By Al Barbarino
“It is starting to feel like old times” in the housing market, said Corcoran Group CEO Pamela Liebman, following the release of the company’s first quarter report. “The Manhattan market is not in a recovery, it’s ready to run a marathon.”
While median home prices showed little to no change since last year, the number of transactions rose, inventory shrank and there were fewer price cuts.
“There are definitely some positive signs that show the market is getting stronger, especially as we head into the spring selling season,” said Sofia Song, vice president of research and author of StreetEasy’s Q1 report.
Median closing prices, at $775,000, were unchanged compared with the same period last year, the Street Easy report shows. A Prudential Douglas Elliman report also puts the figure at $775,000, but shows it to be a minor decline of 0.9 percent.
“Housing prices continue to remain stable,” as they “have been for two and a half years,” according to PDE. “Sales slipped modestly as a result of the economic turmoil of last fall.” The PDE report shows median co-op sales are down 0.7 percent and condo median sales down 8.7 percent.
However, on a positive note, closings were up 9.4 percent; total inventory fell 4.7 percent; the number of price cuts fell 4.7 percent; and the average time homes stayed on the market fell by 4.1 percent, according to the Street Easy data.
In addition, contracts rose by 8.9 percent to 2,621.
“Contracts are a much more useful gauge than looking at closed sales because closed sales account for activity that happened three or four months ago when the contract was signed,” Song said. “The increase of almost nine percent is a very positive sign.”
Street Easy’s Condo Market Index compares “apples to apples” by tracking the sale of the about 70,000 individual condos over time in order to determine appreciation in the market. Feb. 2012 showed a mere 0.2 percent increase compared with Feb. 2011, suggesting stability in the sector.
The Corcoran report states that a lack of inventory has caused buyers to snap up quality properties as demand outpaced supply and the market set the stage for bidding wars. Meanwhile, the “luxury market thrived” in Q1 with an “influx of international buyerinterest and sales at the high-end of the market,” Liebman added.
Both the Corcoran report and a report from Brown Harris Stevens show total average sale prices increasing between nine and ten percent since last year to $1.48 million.
But the figure comes along with acknowledgement that the jump is heavily influenced by an increase in the number of high-end sales. The Brown Harris Stevens report states that a leading factor in the higher average prices was the steep 42 percent increase in the number of sales over $10 million.
Song said that much of the momentum is coming from the bottom of the market as well. “When I break down that contract data, it shows that it’s the low end of the market that’s really hot,” she said. “I’m also showing more closings were happening in the lower ends of the market.”