Coronavirus

Manhattan owners' flight to the suburbs was underway before Covid struck

A continued exodus to the suburbs many lead to oversupply and lower prices in Manhattan.

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The coronavirus pandemic accelerated many New Yorkers’ decision to leave Manhattan yet was not the sole catalyst. The shift to the suburbs was already underway before Covid struck.

That’s the conclusion of new report from UrbanDigs, a Manhattan real estate analytics platform, which compared the ratio of new sales listings to signed contracts in order to measure demand in Manhattan and its surrounding suburbs. It’s faster way of developing a snapshot of the market because it can take months for deals to be accepted, closed and recorded.

According to the report, on a year-over-year basis, demand for Westchester Country increased by 22 percent; for Greenwich, Connecticut, by 65 percent; for Bergen Country, NJ, by 21 percent; and for Monmouth County, NJ by 22 percent. Compared year-over-year, demand for Manhattan was unchanged (.52 percent), but when looking at only pending sales done after the stay-at-home order, the drop in demand was 56 percent.

The report also looks at historical demand for these areas and finds that demand for Manhattan began lagging behind Westchester in April 2019 and Bergen County in January 2019, which suggests that the trend of Manhattan losing strength compared to suburban markets was occurring long before the pandemic came into focus.

“In the near term, continued slack demand for Manhattan could create an oversupply situation, implying lower prices ahead, and increased suburban demand could create a supply crunch, pushing up prices,” says Noah Rosenblatt, founder and CEO of UrbanDigs and author of the report.

He says easing the stay-at-home restrictions in Manhattan is unlikely to stem the shift to the suburbs.