Home Sales Hid the Skids in Queens;[br] Still Doing Better than Nassau, Suffolk

Fewer Queens homes are selling this year so far, and the ones selling take much longer than they used to, especially compared to the hotter activity just across the East River in Manhattan.

The average number of days it takes to sell a Queens home increased 12 percent from the fourth quarter of 2006 through the first of 2007 to 93, according to a report by appraisal firm Miller Samuel and brokerage Prudential Douglas Elliman released on Wednesday. That average was also up an astounding 25 percent from the first quarter of 2006.

Contrast those jumps with Manhattan, which had one of its busiest quarters on record during the first three months of 2007. The average number of days on the sales market plunged more than 12 percent from the fourth through the first quarters, and 5.6 percent quarter over quarter.

And, despite an average sales price of more than $1.2 million, Manhattan witnessed a record amount of home sales in the first quarter–3,474, up 42.3 percent from the quarter before.

Queens, not so much.

That borough’s home sales dropped over 10 percent from the fourth through the first quarter as the average sales price dropped, too. The price was down 0.3 percent from the fourth quarter to $490,637. The median Queens home price was $492,900 in the first quarter, slightly more than in the fourth. The borough’s inventory of unsold homes increased over 13 percent quarter over quarter.

Queens, the city’s biggest borough by area and second most populous, may merely be a bit behind on new-home development, said Jonathan Miller, Miller Samuel’s C.E.O and president.

“I’d say it’s a different demographics,” he told The Real Estate on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a different type of housing stock. Many areas, like Long Island City, are emerging markets where development is just starting.”

Last November, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Queens West, a 5,000-unit mixed-use development on the Long Island City waterfront. And Rockrose Development has seven residential towers in the works in that neighborhood, including a 394-unit one expected to be finished by year’s end.

Also, housing stock aside, Queens, when considering its real estate, should be compared with counties to its east and not necessarily to New York County (a.k.a. Manhattan) on its west.

“Queens performed better than any of the other markets [on Long Island] in terms of pricing increase and activity,” Mr. Miller said of the first quarter. “Mainly that’s because it’s within the New York City market, whereas Nassau and Suffolk are more traditional, suburban markets.”

- Gillian Reagan