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Housing rebound lags in NY

Earlier this week, the widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller index reported that home prices in the 20 largest markets in the country jumped 9.3% in the past year, the biggest increase in seven years.

The story in New York is not nearly that good and no one seems to be taking much notice of it.

The accompanying chart tracks the Case-Shiller index for the 20 largest markets against its index for the New York area. As you can see, the region has failed to follow the national rebound. In fact, New York showed a gain in only the last two months and prices remain below where they were a year ago.

The story is better for New York City. The first-quarter report from the Real Estate Board of New York for the entire city advanced 7% to 480,000 in the past year. Manhattan apartments rose 6% to $820,555, according to Miller Samuel. (These are median not average numbers. It is crucial to use median because the averages are inflated by a few very expensive luxury apartment sales and distort the New York figures when compared with national figures).

It is true that New York did not suffer as severe a decline as the rest of the country, but the housing figures are telling us something. While the city is enjoying a robust recovery measured by jobs, the suburbs are stagnating because they don’t have the growth engines of the city’s economy—tourism, TV production, tech and higher education. In addition, the trying times in financial services hurt the suburban markets a lot because so many bank and finance executives live there.

Nationally, the major issue in housing is whether the recovery will be sustained because it is being driven by sales to investors who want to rent properties and then flip them and the end to the wave of foreclosures, which depressed the market.

The New York region’s housing market depends on an improved economy in the suburbs, and there is not much evidence that is happening anytime soon.

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