Diane M. Ramirez
Gregory J. Heym
Executive Vice President, Chief Economist
By Josh Barbanel
Despite abundant economic uncertainty, the Manhattan co-op and condo sales have achieved a rare state of being during the third quarter: stable and boring.
"Slow and steady as we predicted and hoped," said Diane Ramirez, the president of Halstead Property. "I am thrilled."
Dottie Herman, the president of Prudential Douglas Elliman, pronounced the market boring. "No news is good news—sometimes we like boring," she said.
Median prices in the quarter were down slightly from the year-earlier period, but were bit higher than in the second quarter, according to a series of sales reports scheduled to be released on Tuesday. But sales were strong and inventory was falling, giving many brokers hope that the market was holding on, and was likely to remain stable through the rest of the year, absent further economic tremors.
The reports found that the sales of the most expensive apartments were strong during the third quarter, and several brokers cited strong interest from foreign buyers looking to pay cash for condos at a time of economic worry back at home.
A report by Elliman put the median sales price of Manhattan apartment in the latest quarter at $911,333, nearly the same as a year earlier, while the average price was $1.46 million, down 1.5% from the year-ago period.
The number of listings on the market in the latest quarter dropped by 4.9%, and the absorption rate fell to 7.5 months compared with 9.2 months a year ago. The absorption rate is the number of months it would take to sell the current inventory at the current sales pace.
"There is enough confidence for people to buy in this market, but there is very little desire for overpaying," said Pam Liebman, president of Corcoran group. "In the overall economic environment we are operating in, it is hard to see what will make prices go up any time soon."
Reports by Prudential Douglas Elliman and Corcoran reported large gains in quarterly sales, which rose to their highest levels since 2008. But statistics issued Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens found that sales had risen by much less.
The various reports gather data differently. The Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens data use only official deed filings, while the creators of the other reports said that they augmented that with proprietary data and listing updates provided by brokerage firms.
Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, an appraisal company who prepared the report for Prudential Douglas Elliman, found a 33% increase in condo sales that he attributed in part to foreign buyers, despite the recent strengthening of the dollar.
"We are seeing Europeans, Asians and South Americans," he said.
Fredrick Eklund, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman said that many foreign buyers are looking for the same thing: new condominiums, with floor to ceiling glass, a real New York view and something dramatic.
During the last year, he helped both Swedish and Brazilian buyers purchase a total of six apartments at one recent condo building, the Caledonia on the High Line elevated park in West Chelsea. He said the building, developed by Related Cos., had extensive services and lots of glass and views "It is a hot building for foreign buyers," he said.
The Elliman report said the average sale price of a condo was $1.65 million, off 3.85% from the same quarter a year ago, and it put the median price at $1.05 million. The average sale price of a co-op was $1.2 million, off 3.6% from a year ago.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011