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New York Luxury Market: 2021 Guide For Upscale Real Estate Buyers

When people think of luxurious living in New York, Manhattan is the first place that comes to mind. Despite being the smallest borough, its financial and cultural cache is unrivaled in The Big Apple.

If you’re thinking of buying upscale real estate in this district, here is everything you need to know.


  • Manhattan: A history of prestige
  • What is considered upscale real estate in New York?
    • Premium price
    • Desirable location
    • High-end interior design
    • Prestigious history
    • Unparalleled exclusivity
  • What’s in store for the New York luxury real estate market?
    • The luxury property market remains strong
    • Condos are a hot commodity
    • Luxury investors are bullish about Manhattan
  • What are buyers looking for in a deluxe property?
    • Home offices are the new status symbol
    • Well-delineated spaces are a must
    • “Quiet” design
  • Where should you buy upscale real estate in New York?
    • Tribeca
    • SoHo
    • Upper East Side / Central Park East
    • Park Avenue
    • East 57th to East 86th
  • Common luxury property types in New York
    • Condominiums
    • Co-ops
    • Townhouses
  • Conclusion

Manhattan: A history of prestige

Real estate agent Angel Recalde notes that Manhattan traces its affluence and prominence to its origin as a maritime trading post. Established as New Amsterdam by Dutch colonists in the 1600s, it would eventually be renamed New York when the British acquired the land in 1674. Even in these early days, Manhattan was an economic and cultural powerhouse, even serving as the venue for the inauguration of President George Washington.

The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 connected Manhattan to the Midwest and Canada, making it a major player in industrial trade. Unsurprisingly, many of the era’s leading industrialists built both their homes and their businesses in the area, including Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Like the rest of America, Manhattan benefited greatly from the post-World War II economic boom, prompting large-scale housing developments in the district. The 1980s saw a rebirth of Wall Street, which attracted a new wave of well-heeled homebuyers to Manhattan.

What is considered upscale real estate in New York?

While Manhattan luxury real estate is clearly in demand, there’s actually no single definition for what luxury real estate is. Rather, such properties tend to share these characteristics:

  • Premium price — For many buyers, price is the ultimate yardstick for luxury properties. According to this article from U.S. News & World Report, anything above $1 million could be considered a luxury home in the global market. In New York, one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, that number is closer to $4 million. For context, the typical home in The Big Apple fetches around $869,000, so any property that is considerably higher than this median listing price could be considered high-end.
  • Desirable location — There is no shortage of condos in New York. But an expansive penthouse overlooking Central Park in a tony neighborhood like Tribeca? That is certainly in much shorter supply. The city has only a limited number of premier communities and each one has only a limited number of available listings. Living in these places is not only a privilege but also a status symbol, hence the lofty price tag.
  • High-end interior design — To live in a luxury home is to live a life of leisure. Owners of such properties spare no effort or expense in creating a home that can rival even the swankiest hotel suites and villas in the world. Think spa-inspired bathrooms, temperature-controlled wine cellars, private fitness studios, and infinity pools overlooking the New York skyline. Even the materials used are top-notch, such as Italian marble floors and natural stone countertops. If it’s a home that merits a feature on Architectural Digest, it’s probably upscale real estate.
  • Prestigious history — A home can also be considered a luxury property because of its history. In some cases, it’s a painstakingly restored property that dates back to the 19th century, making it a snapshot of a bygone era. In other instances, it’s the former home of an iconic celebrity or public figure. And sometimes, it was designed by a famed architect or interior designer. Whatever the scenario may be, all these properties are one-of-a-kind and are thus worthy of their steep asking price.
  • Unparalleled exclusivity — Luxury and exclusivity have always gone hand in hand. After all, exclusivity is the luxury of being counted among a select and prestigious few. Unsurprisingly, many high-end properties cater only to high-net-worth individuals. And because the wealthy demand utmost privacy, luxury properties in Manhattan come with 24/7 surveillance systems, a white-glove doorman, and private access elevators. There are also considerably fewer units compared to other residential developments, which helps promote further privacy.

What’s in store for the New York luxury real estate market?

