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Upper Manhattan Townhouse Prices Jump 20 Percent, Report Says

By  Amy Zimmer and Ben Fractenberg | January 30, 2014 11:40am 

 Property sales in 2013 in Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood were the strongest since 2007, driven by multifamily building transactions, according to a study by Ariel Property Advisors.
Uptown Real Estate Bounce
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MANHATTAN — Upper Manhattan's townhouse prices have been escalating amid a flurry of sales in the area.

The median sales price for townhouses above 116th Street on the West Side and above 96th Street on the East Side hit $1.2 million in 2013, representing a 21 percent spike from the year before and a 37 percent increase compared with 10 years earlier, when the median price for Upper Manhattan's townhouses stood at $875,000, according to a Douglas Elliman report released Thursday.

Even with that big jump, however, the area's median price was significantly lower than townhouses in other neighborhoods. The East Side's median price was $6 million, the West Side was $5.25 million and Downtown was $5.6 million, the report said.

There was still "good value" to be found Uptown, said Elliman's Steven James.

"We even had a couple of sales last year that were just shells of buildings," he said. "Normally those [homes] take a little longer to sell because they attract a specific buyer."

While in the past, those wrecks attracted mainly investors looking to renovate and sell for a profit. Now they were attracting families looking to do their own rehabs for their dream homes, he noted.

Upper Manhattan saw nearly 140 townhouses sold in 2013, the report found. This number represented a 42.7 percent leap in sales from the year before and accounted for 42 percent of all of Manhattan's townhouse sales. While most of the townhouses were concentrated in Harlem, Upper Manhattan also includes Washington Heights and Inwood.

"That's where there's a lot of action," the report's author Jonathan Miller said of Upper Manhattan. "[It's] people looking for alternative locations to get more for your money."

Because of limited townhouse inventory in other parts of Manhattan, Miller said, more families were also converting more 3- to 5-family buildings to single-family homes across the borough. Sales for those buildings spiked nearly 40 percent in 2013 from the previous year, the report found.

Upper Manhattan investment property sales also saw their biggest bounce since the recession started in 2007, driven primarily by multi-family building sales, according to a study by Ariel Property Advisors.

The number of multi-family property transactions increased 44 percent, with 534 properties being sold for about $2.12 billion in 2013, compared with 371 properties totaling $1.166 billion in sales in 2012, according to the study released Tuesday.

Strong rents, a dearth of new condos and more neighborhood amenities helped spur sales of sites where new housing can be developed across Northern Manhattan and could potentially yield 1 million square feet, according to the report. With Columbia University's expansion in Manhattanville and construction underway for a Whole Foods on Lenox Avenue, the area's growth is expected to continue.

“Many uptown developments now average $700 per square foot and an increasing number of full service condominiums in prime locations are approaching or surpassing $1,000 per square foot," Ariel Property vice president Michael Tortorici said in a statement.