Is it time to call the housing market’s bottom?

Based strictly on the seriously skewed evidence of what I have been seeing at open houses over the last few weeks on the Upper West Side, Upper East Side and downtown, I’m going to go out on a limb farther down in this post.

Should this photo have more than one bottom?

Open houses have been busy, and some of the properties already have offers on them, sometimes more than one.

At the same time, asking prices are no longer going down.  In fact, many are going up, often on properties listed long ago.  My impression is that the prices of larger apartments are climbing faster than others, though most seem to be leaving room for negotiation.

For example, my clients and I looked at a $3 million condo in a desirable white glove building loaded with amenities in Lincoln Square yesterday.  It has monthly costs totaling $4,090, and the square footage is but 1,631.

Do the math:

$1,839 a square foot asking price and $2.51 per square foot for maintenance.  Although I estimate the market value at around $2.5 million, the seller of this newly listed apartment obviously has a different take.

Yet, we were not alone at the open house or any of the others we visited from 59th Street to 70th yesterday. At least one prospective buyer was spending a lot of time in the unit above and scribbling notes assiduously.

Another bit of evidence is the call I got today from a client who has been looking for a $1 million condo in the Union Square area.  Prices were within reach for him a year ago, Tom reports, but now he’s going to suspend his search based on what he has been seeing within his price range.

Then there’s the client of mine who had to compete against another buyer for a one-bedroom Chelsea condo that he won by bidding just under the listing price early last month.

In a post today, UrbanDigs notes that the Manhattan market has seen 347 contracts signed for condos, co-ops and townhouses in the last seven days alone and 1,074 contracts signed in the last 30 days. In addition, writes the dependably analytical Noah Rosenblatt:

This may explain why inventory of well priced quality products are going to contract under the average days on market trend, and why buyers may be getting frustrated that competing bids for desirable property are coming in higher than theirs.

So I’m gonna say it.  We have reached–and passed–the bottom of the current market.

The key word here is “current.”  I definitely am not saying that we won’t bottom again.  There persist macro uncertainties such as mortgage rates, thought to rise to around 6 percent by year end, foreclosure issues, the shadow inventory, unemployment and, among other things, the global economy.  Any of them could sink our housing market again.

As always, caveat emptor.  That said, if you’re buying to change your lifestyle or because you must and you plan to live in your new home for several years, have at it!

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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
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