New York City perennially ranks as one of the world’s most sought-after cities, but its upscale real estate market is seeing big changes, not least of which due to the pandemic. Here’s what buyers need to know:

  • The luxury property market remains strong — There’s no denying that big cities like New York were battered by the pandemic, with many residents moving to less crowded cities and states. However, the luxury market is seeing solid signs of recovery as of late. As reported by, there was a 60% increase in real estate contracts signed for high-end properties in Q1 2021 compared to the same period last year. The country’s low mortgage interest rates also make owning a deluxe home more affordable than ever, likely causing a spike in demand. Lastly, the ongoing vaccination drive has rekindled interest not just in buying properties in New York but in living here as well.
  • Condos are a hot commodity — New York City’s property market is dominated by co-ops, but recent sales data suggest that condos may be catching up. As this piece on notes, condo units accounted for almost 80% of all high-value property transactions in the first half of August 2021, continuing a trend that dates back to December 2020. The relative flexibility of a condominium’s ownership structure and the fact that most new high-end constructions are condos make this property type more attractive—especially to foreign buyers.
  • Luxury investors are bullish about Manhattan — As people flock back to the city, investors are pouring a significant amount of money into building or refurbishing properties. Case in point: developer Related Companies just scored $258 million in financing from Blackstone to refurbish Truffles Tribeca, a luxury apartment overlooking the scenic Hudson River. Even the Rockefeller Group is dipping its toes into luxury residential development with Rose Hill, a 45-story, art deco-inspired skyscraper located in the NoMad district of Manhattan.

What are buyers looking for in a deluxe property?

As with most things in real estate, what people want in a luxury home changes over time. And as you’ll see with the trends below, buyers want features that address the unique needs of the new normal:

  • Home offices are the new status symbol — If there’s one thing the current pandemic has proven, it’s that remote work is here to stay. As a result, people are looking for upscale real estate that can double both as an abode and a workplace. While home offices have always been a welcome feature, the lockdowns have made them an outright necessity, as having a dedicated workspace improves one’s focus and productivity. Expect that instead of a spare guest bedroom, extra spaces will be converted into home offices instead.
  • Well-delineated spaces are a must — While open floor plans have been immensely popular in recent years, such a layout isn’t exactly conducive to working and studying from home. Hence, today’s buyers are looking for properties with discrete spaces that foster better concentration. Whether it’s a separate study room for the kids or a nook where you can take Zoom calls, today’s deluxe houses are equipped to meet your needs.
  • “Quiet” design — The current pandemic has put a damper on New York’s break-neck speed and toned down its sometimes-maddening bustle. And for the most part, it’s been a welcome change of pace even for the city’s most ardent urbanites. This renewed sense of calm and quiet is also being reflected in the “quiet design” movement, which features simple but elegant furniture, muted colors, and the use of natural materials. You’ll also find many homes that incorporate plants and greenery into spaces to give them a more relaxing and revitalizing ambiance.

Where should you buy upscale real estate in New York?

Prestige. Convenience. Access. New York’s most coveted addresses offer all these and more. Even better, the city’s high-class neighborhoods each have their own charm and personality, so you can choose one that best suits your lifestyle.

If you’re house-hunting, consider looking at these in-demand communities first:

    Median Listing Price: $4.2 million

    Even among Manhattan’s top-tier neighborhoods, one name stands above all: Tribeca.

    This area is bounded by West Street, Chambers Street to the south, Broadway to the east, and Canal Street to the north, hence the name “TriBeCa” (short for “Triangle Below Canal Street”).

    Famed for its cobblestone streets and million-dollar homes, Tribeca offers an almost suburb-like tranquility in the middle of this chaotic city. It has a small village feel to it despite being actually quite big, and its peaceful streets are lined by rows and rows of top-notch restaurants, spas, and boutique stores. The serene and exclusive atmosphere is also the reason why many A-listers prefer to live in this part of New York.

    Is it any wonder why this community has the highest real estate prices in the metropolis?

    Median List Price: $3.7 million

    If Tribeca is suburbia, Soho is Bohemia.

    Considered one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York, Soho is home to many creative types such as artists, musicians, celebrities, and the like. Dotting the streets are various galleries where you can find shining examples of contemporary art. Indeed, many of the properties here are renovated artist lofts from the 1970s and 1980s.

    The name “SoHo” was coined in 1962 by urban planner Chester Rapkin and means “South of Houston Street.” The area is bordered by West Broadway to the west, Lafayette Street to the east, Canal Street to the south, and Houston Street to the north.

    Initially a rundown industrial area, the district’s abandoned warehouses were later converted into lofts that served as affordable housing for artists. Before long, SoHo would become known as a creative haven, establishing a strong connection to the arts.

    Today, SoHo is a cultural and commercial powerhouse that’s favored by people who want to live an inspired lifestyle.

