HUDSON VALLEY REAL ESTATE REPORT: Home Sales Surge in Second Quarter in HGAR Region

John Jordan | July 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 8.52.40 PMThe following is the full text version of the 2015 Second Quarter Residential Real Estate Sales Report for Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange Counties, NY released on July 10 by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, Inc.

WHITE PLAINS—Real estate sales surged in the second quarter of 2015, eclipsing last year’s second quarter sales by 14.8%. Realtors participating in the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, Inc., a subsidiary of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc., reported a grand total of 3,669 closed residential transactions in the MLS’s four-county service territory, 474 more sales than last year.

The transactions included single-family houses, condominiums, cooperatives, and 2-4 unit multi-family houses, and generally reflected listing and marketing activity that took place during the opening months of the year.

The strong second quarter performance built on the first quarter’s results, which itself had posted a gain of 12.1% over 2014’s level.   On a year-to-date basis there were 6,460 sales constituting an increase of 12.4% over last year’s half-year results.

By far the largest gain in sales activity occurred in Orange County, where total sales of 742 units—mostly houses and condominiums—surpassed last year’s second quarter by 30.4%. Orange County’s market has been powered in the last several years by an abundance of very moderately priced properties.  The second quarter median sale priceof a single-family house was $209,950, nearly 10% less than last year’s median. The condominium median was $151,625, about 8.0% below last year’s level.  Inventory in Orange has stayed in rough proportion to the rate of sales, indicating a balanced market with ample choices for prospective purchasers.

In Rockland County, second quarter sales were 11.2% higher than in 2014.  The median sale price of a single-family house was $410,000, just a third of a percentage point higher than in 2014.  Putnam County followed the same pattern with a 12.3% gain in sales volume and a moderate 1.6% increase in its median-priced house, to $289,500.

The main engine for sales volume in the Hudson Gateway region is Westchester County. During the second quarter the county accounted for 2,183 sales or about 60% of the region’s total. All four property types tracked by the MLS showed healthy sales increases ranging from 8.4% for single-family houses to 59% for multi-family properties. The median sale price of a single-family house was $660,500, just 1.4% more than last year.  The mean sale price of a house was $866,707, also barely increased from last year.  The two measures together strongly suggest that the Westchester market was in balance as to a smooth distribution across the pricing spectrum.

The sales data from these four counties indicate a region that has achieved a good level of sustainability in its real estate market.  Sales volumes are strong.  Notwithstanding field reports of bidding wars and other indicators of overheated markets, the fact from the data is there is ample choice at most price points and that price increases have been more or less in line with inflation.  Also, the inventory situation, while different in each county, is not so difficult in any of them as to suppress the market or drive up prices.

Outside factors could spoil the market, but there is no immediate threat from any of them. For example, unemployment, which can discourage prospective purchasers from even thinking of buying a property, has steadily decreased in all four counties.  In May, in Westchester, the unemployment rate was 4.6%; last year it was 5.0% and in 2013 it was 6.2%. The other counties have followed a similar pattern.

Steadiness with mortgage interest rates has also contributed to healthy sales activity, both in our region and across the country. The average rate on a 30-year conventional loan seems nailed to a plank at 4.0% and near vicinity. Action to increase the Federal Reserve rate later this year may—or may not —drive up mortgage rates as well. There is no necessary linkage between the two, but even should there be an increase, if it is small and carefully phased in, the real estate market in our area as it is today can handle it.  Sustainability is what we have.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth