ESTATE


Foreclosures, Short Sales Weigh Down Prices
2009/05/12, 6:50 pm
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The median home price for U.S. metro areas posted a year-over-year decline in the first quarter of 2009, reflecting a high volume of foreclosures and short sales, which typically sell for 20 percent less than traditional homes, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® reports.

The national median existing single-family price was $169,000, which is 13.8 percent below the first quarter of 2008 when conditions were closer to normal. Foreclosures and short sales accounted for nearly half of transactions in the first quarter.

NAR data shows that 134 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas reported lower median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the first quarter of 2008, while 18 metros had price gains.

NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said there are two levels of pricing in the current market.

“Traditional homes in good condition have held their value much better, so owners shouldn’t be overly concerned about median prices,” he said. “Most sellers can expect a good return if they’ve been in their home for a normal period of home ownership and haven’t excessively tapped their equity.”

Existing-Home Sales Sluggish

Meanwhile, the sales pace remained slow overall. Total state existing-home sales, including single-family homes and condos, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million units in the first quarter, down 3.2 percent from 4.74 million units in the fourth quarter, and 6.8 percent below the 4.93 million-unit pace in the first quarter of 2008.

Seventeen states saw a sales increase from the fourth quarter, and six states were higher than a year ago; complete data for one state was not available. Sales in the first quarter do not reflect an impact from the first-time home buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, sees the market in a lull before an upturn. “Over the past couple months, contract activity for home sales, buyer traffic and inquiries about the $8,000 tax credit have all increased,” he said. “Housing affordability conditions are at record high levels and we expect a measurable increase in home sales during the second half of the year, which would help stabilize prices in most areas.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 5.06 percent in the first quarter from 5.86 percent in the fourth quarter; the rate was 5.88 percent in the first quarter of 2008.

Yun said some areas showed dramatic drops in home prices. “In areas with the biggest price declines, we also see much higher levels of distressed sales which are distorting the data,” he said. “We are very much in a bifurcated market with sharp differences between foreclosures and short sales on one hand, and traditional homes on the other. In many cases homes are selling below replacement construction costs, which speaks to great value in the current market.”

State, Local Bright Spots

The largest first-quarter sales gain from a year ago was in Nevada, up 116.8 percent, followed by California which rose 80.6 percent; Arizona, up 50.2 percent; and Florida with a 25.0 percent increase. Virginia and Minnesota also experienced double-digit sales increases.

The largest single-family home price increase in the first quarter was in the Cumberland area of Maryland and West Virginia, where the median price of $114,900 rose 21.1 percent from a year ago.

Next was the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island area of Iowa and Illinois at $100,300, up 13.8 percent from the first quarter of 2008, followed by Columbia, Mo., where the median price increased 6.0 percent to $152,600.

Median first-quarter metro area single-family home prices ranged from a very affordable $30,300 in the Saginaw-Saginaw Township North area of Michigan to $570,000 in Honolulu. The second most expensive area was the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California, at $450,000, followed by the Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine area of California at $435,800.
Other affordable markets include Akron, Ohio, at $50,100, and the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area of Ohio and Pennsylvania at $51,200.

Condo Trends

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 56 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $172,800 in the first quarter, down 20.2 percent from the first quarter of 2008. Five metros showed annual increases in the median condo price and 51 areas had declines.

The strongest condo price increases were in Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine, at $196,900, up 11.2 percent, followed by the Wichita, Kan., area, where the median condo price of $113,900 rose 6.8 percent from the first quarter of 2008, and Bismarck, N.D., at $132,400, up 6.0 percent.

Metro area median existing-condo prices in the first quarter ranged from $75,200 in Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., to $345,900 in San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont. The second most expensive reported condo market was Honolulu at $300,000, followed by the New York-Wayne-White Plains area of New York and New Jersey at $282,300.

Other affordable condo markets include the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville area of Florida at $90,600 in the first quarter, and the Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville area of California at $93,800.

