit has dual exposures, maximizing sunlight.  Purchased at around $1 million and has appreciated substantially since then.


Investing in Tribeca property



3) Parc Vendome, Midtown West.  Purchased at a great price and renovated entire apartment.  Buy factors were south exposure with plenty of sunlight and proximity to Central Park.  The photos below are the Before/After.  Rented immediately after the renovation was completed.



Article updated July 10, 2020


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About Wei Min

  • Focuses on investors of Manhattan condominiums, interviewed by CNBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times
  • Ex-Citibanker, managed $500 million portfolio
  • MBA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Manhattan resident since 1999. Currently lives in Tribeca with wife and 2 kids
  • 352 burpees in 23 minutes, student of muay thai kickboxing

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About Wei Min

  • Focuses on investors of Manhattan condominiums, interviewed by CNBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times
  • Ex-Citibanker, managed $500 million portfolio
  • MBA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Manhattan resident since 1999. Currently lives in Tribeca with wife and 2 kids
  • 352 burpees in 23 minutes, student of muay thai kickboxing

Work With Wei Min