March 1st 2015
The Real Deal
Brokers look forward to spring open houses, leaving broken pipes and icy steps behind
New York real estate may be hot, but it’s not immune to freezing temperatures. The so-called Siberian Express, as some dubbed the seasons’ prolonged cold snap, left a trail of ruined open houses and delayed listings in its tracks.
While seasonal dips are not new, this year’s exceptional cold, snow and ice made it difficult for some buyers to get around. Now, brokers said, buyers suffering from cabin fever are all the more eager to snag an apartment this spring.
“Everyone is really excited that the calendar is turning toward [spring] because there’s been a lot of appointments cancelled, deferred or delayed because it’s been an epic February in terms of temperature,” said Jason Haber, a broker at Warburg Realty.
He said he delayed listing at least one unit, a Classic Six on the Upper West Side that will have an ask of around $2.2 million. “I felt the market would be more receptive in March,” he said late last month. “The last thing I’d want to do is put a beautiful apartment on the market on a day when its -14 degrees.”
In addition to frigid temperatures, snow and ice made it difficult for buyers to navigate the city to reach open houses. “Agents will be drinking through a fire hose this spring as clients come out of a long cold winter with money to spend,” said Mike Loftus, a salesperson at William Raveis NYC.
“Agents will be drinking through a fire hose this spring as clients come out of a long cold winter with money to spend.” – Mike Loftus, William Raveis NYC
Annie Cion Gruenberger, an agent at Warburg Realty, said the only people who showed up to open houses in the worst weather were either very serious or suffering from cabin fever. “On the one warmer Sunday in February, I held an open house for a one-bedroom with a terrific kitchen and approximately 30 people came through the door,” she said. “It absolutely felt like spring fever.”
The cold temperatures are showing up as a chill in the numbers. In January, just 310 condos in Manhattan went into contract, down 6.3 percent from December and, significantly, the lowest monthly total in three years, according to StreetEasy. Condos spent a median of 82 days on the market, up sharply from 19 days in December.
Nationwide, sales of existing homes also dropped 4.9 percent in January to their lowest rates in nine months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Janine Young, an agent at Bond New York Properties, said she showed up for an open house in Fort Greene, only to find out that the seller’s broker was locked out. She waited with the other broker while he called a locksmith. “By the time he got into the property, he realized that the pipes had burst due to the cold weather,” Young said.
Aramis Arjona, an agent at Mirador Real Estate, was covering an open house for another agent one particularly frigid weekend and only one person showed up. “Unless you have a serious time crunch or emergency, you will put it off,” he said.
Of course, this is still New York real estate, and a good number of agents said frigid temperatures haven’t cooled the market. Warburg’s Gruenberger said she wouldn’t cancel an open house, even in a snowstorm. “Many people want to take advantage of low interest rates,” she said, adding that serious buyers aren’t deterred by the weather.
Marisa Mohan, also a Bond New York agent, had an open house at 621 80th Street in Bay Ridge on Feb. 15, when temperatures dropped to around 4 degrees. Her boyfriend had to chip three inches of ice off the front steps, and the house, which was asking $735,000, had no heat. “We could see our breath inside,” she said, but she got 14 offers.
Another Bond agent, Annette Holmgren, said she launched sales in mid-February for a one-bedroom at 330 West 72nd Street that was asking $1.1 million. “We ended up just doing two open houses and going to best and final with a price $111,000 over ask,” she said.
Town’s David Gomez Pearlberg said even though many buyers have been hibernating, the phones are still ringing as everyone gets ready for the spring market.
He used the freezing weeks to connect clients with lawyers and lenders. “In this market,” he said, “once you see the place, we need to move pronto.”