Regional Sales Volume, Prices

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 10.3 percent in the first quarter to a pace of 693,000 units and are 20.1 percent below a year ago.

The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast declined 15.9 percent to $235,500 in the first quarter from the same period in 2008. The best gain in the region was in Syracuse, N.Y., where the median price of $113,700 rose 3.1 percent from the first quarter of 2008, followed by Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., at $99,200, up 2.7 percent, and Binghamton, N.Y., where the median rose 0.5 percent to $110,300.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales slipped 2.2 percent in the first quarter to a pace of 1.04 million and are 13.1 percent below a year ago.

The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest was down 6.8 percent to $132,400 in the first quarter from the same period in 2008. After Davenport-Moline-Rock Island and Columbia, the next strongest metro price increase in the region was in Springfield, Ill., where the median price of $111,400 was 3.9 percent higher than a year ago, followed by Topeka, Kan., at $106,500, up 3.1 percent, and Bloomington-Normal, Ill., at $153,800, up 1.9 percent.

In the South, existing-home sales declined 2.5 percent in the first quarter to an annual rate of 1.70 million and are 12.7 percent lower than the same period in 2008.

The median existing single-family home price in the South was $146,600 in the first quarter, down 10.8 percent from a year earlier. After Cumberland, the strongest price increase in the region was in Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas, with a 5.0 percent gain to $129,100, followed by Oklahoma City, at $129,900, up 4.0 percent, and Shreveport-Bossier City, La., at $136,000, up 3.4 percent.

Existing-home sales in the West slipped 0.9 percent in the first quarter to an annual rate of 1.16 million but are 24.3 percent above a year ago.

The median existing single-family home price in the West was $237,600 in the first quarter, which is 19.8 percent below the first quarter of 2008. The strongest price gain in the West was in the Salt Lake City area, where the median price of $230,100 rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier, followed by Farmington, N.M., at $191,200, up 0.7 percent.

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Lowering Ceilings Adds Visual Impact
2009/04/20, 4:32 pm
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Sarah Susanka, author of the popular “Not So Big” home-design books, devotes lots of space in her eighth book “Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live,” to ceilings.

She urges owners of homes with vaulted ceilings to consider lowering them so the house has what she calls, “visual layering.”

“Ceiling height is something that people don’t understand,” Susanka says. “If you make all ceiling heights 9 or 10 feet tall, it becomes monotonous.”

She recommends differentiating space by adding soffits that don’t reduce the space, but do define the area and differentiate it from neighboring areas.

“Just as punctuation helps us to extract the full meaning of a sentence, spatial layering serves the same function for our eyes, separating the space we’re looking at into bite-sized pieces without obscuring the experience of the whole,” she writes in the book.

In the case of small rooms like powder rooms, she recommends creating a “beltline,” a horizontal division in the wall space created with molding or wainscoting that makes the small, high-ceilinged space feel less like a cell.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Mary Umberger (04/19/2009)



Foreclosures jump as moratorium ends
2009/04/16, 4:28 pm
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Foreclosures jumped 46 percent in March compared to a year earlier and were up 17 percent compared to February with more than 340,000 properties affected nationwide, according to foreclosure marketer RealtyTrac.

Nearly 804,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from January through March, up from about 650,000 in the same time period a year earlier, RealtyTrac says.

Many lenders and servers had put a moratorium on foreclosures, waiting for the details of the Obama administration’s foreclosure plan. But now they are back with a vengeance. The end of the moratorium is also driving an increase in the availability of REO properties, according to RealtyTrac.

Nevada, Arizona and California had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate. Other states in the top 10 in the first quarter were Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Idaho, Utah and Oregon.

States with the highest number of actual foreclosures, 60 percent of the total, were California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Illinois. Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Virginia.

One in every 159 homes nationwide was at some stage of foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac.

