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Douglas Elliman sees signs of improving housing market

“We’ve seen a very good quarter and we’re seeing some very optimistic numbers,” Scott Elwell, senior executive regional manager of Westchester and New England for Douglas Elliman Real Estate told the Business Journal in an interview. Elwell was discussing the firm’s report released today on sales activity in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess during the first quarter of 2019.

Scott Elwell Douglas Elliman
Scott Elwell

In Westchester, for the market as a whole in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, the median sales price rose 6.4% to $463,000, the number of sales increased 9.2% to 1,845, and the time a property was on the market declined 4.3% to 89 days, according to the Douglas Elliman report.

The report also stated that the number of single-family home sales in Westchester rose 6.8% to 989. That put an end to six straight quarters of year-over-year declines. The median sales price, however, slipped 1.2% to $600,000. The condo market showed an 11.7% sales increase to 258 units sold with an increase in the median sales price to $360,000. Co-ops saw a 9.8% increase in sales to 447 with a median sales price increase of 6.9% to $170,000.

In addition to the condo and co-op market, there was an uptick in multifamily sales where the number jumped 19.8% to 151 with a median sales price increase of 13.7% to $535,000. “There has been a strong demand for multifamilies in the area and many of those buyers are buyers that are living in one of the units and renting out the others,” Elwell said. He characterized the heightened interest in condos and co-ops as “a flight to convenience.”

The report does identify a soft spot at the luxury end of single-family market. “People are driven toward smaller houses and new homes close to town…there continues to be strong interest in living close to town and new homes that you can just walk right in, and that has gone up through the luxury market,” Elwell said. The median sales price in the luxury market, identified as the upper 10% of all single-family sales, experienced a decrease of 8.7% to $1,780,000.

Elwell said that buyers are looking in a larger and larger geographic area. “We’ve seen buyers that have been very committed to just Westchester move up north, Putnam to Dutchess, or east or northeast to Fairfield County. And, we’re doing the best job we can at educating our agents to help them for larger territories.”

In both Putnam and Dutchess, median sales prices rose for the eighth consecutive quarter. The Putnam median sales price rose 4% to $325,000 and the number of days on the market dropped by 7% to 93.

In Dutchess, the median sales price reached $273,500, an increase of 1.5%. There was a 13.9% drop in the average time properties remained on the market to 93 days. If there was an issue in Dutchess it was the 21.3% increase in the listing inventory to 632 properties, compared with a listing inventory decrease of 4.2% to 469 properties in Putnam. Westchester’s listing inventory was only slightly changed with a 0.4% increase to 3,596.

“We’re at a point where buyers and sellers are coming into agreement and the numbers are evident of that in all categories,” Elwell said.

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