    Upper East Side / Central Park East
    Median List Price: $1.4 million

    Central Park is an urban oasis that’s beloved by all Manhattanites, and a luxury home in the Upper East Side lets you live right next to it.

    The Upper East Side is also home to Madison Avenue, one of New York’s most iconic streets. Like strings on a pearl, the series of haute couture shops that line the avenue gives people access to the most fashionable apparel and jewelry.

    5th Avenue, meanwhile, is the site of the Museum Mile, a collection of world-renowned museums that include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Frick Collection.

    The best part? Properties here are fairly affordable compared to other tony neighborhoods, though you will still see many homes listed for eight-figures.

    Park Avenue
    Median List Price: $1.3 million

    Park Avenue straddles the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, but it’s the section below 96th Street where luxury properties abound.

    Despite being one of the city’s major thoroughfares, Park Avenue is fairly light on shops, so it’s a less crowded and family-friendly place. If you need to do some shopping, however, you’ll be glad to know that both Madison Avenue and 5th Avenue are within walking distance.

    Homes in Park Avenue are known for their large floor areas, giving your brood plenty of space. And most residential buildings rarely rise higher than 20 stories, affording you great views of the city.

    The best perk of living in this community is its central location. No matter where you want to go in this sprawling city, you’ll only be a short drive away.

    East 57th to East 86th
    Median List Price: Varying

    The part of town between East 57th and East 86th is also worth looking at if you’re buying upscale real estate in Manhattan. This area offers easy access to Manhattan’s top locations, such as Central Park and 5th Avenue. There’s also a wealth of stores and restaurants to be found here, ensuring that everything you need is just around the corner. As you’d expect from this side of New York, there are many high-end residential buildings with their signature green awnings and uniformed bellhops.

Common luxury property types in New York

Whereas other luxury property markets boast of sprawling mansions in multi-acre estates, Manhattan offers sophisticated urban residences that represent the height of cosmopolitan living. These high-end homes are only ever a short ride away from the best The Big Apple has to offer, from gourmet restaurants, to award-winning theater venues, to iconic shopping districts.

What properties can you expect to find in the metropolis? Listings usually fall into these three categories:

  • Condominiums — Luxury condominiums in Manhattan are no less extravagant than the single-family homes you’ll find elsewhere. They come in all configurations, too, ranging from modest four-bedroom abodes to palatial penthouse units with seven bedrooms and bathrooms. These properties offer more than enough space for your family, with floor plans measuring upwards of 5,000 square feet. Owning a unit also means getting access to luxurious amenities, like fitness centers, swimming pools, and dedicated concierge service. That said, always review the homeowners association’s guidelines as there might be restrictions on what renovations you can do to your unit.
  • Co-ops — Co-ops are a uniquely New York kind of property and outnumber condos by a margin of 3:1 by some estimates. When you purchase a condo, you own that unit you live in outright as well as a percentage of the common areas in your building. In a co-op, however, you’re actually buying shares in the corporation that owns the building so you can live there. The bigger the unit you purchase, the more shares you effectively have in the co-op. Of course, co-ops share many similarities with condos, including large floor plans, excellent designs, and deluxe amenities. They are also a little more affordable than condos and have lower closing costs.
  • Townhouses — If you want a property that’s a little closer to the standard home, consider purchasing a townhouse instead. These abodes are multi-level structures that are built in rows and share at least one wall with adjacent units, though they do have separate entrances. The charming brownstones of Brooklyn, with their stately facades and turn-of-the-century architecture, are excellent examples of townhomes. Many of these properties were built in the 1800s and 1900s, so they are also historical properties, though they have been renovated to have modern conveniences. Townhouses are classified as single-family homes since they don’t share common areas like hallways or elevators with other residents, thus making them ideal for people who want greater privacy.

As far as architectural styles are concerned, there are myriad choices that range from classical to contemporary and everything in between. All these homes, however, boast beautiful architecture, impeccable interior design, world-class materials, and fine furnishings. Whatever your aesthetic preferences maybe, you are sure to find a home that will please your sensibilities.

The Big Apple awaits you

There has never been a more exciting time to acquire upscale real estate in the iconic borough of Manhattan. If you need expert advice from an agent who specializes in this market, get in touch with Angel Recalde, dubbed “The New York City Luxury Real Estate Guy.” With his guidance, you can get deluxe homes in the city’s most desirable neighborhoods at a winning price.

To get your home search started, simply call 917.239.9987 or send an email to angelrecalde1(at)gmail(dotted)com.