Manhattan Apartment Sales Surge

It always helped to have lots of money to buy Manhattan real estate, perhaps now more than ever. Residential real estate sales skyrocketed in the first quarter of 2010 -- there were 2,384 transactions in the first three months of 201o, double the number for the first quarter of 2009, according to a report by Prudential Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel.

What's more, prices have rebounded as well. Half of the units sold were priced at $868,000 or more -- a 7 percent jump from the previous quarter and not far off median selling prices during the boom years.

But don't jump to the wrong conclusion. This is not about some amazing recovery of the housing market in the country -- although the National Association of Realtors does report a February jump in high-end home sales nationwide. No, this glowing report has more to say about the unique character of the New York market.

A big reason for the dramatic increase in Manhattan apartment sales is an equally dramatic decrease in Manhattan apartment prices. Even at a median price of almost $900,000, prices are off by almost 30 percent since their peak, and 11 percent from 2009.

Compare that to the national median home price -- which ranges, depending upon location, from a low of about $139,000 to a high of about $245,000 -- and you see we're not talking about a typical market.

New York has always been viewed as a unique market, an island of coveted real estate that people are willing to pay dearly for. With Wall Street and hedge funds roaring back, and foreign buyers with pocketfuls of strong currency, there are plenty of buyers for these million and multi-million dollar properties.

And these folks know a bargain when they see one -- the code name real estate agents use for this class of buyer is "sophisticated."

"Buyers out there who are sophisticated are bypassing the product that is significantly overpriced," Jonathan Miller, president of appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. tells Bloomberg.

A different report by Brown Harris Stevens, says the Associated Press, shows sales of condos and co-ops increased 92 percent compared to the first quarter of 2009.

Unlike in other parts of the nation, sellers in Manhattan are apparently pretty much getting what they are asking for, says the AP.
"Manhattan sellers," says the wire service, "received 96 percent of their last asking prices during the first quarter."

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.
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