Third Quarter Home Sales Up 29% in Westchester, Putnam Rockland, Orange Counties

WPCNR HOUSING NEWS. From the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors October 9, 2013:

Third quarter residential real estate closings soared by nearly 29% over last year’s counts in the four counties serviced by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, a subsidiary of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors. The Multiple Listing Service received postings of 4,579 completed sales of single family houses, condominiums, cooperatives, and 2-4 family dwellings.

The percentage increase was the greatest in Westchester County, at 31%, followed by Rockland (26%), Orange (24%) and Putnam (22%). In most cases the increases among the various property classes brought the sales counts to pre-recession levels.

In Westchester, for example, the 1,991 reported closings of single family houses during this third quarter were the most for any quarter since 2005.

In all of the counties except Rockland, sales of condominiums and cooperatives outpaced single family houses as a percentage increase over last year.

Even with the slower – but still healthy – sales counts of the first six months of the year, on a year to date basis through this third quarter, 2013 is running faster than last year by rates ranging from 24% in Westchester and Orange to 17% in Putnam and 16% in Rockland. Whereas there were 11,481 total sales in all categories in all of 2012, at the current rate of activity the region may cross the 14,000 sale threshold by the end of 2013.

The region is beginning to see modest price increases more often than not. In Westchester, the third quarter median sale price  $652,050 – was 3.5% more than last year. The average (mean) sale price1 of $$862,356, however, was almost 8% higher and signaled the insertion of more high end properties into the sales mix.

More than 24% of Westchester’s houses sold for $1 million or more in the third quarter in comparison to a range of 16% to 22% throughout last year. Rockland County experienced the largest percentage price increase, 5.4%, in its single family median price, taking it to $410,000. Putnam posted the next largest increase, 5.0%, with a median price of $332,750. Putnam also posted a large 6.9% increase in condominium prices (but its data are subject to large percentage swings because its base counts are relatively small).

Only Orange County failed to post an increase in house prices; in fact, the median sale price of $240,000 was 2.0% lower than last year. However, Orange County provides the most affordable housing in the region and attracts buyers who are the most price sensitive, which gives lower price housing there a larger share of the market basket, at least for now. Note that Orange’s condominium sector, a lower priced alternative to single family houses, posted a 4.4% increase to $166,000 in its median price

All the faster paced activity has driven inventory to low but not market-killing amounts. New listings just haven’t been keeping pace with sales. In Westchester at the end of the quarter, inventory was down 11% from last year. Putnam and Rockland both posted 3% decreases. Orange County inventory was nearly unchanged with a slight half-percent increase.

The supporting framework for continued recovery in our region’s real estate market includes mortgage interest rates that have remained at relatively low levels. The average rate on a conventional 30-year mortgage was less than 4% during much of the period that generated the third quarter sales. Rates are now hovering around 4.6%-4.8%, still very attractive. Of course that could all change if the current political dysfunction in Washington causes a debt crisis. Actions of the Federal Reserve could also drive rates up, but for now the interest rates are stable and affordable.


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