Hudson Valley Home Sales Soared 12.5% in 2016

John Jordan | January 2017

WHITE PLAINS—As the new year begins, the Hudson Valley home sales market seems to be running on close to all cylinders with strong sales in Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties. All indications are that the region’s economic fundamentals will continue to fuel activity and perhaps spark even higher price appreciation in some markets in 2017.

The Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, Inc., a subsidiary of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc., reported earlier this month 18,145 closings of residential transactions in the four county region in 2016, comprised of single-family houses, condominiums, cooperatives, and 2-4 family houses. 2016 sales activity was 12.5% higher than the 2015 total of 16,126 sales. Last year’s sales activity, which featured a turn-around in the fourth quarter, was the highest level of sales since the recovery from the recession commenced in 2011, the HGMLS stated in its report.
Editor’s Note: See the full HGMLS report and the latest sales statistics.

Orange County led the way with a 24.3% increase in sales based on 4,083 sales in 2016. A majority of the home sales were single-family home transactions. Fourth quarter sales in Orange shot up 18.8% as compared to 2015. Home sale prices in Orange for the year rose nearly 2% to $235,000.

The other three counties in the HGMLS region also posted impressive sales gains for the year compared to 2015. Putnam County took runner-up to Orange with a 19.5% increase in sales totaling 1,272 closed transactions, followed by Rockland County’s 2,669 sales that equated to a 12.3% hike in sales in 2016. Westchester County recorded 10,121 home sales in 2016, an increase of 7.7% from 2015’s sales totals.

In terms of pricing, Westchester County experienced a small decline in its 12-month median for a single-family house from $628,875 in 2015 to $624,000 in 2016. The Putnam and Rockland County markets on the other hand enjoyed single-family median home price increases of 4.8% and 2.4% respectively. The Putnam median single-family home price at year’s-end was $325,0000, while Rockland’s median came in at $425,000 at the close of 2016.

Declining inventory is a concern, according to the HGMLS report and Realtors interviewed by Real Estate In-Depth.

Orange County’s year-end supply of listings was 2,190 units in all residential categories, a decrease of 20.8% from last year. Westchester posted a 21.2% decrease, Putnam 31.2%, and Rockland a 16.1% decline in inventory.

2017 HGAR President Dorothy Botsoe, broker-owner of Dorothy Jensen Realty, said the home sales market in the region remains very active.

“Based on conversations I have had with my fellow Realtors, we are very positive about the market,” she said. “It is going to be fine. Even though interest rates have been creeping up, buyers are still out there and as long as our sellers are aware of the market and price their home well, it will be a great market. I really don’t see any negatives.”

Botsoe, who noted that her firm handles a good amount of foreclosed properties, particularly in Westchester County, said the distressed market continues to be a focal point for activity. Her White Plains-based residential brokerage business currently employs eight agents.

She said the distressed market has been very “hectic” and has prompted sellers involved in the Fannie Mae network to hire new agents to handle the increased business.

Despite the economic turnaround since the end of the recession five years ago, Botsoe said that foreclosures are still a viable part of the local real estate market, and is in fact growing in early 2017.

While some inventors and others have expressed trepidation over the incoming administration of President Donald Trump, Botsoe said she is hopeful that with his real estate background President Trump will understand the issues that impact the industry.

Joseph Rand, managing partner, Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, said, “The market is in good shape, better shape than we have seen in 10 years. Demand is strong and has driven sales to the highest level since the height of the seller’s market.”

One of the few negative influences Rand sees at the moment is home values have yet to really move the needle. However, he believes that is about to change in some Hudson Valley markets due to low inventory. “Basic economics dictates that restricted supply and high demand will drive prices up. But we might also see activity go down unless we get more listings on the market. In other words—we need fuel for the fire,” he said, predicting that if the market does not see an increase in listings put on the market for sale in 2017, “we are likely to see sales flatten or even decline in 2017.”

In its Real Estate Market Report for Westchester and the Hudson Valley for the fourth quarter of 2016, Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty detailed its concerns over declining inventory levels in its Hudson Valley market area, which also includes Dutchess County. The firm noted that at year’s-end 2016, available for sale home inventory was down to 3.8 months in Westchester; 5.0 in Putnam; 4.9 in Rockland and 6.4 in Orange County. Six-months inventory supply and lower is considered a signal of a tightening market. “Indeed if you take Dutchess (which is still in the double digits) out of the calculation, the overall regional average is down to 4.2 months of inventory. That’s extraordinarily low, especially when you consider that the regional inventory was over 10 months just two years ago,” Rand stated in the report.

The firm in its market report stated that Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties all have strong market fundamentals and are poised for strong sales activity in 2017. However, it reserved particular high praise for Westchester and Orange counties.

The Rand report described Westchester’s fundamentals as “tremendous” and noted, “With inventory tightening, pricing at 2004-05 levels, interest rates still near historic lows, and a generally improving economy, we expect that buyer demand will stay strong and eventually drive meaningful price appreciation in 2017.”

The brokerage firm predicts that Orange County will have its best year since the height of the last seller’s market. “The fundamentals are strong, demand is high, prices are still at attractive 2003-04 levels, interest rates are at historic lows, and the economy is generally improving. With inventory declining, we expect to see more meaningful price appreciation in 2017.”

 

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth