In the world of real estate, ‘stale’ is a dirty word

Nobody likes stale peanuts, pastry or bread (except perhaps cooks preparing croutons or turkey stuffing).

Nobody is a fan of stale listings either.  (You knew I was headed there, I’m sure.)

Unfortunately, those buyers seeking a tempting apartment that has been newly offered on the Upper West Side will encounter, instead, a collection of co-ops and condos turning grey and grubby with age.

Employing statistics from the OLR (Online Residential) database — which many brokers use, including me — I arbitrarily checked time on the market of listings offered at prices between $450,000 and $1 million.  (Thanks to OLR’s Dino Morales for providing the numbers over the weekend.)

With time on the market averaging around four months from the last listing date before a buyer is found, I learned that 199 of the 437 apartments active as of Nov. 19 have been for sale for a longer period. (The “last listing date” means some of the properties may well have been offered earlier.)

While 46 percent of the listed units have languished a while, the proportion is not terrible.  Nor does it fill me with optimism.

It is useful to bear the context in mind: During the third quarter, the number of days on the market was trending down significantly, according to the Miller Samuel appraisal firm, so it would be reassuring if the percentage were smaller than 46.

Going back five months, to mid June, 172 properties on the market today — 39 percent of them — were already listed by then.  Six months: 132 (30 percent).  Nine months: 83 (13 percent).

Now that’s stale!

Condos and co-ops on the market for a whole year or more amounted to 36 (8 percent).

And that’s really, really stale.

Some of the apartments have been listed forever — eight during 2009 and one since July of 2008!

The chart below (click here to enlarge), which is by whole calendar months starting with November (far left), illustrates the competition that older listings face.

Notice the exceptional dropoffs from the first three months (September, October and November) to the fourth month (August) and again between the ninth (March) and tenth (February) months, after which the most severe pain is manifest.  All those tired listings need to glitter amid the larger groups of shiny newer ones if they are to be sold.I’ve written in the past that stale doesn’t mean unworthy of sale, but the whiff of failure tends to turn off buyers.  It also may encourage them to bottom-fish with insultingly low offers, usually in vain.

Often, prospective buyers move on to newer listings, while those beginning their search dismiss older listings out of hand without so much as a look-see.

To my mind, the statistics are sobering, suggesting a clotted market.  In a perfect market, all the listings would have been priced well and thus sold within, say, six months.

If we were to expand the analysis beyond the Upper West Side to the rest of Manhattan and a wider price range, you may be forgiven for thinking that the numbers likely will prove to be downright disconcerting.

Sellers hoping to unload their lingering listings and those seeking to compete against them with brand-new ones must choose between pricing their properties realistically, even below the market, or joining the crowd of disappointed owners.

Pity the sellers, whose choices are hard indeed.

Tomorrow:  Uh, nothing — see you next on Nov. 28, but you can follow important news here always.

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, search for your new home here.

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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
Web site

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