A Housing Lesson in the Rockaways

The Rockaways are doing poorly. Home sales in the spit of neighborhoods in southeastern Queens dropped 39.8 percent annually in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to a report from Miller Samuel and Prudential Douglas Elliman. That’s a steeper drop than in any other area of Queens analyzed in the report, except for northwestern Queens, which is dominated by new condo development and where sharp drops aren’t unexpected.

The Rockaways’ drop reflects a general housing stagnation throughout the city’s largest borough by area. It is also an ominous reminder that the housing decline nationwide started with your average, middle-class home far from the glitz of Manhattan’s condos; and that that decline will not reverse itself until those homes, through more readily available credit, start selling again.

The simpler one- to three-family homes that dominate the Rockaways’ housing stock not only experienced the steep sales decline, but prices for them also dropped significantly from 2007. The median sales price was down 7.1 percent, to $390,000, and the average down 6.6 percent, to $410,394.

Moreover, the ZIP code 11691, which covers much of the Rockaways, had the city’s eighth-highest number of first-time foreclosure auctions in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to a report (PDF) from PropertyShark, behind six other codes in central Queens and one in Staten Island.

Precipitously lower sales, drooping sales prices, copious foreclosures: bad signs all for the solidly middle-class Rockaways, where the median household income rests at around $43,500, near the median citywide income of $46,480.

Queens, generally, faired poorly in the fourth quarter. Sales were down 45.2 percent annually; the median sales price was down 11.4 percent, the average down 12.4 percent.

It’s like with Manhattan and Brooklyn, which also at 2008’s tail end saw sales drops: The housing boom is definitively over. Its end started outside the most expensive sectors of the market, like the Rockaways, and moved to the summit.

A Housing Lesson in the Rockaways