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State o' the Market Reports: The Manhattan Bleeding Slows!

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The aughts are in the past, but it's not time to close the book on one of the craziest decades in New York City real estate history quite yet. The major brokerages have issued their fourth-quarter Manhattan sales reports, and at first, things look predictable: Elliman, Corcoran and sibling brokerages Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens all pegged the average price of a Manhattan apartment at around $1.3 million, and the median price at around $800,000, both down from last year. But the pace of the market's free fall in the wake of Wall Street's apocalypse has slowed, according to the brokerages, when comparing those numbers to the third quarter of '09. In fact, Halstead/BHS even showed increases in average and median sales prices in Q4 when compared to the prior quarter. We certainly didn't see that one coming. Other encouraging signs for our frienemies in suits: All of the brokerages reported increases in sales over both last year and last quarter. In essence, when compared to recent market history, the fourth quarter saw more sales for less money. A stabilization, or a plateau before a double-dip? That's the $64,000 question, which, by the way, still won't buy you anything on this dastardly island.

Average sale price
Elliman: $1,296,156 (-12.7% from last year, -2.1% from last quarter)
Corcoran: $1,335,000 (-19% from last year, -5% from last quarter)
Halstead/BHS: $1,324,504 (-9% from last year, +4% from last quarter)

Median sale price
Elliman: $810,000 (-10% from last year, -4.7% from last quarter)
Corcoran: $795,000 (-15% from last year, -4% from last quarter)
Halstead/BHS: $800,000 (-11% from last year, +2% from last quarter)

Number of sales: Things get wacky on the specifics, but overall the news is great for the brokerages. For Elliman, superstar appraiser Jonathan Miller had the number of sales at 2,437, up 8.4% from last year and up 10.9% from last quarter. Miller also saw inventory decline a whopping 25% to under 7,000 listed homes. Corcoran reported 3,400 closed sales, apparently using some sort of PropertyShark voodoo to count sales that have yet to turn up in public records. This lead to an eye-popping 48% increase in sales over last year. StreetEasy, which puts out its own report (warning: PDF), had sales even higher?over 3,800?and reported an increase of 18% over last quarter and 29% over last year.

Price-per-square-foot: Elliman/Miller reported an average PPSF price of $1,176, fairly flat over 2009 but up 18.1% from $996 in the third quarter of 2009. Counter argument: Corcoran reports PPSF at $1,006, down 17% from last year and down 2% from last quarter.

New development: We couldn't sign off on this market report recap without including at least one scary chart! This market stabilization, if that's your take on it, is being driven by resales, and that's made apparent in the above Corcoran graphic on new development sales. Contracts signed in new buildings after the Lehman Brothers meltdown are finally making their way into the quarterly reports as the units close, and these numbers are bringing the pain. Example: Median price down 23% over last year. Having read that, is the outlook still so sunny? Have a say in the comments.

Here are the links to the brokerages' market report pages. If the Q4 '09 reports aren't up yet, they'll be there later this morning.
· Corcoran Guides & Reports [Corcoran]
· Prudential Douglas Elliman Market Reports [Elliman]
· Brown Harris Stevens Market Reports [BHS]
· Halstead Market Reports [Halstead]