Source: RealtyTrac (04/09/2009)



Special tax break available for new car purchases this year
2009/04/06, 3:02 pm
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The IRS has released IR 2009-30 to remind taxpayers of a temporary tax incentive that will be available to them for the purchase of a new car, light truck, motor home or motorcycle during 2009. The deduction is available for the cost of all state and local sales and excise taxes paid on up to $49,500 of the purchase price. The amount of the deduction is phased out for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is between $125,000 and $135,000 for individual filers and between $250,000 and $260,000 for joint filers. The vehicle must be purchased after Feb. 16, 2009, and before Jan. 1, 2010, to qualify for the deduction. The special deduction is available regardless of whether a taxpayer itemizes deductions on their return.

The IRS reminded taxpayers the deduction may not be taken on 2008 tax returns.



Layoff insurance the latest carrot for homebuyers
2009/04/03, 4:20 pm
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‘Extra safety net’ for those who want to buy a home but fear the ax
The Associated Press
updated 5:15 p.m. ET, Thurs., April. 2, 2009

LOS ANGELES – Free granite countertops, swimming pools and landscaping aren’t going to convince anyone who’s afraid of losing a job to buy a home. But what about a promise to pay your mortgage if you get laid off?

With the unemployment rate at a 26-year high and home sales still in the dumps, a growing number of homebuilders and even some real estate agents are trying to coax buyers with a kind of mortgage unemployment insurance.

Major builders offering job loss mortgage payment plans include Lennar Corp., Pulte Homes Inc., The Ryland Group Inc. and Toll Brothers Inc.

“We’re literally adding at least one builder a day throughout the country,” said Todd Ludlow, senior vice president of Rainy Day Foundation, a nonprofit organization that administers the programs for many builders.

Builders can pay anywhere from $450 to $900 per customer for the coverage. Some absorb the cost as they would any other sales promotion, while others pass it on to buyers, Ludlow said.

In January, Lennar unveiled a version of Rainy Day’s program called “Piece of Mind Mortgage Payment Protection Plan.” Lennar covers monthly mortgage payments between $1,800 and $2,500, depending on the market, for a maximum of six months. Buyers can take advantage of the program only if they lose their job within the first two years after purchasing the home.

Launched last month, Toll’s mortgage protection program only covers homebuyers who finance their purchase through the company’s mortgage lender. The plan covers a maximum of six monthly payments of up to $2,500 a month — including interest, taxes and insurance — if the homeowner loses his or her job within two years after closing on their home.

“It’s for those who perhaps are not feeling themselves in imminent danger but just want that extra safety net,” said Kira McCarron, chief marketing officer for luxury homebuilder Toll, which is based in Horsham, Pa.

One of the most generous programs in the industry comes from Cousins Properties Inc., which is marketing the effort with its 10 Terminus Place luxury condo tower in Atlanta.

Cousins is offering to refund to buyers all their mortgage payments should the appraised value of their condos fall below the sale price after three years. The company, Cousins will let a buyer walk away from their property if they lose their job or just can’t make their mortgage payments anymore.

“You won’t have a foreclosure, you won’t have a credit issue and you won’t have any future obligation,” said Tom Bell, Cousins Properties’ chief executive, adding such homeowners would sacrifice their 5 percent downpayment.

Some real estate firms also are getting into the act.

Keller Williams Realty Inc. began offering job loss protection through the Rainy Day Foundation a couple of weeks ago as a test program in South Florida with an eye to an eventual national rollout.

“We’re bringing it to our sellers as a marketing opportunity,” said Greg Cook, spokesman for Keller Williams South Florida.

The firm also is offering it to buyers who enlist a Keller Williams agent to buy a home that’s not being listed through the company, Cook said.

The plan pays up to $2,500 to cover the full mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, for six months.

The insurance costs $650, which can be structured into the closing costs paid by the seller, or it can be paid by the lender or the agent, Cook said.

Any buyers who’d rather skip the job loss insurance will get the $650 applied to the cost of the home, Cook said.

