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Sellers Gaining Upper Hand

A few weeks ago, when Dorothy Gusick put her three-bedroom shingled home on the market in Edgemont, a 30 minute train ride north of New York City, she had four offers within four days at or above her $749,000 asking price.

It was one more indicator that the shrinking inventory of homes for sale across much of the New York region, from commuter suburbs in New Jersey to co-ops and condos in Brooklyn, has begun to create a tight sellers’ market so far this year.

A series of reports covering the first quarter show a similar pattern in many markets with double-digit declines in inventory of available units. In most markets, median prices were up from the same quarter a year ago, with large increases reported in Brooklyn, compared with a weak first quarter last year.

But across the region, the number of contracts signed during the first quarter was up sharply, leading many analysts to foresee rising prices later in the year, a possibility that could make would-be buyers more eager to make deals.

Jeffrey G. Otteau, an appraiser and housing consultant in New Jersey, said that “the big change is a sense of urgency in the market” had last surfaced in 2006, before the collapse of housing prices.

“Home buyers are convinced that waiting will cost them more as prices go up and interest rates go up,” he said.

A report to be released Thursday by Douglas Elliman said that the number of houses, co-ops and condos on the market in Westchester County fell to 5,587 listings, a 17.5% drop compared with the first quarter of 2012. At the same time the number of contracts rose 27% from the year-earlier quarter.

Gabe Pasquale, the manager of Elliman’s Westchester offices, said there is now a “feverish sellers’ market” that started with a “trickle-up” effect from Manhattan, where the rental market and the apartment were tightening over the past year.

“When Manhattan gets a cold, everyone else has the flu,” he said.

Ms. Gusick and her husband, Richard, a retired stockbroker, had lived in the same midcentury house near a country club for about 35 years, but when it came to selling they made a deal quickly, she said.

She said that in the week that her house was listed more than 30 brokers came through and there were multiple offers, including two “significantly over the asking price.”

“They kept telling me the market will decide if the price was right and it did,” she said.

In Brooklyn, Frank Percesepe, a Corcoran Group manger who oversees sales at four offices and two annexes there, said that all this activity leaves buyers in a difficult spot.

There is very little inventory, and buyers have been trained to make offers immediately to have a chance on a deal, according to Mr. Percesepe.

He said that earlier this year, a broker held three open houses on the same day for three new listings in Bedford-Stuyvesant. They had a total of 250 visitors that day, he said, and 50 offers.

Adam Donato, a management consultant, was ready to buy a Brooklyn apartment, after paying more than $75,000 in rent over 3½ years in Manhattan, but found the going rough.

He bid $20,000 above the asking price on an apartment on Henry Street, but was beaten by another offer of even more money.

When a small co-op came on the market on 75 Henry St., a 32-story tower in Brooklyn Heights he was ready. The apartment, a studio converted to a one bedroom, with a 14-foot long terrace and views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline, was listed for $495,000.

Working with his broker, Greg Williamson of Elliman, he offered the full asking price, and outbid three others who offered slightly below the asking price.

“It is a hot market in Brooklyn Heights,” he said, “and there are very few high rise co-ops and this one had a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Another market report by Elliman out Thursday found that in Brooklyn, the number of listings in the first quarter fell 45.4% to 3,325 from the year-earlier quarter with median prices up 14.4% to $515,000 over the same period.

Jonathan Miller, an appraiser and president of Miller Samuel Inc., who prepared the Elliman reports, said that the huge reduction in inventory, contributed to an 11% decline in sales there compared with the same quarter last year.

“The big picture is that we aren’t expecting relief in terms of more supply being added to the market,” he said. “You are looking toward continued price pressure.”

In New Jersey, Mr. Otteau said that contracts signing in January and February were the strongest since 2007, while inventory fell to the lowest levels since the housing crisis began in 2006.

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