Price Cuts and Growing Inventory: Is Upper West Side Real Estate Finally a Buyer’s Market?


It generally ain’t cheap to get a view like this. Photo by Karen Keating.

The Upper West Side has gone from unaffordable to borderline ridiculous in the past five years, as sellers have benefited from high demand and low inventory, inspiring bidding wars for apartments. But the latest market report from Streeteasy indicates that that dynamic could be changing.

The November market report showed that prices throughout Manhattan fell 3.3% year over year during the month. On the Upper West Side, prices were down 1.3%, and other metrics also show the market may be softening.

In November, the number of recorded sales was down 4%, and homes stayed on the market for an average of 82 days, up 22 days from  the same period last year. In the month, 15.7% of for-sale homes had price cuts, more than other neighborhoods like the Upper East Side or Upper Manhattan. And sale inventory was up 21.6%, more than anywhere else in Manhattan.

There are important caveats of course. Prices are still very high of course — the Streeteasy Price Index for the neighborhood (which is different from an average) was $1.14 million. And rising interest rates mean anyone taking out a mortgage is likely to pay a higher rate than at this time last year.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 30 comments | permalink
    1. AC57 says:

      That change is gonna be short lived. All the new developments start at 7 figures, on both sides of the neighborhood, they are just more ridiculously priced in 10024. Prices will also go down if the apartment is sitting on the market for too long, because, let’s be real, you can get better views, higher apartments and bigger apartments for similar prices in other neighborhoods. 555 10th Avenue and 1 Hudson Yards are a couple of examples around Hudson Yards, versus apartments, starting at $7.9M at 555 West End Avenue, or starting rents at $11K p/ month (which is repulsive and asinine.) If the Upper West Side is to get any cheaper, more has to be built with the space we have. I’m not saying go supertall, and, in most cases, not even up to skyscraper status, but full utilization of the lots we have is paramount, because the land prices are insanely high, and what’ll come out are fewer apartments, and more expensive apartments, or ridiculous projects like that new LUXURY senior center coming to 85th and Broadway. I know it seems ugly, but if this neighborhood wants to be more affordable, building taller actually alleviates and brings down the prices. While 10023 is still expensive, compare it to 10024, even subtracting Amsterdam Houses, and the affordable housing adjacent to it, and you’ll see what I’m getting at.

      • Josh says:

        “I know it seems ugly” – tall is beautiful! If I wanted to live in the suburbs I would. Tall buildings (even luxury ones) make the city more affordable, more beautiful, more New York. The Upper West Side is and always has been one of the densest urban neighborhoods in Manhattan and we lost a huge part of our soul when the wannabe suburbanites slowed new growth to a trickle.

        • AC57 says:

          I have a preference for tall buildings myself, a large preference, but height doesn’t necessarily come from beauty all the time. There are some well-designed low-rises on the Upper West Side (227 West 77th Street, the Boulevard, and the Alexandria, just to name a few.), but yes, you are totally correct. More housing and tall buildings, due to supply and demand make neighborhoods more affordable. That’s why 10023 is much more affordable, and arguably nicer, than 10024

    2. Sherman says:

      I thought there was a bottomless it of foreign billionaires who were buying all the UWS apartments and pushing middle class people out of the area.

      Apparently this is not so.

      This proves that ultimately the best way to reduce housing prices is to increase supply and construct more. There is a lot of construction in the neighborhood and this is why prices are finally going down.

      (To be fair the recent collapse of the stock market is also likely a contributing factor).

      I have friends who work in real estate and they tell me the market is very soft and apartments are not selling or renting like they used to.

      Now, if we truly want to make the UWS affordable let’s do away with rent regulation!

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        yes, Sherman, throwing 40% of the tenants on the UWS out of their homes will make the neighborhood “more affordable.”

        Over 50% of the apartments on the UWS have been REMOVED from rent regulation over the last 10-15 years. Yet prices have skyrocketed. So the theory doesn’t work.

        constructing more AFFORDABLE housing will have an impact on prices. Constructing more high priced housing has no impact on middle class housing. It brings prices down a tiny bit for the $2 million + condo crowd.

        • Josh says:

          The UWS has refused to grow for so long that it is currently impossible for new affordable housing to exist. If you look on apartment rental websites, there are tiny, terrible studio apartments barely big enough for a bed renting fior close to $2,000/month. There is no UWS apartment modest enough that it would be considered affordable. It’s not an issue of developers only building “luxury” apartments with fancy appliances or amenities – strip out all of those extras and the apartments would still be out of reach of the middle class. It’s not the marble countertops – it’s the lack of housing.
          You can make apartments affordable for a lucky few by pricing them below market and holding a lottery for the chance to pay a reasonable rent. But affordability is nothing without accessibility. If you need to win the lottery to live here, it’s not an affordable neighborhood. The only way to fix the housing shortage is to build more housing.

