I f you live in Manhattan, someone is trying to sell you a condominium in your neighborhood. The spectacular building boom of the past half-decade has vastly shifted the market from co-ops to condos, which account for 25 percent of the city’s salable housing stock but make up more than half the homes for sale right now, says appraiser Jonathan Miller. Most of those apartments are new—hyperpromoted, star-architected, buzz-heavy buildings that added sizzle to the hot market. Thousands more units, planned during the boom, are poised to hit the market in the next year. As of August, 64 residential-construction permits had been issued in Manhattan alone this year. (The total last year was 104.) Developers still think they’re going to sell everything they can build; almost none have thrown up their hands and turned their buildings into rentals, as often happened during the late-eighties crash. Which means everyone seems to be asking the same thing: Just who is buying all these apartments?
To find the answer, we spoke with buyers, brokers who trade heavily in condos, and developers of nearly two dozen projects, some fully sold, some not. The buildings are spread throughout the city, mostly in Manhattan, and most have more than 30 units (some have hundreds). Their owners gave us access to their sales breakdowns, many of which appear in the graphics on these pages.
What emerges is the new face of the condo client—or, rather, faces. Some trends became immediately obvious. New York is—unlike, say, Miami or Las Vegas—a city of local buyers. Investors make up a much smaller slice of the pie here, maybe 4 percent (compared with up to 40 percent in those other cities). The new condo buyer is also much less neighborhood-driven than New York buyers have traditionally been. The building, rather than its site, is king. “It’s no longer truly about location alone,” says Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group president Kelly Mack. Buyers swap the Upper West Side for Tribeca, Chelsea for Murray Hill, the East Village for Prospect Heights. “It used to be our competitors were other buildings on the Upper East Side,” says Orin Wilf, the developer of 170 East End Avenue. “[Now they’re] all over.” Toby Klein of Two Trees Management, which has sold off units in three condos in Dumbo, says the now-coveted neighborhood didn’t see outsiders—investors and foreigners alike—six or seven years ago. “We were strictly a local story,” she says. These days, only a quarter of its contracts are from the area.