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Manhattan Real Estate Breaks Record in 2021, Reaching $30 Billion in Sales

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  • Manhattan real estate posted its best year ever, rebounding from the pandemic with $30 billion in sales, according to real estate reports.
  • The strength shows no signs of slowing in 2022, with sales topping $6.7 billion in the last quarter, according to a report from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman.
  • The median price for an apartment jumped 11% in the fourth quarter compared to the year-earlier period.

Manhattan real estate posted its best year ever in 2021, rebounding from the pandemic with $30 billion in sales, according to real estate reports.

The 16,000-plus signed contracts were also a record, according to a report from Corcoran.

The banner year marks a dramatic turnaround from 2020 when fears of population losses, rising crime and high taxes weighed on sales. Many observers thought at the time the days of bidding wars and falling inventory were over.

But sales have now eclipsed pre-pandemic totals, and are showing no signs of slowing in 2022. Fourth-quarter sales topped $6.7 billion, a mark not seen since such records were kept, according to a report from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman.

The average price for an apartment in Manhattan is now $1.95 million. The median price — which many consider to be a more accurate indicator of the market — jumped 11% in the fourth quarter compared to the year-earlier period, close to pre-pandemic levels.

"Clearly, the pace of the recovery in 2021 was faster than I think most people anticipated," said Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel. "It's been startling."

Based on shrinking inventory and continually strong financial markets, the Manhattan market is likely to remain robust into the first half of this year, Miller said. "Because New York was late to the party with the return of real estate demand, there could be several quarters ahead with elevated or higher-than-normal activity," he said.

Brokers say the "pandemic discount" in Manhattan is now largely gone. Prices fell between 6% and 7% during the market bottom, but in some segments, especially condos, prices have rebounded. According to Brown Harris Stevens, apartments are now selling at 97.6% of their last asking price, the highest since 2017.

And bidding wars are back, too, hitting their highest levels since 2018, according to Miller Samuel.

The comeback has largely been driven by the top of the market — such as ultra-wealthy buyers snapping up penthouses and large full-floor units in new developments. Inventory of new property plummeted by a third in the fourth quarter, and apartments priced at $10 million or more sold the fastest — averaging just 97 days on the market, according to data from Serhant.

There were at least eight sales last year for more than $50 million, according to Miller Samuel. Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai's purchase of two full floors at 220 Central Park South for $157 million was the largest. That address — home to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin's $238 million penthouse, the most expensive ever sold in the U.S. — accounted for three of the eight $50 million-plus deals in 2021.

Jeff Bezos continued to snap up apartments at 212 Fifth Ave., with purchases totaling $119 million for five apartments.

Brokers say many buyers are nonresidents looking for a pied-a-terre or an investment property. With riches created during the pandemic from gains in stocks, asset values and cryptocurrency, many individuals are looking to shift their wealth into hard assets like real estate.

More than half of the deals in Manhattan last year were all-cash, according to brokers.

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