Manhattan Real Estate Market Reports: Closings Up, Prices Down

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The ritual flooding of our in-boxes with Manhattan real estate quarterly market reports is nigh, and the first three months of 2010 brought plenty of happy news, but sobering data, too. The breakdown:

• We’d heard late fall and winter that buyers were crowding open houses once more, and the numbers bear this out. According to the Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead reports, closings rose by an inspiring 92 percent from the same period last year. Market surveys typically differ from one firm to the next, but on this point they all agree. Streeteasy pegs that number at 83.6 percent; Corcoran, 23 percent (though after the usual lags of recording closed sales, number-crunchers there expect that number to hover at approximately 70 percent); and Jonathan Miller’s survey for Prudential Douglas Elliman’s clocked in at a more modest, though still impressive, 63 percent. That’s pretty much a consensus — rare in these parts.

• Prices have dropped from last year. Yes, dropped. The average price of a Manhattan apartment, per Halstead, was $1,369,883, 9 percent below 2009’s first quarter, and the median price was down by 10 percent, to $820,000. Miller found average prices 21.8 percent below last year’s, and median prices, 11 percent below.

• Listings are moving a little faster. According to Miller, listings languished an average of 170 days last year. This year at the same time, they're sticking around only for 124 days. Halstead's wait time held steady at 119 days.

• Streeteasy’s research director, Sofia Song, says new developments are still struggling. There was no momentum there. Closings there fell by 44.3 percent since last quarter, and by 34 percent from last year.

• And the luxury market — the upper 10 percent of condo and co-op sales — is still trying to find its footing, with the average sales price down 28.9 percent from 2009 and the median price down 30.5 percent, says Miller. But numbers are up from last quarter: The average luxury unit price, now at $5.55 million, is up 14.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009. For those looking to sell in the $10 million and up market, there's been some good news. According to Greg Heym, chief economist for Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead, there were nine closings at those prices in the first quarter of 2009, and that number has practically doubled this quarter to seventeen.