In Manhattan Real Estate, Cash Is Everything (2024)

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All-cash purchases shot up to 64 percent of home sales in the borough. Here’s who’s buying.

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By Ronda Kaysen and Ella Koeze

Ronda Kaysen interviewed 28 people who bought homes in Manhattan over two days in February. Ella Koeze analyzed the numbers on more than 100,000 New York City real estate transactions.

Share of home sales made with cash

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

2024

Manhattan

64%

U.S. metro avg.

39%

Sources: ATTOM, Marketproof

Across the country, buying a home in cash is increasingly common. In Manhattan, it’s become the standard.

In April, buyers paid entirely in cash for 64 percent of the homes sold in Manhattan, according to Marketproof, a provider of New York City real estate data. In contrast, cash buyers accounted for 39 percent of April sales in large U.S. metro areas, according to ATTOM, which provides national real estate data. (Manhattan was a similar outlier even within New York City.) The gap between Manhattan and the rest of the country has grown since 2022, when interest rates first spiked, making cash a more attractive option for those who have plenty of it.

In New York, “cash buyer” might bring to mind an oligarch who parks millions in a palatial apartment that sits empty most of the year. But a New York Times analysis of recent sales paints a far more expansive portrait.

Over two days in February, 52 of the 76 closings were in cash. Interviews with 28 buyers on those days and some of their agents, as well as a review of public records, revealed that the people paying cash were mostly American and often New Yorkers. They worked in health care, tech, fashion and the arts. Their ages spanned from the late 20s to the 80s. They got the cash by selling stock or a previous home, or from their parents, or from years of saving. The places they bought touched every corner of Manhattan, from the city’s most exclusive condos to its most affordable co-ops.

In Manhattan Real Estate, Cash Is Everything (3)

About two-thirds of

Manhattan real estate

purchases over a

recent two-day period

were in cash, across

a variety of prices

and neighborhoods.

$875k

$369k

$939k

$483k

$2.0m

$913k

$645k

$10.6m

$660k

$415k

$1.2m

Manhattan real estate

purchases, Feb. 13-14

$555k

$552k

52 purchases in all cash

24 purchases with a loan

$1.0m

$1.1m

In Manhattan Real Estate, Cash Is Everything (4)

About two-thirds of Manhattan real estate

purchases over a recent two-day period were

in cash, across a variety of prices and

neighborhoods.

$875k

$369k

$939k

$483k

$2.0m

$913k

$645k

$10.6m

$660k

$415k

Manhattan real estate

purchases, Feb. 13-14

$1.2m

$555k

$552k

52 purchases in all cash

24 purchases with a loan

$1.0m

$1.1m

Source: Marketproof

Notably, the highest rate of growth in cash purchases from 2021 to 2023 was among apartments under $3 million. For most Americans, spending even $1 million for an apartment may sound like an eye-popping sum, but the median sales price in the borough was $1.1 million in April, according to StreetEasy. Most of the apartments sold on Feb. 13-14 were listed for well under $1 million — the cheapest cash closing was a $250,000 studio.

All-cash purchases in Manhattan, 2021-23

Share of residences bought with cash, by price

$1 mil. or less

$1 to $2 mil.

$2 to $3 mil.

$10 mil. or more

$3 to $10 mil.

2021

2023

42%

54%

44

57

48

62

76

80

57

66

Source: Marketproof

Where the money came from: the prior generation

Hell’s Kitchen studio

$250,000

A 53-year-old, who worked in fashion, bought for child with proceeds of another sale.

Washington Heights two-bedroom

$369,000

50-year-old retail manager used inheritance.

Morningside Heights two-bedroom

$939,000

34-year-old in nonprofit fund-raising used money set aside for her by parents.

Murray Hill two-bedroom

$1.2 million

Retired parents used savings to buy apartment near adult sons.

Source: Marketproof

Where the money came from: lucrative jobs

Chelsea studio

$555,000

31-year-old real estate agent used savings.

Upper West Side one-bedroom

$772,500

50-year-old pharmaceutical biologist sold stocks.

Lower East Side two-bedroom

$1 million

39-year-old tech worker used savings from previous job at a start-up.

Upper West Side three-bedroom

$2.4 million

Couple working in tech used savings.

Source: Marketproof

Where the money came from: a lifetime of savings

Upper West Side one-bedroom

$330,000

Retired couple used profits from selling Harlem apartment.

Gramercy Park one-bedroom

$552,000

Retired financial planner sold stocks.

Yorkville one-bedroom

$645,000

Retired couple used cash from sale of previous home.

Sutton Place one-bedroom

$660,000

Retired dentist and pharmacist used savings for a pied-á-terre.

Upper West Side one-bedroom

$913,000

73-year-old psychotherapist took out a line of credit against investment portfolio.

Upper West Side four-bedroom

$10.6 million

Retired tech executive used savings.

Source: Marketproof

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