NY City apartment sales down over 50 percent

NEW YORK Thu Jul 2, 2009 12:44am EDT

An apartment building is pictured on New York City's upper east side, January 12, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar

An apartment building is pictured on New York City's upper east side, January 12, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Manhattan apartment sales plunged more than 50 percent and the average price dropped 21.4 to 24 percent from a year ago, as the U.S. recession forced many who own a piece of the Big Apple to eat humble pie, several reports said.

The average price of Manhattan apartment in the second quarter slid to $1,312,920 down from $1,669,729 a year earlier, according to a Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate report released on Thursday. Most of the year-over-year decline occurred in the fall, when the credit crisis brought the market to an abrupt halt, said Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and the author of the report.

"What this is telling us is that the market continues to slide but not at the rate as it was last fall and that we're probably not done yet," Miller said.

Tougher mortgage requirements, rising unemployment and the recession took its toll on the market that had for more than three years had been the notable exception to the U.S. housing market crash.

But the Manhattan market dropped precipitously as Wall Street and the rest of the New York's private industries shed jobs.

"We had a tremendously abrupt price correction in the short time. Now we're seeing a slow decline," Miller said.

Although the shock has abated, and credit has loosened somewhat, unemployment in New York City rose to 9 percent in May, its highest level since 1997, according to the New York State Department of Labor. Apartment prices continued to fall.

In the second quarter, the median sales price -- in which half the values were higher and half were lower -- fell 18.5 percent from a year earlier to $835,700.

The median resale apartment price fell 25.6 percent from a year ago, to $725,000, but rose 7.4 percent from the prior quarter.

However, while off more than half from a year earlier, the number of sales picked up 28.2 percent in the second quarter from the first, according to Prudential.

"The buyers and sellers were in a tug of war," Corcoran Group Chief Executive Pamela Liebman said. "It became very clear this quarter who pulled who over the line."

Liebman said she expects the number of sales to continue to rise over the next two quarter.

A report by the Corcoran Group and Property Shark.com showed the number of sales rose 10 to 15 percent from the first quarter with resales up 30 to 35 percent. "Prices have taken a really nice drop," she said. "For those who continue to wait on the sidelines for additional double-digit falls, I think they will be greatly disappointed."

Higher mortgage rates may be pushing more potential buyers off the fence as they realize that may offset lower prices, Liebman said.

The number of homes on the market rose to 9,378, an 8.7 percent jump from a year earlier, by were down 10.2 percent from the prior quarter, as less motivated sellers took their apartments off the market, according to Prudential.

Resale apartments lingered on the market for an average of 162 days, up from 135 days this time last year, Prudential said. Sellers were willing to knock off 7.8 percent from their listing price.

"There's no tolerance in this market for not feeling that you got a deal," Liebman said. "It's all about the bragging rights."

(Reporting by Ilaina Jonas; Editing by Richard Chang)

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