The luxury real estate market in Manhattan during the last six months has broken all records of previous market highs, including the remarkable peak in the spring of 2000, according to a report from a New York City-based residential real estate brokerage.

Upon entering the second half of the year, the Manhattan residential market shows a measured strength, according to the Stribling & Associates Private Brokerage mid-year luxury market report. “The luxury real estate market led the burgeoning economy during the first six months of 2004 and blew through all previous records. Currently, the Manhattan luxury market is slowing its frenzied pace of the earlier part of the year,” said Kirk Henckels, director of Stribling Private Brokerage and author of the report.

The report found that there were 13 sales of $10 million and up cooperatives in the first six months of 2004 compared to a total of 8 sales per year since 2000, and surpassing the record sales of 2000. Cooperative sales increased dramatically even from the peak of 2000 to the present. There were 73 sales in the first half of 2004 compared to 33 sales over $4 million in 2003, while the top of the market in 2000 showed only 44 sales.

The downtown residential market is very strong and has seen tremendous gains in the first half of 2004 as well, the report found, with various celebrity buyers, such as the Olsen twins, Meryl Streep and Martha Stewart, causing increases in the loft market.

After lingering on the market since the previous peak in 2000 the $10 million and up inventory experienced strong demand, and prices increased by as much as 20 percent-30 percent or more, resulting in a current lack of inventory. The lack of cooperative inventory in the $10 million and over market may lead to a strengthened high-end townhouse market in the second half of 2004, according to the report.

In the first six months of 2004, townhouses dominated the $4 million to $10 million market in number of sales and outperformed townhouses in the over $10 million market. More than 27 percent of all townhouses sold over $4 million were located downtown.

The current market is certainly quieter than in the first six months of the year, a natural progression away from the high-pressure market of early 2004, the report concluded. A number of factors appear to be affecting the market today, including inevitable mortgage-rate increases, stock-market gyrations, soaring gas prices and concerns about the war in Iraq. “At least for now, potential buyers have adopted a more cautious attitude and that uncertainty will be reflected in market activity with prices staying level and inventory rising somewhat,” Henckels said.

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