Property investment in New York

Posted by Wei Min Tan on March 4, 2019


Property investment in New York, specifically in Manhattan, is a prudent decision taken by successful individuals as part of their portfolio planning.  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.


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Property investment in New York
Property investment in New York

New York is ranked #1 city


The Wealth Report by Knight Frank ranks New York (Manhattan) the #1 city overall in terms of:

(1) Wealth – center for high net worth individuals earning US$250,000+ annually

(2) Investment – flow of private investment into property

(3) Lifestyle – number of top hotels and restaurants

(4) Future – forecast GDP growth  


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.


The New York economy has been very strong.  We are experiencing record low unemployment and strong GDP growth.  Trump’s tax change that lowered corporate taxes to 21 percent will have further positive impact on the economy as New York is the top city for Fortune 500 companies.  


Property prices


Investors typically invest in a condominium apartment and these start at $650,000 for a studio.  One bedrooms range from $850,000 to $2 million, while 2 bedrooms go from $2.5 million to $3.5 million.  


Our investor clients usually rent out the 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, $1,225 in 2007 and $2,152 in 2018.  Notice the appreciation is stable but not high.


Manhattan Condo and Coop historical price trend

Manhattan Condo historical price trend

Property price correction


Despite the strong economy, New York property in 2017-2018 experienced a price correction.  Price per square foot was flat in 2017 compared to 2016. In 2018, price was down 7 percent.  This is because of changes in the federal mortgage tax deduction allowance, increasing interest rates and removal of the legacy new development contracts in the pipeline.


Self-use buyers are having a wait-and-see attitude because the change in mortgage tax deduction affects the tax benefit they get from owning property.  In addition, the tax deduction from property taxes have been capped. For those deciding whether to buy or rent, the latter seems more favorable now.


The only other year where there was a price decrease in New York was in 2009 when the recession happened.


Good for investors

The current correction represents an opportunity for investors.  Rental demand has increased while rental vacancy in Manhattan, at 2 percent, is the lowest in the country.


Investors should target property that are in high demand by local New Yorkers, because the target rental market and eventual sale market would be driven by locals.  


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, but the same inventory will show on other websites as well.


Manhattan Property Review


Have a 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.


A Buyer’s Broker for Manhattan Property


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.


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


Deal Examples

1) 88 Greenwich, 35th floor waterview apartment overlooking New York Harbor.  Client purchased with tenant in place.


2) 40 Mercer in Soho.  Ultra luxury building commanding ultra luxury rents, in Soho.


3) 111 Murray in Tribeca.  Reserved at pre-construction and prices went up 20 percent upon completion.  The green building is the Goldman Sachs headquarters.


This article was updated March 4, 2019



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Work With Wei Min


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.