Manhattan Apartment Sales Fall 12%

Manhattan apartment sales fell 12 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier as Europe’s debt crisis and sluggish U.S. job growth dimmed buyer appetites.

Purchases of condominiums and co-ops declined to 2,011 from 2,295 in the fourth quarter of 2010, New York appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a joint report today. The median price of units that changed hands in the final three months of 2011 climbed 1.2 percent from a year earlier, to $855,000.

“Consumers paused to see how things play out with all the information that’s coming at them right now,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said in an interview. “Europe, the impasse in Washington over economic policy, the stagnant nature of the economy -- there’s a lot of conflicting economic news, and if you’re on the fence, maybe you wait a little bit.”

Financial firms globally disclosed plans in 2011 to eliminate more than 200,000 jobs as they grapple with market turmoil, fallout from Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis and concerns that U.S. economic growth will slow. Morgan Stanley told regulators last week that it may dismiss 580 employees in New York City as the bank cuts 1,600 jobs.

New York City’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in November, up 0.1 percentage point from the previous month and higher than the national average of 8.6 percent, the state Department of Labor said Dec. 15.

StreetEasy Report

“Job security is No. 1,” said Sofia Song, vice president of research at StreetEasy.com, a property-listings and data website that also issued a report on Manhattan apartment sales today.

Purchases of condos and co-ops in the borough fell 19 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier to 2,403, according to StreetEasy. The median price dropped 9.1 percent to $750,000.

“It’s just really reflective of the economic climate,” Song said in an interview. “The economy is really volatile and people were just paralyzed to enter the market.”

Three other reports also showed declines in sales volume and median price for the three months ended Dec. 31.

Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property LLC said completed condo and co-op purchases fell 13 percent from a year earlier. The median price slipped 6.5 percent to $785,000, according to the brokerage firms.

2010 Rush

In the fourth quarter of 2010, sellers were in a rush to complete deals amid concern that capital-gains taxes for top earners would rise on Jan. 1, according to Hall Willkie, president of Brown Harris Stevens.

It “was our greatest year in history” in 2010, Willkie said in an interview. The risk of a tax increase “was very much a factor that did not exist in 2011,” he said.

Corcoran Group said sales tumbled 12 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010, and the median price dropped 5 percent to $795,000.

Purchases of luxury apartments, defined as the top 10 percent of all sales by price, declined 13 percent to 201 deals, according to Miller Samuel and Prudential. The median price of those transactions dropped 4.6 percent to $4.15 million.

On the Upper East Side, the median price of existing co-ops climbed 4 percent from a year earlier to $840,000, according to Corcoran. Condo prices in the neighborhood were little changed at $940,000. On the Upper West Side, the median price of co-op resales fell 1 percent to $825,000, while existing condo prices dropped 5 percent to $1.1 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oshrat Carmiel in New York at ocarmiel1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Taub at dtaub@bloomberg.net

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