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2012 Was Manhattan Market’s Second-Best Year of the Decade

Once a year, appraiser/Curbed graph guru Jonathan Miller and the folks at Elliman release a 10-year market report, and today is the lucky day when we get to see the data covering the past decade. In the long view, the market still looks pretty good. Prices and sales in Manhattan have been stable for the past three to four years, Miller explains, “remarkable given the swirl of economic events over this period.” The median sales price fell just 1.8 percent over the past year, to $835,000, while the number of sales rose 3.4 percent. Prices are about 11 to 13 percent below the 2008 peak, and the number of sales remains about 21.8 percent below the sales peak, which occurred in 2007—but the peak was, well, a peak, and 2012′s sales were still the second highest of the decade.

What hasn’t increased, though, is inventory. Listing inventory fell 34.2 percent from the same time one year ago—and, in fact, inventory is at its lowest level in 12 years. Why? Tight credit. Sellers don’t qualify to buy new homes, so they aren’t listing their old ones. The lack of inventory pushes prices up, JMillz explains, but it also creates a new kind of shadow inventory as sellers wait for credit/market conditions to improve.

Like the entire Manhattan market, the townhouse market—which made up about 2.6 percent of all residential sales last year—was below peak levels but still fared well in 2012. The median sales price fell 4.2 percent year-over-year, to $3.5 million, while the number of sales rose 15.4 percent, to 411. Prices came in about 25 percent below the peak of 2008, itself a significant spike, and sales were about 19.2 percent below their peak of 2007. As in the overall market, listing inventory fell, in this case 18.9 percent year-over-year. But unlike the rest of the market, which is still dealing with credit issues, credit hasn’t been much of a factor in townhouse sales because most townhouse buys are all cash.

We asked JMillz for his outlook on the future of the market, and he’s approaching things with optimism—plus a dose of long-term perspective. “The hope is that as the economy slowly improves, there is a soft handoff from a low inventory, low rate, tight credit, high unemployment era to a modest inventory, normal rate, normal credit, lower unemployment era. I’m optimistic about the direction we are heading but from the context of a multi-year timeline.” Any reactions from the buyers and sellers out there?