New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

CO-OP/CONDO BUYERS

WHAT CO-OP/CONDO BUYERS NEED TO KNOW

High-End Condos Outselling Co-ops 4 to 1

Manhattan

Co-op and condo sales, co-op boards, market glut, lower asking prices.
June 21, 2021

As Manhattan’s real-estate market continues to show signs of life, buyer preferences are clear: condo apartments are outselling co-ops by nearly four to one, Crain’s reports.

Just 177 co-op apartments priced at $4 million or higher went into contract this year through June 16, according to data from brokerage Olshan Realty. That compares with 615 condo deals in that category during the same period.

Manhattan’s high-end real estate market is on a sales streak this year, as the elite see opportunities for discounts amid a mountain of supply. While well-heeled buyers once sought the status that comes with acceptance into the city’s most exclusive co-ops, they’re now favoring newly developed condo buildings with better amenities, fewer lifestyle restrictions and no intrusive financial questioning.

It’s a preference that’s been building for years, along with a boom in luxury condo construction that’s made more choices available. And that’s fast eroding the value of some of the most storied real estate in town, brokers say. Not even pedigreed co-ops such as 740 Park Ave. are immune. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had to whittle at least 21% off the asking price of his apartment there to find a taker last month.

“The buying pool is starting to value co-ops like used cars,” says Donna Olshan, president of the brokerage that bears her name. “They’re not new, and in order to get in and out, you’ve got to deal with a co-op board. If they’re spending millions of dollars, they want to be able to buy and sell freely – not have that tied up by a shadow government.”

Co-op buyers don’t purchase their units outright but instead acquire shares in a corporation that owns the building. The governing boards of those corporations, responsible for ensuring their properties are fiscally sound and livable, can set rules on just about anything, including how much cash residents need to have in the bank, when they can renovate their kitchens and how much their dogs can weigh.

They also have wide latitude to determine who may live there – and who may not. And when boards reject buyers, they don’t have to give a reason; they simply have to observe laws against discrimination. The practice has drawn pushback at a time of heightened sensitivity to all notions of discrimination.

Efforts by state lawmakers to compel co-op boards to make their secret dealings more transparent failed to advance before the Legislature adjourned this month. But Westchester County – where as many as 15% of co-op buyers have been rejected since the end of 2018 – is poised to pass its own law requiring boards to offer written explanations for every rejection, says Richard Haggerty, chief executive officer of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

Absent any clear guidance on how boards make their decisions, buyers and their agents are left to speculate. The result, according to Olshan, is declining demand for co-ops and a hit to potential value. The average price of luxury co-ops that found takers this year was $7.15 million, compared with $8.37 million for condos in a similar price range, according to her firm’s data on listings at $4 million and above.

“I study the market,” Olshan says. “And the market is certainly not rewarding the co-ops.”

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