Manhattan’s co-op market is back to business again. Many co-op boards are relaxing restrictions on showings and use of community amenity spaces like roof gardens and fitness centers. According to Steven Goldschmidt, Director of Sales and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs for Warburg Realty, the market is picking up after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions. “People want things to return to a level of normalcy,” he says.
The numbers tell a similar story. According to the data provided by John Walkup of UrbanDigs, the median price for a Manhattan co-op in the second quarter of 2021 increased 16% year-over-year. “In addition, the Q2 2021 median sales price is the highest quarterly median price on record, surpassing the previous high set in 2017,” Walkup said.
I recently spoke with Goldschmidt, who oversees the firm’s representation of numerous high-end developers around Manhattan, on how co-op boards are moving forward yet staying safe. In addition to his 40-year career in Manhattan’s real estate brokerage business, Goldschmidt is a long-time board member of the 140-unit upper-westside co-op where he lives.
EP: With New York City being over 70% vaccinated and most COVID protocols being lifted, where do the city’s buildings and co-op boards go from here in relaxing restrictions?
SG: Things are changing week by week. There seems to be a natural tendency for restrictions to be easing up because people want them to. There really were no public open houses until now, or they have been by appointment-only, which is not a true open house. We are now seeing open houses start again without appointments. People going to open houses and showings and no longer must fill out COVID information forms that were required by the Real Estate Board of New York.
I’m seeing more and more new development cocktail parties and broker breakfasts subject to particular rules. I was just at one of those cocktail parties and about half the people were wearing masks and half weren’t.
EP: How is wearing masks inside the buildings being handled for staff, residents, and delivery people?
SG: My building has over 35 children living there. We are asking residents to continue wearing masks in common areas, including elevators and hallways. Since there are children around who are young and not vaccinated, they deserve a level of precaution in and around the building.
We are still seeing food delivery people and contractors wear masks. Most of the buildings are back to their old ways now on food deliveries, whether it’s having your take-out delivered to your apartment door or going downstairs to pick it up. It depends on what the residents are comfortable with and what the shop that employs the delivery person decides as guidelines for their employees.
EP: Shared amenity spaces are a vital part of co-op living in New York, particularly during summer when people are out and using outdoor spaces. What do those shared amenity space restrictions look like now?
SG: The hardest amenity space to deal with is the gym and fitness room. Our gym was closed until May. A gym in a co-op can’t operate the same way as an Equinox. There is a trust factor here among our residents to clean the equipment you use. Once the gym did open, you had to reserve your time in the gym. Only one household at a time was allowed. Entry was with a key fob the doorman controlled. When the mandates ended, we took the position of let’s use the honor system.
The other amenity space is our roof deck, where people do have the ability not to wear masks. In June, we had a party for residents on the roof deck where about 40 to 50 residents attended. Some wore masks and some didn’t.
EP: Are co-op boards starting to do in-person interviews again with prospective buyers? How about in-person board meetings with board members?
SG: Our co-op board planning meeting just had its first in-person board planning meeting. We may stick with Zoom for ongoing board meetings. As far as in-person interviews go for the buyers. We meet buyers in the lobby or on the roof.
Warburg Realty is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.