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Manhattan apartment sales hit a high

Sales of Manhattan apartments have hit a fourth-quarter record, with wealthy international buyers competing with New Yorkers to get a foot in the door as prices soar.

The number of purchases rose 27 percent compared with the same period the year before to 3,297, according to new data released on Friday. Although down from 3,837 in the third quarter, this was the highest fourth-quarter tally since records began 25 years ago, according to appraiser Miller Samuel and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

(Read more: New York is running out of luxury apartments)

Limited supply has led to buyers often making immediate all-cash offers, participating in bidding wars and making decisions based on floor plans alone, in an echo of the previous property boom. The number of days a property was on the market in the fourth quarter almost halved from the previous year to 95 days.

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"Demand from foreign buyers has never been stronger. Those from the Middle East, Russia, South America, China have been on an incredible buying spree and it is these sales that are driving prices," said Pamela Liebman, chief executive of property broker The Corcoran Group.

The median price of a luxury apartment – usually above $3 million – jumped 10 percent from a year ago to $4.9 million.

(Read more: New York apartment prices hit four-year high)

An abrupt increase in mortgage rates over the summer tipped more buyers into the Manhattan market at a time when inventories were already tight, a trend that continued to the end of 2013.

"This wasn't a sleepy year end," said Jonathan Miller, president of New York-based Miller Samuel. "There was a lot of good economic news last year and people from New Yorkers to international investors were keen to secure the best buying conditions from mortgage rates to prices. It was a record third quarter and now a record fourth."


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