Fourth Quarter: Pop?

Gray Lady real-estate blogging arriviste Damon Darlin over at The Walk-Through is unconvinced by doomsday forecasts for the real-estate market or speculation the bubble–if there is one–is about to burst.

We don’t pretend to understand things like flipping condos in Marin County or those weird speculation deals in Oklahoma that Erik Estrada advertises during daytime television.

New York is more our bag–and we still don’t see a bubble here anymore than we did back in June when Jonathan Miller told us:

“The situation in New York is different in the sense that we don’t have the rampant speculation, the property-flipping. It pales in comparison to what is going on nationally.”

In the heavily investor-driven South Florida market, which has been a major focus of recent coverage, Mr. Miller said, roughly 60 to 70 percent of sales are speculative purchases.

Still, quarterly reports from the Manhattan brokerages, which come out tomorrow, are likely to offer ammunition to both sides of the bubble debate.

Getting on board early, the Times’ Willie Neuman had a few predictions on Friday: An increase in the fourth quarter of 2005 in the average Manhattan apartment price of five percent. Increases have recently been as high as 30 percent, so that’s not great.

He notes, as we so often do, that the average apartment price is not the best index; we’ll add that often the data is bad, coming as it so often does from people with a dog in the race. But Neuman says that the averages can probably be accounted for because the upper end of the market, dominated by bigger apartments, cooled a little while studio and one-bedroom sales picked up, pulling the average price down without saying much about the market overall.

We’ll look at them closely and Michael will no doubt have our take on the market in this week’s Manhattan Transfers column.

- Tom McGeveran