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For William B. May Co., 1995 was a record year.

1995 was a year in which William B. May delivered many of the industry's high points, reports Peter R. Marra, president of the 125-agent, five location residential brokerage.

"We sold a $9 million co-op on Fifth Avenue, and a $7.5 million townhouse on East 64th Street," Marra said. "We had one bedroom co-ops on the market for one day (asking price $133K, selling price $133K) and even for as little as two hours (asking $165K, selling $160K). Citywide, we sold 63 townhouses. In the second quarter, we sold more townhouses than any other single category."

Each quarter witnessed healthy sales in the 3 and 3.5-room (1 BR) category, and by the third and fourth quarters, one bedrooms were outselling all other categories. The next best seller was the 4 and 4.5 room apartment, which did well in all four quarters. There were some unusually high priced deals, a preponderance of deals in the mid-price category, and a big comeback for starter homes.

"While the larger apartments, 8 to 14 rooms, sold well and quickly, we never had enough inventory,' Marta said. "Judging by the traffic, if we had more available, we would have sold more."

In October, Suzanne Sealy was awarded the Real Estate Board of New York's first prize "Deal of the Year" for a complex and delicately bound deal involving the sale of three separately owned apartments to one buyer. Also this year, Avida Ghafari, a vice president at the William B. May Company, assembled a rare package of two contiguous 22.5-foot wide townhouses on a prime Park Avenue block between 65th and 66th streets. These will be developed. Early plans call for a pre-war style condominium building aimed at the very top of the luxury market.

Highlights and Overview of Activity

* Hottest sellers were townhouses, 4-4.5 rooms and 3-3.5 rooms.

* Most unusual price paid was $1,111,111.11 for an 8-room co-op.

* Highest price paid was $9.5 million for a 14-room Fifth Ave co-op.

* Highest price paid was $1.8 million for a 7-room co-op on West 67th Street.

* Highest price paid was $1.5 million for a 6-room condo at 1049 Fifth Avenue.

* Highest price paid was $800,000 for a 5-room condo at the Promenade.

* Highest price paid was $7.5 million for an East 64th St. townhouse.

* Highest price paid was $1.16 million for a Park Slope townhouse.

* Highest price paid for a 1 BR condo was $415,000, on West 53rd St.

* Best bargain for a co-op was $18,500 for a 4-room unit.


1995 was the year of the townhouse. In an ongoing resurgence in the townhouse sales market dating back to mid-1993, 1995 confirmed the popularity of this category. Reports Marra, "Four years ago, it was a much harder sell. Now, buyers realize they represent one of the great values."

Profile wise, in addition to the usual candidate for this property type, 1995 brought in a host of co-op buyers switching stream, high name-recognition buyers who didn't want to live in an apartment building, and people who for one reason or another did not want to subject themselves to the scrutiny of a co-op board. William B, May sold 63 townhouses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, ranging from modest frame houses in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, to the house used in the filming of "The Age of Innocence" in Park Slope Brooklyn, to an impeccably restored $2.1 million Federal in the West Village, to a mansion in the East 60's.

Six Rooms and Over

Six room apartments ranged from $255,000 for a co-op on East 84th Street, to $1.5 million for a condominium at 1049 Fifth Avenue, with many deals in the low $1 million range (Fifth, Park, and East 70's), $700,000-$900,000 range (East 63rd St., Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue) in Manhattan, and $152,500 to $590,000 in Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights (9th Street and Pierrepont Street).

Seven rooms went for anything from $500,000 (East 57th Street) to $1.8 million (West 67th Street). In Brooklyn, seven rooms went for as low as $358,500 (Pierrepont Street) and as much as $695,000 (also on Pierrepont Street). William B. May had a rare 9-room sale at $3.5 million (East 72nd Street), and 10 rooms sold for between $917,500 (East 74th Street) and $1.725 million (Park Avenue).

Five to Five and a Half Rooms

This category showed strength throughout the year. Whether it was a $270,000 prewar on Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights, a $370,000 steal in Downtown (lower Fifth Avenue) or $565,000 for a penthouse on the Murray Hill stretch of Lexington Avenue, for many buyers, this represents an almost ideal compromise - not quite a Classic 6, but considerably more affordable.

Four to Four and a Half Rooms

In many ways the ideal size apartment for a range of buyers from the young family with two children to a single person who needs a home office or den, this category was William B. May's third best seller in 1995. Prices ranged from a $75,000 bargain on East 56th Street, to a considerably heftier $530,000 for four rooms in a co-op on East 57th Street in the Sutton area. However, more normal prices ranged from the high $200,000's to the mid $400,000's.

One Bedrooms and Studios

1995 could arguably be remembered as the year in which the 1 bedroom market came back to life. Marra attributes this to a combination of increasing confidence in the market, many newcomers arriving in New York, and a red hot rental market which made purchasing the equivalent 1 bedroom a more economically sound move than renting it, sometimes without even figuring the tax deduction on the mortgage interest. In Manhattan, 1 bedrooms generally sold for in the low $100,000's (West 52st Street, East 68th Street) to the low $400,000's (West 53rd Street), with several sales weighing-in in the mid to high $200,000's (East 40th Street) and mid to high $300,000's (penthouse on West 70th Street). Studio sales were weak in the first and fourth quarters, but were encouraging in the second and third. An unusually low priced studio, $45,000, on Horatio Street in the West Village, ended up in a bidding war, and their highest priced studio, on East 56th Street in the Sutton area, sold for $168,500 in the third quarter.


Brokers at William B. May were excited that the 1994 market continued strongly throughout 1995. The stock market had an exceptional year and interest rates reached two-year lows. They expect 1996 will be better than both '94 and '95, and predict that the first quarter of '96 will be their best first quarter in five or six years.

While demand for rental product will remain high, it will dip slightly from its peak in the fourth quarter of '95, as more renters get converted into buyers. The studio market will get a little stronger as buyer confidence reaches the lower end and banks continue to ease up on requirements for financing in this category. Townhouses will remain strong through the year and prices will increase by 5 to 7.5 percent.

While they had seen the investor returning as super bargain-hunter, the continued strength of the rental market, along with a dearth of foreclosure properties, will result in higher prices for this category of product, and investors will buy with more confidence. Investor deals which still make sense can be had in some sections of Midtown East, the East 90's, the Upper-Upper West Side (100th to 125th Street), Murray Hill, and in brownstone Brooklyn in Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, and sections of Park Slope.

(This report is based on William B. May Company sales only, and is not intended to imply any reflection on the market as a whole.)
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 31, 1996
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