Real Estate

First Quarter Closings up from Last Year

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High sales rates, a sharp decline in inventory, and an uneven pattern of price increases across the region marked 2017’s first quarter entry to the real estate market recovery of the past five years.  Realtors participating in the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, Inc. (HGMLS), a subsidiary of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc. (HGAR), reported a grand total of 3,700 closed transactions in the four-county region during the first three months of 2017, a 9.1 percent increase or 309 units more than last year’s first quarter results. The closings largely resulted from sales and market activity during the winter months of 2016 and early 2017, and comprised single-family houses, condominiums, cooperatives, and 2-4 family houses.

Rockland County enjoyed the highest percentage increase in sales, 29.3 percent, among the four counties. Its best performing large-volume sectors were single family houses, 23.7 percent, and condominiums, 37.2 percent. Orange County followed second with an overall 11.6 percent increase, and Westchester followed third with 4.4 percent. Westchester, however, a populous county with a large stock of housing, posted a 7.1 percent increase in sales of single-family houses, the dominant housing type in the four-county region. Putnam County posted a 2 percent decline in home sales in the first quarter.

HGMLS has been observing the shrinking inventory situation with a watch as to whether or when the diminishing stock in the region will create pressure for price increases. The four-county end-of-quarter inventory has shrunk by 20.3 percent from 2016 to 2017, and no individual county posted less than a 20 percent decrease, yet the effect on prices has been mixed. Westchester, for example, posted a 5.3 percent increase in its first-quarter single family median sale price, from $569,950 in 2016 back to $600,000 in 2017, but that is where it had been in 2014 and 2015. The mean sale price has fluctuated between $769,000 and $849,000 for the same period, but there is no clear trend line for price increases as yet. Rockland County achieved a significant 6.5 percent increase in the median sale price of its single-family houses, which was posted at $425,000 for the first quarter. Rockland also fared well with its condominium sector, achieving a 10.7 percent increase in the median to $217,500. Orange County also appears to have shed excess inventory and posted a 7 percent increase in the median sale price of a single-family house, to $230,000. Putnam Country, having the smallest volume market of the regional foursome and subject to wide statistical swings as a result, posted a first quarter median sale price of a single-family house at $295,000, just a slight 1.7 percent decrease from last year.  

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Not too much has changed since last year with respect to key factors affecting the local, state and national real estate markets. In Westchester, in particular, the unemployment rate remains quite low and much new job-creating investment is expected in the coming months. The Dow and other equity markets have been setting records in recent months. Mortgage interest rates have remained at record lows. The Federal Reserve is signaling a measured pace for any future increases in rates. Perhaps the only truly dark cloud on the horizon is the prospect of an overhaul of the nation’s tax code which could severely injure the housing market—or maybe help it? Either way, that won’t happen until much later in the year. Otherwise, the HGAR real estate market is in excellent shape for continued high sales volume with manageable price increases in some sectors.

The Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, Inc. (HGMLS) is a subsidiary of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc. (HGAR).

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