Manhattan apartment sales remained stable during the first quarter, amid signs, brokers said, that the recovery in this affluent housing market was continuing.
Market reports being released on Tuesday show strong sales among Manhattan’s most expensive apartments and new developments and a pickup in sales of smaller studios and one-bedroom apartments that long have been lagging.
One report by Prudential Douglas Elliman found that the median price of a Manhattan apartment in the quarter was off by just under 1% from the year-earlier period, with sales also off slightly from the 2011 opening quarter.
But buoyed by a record-setting $88 million sale, the same report showed that the average price of a Manhattan condo was $1.86 million, the highest in three years. Other reports, using different methods, reported quarterly sales up slightly and median prices up as well.
Jonathan Miller, an appraiser and president of Miller Samuel Inc. who prepared the Elliman report, attributed the flat overall prices to an uptick in sales of smaller, lower-priced apartments in the past two quarters.
Pam Liebman, president of Corcoran Group, said low-end sales were driven by a Manhattan vacancy rate of less than 1%.
“Rents are crazy,” she said. “There is a real effort by first-time home buyers to get help from family members or sympathetic banks to live the American dream and to buy rather than rent. Buyers didn’t jump off the fence, they leapt.”
Part of the sales increase was driven by a wave of closings at a new glass building on East 24th Street near Lexington Avenue known as One48.
About 35 studios and one-bedroom condos were sold during the quarter, according to StreetEasy.com, with many of them actually being negotiated months earlier.
After co-op and condo sales tapered off last summer and fall amid a financial crisis in Europe, some housing analysts worried that the Manhattan market would continue to slow down this year. Employment figures suggested a slowing of the local economy.
But earlier this month the state labor department revised those figures sharply higher, according to Gregory J. Heym, an economist who prepares market reports for Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead.
The new figures show that despite fears of widespread layoffs in finance, 3,700 jobs were created on Wall Street last year, and 2,200 were created during January and February, he said.
The Wall Street job gains contributed to a spurt in high-end sales. The Brown Harris Stevens report said that the number of closings for apartments costing more than $10 million rose by 42% in the quarter compared with a year earlier.
Brokers also say foreign buyers are more active now than they were during the peak of the market a few years ago. In addition, inventory of available apartments has been falling, the reports found.
But most of reports focused on the stability on the market. Sofia Song, vice president of research at StreetEasy, said that the index based on repeated sales of the same apartments shows that the prices in Manhattan have been essentially flat since 2008.
But she said the outlook for the market was positive. The number of contracts signed during the first quarter rose 8.8% compared with a year earlier.
“We are steadily improving and getting better,” said Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property. “I like steady.”