Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quarterly reports: the real estate market is flat. With a few mountains and valleys.

Flat in both senses of the word.  More than one commenter used the word "boring" about third-quarter reports of real estate sales.

In more elegant language, says, "Though pricing indicators were mixed, the volume of Manhattan residential sales increased in the third quarter of 2011, creating an overall picture of stability in Manhattan's residential market."

Flat and boring is fine with me, given the financial chaos the world is in right now. 

But let's not forget that the contracts that established this flat and boring market were signed months before the sales actually closed.

That would be well before the financial turmoil and drastic deflation of the stock market that we have faced recently.  Hard to say exactly what the effect of these will be, but it probably won't be good.

Let's also note that it's the overall market that's flat.  Look closer, and you'll see mountains and valleys.  Bloomberg News actually called it bipolar.

“You have strength at the low end and the upper end,” Jonathan Miller, president of the pre-eminent appraisal firm Miller Samuel told Bloomberg.

“They’re benefitting from what’s going on globally: low interest rates and the weak dollar. The middle is restrained largely because of elevated unemployment and tight underwriting,” Miller said.

Low interest rates benefit first time buyers (who don't face the crunch of having to sell in order to buy); the weak dollar attracts foreign buyers; nervous banks reluctant to lend make it hard for anybody else who needs financing, particularly those who are up- or down-sizing.

Read more at 

One piece of news that is definitely good, at least for sellers, is that the number of sales rose about 17 percent year-over-year as well as quarter-over-quarter according to a report prepared by Miller Samuel, resulting in an inventory dip of about 5 percent from last year.  

At present, we're in a balanced market.  There's a buyer for every property.

Right now, it's often a foreign buyer.  More good news:  in a chaotic world, New York real estate is still seen as a good place to park your money.  The dollar's weak and prices here are drastically lower than they are in, say, London.

Of course, the conventional wisdom would be that a lower inventory will lead to higher prices.  Wrong.  It's a balanced market, not a sellers' market. 

But properly priced apartments and houses won't languish on the market.  They will sell.  

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