“I glance at them,” said John Burger, a top co-op broker at Brown Harris Stevens, “but Manhattan is really eight different markets, and none of them really address the nuances.”
Mr. Burger was talking about the third-quarter Manhattan housing reports from various brokerages that came out last week, and he didn’t have much good to say about them. “They don’t separate out pre- and postwar architecture and there’s a huge difference between how those two perform in markets,” he said.
Mr. Burger is not alone in his view. While in years past the reports received lots of publicity—both in reporting the health of the Manhattan housing market and in their ability to create buzz—New York’s top brokers echo his unfavorable sentiments. It’s not that the reports are especially inaccurate or inartfully done; it’s just that they’re more for the folks at home and not for people who make a living in the market day-to-day.
“The reports are targeted at the consumer—it’s old news for brokers and forecasters, but it supports what we knew was happening,” said Sotheby’s broker Nikki Field. The statistics of the report are based in deals “which happened during the second quarter, but were finalized and transferred in the third,” said Ms. Field, who was the subject of The Observer‘s latest Sit-Down. “They are not the pulse of the market; those are the deals being negotiated today.”
Michele Kleier, a broker who runs her own firm, found that the reports don’t attest to the daily and weekly fluctuations in the market, affected by myriad factors including the volatile stock market. “I peruse them, but the truth is that I only care about my own business, and my own business changed radically in the last quarter,” she said. “With the stock market not having a good week, things can all change quickly. So I read them, but do I take them as gospel? No.”
It is true that brokers keep the reports around, usually to rattle off statistics to clients. Bruce Ehrmann, an executive vice president at Stribling, said that his team did review the reports in a meeting, but that they are “always lagging—real estate is always day-to-day, an almost ephemeral thing.”
Some buyers like to hear the numbers and past history, but it’s not the most useful information for someone who’s looking to buy or sell an apartment right now. A good broker will know actually useful and dynamic information: what’s really going on with prices at a particular time, neighborhood, and type of property.
“They are not put out by people who are in the marketplace,” Mr. Burger said, “but people who analyze the marketplace through computer screens.”