Sunday, January 22, 2012

Housing Inventory Ends Year Down 22%

There were fewer homes listed for sale at the end of 2011 than in any of the previous four years, a positive sign for the housing sector.
But appearances can be deceiving, and it remains to be seen whether the drop is the beginning of a real recovery or if inventory is being held down by sellers waiting for prices to pick up and banks moving slowly on foreclosures.
The 1.89 million homes on the market at the end of December represented a 6% decline from November and a 22.3% decline from one year ago, according to data compiled by
Low inventories are an important ingredient for any housing recovery because prices could firm up in markets that have worked through their inventory.
Still, some real-estate agents aren’t celebrating because there’s a large backlog of potential foreclosures that haven’t yet been taken back and listed by banks. The inventory declines are particularly pronounced in certain states where banks have sharply slowed down foreclosures to correct document-handling abuses.
Moreover, some sellers have pulled their homes off the market to wait for a turn in prices, and that “pent up” demand from sellers could keep inventories higher once prices do rise.
Inventories were down for the year in all but one of the 145 markets tracked by, with Springfield, Ill., posting the only year-over-year inventory gain. The largest declines were recorded in Miami (-49.7%), Phoenix (-49.1%), and Bakersfield, Calif. (-46.6%).
The figures include sale listings from more than 900 multiple-listing services across the country. They don’t cover all homes for sale, including those that are “for sale by owner” and newly constructed homes that aren’t always listed by the services.
Nationally, median prices were down by 1% from November but up 5% from one year ago. Asking prices rose by 32.5% in Miami last year, with big increases in other Florida markets that include Naples (21.7%), Fort Myers-Cape Coral (21.5%), and Punta Gorda (19.4%).
Median asking prices fell from year-earlier levels in Detroit (-11%), Chicago (-10%), Las Vegas (-7.6%) and Sacramento, Calif. (-7%).
Inventories traditionally decline in December as sales slow during the holiday season. Listings have declined by 11% in December over the past 29 years, according to research firm Zelman & Associates.
Source: The Wall Street Journal - By Nick Timiraos

Monday, January 9, 2012

Manhattan Residential Sales Prices Down Slightly

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Manhattan apartment sales fell 12 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier as Europe’s debt crisis and sluggish U.S. job growth dimmed buyer appetites.
Purchases of condominiums and co-ops declined to 2,011 from 2,295 in the fourth quarter of 2010, New York appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a joint report today. The median price of units that changed hands in the final three months of 2011 climbed 1.2 percent from a year earlier, to $855,000.
“Consumers paused to see how things play out with all the information that’s coming at them right now,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said in an interview. “Europe, the impasse in Washington over economic policy, the stagnant nature of the economy -- there’s a lot of conflicting economic news, and if you’re on the fence, maybe you wait a little bit.”
Financial firms globally disclosed plans in 2011 to eliminate more than 200,000 jobs as they grapple with market turmoil, fallout from Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis and concerns that U.S. economic growth will slow. Morgan Stanley told regulators last week that it may dismiss 580 employees in New York City as the bank cuts 1,600 jobs.
New York City’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in November, up 0.1 percentage point from the previous month and higher than the national average of 8.6 percent, the state Department of Labor said Dec. 15.
StreetEasy Report
“Job security is No. 1,” said Sofia Song, vice president of research at, a property-listings and data website that also issued a report on Manhattan apartment sales today.
Purchases of condos and co-ops in the borough fell 19 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier to 2,403, according to StreetEasy. The median price dropped 9.1 percent to $750,000.
“It’s just really reflective of the economic climate,” Song said in an interview. “The economy is really volatile and people were just paralyzed to enter the market.”
Three other reports also showed declines in sales volume and median price for the three months ended Dec. 31.
Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property LLC said completed condo and co-op purchases fell 13 percent from a year earlier. The median price slipped 6.5 percent to $785,000, according to the brokerage firms.
2010 Rush
In the fourth quarter of 2010, sellers were in a rush to complete deals amid concern that capital-gains taxes for top earners would rise on Jan. 1, according to Hall Willkie, president of Brown Harris Stevens.
It “was our greatest year in history” in 2010, Willkie said in an interview. The risk of a tax increase “was very much a factor that did not exist in 2011,” he said.
Corcoran Group said sales tumbled 12 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010, and the median price dropped 5 percent to $795,000.
Purchases of luxury apartments, defined as the top 10 percent of all sales by price, declined 13 percent to 201 deals, according to Miller Samuel and Prudential. The median price of those transactions dropped 4.6 percent to $4.15 million.
On the Upper East Side, the median price of existing co-ops climbed 4 percent from a year earlier to $840,000, according to Corcoran. Condo prices in the neighborhood were little changed at $940,000. On the Upper West Side, the median price of co-op resales fell 1 percent to $825,000, while existing condo prices dropped 5 percent to $1.1 million.
Bloomberg - By Oshrat Carmiel