November 2020 Upper Manhattan Residential Real Estate Market Report

November 20, 2020

The Upper Manhattan residential real estate market is seeing what could be the beginnings of a recovery. The Mortgage Brokers Association just announced that the national forbearance rate, a key indication of whether folks are able to pay their mortgages, fell seven basis points to 5.83% for all types of loans. That’s news worth celebrating, because this means that a lot more borrowers are starting to pay on their loans again. The listing count, a grassroots indicator of what’s going on neighborhood by neighborhood, also contains some good news. This is the first month since June, when New York City real estate agents were deemed essential, that the number of listings has gone down! Even Harlem, with its massive amount of new construction and inventory, has hit a plateau with just under 350 properties available for sale. Prior to the pandemic, Upper Manhattan (the borough’s northern tip that includes the historic neighborhoods of Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood) had units with similar size and amenity sell for about half that of their downtown equivalents. And with a moderate 12%-15% decrease, the region has been spared the drastic price reduction the rest of Manhattan experienced. In the last couple of weeks, uptown listing agents have seen a noticeable uptick in bidding wars on properties that were priced to move. What’s more interesting are the types of properties going into contract: studios and one-bedrooms, or in other words, inventory popular with first-time homebuyers. With bidding wars back, mortgage interest rates dipping below 3% and Upper Manhattan's abundance of co-ops with low financial barriers, a few brokers are cautiously optimistic about a recovery. It seems as there are a tremendous amount of savvy individuals out there that are scraping, saving up for that down payment–or borrowing gifts from family–because they realize the opportunity they have won’t last forever. In just the last two decades, New Yorkers have experienced a few down makers themselves. First, the down market of 2002 after the tragedies of September 11th. And then the down market of 2009 after the financial crash of 2008. And in both occurrences, plenty of pundits were quick to declare that the city would never return to her former grandeur. “The demise of New York City has been greatly exaggerated.” said Matthew Bizzarro, the newly elected Upper Manhattan REBNY Co-chair at a digital industry event. “We have a track record of going through an eight to eighteen month recovery period after the unthinkable occurs.” He went on to say that, “All of the clients that I worked with–even back then it was mostly first-time home buyers–in 2009 and after 9/11... they knew they were sitting on an opportunity. And their family, their friends, the media, pretty much everybody called them nuts. They were called crazy; they were accused of throwing their money, their lives and their future away! After twenty years in the business, I can tell you that these are the same clients who called me back to sell and made the most money out of anyone I’ve worked with. All because they had the foresight and the courage to purchase in a down market." Matthew Bizzarro is the Broker of Record and Owner of The Bizzarro Agency, an award-winning boutique residential real estate company serving buyers, sellers and investors in Upper Manhattan and The Bronx.