What To Watch For in Latest Manhattan Housing Reports

By this time Friday morning, the blogosphere and the dailies will be rat-a-tat-tat-tat abuzz with what’s happening or not in the Manhattan housing market. The Corcoran Group and PropertyShark.com, Prudential Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel, StreetEasy.com, Halstead Property and Brown Harris Stevens all plan to spill their third-quarter findings into the public sphere.

What to watch for:

  • Sales drops: The last batch of reports, covering closed deals in the second quarter ending June 30, showed all sorts of tumbles in the amounts of Manhattan home sales, whether from the first quarter of 2008 or from the second quarter of 2007, when things were much rosier in Manhattan housing–and in Manhattan generally.
  • Price increases: The average Manhattan apartment price has been above $1 million since before Barack Obama joined the U.S. Senate. Thanks to titanic deals in the last 12 months, including the biggest co-op and condo deals in New York’s history, the average has only increased–or, if it’s decreased at all, it’s been negligible. The median apartment sales price, a more even measure of what things actually cost, has also been ascending for months and quarters on end. Will either drop? Or will more jumps continue to skew the perception of the market’s strength?
  • Inventory movements: The number of unsold homes on the Manhattan sales market is as fine a barometer as any for measuring the future of the market. If the number decreases in the third quarter, look for somber analysis as to whether the decrease was either due to frustrated sellers taking their properties off the market amid harrowing times or to a simple change in availability.
  • Condo sales: Buyers generally put less money down to buy condos than they do to buy co-ops, which often require at least 50 percent of the sales price up front. So, condos remain the gateway purchase for first-time Manhattan buyers. Like with apartments overall, condo sales zigged and zagged in the last two quarters. A significant drop (let’s say, for argument’s sake, of 10 percent quarterly) could be a terrible harbinger of things to come if you’re a seller, a broker or a developer (but good news if you’re a buyer, especially a first-time one).
  • Finally, a note: The third-quarter reports debuting Friday will not reflect the financial tumult of the last few weeks. Wait for January to start truly gauging those effects.

Real estate: Even in the worst of times, still Manhattan’s conversation topic No. 1.