Diane M. Ramirez
Gregory J. Heym
Executive Vice President, Chief Economist
By VIVIAN S. TOY
The Manhattan real estate market remained resilient in the last three months, with prices holding steady and sales volume going up, despite the wild gyrations of the stock market over the summer and continued fears of global economic crisis.
The median sales price for Manhattan apartments held steady, with the city’s largest brokerage firms finding median prices of between $850,000 and $911,333, according to sales reports that will be released on Tuesday. The number of sales during the quarter, however, was up by more than 15 percent compared with the same time last year.
“The prices are boring, but the volume is exciting,” said Pamela Liebman, the chief executive of the Corcoran Group. Her agency’s data showed 3,750 sales marketwide, the highest number since mid-2008, before the market crashed.
Ms. Liebman said the market slowed briefly in early August, after a credit rating agency downgraded the nation’s debt rating and the financial markets took a series of unpredictable swings. “But we’ve become much more used to that type of volatility,” she said. “If that had happened a couple years ago, we would have lost hundreds of deals, but as it was, people paused for a few days and then came right back.”
Diane M. Ramirez, the president of Halstead Property, said she saw the relatively flat market as good news. “What we predicted and actually hoped for was slow and steady recovery,” Ms. Ramirez said. “And that’s what we’re continuing to see.”
Average sales prices rose by 1 percent from last year, to $1.437 million, largely because of an increase in the number of transactions above $5 million, according to data from Brown Harris Stevens.
“The uptick in the average sales price is thanks to the high-end market,” said Hall F. Willkie, the president of Brown Harris Stevens. The price of Upper East Side apartments with three or more bedrooms, for example, went up 29 percent, to $4.54 million, primarily because there were five sales of more than $20 million, compared with just one such sale last year.
Dottie Herman, the chief executive of Prudential Douglas Elliman, said many of the high-end sales were going to foreign buyers. “We’re seeing more foreigners than we did during the boom,” Ms. Herman said. “It’s because the dollar is so weak and with the whole world in a mess, people feel that real estate in New York is still a lot more stable than elsewhere.”
At the same time, the brokerages reported increased sales volume for studios and one-bedroom apartments. The number of studios and one-bedrooms sold in the last quarter rose to 1,500, a 26.7 percent increase from 1,184 the same time last year. Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel and the author of Elliman’s report, noted that the 1,500 sales did not represent a boom so much as a return to historic norms.
Entry-level-apartment sales lagged in the last two years, when rents were weak and many landlords offered incentives, but rents have rebounded this year, giving people incentive to become first-time buyers. Mr. Miller said the increase in sales of smaller apartments was also probably a result of mortgage rates’ remaining low. “That’s also significant because mortgage underwriting has actually tightened and you essentially have to have quadruple-A credit just to get a mortgage,” he said.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011