Boosted by a 30 percent fourth-quarter jump, house sales in Westchester County in 2012 reached their highest level in five years. Yet median sale prices in the county market continued a two-year and three-year decline across housing categories, according to the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service (HGMLS).
In the four-county region served by the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, sales of single-family houses, condominiums, cooperatives, and two- to four-family buildings increased 15 percent last year from 2011, with 11,481 residential units sold. The region includes Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties.
Westchester, which typically accounts for about two-thirds of sales in the region, had a 14 percent gain from 2011. Realtors in Rockland County saw an 11 percent year-over-year increase in sales, while Putnam and Orange counties each recorded 9 percent gains over 2011 sales activity.
In Westchester, the fourth-quarter jump in house closings was led by the condo market, where 1,004 units were sold, a 20.2 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2011. A total of 4,465 single-family homes were sold in the county, a 16.3 percent increase from the previous year. A total of 7,063 housing sales closed in the country in 2012.
House prices in Westchester in 2012 failed to keep pace with the gradual price increases seen throughout the U.S. and in other regions of New York, HGMLS noted in its annual and fourth quarter report. The 2012 median sale price in the county, $587,000, was 2.2 percent below the 2011 median and 6.8 percent below the median sale price in 2010, when Westchester Realtors last saw a slight increase in sales after a steady decline that began in 2005.
The co-op market in Westchester saw the steepest price decline last year, with the $148,450 median price of a co-op apartment representing a 7.2 percent drop from 2011.
The mean or average sale price of a single-family home in Westchester in 2012 was $800,790, a 1.7 percent decrease from 2011.
HGMLS analysts said Westchester’s and the Hudson region’s lagging prices reflect buyers’ focus on the middle market, where housing stock “has been heavily discounted since the recession.” Buyers are taking advantage of market conditions “that make the region’s housing as affordable as it has been in a very long time.”
Westchester’s high-end market, which historically has made the county’s house prices the highest in New York, has seen less activity since the recession. The listing service reported that fourth-quarter sales of single-family houses priced at more than $1 million accounted for less than 18 percent of total sales volume for the quarter. Five to six years ago, sales of luxury homes accounted for as much as 25 percent to 30 percent of the market.
The county’s end-of-year inventory of housing listed on the market totaled 4,822 units, a 12.3 percent decline from 2011. A total of 2,570 single-family homes were listed for sale at year’s end, a 12.7 percent decline from the previous year. Westchester’s condo market, where sales rose markedly in 2012 over the previous three years, ended the year with 539 units for sale, a 23.4 percent decline from 2011.
Though the dwindled inventory has not caused a housing shortage in Westchester or the region, an analyst at HGMLS noted that the leaner supply “can be felt in the marketplace. Some Realtors have reported that prospective purchasers have had to speed up their decision-making process in order to secure a property from competing buyers.”
The residential real estate market in 2013 will continue to be favorable to buyers, according to the HGMLS analysis. Barring economic or political catastrophes at the national level that would shatter consumer confidence, it “will likely accelerate from the momentum of the 2012 market.”
Buyers this year should see a market that offers moderate pricing “at least for a time” and record-low mortgage interest rates.