WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Buyers and sellers continued to take advantage of an improving housing market during the third quarter in Westchester County.
The median sale price rose nearly four percent in the quarter compared to the same time frame in 2012, according to reports from Douglas Elliman Real Estate and Houlihan Lawrence. The number of sales increased by nearly 30 percent for the quarter compared to 2012.
“This is the highest quarterly sales total in 30 years,’’ said Amy Kane, the executive vice president of Business Development in Westchester for Douglas Elliman. “Additionally, the median price increased to the highest level in five years and the absorption rate decreased to 5.9 months, which has not been seen since the third quarter of 2005 when it was 5.7 months. With the talk of rising interest rates and true pent up demand, even the ‘fence sitters’ came to the market. Buyers are now demonstrating a long term view on the benefits of home ownership."
Chris Meyers, the managing principal for Houlihan Lawrence, said the numbers in his agency’s report indicate that real estate is “returning to a steady state.” He also said all of the markets Houlihan Lawrence serves seem to be participating in the recovery.
“The momentum which has been building does appear to show signs of leveling off,’’ Meyers said. “We’re not going to backslide, but the rate of growth is starting to decelerate. I think we’ll see much slower price appreciation. In terms of sustainability, that’s not such a bad thing.”
Leah Caro, the president and principal Broker of Bronxville-Ley Real Estate, is encouraged by the steady growth.
“Prices are up about 3.5 percent, which is sustainable,’’ she said. “I think seeing a huge trajectory in prices is too much of a spike. Steady growth is exactly what we’re looking for.”
Houlihan Lawrence’s report, which breaks down sales by pockets in Westchester, showed several towns had spectacular sales. Sales in Valhalla, for instance, increased 123 percent over last year. Sales also rose substantially in Yorktown (73 percent), Hastings (78 percent), Blind Brook (61 percent) and Briarcliff (58 percent).
“It comes down to value,’’ Meyers said. “Those are markets that were playing catch up compared to some other communities. Prices had come down there. In lower Westchester and the Sound Shore, prices started rising again last year. Briarcliff and Valhalla were still just bottoming out. People saw that those were towns where they could get good value.”
Caro was encouraged by the sales figures in Bronxville, which has nearly 50-percent co-ops. “I was glad to see the co-op market increased, but the price is flat,’’ she said. “Co-ops always take a little longer to recover. I’m glad to see activity is up. Inventory is tight, which is a good thing. Borrowing money is still pretty cheap. Banks are lending reasonably and responsibly.”
While many real estate observers are encouraged about the fourth quarter, they are uncertain how a lingering government shutdown, the federal government’s battle over the debt ceiling and seasonality could impact the market.
“If I was looking into a crystal ball, I think the fourth quarter would have a seasonal downturn, but it’s still optimistic,’’ Kane said.