WHITE PLAINS—Prospective homebuyers who were out in force during the first several months of 2016 came to the closing table during the second quarter to post a five-year high of transactions.
Realtors in the four-county area comprising the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, a subsidiary of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, reported 4,526 closings of single-family houses, condominiums, cooperatives and 2-4 family houses, an increase of 23% over the 3,669 closings reported in the second quarter of last year. The powerful second quarter results continued the strong recovery in this region that commenced in 2011.
The increases were largely concentrated in the single-family house sectors of the four counties. Overall, Putnam County had the largest increase in sales—32%—followed closely by Orange County at 30%. There were no decreases by county or by property type but for a few statistical artifacts in low-volume cooperative and multifamily sectors in Orange County.
For the past two or three years member Realtors have reported a gradual tightening of the availability of properties for sale in the region, reflecting that high sales volumes have been outpacing new listings. Up to now, this has not been too much of a problem; the main consequence being to slow the decision-making process of prospective purchasers as they take more time to find suitable properties. That may be changing, however, as the second quarter closed with significant year-over-year double-digit decreases in inventory.
At the close of the second quarter of 2015 there were 12,400 for-sale properties recorded with the multiple listing service in its four-county service area and among the four property types. At June 30, 2016 there were 9,972 properties, a decrease of 20%. On a percentage basis, Putnam County inventory dropped the most—22%. On a volume basis, Westchester being the largest county, end-of-quarter inventory fell by 945 properties or 16% from last year at this date.
That sort of imbalance may have consequences: either price increases and/or diminished sales volumes. Putnam, Rockland and Orange counties all posted second quarter price increases for the median sale price of single-family houses. Putnam County posted the largest percentage increase—8.5%—from $289,500 last year to $314,000 this year. Orange County followed at 6.0% and Rockland County at 4.9%.
Westchester on the other hand posted a 1.6% decrease in the median sale price of a single-family house, from $660,500 to $650,000. Its condominium median, $356,438, also was down by 1.5%. The $155,000 median price of cooperatives on the other hand was an increase of 6.9% from last year. While looking back over the past few years indicates a lot of seasonality in prices, it also shows that since 2013 the seasonal bumps themselves are trending flat.
Each county is different as to its size, dominant property type, and price range, so it will take a few more months to discern the likely path of the region as a whole. Certainly the foundation forces affecting the real estate market are favorable for all. Mortgage interest rates are as low as they have ever been, and in this region at least, employment and job security are supportive of prospective purchasers. As always there are the wild cards that can affect real estate markets everywhere, current examples including “Brexit,” Puerto Rico insolvency, Federal Reserve rates, and not the least consequential, the upcoming elections. But, so far we are having an excellent run in our market.