Today’s Wall Street Journal includes a front-page article about sky-high lawyer incomes. The article points out that top lawyers can earn $15 million per year or more.
Why is this relevant to urbanism or markets? Because one common argument against new condos (at least in NYC) is that they will be bought by foreign investors instead of by local residents. In turn, this argument rests on the assumption that new housing is so expensive that the local rich can’t afford it.
But someone who earns $15 million per year can afford almost all new condos, even in Manhattan. When I bought a condo in Atlanta many years ago, the sticker price was about 2.6 times my salary. Even if you assume no one will pay more than that, this means that a $15 million household can pay for a $39 million condo.
Almost every new condo in Manhattan costs less than $39 million. My latest zillow.com search reveals that 541 units in condos and co-ops were built in 2020 or later. Only seven of those units cost over $39 million. In fact, only 34 cost over $15 million, and the majority (376 of the 541) cost under $5 million- certainly far more than I could ever afford, but affordable even for an attorney earning $1 or 2 million per year.