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Fire Sale! Luxury Home Contracts Were Raging Last Week

Ah, spring! The season of warm breezes, blossoming trees and brisk home sales is upon us. And last week saw a flurry of activity, with 22 contracts signed for homes $4 million and above, according to the Olshan Luxury Market report.

The number was a luxury market record for 2012, with the biggest contract signed for the $22 million duplex co-op at 88 Central Park West (12 room duplex co-op, park views, 6,000-square feet). However, most of the action was happening downtown and most of it involved condos (10 of the 22 contracts signed were for downtown condos).

“One thing I can say absolutely is that condos are outselling co-ops two to one and downtown is as popular as uptown,” said Donna Olshan, author of the eponymous report and a brokerage firm bearing her name.

And it’s not only new developments. Downtown townhouses are also selling well, with 17 sales in 2012 (compared with 9 on the townhouse obsessed Upper East Side).

And what makes downtown condos and townhouses so popular? Well, no one is particularly fond of the co-op approval process, and it’s even less popular among one of the largest pied-a-terre seeking crowds—foreigner buyers. Ms. Olshan noted that Jonathan Miller had recently estimated that foreign sales were responsible for as many as a third of condo and townhouse sales, up from roughly one-in-five.

The average asking price for condos $4 million and above was $2,530 per square foot, Ms. Olshan said, with the average size being 2,991-square-feet. Ms. Olshan said that the second week of February also saw a lot of action—with 21 contracts signed, but “this is the spring market,” (20 contracts were signed last week).

During the same week last year, there were 16 homes in contract in the $4 million and above price range.

“Last summer we hit that terrible August with the meltdown in Greece and Congress not being able to pass the budget. The theory is that a lot of people who were interested in buying hit the pause button,” said Ms. Olshan. “Now, the spring is playing catch-up and we’re seeing demand from tons of people.”