Press Release

New REBNY Report Shows Decline in Broker Confidence, As Respondents Highlight Quality of Life Concerns and Growing Economic Challenges

REBNY Press

May 15, 2022

Issues Dominating Residential and Commercial Broker Confidence Shift Away from COVID-19

NEW YORK, NY – The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the City’s leading real estate trade association, today reported that current broker confidence fell for a third straight quarter but remained in positive territory. While six-month expectations were even less optimistic, the outlook was still greater than in early 2020, when Commercial and Residential indices were -33.74 and -64.32, respectively.

The decline noted in REBNY’s Q1 2022 Real Estate Broker Confidence Index was largely driven by brokers’ outlook on the residential market, which fell in the report’s Current Confidence Index (CCI) from 50.63 to 31.41. The Q1 2022 Commercial Current Confidence Index was essentially flat, inching down just from 17.89 to 17.05.

Notably, unlike recent reports, COVID-19 was not the dominating factor for declining confidence. Residential and commercial brokers had new concerns that lowered their respective indices. While white-hot for several quarters, broker feedback suggests that the residential sales market may moderate in response to rising interest and mortgage rates. By late March, the average 30-year home mortgage in the U.S. hit 5.0%, its highest mark since the fall of 2018. The Fed has made it clear that several additional rate hikes are likely as the central bank tries to curb inflation. Brokers also noted a lack of inventory and global instability as factors that may subdue the residential sales market.

Commercial brokers cited a delayed return to office and quality of life issues as their top concerns. Several major employers like Goldman Sachs, Citi and Apple reopened or initiated return to office policies in Q1 2022. Despite this momentum, Kastle Systems reported 37.1% office occupancy in the New York metro area as of April 13. This is up from 22% in late January but still trails the average occupancy among the 10 largest metro areas monitored by Kastle.

Six-month Expectations Index (EXI) responses from brokers were negative, ticking down from last quarter by approximately 20% among residential brokers and 17% among commercial. All brokers expressed negative outlooks for financing in the next two quarters.

Despite this outlook, several market indicators suggest New York is trending in a positive direction. The gap between ridership on the subway and buses and ridership on the LIRR and

Metro North started to narrow in March; and by the first week of April ridership (as a percentage of pre-pandemic trends) was higher on Metro North than in the subway. On May 5, the New York subway system experienced its highest ridership since March 2020.

According to the Broadway League, gross ticket sales have more than doubled from $15.03 million during the last week of January to $34.7 million by mid-April. Restaurant occupancy has improved, rising from 70% below its pre-pandemic levels in January, to approximately 40% below its pre-pandemic levels.

Core issues brokers highlighted as critical to sustain economic progress in 2022 include:

  • Resolving quality of life issues like crime, sanitation management and transit safety

  • A more substantial and sustained return to the office

  • A local government and incentives that support business

  • Containing inflation as well as financing costs

“The main challenges facing the brokerage community have thankfully shifted away from unprecedented public health concerns” said REBNY Director of Market Data and Policy Keith DeCoster. “Economic momentum and broker confidence should stay in positive territory, particularly if public policymakers continue to prioritize quality of life issues and empower owners and businesses to invest further in New York City. “

“The disruption brought to the city since the onset of the pandemic was very real,” said Brian Waterman, Executive Vice Chairman and Principal at Newmark.  “However, New York City has always been at the forefront of innovation, and we’re quickly adapting to the new ways in which we work and how we envision commercial space. I am confident we will continue to grow the return to work occupancy as leasing velocity improved 57% year-over-year in April.”

“While there are significant headwinds facing the NYC office market, including an historically high availability rate, and many workers still reluctant to return to the office, there is undeniably very strong demand from occupiers for space in the best office buildings in premium locations,” added Bill Montana of Savills.

"The historic low vacancy rate, increased prices and bidding wars had lowered confidence industry wide in the first quarter,” noted Brendan Williamson of BOND New York. “Looking forward it seems we have brighter days ahead. As the three aforementioned roadblocks seem to dissipate it seems we are moving toward a more robust quarter with increased confidence from all sides as the market continues to correct itself. Moving forward it will be up to the prioritization of improving quality of life issues to continue the strengthening of morale around the industry."

Download the complete Q1 2022 Quarterly Real Estate Broker Confidence Index here.

For more information about REBNY research reports, visit go.rebny.com/Reports.