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Do You Regret Not Buying a New York Apartment 10 Years Ago? You Should

By Amy Zimmer | February 4, 2016 7:23am | Updated on September 8, 2016 10:06am
 This 8,000-square-foot 5-bedroom/8-bath Neo-Georgian townhouse at 163 E. 64th St. has eight working fireplaces, an elevator and a lush roof terrace. It's listed for $23.9 million by Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon of Douglas Elliman.
This 8,000-square-foot 5-bedroom/8-bath Neo-Georgian townhouse at 163 E. 64th St. has eight working fireplaces, an elevator and a lush roof terrace. It's listed for $23.9 million by Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon of Douglas Elliman.
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Courtesy of Douglas Elliman

MANHATTAN — When discussing New York City real estate, many people lament, “I should have bought 10 years ago.”

Well, they’re right.

Prices, for the most part, have gone up, up, up since 2006, according to a report released Thursday from Douglas Elliman.

A townhouse buyer, for instance, would have had many more options a decade ago in the $2.7 million range — which was the median Manhattan townhouse price in 2006, the report found.

Last year, the median Manhattan townhouse price hit a record $5.25 million, a jump of more than 94 percent over the 10 years.

“As the wealthy have been very active over the last decade in New York, townhouses have been more sought after, and they’re hard to find,” Elliman report author Jonathan Miller said of townhouses, which represent about 2.5 percent of the market.  

And many real estate experts predict the townhouse market will continue to set new records in 2016, said Douglas Elliman’s New York City CEO Steven James, noting an upcoming listing of a 20,000-square-foot Upper East Side townhouse is expected to soon hit the market at $85 million.

While co-ops and condos didn’t see as much appreciation as townhouses, they still saw double-digit price growth.

The median price for Manhattan co-ops and condos hit a record $1.01 million in 2015 — marking the first time the price crossed the $1 million threshold. That was up more than 22 percent from 2006’s $830,000 median price.

In these 10 years, Miller noted, “we went through a roller coaster ride” of price increases and decreases, and “then, after the dust settles, [prices are] 22 percent above the beginning of the decade.”

That’s not necessarily something that even the most savvy buyer could have predicted.

“I’ve always marveled at people who thought they could time the market,” Miller said. “I find it difficult, if not impossible. The people who got it right all along are those whose personal needs were in sync with the best conditions. It’s about what you need for your family at that moment in time.”

To James, the price growth over 10 years shows how “stable and consistent” New York City real estate is.

“The economy in New York City has had ups and downs, and yet, the real estate market has survived in spite of all these things,” James said. “For the rest of the world in turmoil, looking for a place to park their assets, New York City is a really viable spot.”

He added, “If you’re not forced to leave or pushed out, you’re going to take away a profit.”

Studio apartments, however, were an outlier in terms of price appreciation.

In 2006, the median price for a studio cost $410,000. Ten years later, the median was $411,500.

One reason, Miller suggested, was that the “lower affordability demographic” still had more of a challenge because of financing. Also, in many of the higher priced newer developments in recent years, buildings didn’t even include studio apartments.

But real estate hopefuls might be able to take some solace in the fact that their buying power has increased in the past 10 years as mortgage rates have dropped.

At the end of 2006, mortgage rates were about 6 percent. At the end of 2015, they were about 4 percent.

Some mortgage experts say that every 1 percent rate change affects your purchasing power by about 11 percent, which means that someone who could have afforded 2006’s median of $830,000, could have afforded something priced 22 percent more in 2015 — which, it turns out, mirrors the amount of growth in the median price over the decade.  

“Your purchasing power has expanded,” Miller said. But only about half of transactions in the Manhattan market had a mortgage, he noted.