        • AC57 says:

          Building up is how we’re gonna get affordable housing though. You can’t complain about high housing prices and then complain about building propositions being too tall. I’ve said this time and time again: It’s no coincidence that the cheaper neighborhood has taller buildings (10023 is far cheaper than 10024). Again, we don’t necessarily need skyscrapers, but we need to go far above what we have right now.

      • 50RSD says:

        Yes, developers, landlords and boards have imagined that foreign oligarchs would flood the city forever, and no one accounted for what the impact of the current administration would be. That said, once people are in NYC long enough, the gloss of new development vs. the stature and stability of “old stock” is hard to miss. There is going to be an adjustment, and hopefully the neighborhood will be all the better for it!

    3. sam says:

      This is all about high-priced real estate. If you are looking at more “moderately” priced apartments, there will be very little decrease in prices unless the stock market takes a major downturn similar to what we saw a decade ago. Only once 401(k)s and investment accounts take a beating will we see decrease in the lower end of the market.

    4. Doug Garr says:

      Good. UWS is pricing millionaires out of the neighborhood.

    5. Dave says:

      If anyone is worried about property values in the UWS being too pricey, don’t worry, the city just found a way to make them plummet without any of you having one thing to say about it.

      https://nypost.com/2018/12/18/citys-bid-to-create-homeless-shelter-left-over-100-homeless-suit/amp/

    6. Jerome36 says:

      Just the beginning. People are just waking up to the
      Taxes law changes, such as a $10k limit on state and local taxes and a $750k limit on mortgage interest.
      Of course, people who are buying $3-7mm apts are probably not that concerned with either change!

    7. moi says:

      A big part of living in NY has always been to be able to get to where you need to go without getting stuck in traffic or abandoned on the MTA subway/ bus routes forever. Also, who wants to spend their time here competing with an influx of 61 million tourists annually for access to Manhattan? It ain’t the fabulous place to live that it was! No idea what the attraction is now? If you love junk food and chains it could be your ideal place! ? Weird!

      • iloveny says:

        Not sure where you were “hanging out” but I still experience an amazing NYC on every level including art, food, theater, neighborhood appeal, and even transportation. The tourists aren’t a problem outside of their concentrated areas either. Maybe you should widen your horizons…no, actually you’re better off in suburbia!

        • moi says:

          Hahaha~ I’ve lived on the UWS for 40 years and have experienced so many wonderful things while coming here to live after working on 5 continents worldwide. The conversion to Condos and Co-ops have caused decently priced rentels for middle class tenants to become extinct. Amazing nightclubs and small music venues all over Manhattan; Beautiful bars where neighbors socialised with each other.. Great restaurants, not overly expensive with amazing food… The first fast food restaurant on the UWS was MacDonalds on Broadway and 71st street… Neighbors were outraged and protested, as they did during the building of the Trump apartments built on Riverside Boulevard fearing the overcrowding of the subways and problems with local infrastructure. Your tastes reflect those of a tourist from the mid west! .. Or maybe it’s a generational thing.. You’ve never experienced excellance!

          • youaregross says:

            What a small minded, provincial attitude this is. To be so accusatory toward someone’s tastes without even knowing what they are is presumptuous to say the least. To self proclaim one’s own tastes as superior only tells others what kind of person you really are. Oh look at me, I’ve lived on 5 continents and experienced only the finest! Anything else is “mid-western”. Shame on you, you elitist, arrogant, disgusting person. I’m glad you no longer find happiness and satisfaction from this city. You don’t deserve it.

    8. Nathan says:

      beautiful photo!

      • F. Shtopp says:

        Re: “beautiful photo”
        NO, the photo itself is NOT beautiful, it is the SUBJECT that IS beautiful. The photo is just a well-done snapshot of a beautiful subject.

        As a great photographer-and-teacher often told us: ‘if you’re photographing flowers, birds, city scenes, landscapes, etc. it’s the subject that is “doing the heavy-lifting”.

        Which is okay, if you are content to just record reality. BUT, creating a beautiful work of art in a photograph takes a lot more work than merely pressing the shutter release.

        Google: “how to create fine art photography” or “fine art photography examples” to see the difference.

    9. Yes, we are well aware that we have moved to a buyers market at Wohlfarth & Associates. There is tremendous opportunity on the Upper West Side for people seeking value, particularly in quality pre-war stock. Partially sales inventory is up due to changing demographics in the neighborhood. For many years now Gen-X and Millennials have had their eyes on Brooklyn, Queens, Upper Manhattan, etc. The Upper West Side has always offered quality and, over time, value opportunities. As we look at the market, there are many 2+ bedrooms, in varying condition, that are wonderful opportunities for young families and/or home offices, etc.

