Property investment in New York
Posted by Wei Min Tan on September 8, 2020
Property investment in New York, specifically in Manhattan, is a prudent decision taken by successful individuals as part of their portfolio planning. For foreigners, investing in New York property is seen as a safe haven for assets because of the limited supply and high demand coming from people who live here and investors from all over the world. New York property is a hedge for investors as the world experiences uncertainty in global trade, currency volatility, rising fundamentalism, and raising inequality which creates unrest.
New York is ranked #1 city globally
The Wealth Report by Knight Frank ranks New York (Manhattan) the #1 overall city in terms of Wealth, Investment and Lifestyle. Below is a brief description of the categories:
(1) Wealth – center for high net worth individuals earning US$250,000+ annually. New York is #1 in this category.
(2) Investment – flow of private investment into the city. New York is #1 here as well.
(3) Lifestyle – number of top hotels and restaurants. New York is #3 in terms of Lifestyle. London is #1 here.
In the category of Wealth, the Knight Frank report shows New York has 1.1 million households earning US$250,000+, with Los Angeles coming in second at 637,000 households. The Wealth Report shows New York has the #1 spot in terms of forecast GDP growth, estimated at $1.8 trillion by year 2022. Second place is Tokyo at $1.6 trillion in 2022. Also interesting to note is that the U.S. is the #1 destination for Asian high net worth investors.
New York is the U.S. East Coast’s Silicone Valley
New York is now the East Coast’s Silicone Valley. We are no longer solely reliant on the financial industry. For example, Facebook and Amazon are expanding in Manhattan while Google is building a second campus in Hudson Square.
New York is also one of the most vibrant cities for startups. Yes, costs are high, but the talent pool, diversity, culture, entertainment and opportunities are unbeatable. The Top 50 startups to watch in New York include Unqork which helps companies like Goldman Sachs build software without back-end code, Feather which is a subscription furniture company and Lively, a hearing aid company.
Deal example: 88 Greenwich, 35th floor waterview apartment overlooking New York Harbor. One block from World Trade Center. Investor client purchased with tenant in place for immediate cashflow.
Property prices in New York
Investors typically invest in a condominium apartment and these start at $650,000 for a studio. One bedrooms range from $800,000 to $2 million, 2 bedrooms from $1.8 million to $4.5 million. Three bedrooms start at $3.5 million. Anything larger than a 3 bedroom is a mansion by Manhattan standards.
Our investor clients usually rent out the condo investment property. Here in Manhattan, about 75 percent of residents are renters while 25 percent are owners. Hence, being a landlord means having a large renter pool.
For historical context, price per square foot for a condominium was $480 in 1999, $1,374 in 2008, $2,149 in 2017 and decreased to $2,014 in Q2, 2020. Notice the appreciation is stable but not high.
Property price correction and COVID 19
Despite the strong economy, New York property in 2017-2019 experienced a price correction. Price per square foot increased from 2011 to 2017. In 2018, price was down 4 percent. This down cycle was mainly driven by changes in tax laws and global uncertainties. In 2019 condo prices were up 2 percent to $2,098.
In 2020, from January until middle of March, Manhattan appeared on the recovery path. Sales volume went up considerably and we thought the up cycle was returning. Then COVID-19 hit New York City which consequently became the COVID epicenter of the world. Listing volume was already low from Jan – Mar 2020 as sellers didn’t want to list their apartments for fear of strangers entering their homes. From mid March to end of June 2020, we had a lockdown and all real estate activities were banned by the government. We had a stay-at-home mandate.
The best deals were those signed during this lockdown as uncertainty was at the highest level. I represented a buyer client who had an accepted price at $3.2 million. Contract wasn’t signed yet and we entered lockdown. We renegotiated the price down by $400,000 during the lockdown. It was in a new development too.
Although numbers are not out, prices probably came down 7 to 10 percent as result of COVID. Based on various analysis on metrics such as median price, sales volume etc, the impact of COVID matches the Great Financial Crisis of 2008.
Weimin’s article, Is now a good time to invest in Manhattan property?
Deal example: 40 Mercer in Soho. Ultra luxury apartment building commanding premium rents, in Soho. In this deal, we also took over with tenant in place which means there is no vacancy period having to look for a tenant.
Good for investors
The current situation represents an opportunity for investors wanting a good deal. The best time for a deal is over (during the lockdown), but now is still a great time to buy. There is a lot of people moving out of Manhattan to be in the suburbs. The suburbs of New Jersey and Long Island are experiencing a boom, where houses are selling in two days!
In Manhattan, two bedrooms and up will be on the market for a long time, as sellers slowly decrease asking prices to reflect current reality. The rental market is also very slow, because people are moving out of NYC because companies are extending work-from-home policies, many until mid 2021.
Buyers need to understand that the apartments may take a while to rent out and at rents below rates that were attainable only 9 months ago. Rental rates are now COVID rates.
Where to find listings
The U.S. market is very transparent. All property for sale are listed on the major websites so the buyers and brokers have access to the same properties. The main website for Manhattan inventory is streeteasy.com, but the same inventory will show on other websites as well.
Weimin’s article, Manhattan Property Review
Deal example: 111 Murray in Tribeca. Reserved at pre-construction and prices went up 20 percent upon completion. The green building is the Goldman Sachs headquarters. Read about Pros and Cons on new property launches in Manhattan.
Have a New York property team
The broker usually is the key coordinator for your local team. In our model, I as the broker would bring in the lawyer, mortgage banker, accountant and handyman to play the different roles needed. The buyer’s broker’s main role is in recommending the right buy and managing the process. An equally critical role is in coordinating the team.
Downsides of property investment in New York
Price appreciation is not aggressive: New York property appreciates steadily so don’t expect prices to double in a year or two. Rather, prices grow at between 5 to 10 percent per year. For a more aggressive property investment strategy, the developing markets would be better.
Structure and paperwork: Be prepared for a lot more structure, paperwork and bank verifications than in other countries. There are licensure and regulations for all functions. Everything is verified by the lending bank and there are formal processes for everything, from appraisals to title reports to closing processes. Some clients have mentioned that in their country, the transaction can take place behind a coffee shop. Absolutely not so with a New York transaction.
Weimin’s article, Investing in a West Village apartment
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
This article was updated September 8, 2020
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