The Roller Coaster Reopens

The real-estate market couldn’t be more confounding to Shoaid Qureshi. The Bollywood movie producer-director’s Yorkville one-bedroom went on sale early last year for $525,000, but by summer he had nudged the price down to $499,000. And again in February, to $489,000. Still no takers. So a few weeks later, Qureshi … raised the price by ten grand. Now buyers are circling, ready to swoop in, says his broker, Corcoran’s Denice Rich.

Talk all you want about a condo glut: Recently, there’s lots of anecdotal evidence that the market’s heating up again, and brokers are once again daring to ask for more, even for properties that have sat unsold. “If you raise the price, you’re reintroducing [the property] with enthusiasm,” explains Halstead president Diane Ramirez, who says it’s an appropriate move in a scene that’s once more seeing bidding wars. Last weekend, Qureshi says, his apartment was crowded with buyers—“like a fish market.”

Many owners in this situation have adjusted prices numerous times. Corcoran’s Christopher Stanley says his client, a film editor, “couldn’t give away” an East 23rd Street studio with two price dips but received five offers immediately after upping the asking price in January. (It sold for more than that new asking price, in fact.) Many such apartments have languished on the market for months: a white-glove co-op off Fifth Avenue (pictured), a new condo in Times Square, a Harlem townhouse, a three-story in Bay Ridge.

“It defies logic,” says appraiser Jonathan Miller, who has seen the strategy put into play lately. “If the property wasn’t moving at the [reduced] price, why raise it?” Because the market can bear it, apparently. “In the last six weeks, it has changed,” declares Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Darren Sukenik. “The volume’s back up,” and so are prices.

So is this a real bull market again? Although more apartments traded last year than in 2004, when the market was at its zenith, “we’re not in a housing boom,” he says. Inventory, hovering at about 6,000 units, according to the recently released Prudential Douglas Elliman Manhattan Market Report, is still about 1,000 more than the median over the past five years, and prices have risen modestly. Stanley’s client says he has no idea why it sold now and not last year, when it was cheaper. “Who cares at this point?” he says, sounding relieved.

The Roller Coaster Reopens