      As All Upper West Side Rag readers know: the Upper West Side is filled with gems: a strong sense of community, an intellectual and artistic history, two parks (Central and Riverside!) great schools and convenient shopping and transportation. If you are a potential buyer considering a move into the neighborhood, or a neighbor looking to find a new space, I would be happy to hear from you.

      Wishing all a Happy & Healthy Holiday Season and a Bright 2019!

      André J. Gustavus
      917-624-1033
      andre@wohlfarth.com
      https://www.wohlfarth.com/agent/andre-gustavus/

    10. Marilyn says:

      Gimme a break. Stop the warehousing of apartments. Bring back rent control both commercial and residential.
      Now people have multimillion apts in neighborhoods with few stores. The kind of stores that make a neighborhood more than a collection of buildings. And the attitudes of these newbies also leaves a lot to be desired. Most vexing is why they alllow hundreds of bags of trash to sit on the sidewalk for over 12 hours. The rats LOVE it.

    11. David Olshefski says:

      Well, maybe all the demand has moved to LIC to follow Amazon…and to Hudson St to follow Google.

    12. MJ says:

      Can someone please explain this to me? Isn’t inventory high because of new developments that start in the (approx.) $3 million/$10,000 a month range? If these are sitting empty, why does that drive down prices of pre-war units in the $1mil range? To me, these apartments cater to very different buyers.

      • B.B. says:

        You cannot compare units based upon price alone. New construction nearly always comes at a premium over existing home sales. Thus often both are often competing for same buyer/tenant.

        A two bedroom in an existing fifty or whatever old building may only be able to command “one million” because it is just that. You can only do so much even with gut renovations. OTOH new construction these days not only gives you a brand new building/apartment, but a building full of various amenities that often existing rentals, co-ops or condos may not be able to match.

        Also apartment layouts of new buildings are usually designed to modern standards for one, two or whatever bedrooms. This rather than a unit in an older building where things have been cobbled together by joining apartments, putting up walls, etc…

        Even for white glove pre-war apartment buildings sales or rentals are lost when a buyer/renter prefers something “new”.

        The Dakota, The Beresford and all the other wonderful pre-war buildings all over east and west side are great, but at end of the day you are still dealing with buildings that are sixty, seventy, one hundred or more years old. Heating is via steam, central air usually non-existent, electrical systems dated, and so forth.

        You can buy an apartment for say “one million”, then spend another million or two in renovations. Or simply pay three million and get a unit pretty much in walk in condition.

        Other issue of course (at least for sales) is much if not all new construction is condo; which is vastly preferred to co-ops by those looking to buy.

        Co-op owners even in some of our very best buildings aren’t immune to competition from new construction. Neither the board nor individual sellers may like it; but pricing must take this into account.

    13. Young Sally says:

      It’s been a buyers’ market (unless you are selling new construction condos) since Trump got elected….I went into contract on my coop this time a year ago at a price that seemed brutal relative to a year earlier….and it seems only worse now – with very few exceptions.

      But such is real estate.

    14. Evan Bando says:

      Those are averages skewed by the very high end which has come down most of all. Do comps on your building year over year. That’s what matters most.

    15. B.B. says:

      Mortgage rates are rising. Inventory is up with more coming online and or planned. It all is part of real estate 101 and happening pretty much all over USA.

      You have older co-op/condo sellers going up against new construction (never a good thing).

      At some price point many buyers simply consider if a house in suburbs is a better deal than paying a premium to live in the city, especially Manhattan.

      Even with their lofty prices much new construction offer rather small apartments for what they cost. Even for “family sized” units often it works out better to buy a house in the suburbs.

      Then there are more pressing matters such as local amenities like local schools.

    16. Jean says:

      Back in the early 1950s, my apartment on 88th & Broadway was $150.00 per month. Now the apartments are in the millions. No wonder every one is getting out.

    17. Martha says:

      As someone who has been looking for an apt. on the UWS for nearly two months, imho unequivocally the UWS is more expensive than the UES, or nearly any other neighborhood in Manhattan, except Harlem and perhaps Manhattan Valley, Lower East Side, Lower East Side, etc. $3000/mo will barely get you an acceptable apt. in an elev. building – maybe a studio apt, but forget about a 1 BR. If you spend $2500/mo you can maybe get a walkup studio or tiny 1 BR – most facing walls. Sellers of 1 BR apts are asking $600k for places where nearly all the windows face walls, or else the apt. is on the ground floor with no light whatsoever. Building more high-priced high-rise housing does nothing to lower prices to affordable levels. It just lowers a $3500/mo apt. to maybe $3100/mo, or a crappy $2900 apt. to $2500. And this is only for the first year. Thankfully, the stock market crash and rising interest rates is slowing the market down. Super overpriced apts I saw 6 weeks ago are still on the market. Only the best priced stuff that are quality apts. are moving quickly. What’s needed is middle income housing akin to the Mitchell Lama projects of years ago, NOT more high-rise, high-end apts.