Goodbye to the ‘Starter Studio’

So if they must plunge into the sales market, buyers tend to go for broke size-wise. One- and two-bedrooms have traditionally comprised the bulk of Manhattan home inventory and its sales. And developers, of course, respond to this market demand by creating more.

“If people can,” Mr. Swig said, “they tend to buy one-bedrooms or larger because they tend to hold their values a little bit more. Studios tend to be the first to soften in bad markets, and when the market comes back they tend to be [among] the latter part to come back.”

Indeed, in any market, studios make up a paltry percentage of new-development and existing-home sales. This is due largely to the greater numbers of larger apartments, but also due to the buyer reticence expressed by Mr. Swig. Simply put: If they can help it, Manhattan buyers would like to aim for the envy and not settle for that so-called starter.

In the latest full quarter of 2007, studios represented just under 17 percent of all condo and co-op sales, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel. The peak market share for studios in the past three and half years came in the third quarter of 2004, with over 18 percent. By contrast, two-bedrooms that quarter accounted for 38 percent, and one-bedrooms 35 percent; those percentages have basically held steady over the past several years, with studios joining larger apartments (three-bedrooms and way up) on the whispering edges of inventory and sales.

And on these edges, studios play their role reliably, however beyond the spotlight.

“Usually,” said Mr. Perry of The Clarett Group, “when you build a new development, as I see it, the studio buyer who’s going to be using the space isn’t looking that far into the future. Studios are a start for a new buyer.”