The Europeans, Chinese, Russians and Brazilians are among the most active foreign buyers of Manhattan real estate. However steep declines in global currencies amid a rising U.S. dollar may have many rethinking that pricey pied-à-terre. “Its cooling from a frenzy to a rapid pace.” says Jonathan Miller, CEO, of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal firm that appraises roughly $5 billion worth of property annually in the New York City metropolitan area.
Any slowdown may be driven by the Europeans, they make up the largest number of New York City foreign transactions according to Miller. “For the last several years you have enjoyed about a 30% discount when you came here now its more like 10%.”
As for Russian buyers, Miller is not particularly concerned. “They are really a tiny sliver of the market they are just the most visible. The oligarchs buying $88 million condos gives a perception they are very active.” To Miller’s point Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich’s ongoing efforts to buy up an entire upper east side NYC block have been widely chronicled by the New York Post. He’s spent nearly $50 million already on this project, according to reports.
Some of the city’s newer, luxury developments such as One 57 could feel the impact of a slowdown from high-end buyers. “It was the first one in what’s now known as billionaires row and that development sold, very quickly, initially, they raised prices very rapidly,” observes Miller who estimates the 90 story skyscraper is 75% sold. “The reality is that high-end buyers are still price sensitive and right now the absorption rate in that building is about one sale a quarter.”
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As for the broader market, Manhattan is still viewed as a safe haven for many foreigners. “They are not really looking for a return they are just looking to preserve the capital,” which is even more important today says Miller, as China faces a looming real estate bubble, while Europe and Russia face possible recessions.
Even if demand from foreign buyers cools, Miller believes record low inventory should serve as a balance. “2014 was not only a record level for prices in Manhattan but also the third highest number of transactions in 30 years so I think there is still quite a bit of momentum in the market.”