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Luxury apartment sales activity and prices remain relatively stable

April 12, 2012

First Quarter 2012 reports released last week by the major real estate brokerages in Manhattan indicated that luxury apartment sales activity and prices remained relatively stable although some bidding wars were reported.

Median sales prices for Manhattan luxury apartments slipped 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to $775,000 from $782,071 in the prior year quarter, according to a new report from Prudential Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel Inc., but the average sales price and price per square foot posted increases.

Average price per square foot increased 6 percent to $1,086 from $1,025 over the same period, the report, which provided the chart at the right, continued, and average sales price edged up 0.8 percent to $1,341,589 from $1,331,306 in the prior year quarter.

The report noted that housing prices in Manhattan have generally remained stable since the middle of 2009, a few quarters after the credit crunch began. It also said that sales levels began to rise during the middle of the first quarter. There were 1,377 sales of co-op apartments in the first quarter, 3.7 percent less than the 1,430 sales in the same year-over-year quarter, but sharply above the 996 sales in the prior quarter, the report said, adding that "after the mortgage rates dropped to record lows last fall, entry-level apartment sales jumped to 61.7 percent of all co-op sales, the highest share in two years."

Days on the market for all luxury apartments for sale expanded to 152 days from 127 days in the prior year's quarter, the Elliman report said.

Days on market for condominium luxury apartments jumped to 206 days in the first quarter from 140 days in the prior year quarter even though listing inventory decreased 6 percent over the same period.

Studios and one-bedroom market share was the second highest in decade and "the entry-level market comprised 56.2 percent of all sales in the first quarter" of 2012, "second only to a 58 percent share in the fourth quarter 2009," according to the report.

"There were 2,700 market-wide closed sales during First Quarter 2012, even with the First Quarter 2011 and a 1 percent increase from Fourth Quarter 2011. Buyer demand is evident but limited condominium inventory is keeping sales growth muted. This quarter's transaction activity is still 18 percent below the trailing five-year average of 3,291 sales," according to The Corcoran Report for the First Quarter 2012.

"Market-wide," it continued, "there were 8,367 available listings at the end of the First Quarter 2012, a 9 percent decline from the First Quarter 2011. This significant reduction in inventory is a consequence of condo availability eroding at a much higher rate than co-op inventory. Condo inventory declined 13 percent from a year ago while co-op inventory declined only 4 percent."

East Side townhouse median price increased 5 percent from the last quarter but declined 20 percent from a year ago, the report found, adding that "median price on the West Side increased significantly by 30 percent from a year ago to $4.5 million."

"Median pricing Downtown fell from both last quarter and a year ago, by 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively," the Corcoran report said, adding that "uptown, townhouse median price remained even with a year ago but fell 6 percent from last quarter."

"Loft median price increased 17 percent from a year ago and 4 percent from last quarter to $1,785 million due to median price gains in the 1,000-1,500 and 2,000-2,500 square foot ranges" and "in the over 2,500 square foot loft market, median price dropped 21 percent from a year ago and 31 percent from last quarter," the report said.

The First Quarter 2012 Report from the Halstead Property L.L.C., prepared by Gregory Heym who also prepared a similar report for Brown Harris Stevens, indicated that "a surge in sales over $10 million led the average Manhattan apartment price 9 percent higher over the past year, to $1,483,591" and "closings over $10 million rose 42 percent compared to 17 a year ago."

The average price for a luxury co-op apartment rose 10 percent from a year ago, to $1,181,715, according to the Halstead report. "Gains were led by three-bedroom and larger co-ops, whose average price jumped 17 percent over this time to $3,707,569."

The average price for all luxury condos was $1,889,560, 8 percent higher than a year ago, and the highest condo price in three years, the Halstead report said, adding that three-bedroom and larger units posted a 21 percent gain over the past year.

On the Upper East Side, the Halstead report found that pre-war cooperative average price per room declined slightly in the first quarter to $374,596 from $383,511 in the first quarter of 2011 while the average price per room in post-war buildings increased from $214,378 in the first quarter last year to $218,872 this year. It also noted that the average price per foot of condominiums on the East Side rose from $1,256 in the first quarter last year to $1,333 this year.

On the Upper West Side, the report said that the average price per room in cooperative buildings climbed from $257,202 in the first quarter last year to $271,854 this year while the average price per square foot in condominium buildings soared from $1,353 in the first quarter last year to $1,731 this year. It noted that "without the $88 million sale at 15 Central Park West," the average condo price per square foot in the first quarter would be "$1,598, 18 percent higher than the first quarter of 2011."

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