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NYC signed contracts and new listings tick up in May, but is it a rebound?

The number of new signed contracts in NYC will remain low until brokers are allowed to physically show properties, the report says.

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A new monthly market report tracking signed contracts and new listings for Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, Hamptons, and the North Fork may inspire some hope for sellers who have been watching sales activity plunge during the pandemic.

This new addition to the market reports known collectively as The Elliman Report indicates that for most of these areas, signed contracts and new listings started to trend up in May after hitting bottom in April. Many of the charts that accompany the report have sharp V-shapes for April and May, showing rising activity.

Of course, these numbers are relative—they’re still way off compared to 2019 numbers. For example, there were 52 new signed contracts for Manhattan co-ops priced $500,000 to $999,000 in May 2020, compared to 243 in May 2019, a drop of 78.6 percent. Manhattan condos priced $1 million to $1.99 million saw 40 new signed contracts in May 2020 compared to 228 in May 2019, a drop of 82.5 percent.

"Because New York City remains under strict 'shelter-in-place' rules, the number of new signed contracts will remain nominal until brokers are allowed to physically show properties, which is anticipated to occur towards the end of June," the report says.

The report offers a breakdown of activity by eight price tranches depending on regional pricing, on a year over year basis, for co-ops, condos, and houses in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It also tracks signed contracts and new listings for houses and condos on Long Island, the North Fork, and the Hamptons. The South Fork in particular saw a jump in new signed contracts and listing from the prior month, the report notes.

Focusing on new contracts signed and new listings is part of an effort to “get the pulse of the market,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel and author of the report.

Miller says tracking new contracts is not necessarily better than looking at closed sales, which he does in his well-known quarterly market reports. It’s just another way of looking at what’s happening that adds to a fuller picture of the market. It's also important to consider that some contracts take three months to close, and some fall through and never close, he points out.

Miller also launched new monthly reports tracking signed contracts and new listings for five southern counties in Florida and three southern coastal counties in California. “You can see the markets that opened had a better May,” he says, referring to areas that are allowing brokers to do business in person.

Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that NYC will enter Phase 2 of the reopening on Monday, June 22nd, which will allow real estate showings in person.

The pandemic disrupted so much in New York City—and wiped the spring selling season off the calendar, Miller says. As a result, some of the May uptick may be a result of pent-up demand, he says.

“Once that pent-up demand is met, we’ll see what the market is really like,” Miller says.