Does the New York City Luxury Market Foretell the Denver Luxury Market and Beyond

Yes I am well aware Denver is not New York City even if we do have Rosenberg’s Bagels and The New York Deli News; literally a slice of the Big Apple on Hampden Avenue. However the old adage goes when New York sneezes the rest of the country catches a cold. The reference is to the stock market; I am more concerned about the real estate market.

As some of my readers know I hold real estate licenses in both Colorado and New York and I work in both markets. Most recently the statistics concerning New York City real estate is concerning:

  • Real estate sales in the first quarter of 2018 posted their largest drop in nearly a decade and reached their lowest level in more than six years.
  • The high end of the market is getting hit the hardest, partly because of asking prices.
  • Many sellers have yet to lower their prices in keeping with tax law changes and a general slowdown since 2014.

The big headline in Manhattan was the 25% reduction is sales in the first quarter of 2018 when compared with the prior year. While the number in itself raised a few eyebrows more shocking was the drop, the largest in a decade meaning since the day when Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns basically imploded and some argue the catalyst of The Great Recession.

The high end of the market is getting hit the hardest, since it’s the most discretionary segment. Prices for luxury apartments in Manhattan fell 15 percent and sales were down 24 percent in the quarter from 2017.

In Denver the luxury market seems to be on fire with sales including the highest number of over $1M homes selling in 2017 and a few blockbuster listings already in 2018. New York City went through the same cycle a few years back including the record setting $100M condo sale at 157 W 57thStreet.

For now Denver seems immune as the luxury sales have been associated with truly unique and rare properties in Denver’s toniest neighborhoods including Country Club, Cherry Creek North, Polo Club and in the suburbs including Cherry Hills Village. My question is anyone concerned about the number of condos coming online and developed in Cherry Creek North, many asking over $1M. Or the potential glut of luxury rentals on the market and those in the pipeline in Cherry Creek and along the Speer Corridor.

The luxury housing market I have suggested is similar to the stock market; it in general looks forward and sets the trends for the overall market. Well let’s look at the overall Manhattan market…..

The average sales price in Manhattan dropped 8 percent when compared to one-year prior. 8% may not sound like much however let’s assume you purchased a home in Metro Denver in 2017 for the average price of $480,140. How would you feel if suddenly $38,000 of your value suddenly disappeared and your home was now worth $442,140?

The money you invested in the conventional down-payment has basically disappeared yet your mortgage is the same, your PITI will probably increase due to property taxes and thinking about refinancing, interest rates are trending up not down.

While many believe the Federal Tax Law changes concerning deductibility of real estate taxes being capped at $10,000 mostly affects the Northeast and California, guess again….many of the luxury homes selling in the Denver metro area have tax bills in excess of $10,000 annually. The next assessment coupled with the gains over the past few years will increase valuations even further.

Let’s assume tax law changes are inconsequential; let’s consider other factors, which are challenging the Manhattan market:

Glut of Luxury Properties: In Manhattan due to land and construction costs luxury is what has to be constructed to justify investment costs. The same is being said in Cherry Creek North and in areas of gentrification i.e. LoHi and RiNo. Yet the luxury market is not infinite i.e. the higher the price point the less demand, as the potential pool of buyers is smaller and honestly more fickle.

Out-migration: While I continually hear about the continued in-migration leading to challenges concerning livability the reality is according to the state demographer, we are experiencing increased out-migration.

Cost Of Living: Denver is and has been for a few years the most expensive city not located on a coastline. While we believe we can rest on our laurels concerning the Colorado Lifestyle and the hipness of Denver, Salt Lake City is nipping at our spurs. We also forget such cities as Minneapolis, Dallas and others are actively courting tech businesses and capturing new residents due to their reasonable cost of living.

Do I see the market changing radically in the next few months? Not necessarily however the headwinds are there i.e. interest rate hikes, a bull market that seems to be losing steam, housing costs that are increasing faster than average wages and over-priced listings sitting on the market the light of rationality.

While we may wish to emulate Seattle, Portland and San Francisco we should be careful what we wish for.




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