Aside from my continuing concerns about the global economy, unemployment rate, Washington’s paralysis and other usual reasons for wondering when the Manhattan housing market will be safely in recovery, four new sets of data have fed my uncertainty.
What first graphically contributed to my doubts was a shopping expedition on Sunday, a sensationally gorgeous day when saner folks might have headed to the beach.
Despite the lure of the outdoors, Reason 1 for my current thinking centers on consumption. Both at Macy’s and, of all places, JCPenney, I saw mounds of unsold clothing still neatly arranged.
The quantity of merchandise was in sharp contrast to a startling lack of consumers–whole empty aisles in many cases–and discounts as steep as 70 percent–even taking the weather into account. (I purchased a $30 sportshirt for $10.)
Reason 2: Afterward, I had time to hit just two open houses on the Upper West Side. The number of visitors in each co-op was next to nothing.
Reason 3: Later, I checked UrbanDigs.com’s latest statistics, and they demonstrated that we now have “officially” entered our somnolent summer season. The number of signed contracts for apartments priced up to $2 million on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side has turned down from spring.
Worse, the numbers don’t reach the level of activity achieved either last year or the year before!
Reason 4: Monday’s New York Times provides the news that Wall Street’s hot streak came to an end in the second quarter.
I’m not at all sure of the current proportions, but individuals in the financial sector and allied industries were said to make up 5 percent of the workforce and receive 23 percent of the income of the Big Apple’s residents prior to the implosion of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15, 2008.
Although foreigners accounted for much of the surge in the volume of luxury property sales so far this year, Wall Streeters also were responsible for a huge percentage of those purchases.
Whether high earners were buying multi-million-dollar homes, those still making impressive amounts of money at the lower end also spent a lot of it on housing.
I’m not exactly depressed by the foregoing and I’m not precisely predicting a doomsday scenario for our housing market. But I do believe, to adopt a phrase from the world of medicine, that this should be a time for watchful waiting.
We may have solid grounds to be concerned, but we also are best advised to be mindful of how well our market has survived the Great Recession and how far we have come since the dark days of 2008 and early 2009.
If the market could talk, perhaps it would number itself among the worried well.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022