900 unsold units in Midtown condos are in projects that are less than 50% sold out: PincusCo analysis

53 West 53rd Street (Credit: Google)

By Adam Pincus

Amid the glut of condominiums in Manhattan, there is a subset of units that are in buildings that are at a stage in sales that is often see as more vulnerable — when the condo is less than 50 percent sold out.

Some projects have just started closings, so they have a way to go, and others have been closing sales for years but have not yet jumped over that half-way marker.

Whatever the reason, in this sluggish market some brokers view developers of such projects as more likely to make a deal. Of course each situation is unique. We are looking at those that are in this category, and not making assumptions about their financial status. We are looking only at closed sales, and not counting sales in contract or sales that have closed or not been recorded.

To identify the projects that fall into that category, PincusCo Media analyzed more than 1,000 residential condominium projects of five units and up in New York City that have recorded condominium declarations since 2013. Those projects total more than 30,000 units. (The database is updated with sales recorded as of June 16.)

We then analyzed projects in Midtown, broadly defined as 14th Street on the south, 60th Street on the north and river to river.

We found 72 condominium projects with declarations recorded since 2013. Most of those were sold out or nearly sold out. We found approximately 1,300 unsold units among them.

Of course, the unsold units are concentrated in buildings with fewer sales, and we found nearly 900 units available in 19 projects that were less than 50 percent sold out.

The condo with the largest dollar volume of unsold units is 53 West 53rd Street, which has about $1.7 billion in sales yet to be recorded in Acris. It has recorded just under $200 million in sales through 35 closings. The most recent was on May 7. The project had a burst of recorded closings in January and February, but slowed dramatically since then.

The project with the next highest dollar volume of unsold units is 111 West 57th Street, which has closed and recorded two sales as of June 16, both for very low-dollar apartments. It’s not a surprise the project has had few closings so far — it only recorded its condo declaration April 2. In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported this month that there were two units in the building with contracts recently signed, each above $30 million.

A spokesperson for 111 West 57th Street took issue with the methodology, saying, “Counting only closed units doesn’t give an accurate representation of the development’s sales.”

That said, the closed and recorded units were some of the lowest priced in the project, with one selling for $2.8 million and another for $2.1 million. The current estimated value of unsold units is $1.37 billion.

The project with the third highest dollar volume of unsold units is 100 East 53rd Street, which recorded its condo declaration in October 2018, and is about 30 percent sold, according to the PincusCo analysis.

In fourth place was the Gramercy Square condo, composed of several buildings. The project is nearly 50 percent sold out, the analysis found, yet still has more than $500 million in unsold units.

In fifth place was 138 East 50th Street, which only recorded its condo declaration in March of this year, so approximately $500 million remains unsold.

A few have been hampered by litigation, for example 515 West 29th Street. The project was started by Joseph Beninati’s Bauhouse Group, but he lost the project which was taken over by Absolute Forum Capital Partners. Despite those changes, the project has not recorded a sale, even as the developer reported to the NYS Attorney General that the project had three units in contract as of February 21, 2020.

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