New York City housing market grinds to standstill during coronavirus lockdown

Brokers may not be able to show properties in person until July

New York City real estate purchase agreements were locked in a near standstill in May as the COVID-19 pandemic blocked realtors from in-person showings.

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The number of contracts signed for co-ops in Manhattan fell 80 percent from a year ago to 125 while condo deals dropped 83 percent to 99, according to a report from brokerage Douglas Elliman prepared by appraiser Miller Samuel. In Brooklyn, co-op signings plunged 76 percent to 24 and condo agreements sank 44 percent to 74.

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“Because New York City remains under strict 'Shelter in Place' rules, the number of new signed contracts will remain nominal until brokers are allowed to physically show properties, which is anticipated to occur towards the end of June or early July," the report said.

Since the last two weeks of March, stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 have forced agents to give only virtual tours of listings. The virus has infected at least 385,000 New Yorkers.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, New York City real estate appeared to finally be turning the corner after two years of difficult conditions.

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Ultra-low mortgage rates were enticing buyers as the market finally moved past headwinds from Congress's elimination of a federal deduction for state and local taxes in late 2017 and an increase in the mansion tax, which was raised from a flat 1 percent surcharge on homes worth $1 million or more to a progressive tax as high as 3.9 percent on homes valued at more than $25 million.