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June 2012 Westchester Real Estate Market: Sales Up, Prices Down

The recovery may be starting with lower home values

I’ll summarize the first half of the 2012 Westchester real estate market for you in one sentence: More people are buying single family houses and they are paying lower prices. According to the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, we had the most June closed transactions for a non-tax stimulus market since 2007, but the median price was almost $50,000 less than last June.

For June 2012, there were 501 closed sales at a median price of $660,000.
For June 2011, there  were 436 closed sales at a median price of $709,625.

For the 2nd quarter of 2012 that just ended, 1156 sales closed at a median price of $620,000.
For the 2nd quarter of 2011, 993 sales closed at a median price of $620,000.

The year to date sales totals show 1889 closed sales at a median price of $575,000.
The first half of 2011 had 1715 closed transactions at a median price of $592,450.

1369 homes are under contract at a median asking price of $625,000. 1369 pending deals is a mammoth number, almost twice the number of pending transactions 6 months ago. That speaks to the busy season more than an overall trend, and I unfortunately didn’t chronicle that stat from a year ago (kicking myself for that).  Available inventory is 3997 available homes, down 253 from last month. Inventory is shrinking, which actually gives sellers leverage. When buyers have fewer options, it forces them to play ball with the seller rather than move on.

In my personal observations,  more buyers are out there making deals. Overall they are as cautious as ever: the New Normal gave us more 2nd and 3rd visits with parents and contractor friends, laundry lists of questions, and more thorough due diligence-no changes there. But the scale has tipped on buyers following through this year more than in years past. One of the common themes of the New Normal was virtual paralysis with buyers-indeed, they weren’t buyers at all in many cases, just lookers. We’d show buyers dozens of homes, only to have them give up, or walk from deals if a problem or disagreement arose. Now buyers are sticking with it more. It’s not surprising. You can’t put life off in perpetuity. People want to get on with their goals- family, children, roots, and putting things off a year or two might be ok, but not five.

It isn’t just the buyers. Sellers are getting more realistic. Banks are not resisting short sales the way they did in 2009 and 2010. Pragmatism, absent or mathematically impossible in years past, is prevailing.

We will, absent another crisis, see a slow steady crawl of flat values and modest transaction gains going forward with a few additional caveats:

  • Banks will have to manage their inventory of foreclosed homes better than years past, meaning they cannot flood the market again and drive prices down.
  • The mortgage market will have to continue to ease up on unrealistic underwriting that prevents qualified borrowers from being able to get approvals.
  • Government economic management will have to focus on what works.

The last point is crucial. The government can sabotage a recovery or referee it. Raising the FHA loan limit was smart. Proposing mandatory 20% down rules, as some politicians tried in the QRM debacle, was dumb. To see what I mean, consider June 2007 when the market was artificially affected by the $8,000 tax stimulus. Westchester saw 634 homes close that month, far more than this past June. But after the stimulus ended, the market was dead. In the end, it made no difference.

Overall, we are looking at a better 2012 than 2011, which is the first organic (non government stimulus) uptick Westchester has seen in a very long time.

For more real estate commentary, log onto Westchester Real Estate Blog, authored by J. Philip Faranda, broker and owner of J. Philip Real Estate.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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