Sales Up in All Four Counties

John Jordan | November 2015

Newly painted exterior of a North American home during summertime with green grass and flower beds

Realtors Predict Strong Home Sales Market Into 2016

WHITE PLAINS—Led once again by strong home sales gains in Orange County, the residential home sales market in the four-county region of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors continues to be very active.

According to the recently released 2015 Third Quarter Residential Real Estate Sales Report for Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange Counties, New York by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, Inc. home sales rose more than 15% region-wide as compared to the third quarter of last year. Orange County led the pack with a 30.1% hike in sales in the third quarter as compared to the same period 12 months earlier, followed by a 21.1% and 16.3% increase in sales respectively in Putnam and Rockland counties. Westchester, the largest market in the four county region, saw a 10.3% hike in home sales during that same period. Orange County in the second quarter of this year posted a 30.4% increase over second quarter 2014 sales.

The third quarter saw overall stability in pricing with sales in two counties basically flat as compared to last year, while two others posted less than 5% gains in their respective median single-family home sales prices.

The third quarter median sale price of a single-family house in Westchester County was $676,500, a price decrease of approximately 1% from last year. Orange County also posted a very small median price decrease of less than 1% from $241,000 in the third quarter of 2014 to $239,175 in the third quarter of this year. Putnam County’s median single-family home price in the third quarter rose $15,000 to $335,000, which was 4.7% higher than last year. Rockland County sported a 2.4% hike in its median single-family home price during that same period to $425,000.

Realtors interviewed by Real Estate In-Depth agreed that the strong home sales market should continue for at least the remainder of this year and into 2016. One possible headwind for the overall market is available inventory. HGMLS in its latest sales report stated that the robust sales levels have not dramatically reduced for-sale inventory in the four-county region. At the end of the quarter total inventory of all types of residential listings in all four counties combined was 11,734 listings, a decrease of 5.1% from the third quarter of last year. Orange County ended the quarter with a 7.0% decrease in inventory from last year. Rockland followed at 5.6%, Westchester at 4.3%, and Putnam at 2.1%.

Editor’s Note: The full home sales HGMLS third quarter sales report and statistics appear on pages 21 and 22 in this edition of Real Estate In-Depth.

HGAR President Drew Kessler said the strong sales market in the lower Hudson Valley region was due to “buyers feeling more comfortable with the economy as a whole and the local real estate market.”

Kessler, a Realtor doing business in Rockland County and a mortgage company executive in the region, believes the key issue going forward is inventory. He says that the homes that are priced right are selling quickly.

“The Hudson Valley has always been a step-up market due to affordability. A homeowner enters the market purchasing a townhome, condo or co-op and lives there a couple of years building a little equity,” Kessler said. “They then move on to a small single-family residence and do the same thing and then move up to a mid-level single-family residence concluding the cycle after 10 or so years with the purchase of a larger home that they occupy until retirement. For the market to be truly robust we need this step-up environment to occur. More quality inventory must hit the market at the entry level to allow for those who currently live in those residences to step up.”

Joseph Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, said that while home sales continue to increase in the region, prices have now stabilized, even in Orange County which has for a prolonged period seen price declines.

“For about three years we have seen sales go up quarter after quarter,” he noted. “Sales are now at levels that we have not seen since 2006 and 2007 in terms of the number of transactions. We are not at the height of the market in 2004 and 2005 but we are moving in that direction in terms of sales figures.”

In fact, he believes the market that has been in recovery for about three years from a significant recession is now entering a new phase that should signal its exit from a recovery mode.

“I am bullish on the market and I think we are at the beginning of a seller’s market,” Rand said. He compared the current home sales environment to the markets in 1983 and 1998. “I think we are at the beginning of a five- to seven-year run where we are going to see year-on-year price appreciation and year-on-year sales increases,” he said.

Robert Vannucchi, executive vice president, Connecticut and Westchester for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, said the increase in home sales in Westchester in the third quarter can be attributed in part due to the relative affordability of the Westchester market as compared to the hot and pricey New York City market.

He also reported that home sales were strong during the month of August, which normally is a slow sales month. He said that activity during August translated into higher sales in the third quarter and should help bolster sales during the fourth quarter of this year.

Vannucchi believes the lack of price appreciation in the Westchester market is due to the plethora of educated buyers “who are not willing to overpay.” He says that sales prices may rise in the future, but he does not expect significant price gains especially in the short term.

“Overall, we are pretty excited. We are pretty bullish on the market even going into the holiday season,” Vannucchi said.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth