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Manhattan Home Prices Reported Steady

Prices and sales volume for Manhattan real estate continued to hold relatively steady in the second quarter of 2012, because of a continued decline in inventory, low interest rates and increased foreign investment.

The median sale price for the second quarter was $840,000, up 2.4 percent from the same period in 2011, according to a report from StreetEasy.com that will be released on Tuesday.

Reports from the city’s largest brokerage firms also indicated relatively flat pricing, with one showing the median dropping by 2.5 percent and the others showing an increase of 1 to 2 percent. Sales volume was higher than a year ago and had more than doubled since the number of sales dropped to fewer than 2,000 in the first quarter of 2009, according to a Corcoran Group report.

“The stability of prices in the past few quarters has instilled confidence in a lot of people,” said James M. Gricar, general sales manager at Halstead Property. “Rates are quite low and the rental market is quite high. Conditions are good. That has led to a very stable, healthy — and for brokers, optimistic — market.”

The new numbers come after evidence suggesting the national housing market is finally starting to recover. Still, Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel and the author of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s report, said the national market was behind the New York market, which began to stabilize in early 2010 and was “moving sideways ever since.” He added that the city benefited more from foreign buyers than did the typical United States housing market and that Manhattan’s foreclosure rate remained low, as a result of tight co-op approval standards.

Sales were more robust at the upper and lower reaches of the market. The average condominium sale price was up, with Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property showing an 8 percent increase over last year to $1.81 million, buoyed by tight inventory and strong sales in the luxury market, including a $70 million sale on Central Park South.

The median price for co-ops sold during the second quarter, however, was slightly below the same period last year, because of a shift in market share toward entry-level apartments like studios and one-bedrooms, with the Corcoran Report showing a 5 percent drop to $640,000. It was the third consecutive quarter that the market share for entry-level studio and one-bedrooms was above 50 percent, driven by low mortgage rates and rising rents.

Over all, inventory has declined to 14,254 apartments, a 5.9 percent decrease from the same period last year, according to StreetEasy.com. If that trend continues along with rising demand, prices could move higher. The number of price cuts was down by 19.8 percent, compared with the same period last year, according to StreetEasy.com.

More than 3,400 listings went into contract in the quarter, a 20.7 percent increase from a year ago, according to StreetEasy.com. Brokers attributed that increase to strong demand, limited inventory, low interest rates and a continued view by foreign investors of Manhattan as a safe haven.

That enthusiasm is expected to carry forward into the early part of summer, said Dottie Herman, the chief executive of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Still, some listings continue to move more quickly than others. The demand for new apartments does not yet mean that sellers can name any price, said Hall F. Willkie, the president of Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales.

“People have to realize, yes, sales are taking place, but they’re taking place where prices are justified,” Mr. Willkie said.

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