By Melissa Dehncke-McGill
The Real Deal, July 01, 2011
The legendary Upper West Side institution H & H Bagels may have unexpectedly shuttered last month, leaving residents without piping hot sesames and poppies, but don’t take that as a sign of the times for the rest of the neighborhood.
Residential real estate in the area seems to be rebounding stronger than many of its counterpart neighborhoods in Manhattan, at least for desirable properties.
In this month’s Q & A, brokers who specialize on the Upper West Side told The Real Deal that business, while not quite back to normal, has vastly improved over the last year, especially for new luxury rentals and large family-sized apartments.
There are pockets of weakness and slow-moving properties — anything evenly remotely perceived as overpriced, anything in need of renovation and anything small (inventory for studios and one-bedrooms is high). Indeed, one broker said that he’s seen studios and one-bedrooms that were selling for $600,000 at the height of the market, now listed in the high-$300,000-to-low-$400,000 range. So there are deals to be had.
But inventory is tight for large, luxury units in both new rental and new condo buildings. So as those units have been coming on the market, they’ve been gobbled up quickly.
A case in point is the Laureate on West 76th Street and Broadway, which has made headlines recently for its quick sales.
Another broker said that there is less “nay-saying and lowballing” than there was a year ago and that the $2.5 million to $4 million segment of the market has been particularly strong lately.
“If a property is unique and well priced, it can still command more than it did pre-Lehman. But if something is priced as though nothing bad happened between 2008 and 2009, it won’t sell,” she said.
Still, others said they are starting to see the summer doldrums set in and that while things were “on fire” a few months ago on the Upper West Side, they have since cooled off a little.
For more on which sections of the Upper West Side are faring best and worst, which projects are hottest, and which property types are struggling most, we turn to our panel of experts.
founder and president, Vandenberg Inc., the Townhouse Experts
How is the residential market doing on the Upper West Side these days, and how does that compare to three months ago, six months ago and a year ago?
We only do townhouses. Currently we have about $50 million worth of townhouse listings [including those that have been divided into multiple apartments]. In a normal year we would have 55 listings and 55 closings. Last year there were 48 [listings] on the Upper West Side, so it was almost normal. So far this year, the number of listings is almost normal, but the number of closings is down.
What are you seeing in terms of sales prices on your Upper West Side townhouses and how do the prices you’re seeing in the neighborhood compare to the recent past?
In 2009, we dipped to $4.9 million in our average [sales] price. Our average price last year for West Side townhouses was slightly over $5 million. So far this year, we are at at least $5.2 million. It’s hard to know based on this portion of the year how it will shake out. There seem to be a number of things going into contract right now. So the next quarter could prove that we are catching back up to normal.
Which price ranges and unit types are struggling the most on the Upper West Side right now?
The higher end has not sold as well for the last year — $10 million and up has not had as many sales as we would have expected. I am hearing about some high-end apartment sales around the city; I’m waiting for that to happen with the townhouses.
How long are properties staying on the market on the Upper West Side, and how does that compare to a year ago?
The ones below $10 million are staying on for [about] five and a half months, the ones above $10 million are at 17 months. … There are fewer buyers for the higher end.