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2019-09-13 — nytimes.com

Among the more than 16,200 condo units across 682 new buildings completed in New York City since 2013, one in four remain unsold, or roughly 4,100 apartments -- most of them in luxury buildings, according to a new analysis by the listing website StreetEasy.

"I think we're being really conservative," said Grant Long, the website's senior economist, noting that the study looked specifically at ground-up new construction that has begun to close contracts. Sales in buildings converted to condos, a relatively small segment, were not counted, because they are harder to reliably track. And there are thousands more units in under-construction buildings that have not begun closings but suffer from the same market dynamics.

Projects have not stalled as they did in the post-recession market of 2008, and new buildings are still on the rise, but there are signs that some developers are nearing a turning point.

Already the prices at several new towers have been reduced, either directly or through concessions like waived common charges and transfer taxes, and some may soon be forced to cut deeper. Tactics from past cycles could also be making a comeback: bulk sales of unsold units to investors, condos converting to rentals en masse, and multimillion-dollar "rent-to-own" options for sprawling apartment... The slowdown is uneven and some projects are faring better than others, but for well-heeled buyers there is no shortage of discounts and sweeteners to be had.

... the city's flagging condo market [...] peaked about three years ago amid a glut of inventory. Now the market could face new obstacles, from growing fears of a recession, to changes in tax law and political instability heading into an election year.

...

Moreover, a growing share of condos sold in recent years have been quietly re-listed as rentals by investors who bought them and are reluctant to put them back on the market. Of the 12,133 new condos sold between January 2013 and August 2019, 38 percent have appeared on StreetEasy as rentals.

...

The downturn has been hardest on the ultraluxury market, which kickstarted the trend toward bigger and fancier apartments more than six years ago. The super-tall One57 tower, completed in 2014 and considered the forerunner of Billionaires' Row, a once largely commercial corridor around 57th Street in Midtown, remains about 20 percent unsold... "That's mind-blowing," Mr. Miller said, because the building actually began marketing eight years ago, in 2011, and a typical building might sell out in two to three years in a balanced market.

In an analysis of seven luxury towers on and around Billionaires' Row, including pending sales, almost 40 percent of units remain unsold... [the analysis shows] there are over 9,000 unsold new units in Manhattan [including] so-called "shadow inventory," which developers strategically do not list for sale to hold off for a stronger market. At the current pace of sales, it would take nine years to sell them... New development is also performing worse than the resale market. From January to late August, there was a 35 percent drop in the number of contracts signed for new development at or above $4 million, compared to the same period last year...

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