Prices are up and down here, depending on ‘here’

Metropolitan Area NSA SA NSA SA
Atlanta -0.8% -0.7% -0.3% 0.1%
Boston -0.3% -0.1% -0.6% 0.0%
Charlotte -0.4% -0.4% -0.2% -0.5%
Chicago -0.4% 0.4% -0.4% 1.0%
Cleveland -0.3% -1.1% -0.0% 0.6%
Dallas -1.1% -1.1% -1.1% -0.7%
Denver -0.1% -0.1% -1.4% -0.9%
Detroit -0.5% 0.5% -1.6% 0.1%
Las Vegas -0.1% -0.5% -0.8% -1.5%
Los Angeles -0.4% -0.9% -0.3% -0.4%
Miami -0.3% -0.3% -0.7% 0.2%
Minneapolis -0.3% -0.7% 10.7% -1.8%
New York -0.2% 0.0% 1.2% 0.9%
Phoenix -1.3% -2.2% -0.6% -1.5%
Portland -0.9% -0.8% -0.3% -0.9%
San Diego -0.6% -0.6% 0.7% -0.2%
San Francisco -0.3% -0.8% 0.5% -0.7%
Seattle -0.8% -1.0% -0.1% 0.2%
Tampa -0.5% -0.4% -0.2% -1.4%
Washington 0.3% 0.0% 1.0% 0.5%
Composite 10 -0.1% -0.2% 0.8% 0.0%
Composite 20 -0.2% -0.3% 0.6% -0.2%

Source: Standard & Poor’s and Fiserv
Data through August 2010

If you’re wondering about about Manhattan prices, pay absolutely no attention to the Case-Shiller indices.  The erroneously defined “city” statistics are shown above.

As I never tire of repeating, the numbers do not reflect what really is happening in cities (though the trends are of some interest).

Not only does Case-Shiller ignore sales of co-ops and condos, which make up within a few percentage points of 100 percent of all sales in the borough.  But, equally misleading, the indices encompass huge regions–MSAs, or Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

What is the New York MSA?  It ranges from Pike County, Pennsylvania through 13 New Jersey counties, three counties north of the city and all of Long Island, including Montauk.  Just for fun, here’s the list, not in alphabetical order:

Middlesex County, NJ
Monmouth County, NJ
Ocean County, NJ
Somerset County, NJ
Nassau County, NY
Suffolk County, NY
Bergen County, NJ
Hudson County, NJ
Passaic County, NJ
Bronx County
Kings County (Brooklyn)
New York County (Manhattan)
Putnam County, NY
Queens County
Richmond County(Staten Island)
Rockland County, NY
Westchester County, NY
Essex County, NJ
Hunterdon County, NJ
Morris County, NJ
Sussex County, NJ
Union County, NJ
Pike County, PA

That list presents a vivid argument for giving short shrift to Case-Shiller if the Big Apple–or, for that matter, almost any MSA–is your main concern.  But wait!  There’s a better way.

If you want to know whether inventory is rising in Manhattan, how many apartment sales are headed toward closing and how many units have been taken off the market, visit UrbanDigs.com, where you can monitor some impressively accurate trends.

A peak in newly signed contracts started in May and then tailed off rather dramatically through September into this month, the site notes.  At the same time, says the blog’s author, Noah Rosenblatt, such “pending” sales have edged up of late.

My own strictly anecdotal view of what is happening, especially on the Upper West Side, has not much changed since I wrote about our housing market last week.  Although I see delicate signs of stability, I continue to perceive a prevalence of those I have called the “worried well,” who want to buy but who are concerned about the global economy, the direction of prices, their jobs and their compensation, among other things.

Some are taking the risk of buying now, having calculated that the amount of risk is acceptable.  Others remain on the sidelines, including sellers who cling to their hopes for a stronger market and higher prices in the not-too-distant future.

Our market is far from robust.  We’ve been sick, and we may be recovering.  But as they say in the health-care community, we’re not yet out of the woods.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com
Web site

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