Coronavirus fears take a toll on New York real estate market

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CNBC’s Robert Frank reports on how the Manhattan real estate market is being affected by the coronavirus outbreak now that fewer people are attending open houses.

Plunging stocks and coronavirus fears are starting to hit the New York City real estate market.

Forty-four open houses had zero traffic last weekend, according to Fritz Frigan, executive director of sales and leasing at the New York residential real estate brokerage Halstead. Those 44 empty open houses represented 13% of all open houses, up from 9% two weeks earlier.

The average attendance at open houses in New York fell 27% to an average of 4.1 people per event from an average of 5.6 on Feb. 23, before the virus was reported in New York.

“With nervousness about their decimated stock portfolios comes insecurity about real estate valuations,” Frigan said. “If buyers feel that values of real estate will further depreciate because of the virus and financial instability, they will postpone their decisions to buy.”

Manhattan real estate was already in a two-year slump before the markets and virus fears, seeing eight quarters of declining sales.

Sellers are now even more reluctant to list their homes, fearing falling prices and the risks of having strangers touring their apartments. Early spring is usually a prime selling season in New York, yet listings for this year barely increased, up 2%, while last year’s listing growth during the same time period grew 9%, according to real estate appraiser Miller Samuel.

“Sellers are holding back on listing their properties at the moment,” said Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel.

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