 

That’s a good idea, suggests J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America.

Hunter said that homebuyers might be better off passing on the mortgage payment insurance plans — which he generally called “a gimmick” — and ask for a discount.

“If we’re in for a two-year recession and I lose my job, I may not get it back for two years, and six months is still not going to save me,” Hunter said. “I personally would want to find out how much money I could save buying the house without it.”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30016335/



High end lender files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
2009/04/02, 6:54 pm
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Thornburg Mortgage, which specialized in loaning jumbo mortgages to buyers of expensive homes, announced bankruptcy Wednesday.

The company said it will file for Chapter 11 protection and go out of business. It reported a net income loss of $2.75 billion in the nine months that ended last Sept. 30, according to its quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The Santa Fe-based lender has been hard hit by both the mortgage and the credit crisis.

Source: The Associated Press (04/01/2009)



Prudential Douglas Elliman Manhattan Real Estate Market Overview For Q1 2009
2009/04/02, 2:42 pm
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Re-sale Market – Prices and number of sales declined Current quarter confirms market decline first seen in prior quarter (NEW YORK, NY) — Last fall’s rapid change in market conditions established a new housing market that reflected a lower level of activity and a reset of housing prices. The tipping point which occurred last September was largely triggered by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and federal bailouts of AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This marked a sharp contraction of credit, greatly restricting demand as participants had more difficulty obtaining financing. A national recession, rising unemployment and reduced compensation in the financial services sector also played a role in restricting demand. The market reset caused sellers to be more than a year behind the current market, still setting list prices in relation to the last high mark in their respective buildings. This resulted in the expansion of inventory, listing discount and days on market metrics. However, by the end of the first quarter there was a noticeable uptick in contract activity and attendance at open houses. While this is partially attributable to seasonality, it is also a sign of first time qualified buyers seeking to take advantage of improved affordability. Number of sales off sharply as inventory continued to expand The number of sales declined 47.6% to 1,195 units from 2,282 units in the prior year quarter and down the same amount from the prior quarter. The market share for the number of re-sales has been declining over the past year as compared to new development sales. Re-sales accounted for 57.2% of sales this quarter, down from 69.5% in the prior year quarter. As a result of the lower number of sales, inventory levels have increased, but not as rapidly as other periods of lower activity. There has been limited participation by “casual sellers,” owners who place their properties for sale only to test the market, have opted to wait until conditions have improved. Listing inventory reached 10,445 units at the end of the quarter, up 34.3% from 7,778 units in the prior year quarter and up 15% from 9,081 units in the prior quarter. Inventory levels are at their highest in the decade this metric has been tracked. The prior high was set in the third quarter of 2006 when inventory reached 9,573 units. Re-sale price indicators declined sharply, yet new development prices rose The median sales price of a Manhattan re-sale property — defined as any property not sold in a newly constructed or converted development — fell 20.8% to $675,000 from $852,500 in the same period last year. Conversely, the median sales price of a new development sale increased 31.4% to $1,505,000 from the median sales price of $1,145,531 in the prior year quarter. This jump was caused by significant skew in higher priced closings rather than a rising price trend. In addition, the price negotiated in a new development sale transaction was likely reached twelve to 18 months ago, reflective of the robust conditions that existed at that time. The lag time combined with the rise in market share of new development sales — caused primarily by a sharp decline in re-sale activity — resulted in mixed trends in the overall price indicators. As a result, the median sales price of a Manhattan apartment was $975,000 this quarter, up 3.1% over the median sales price of $945,276 in the same period last year. Marketing time metrics weakened The average listing discount — the difference between the contract price and the list price in place at contract — jumped to 12.4% from 3.2% in the prior year quarter and 7.3% in the prior quarter. As listing inventory rises, the spread between list price and sales price tends to expand as sellers fall behind the declining market when setting their list prices, especially when there is rapid change in market conditions. Days on market saw the same pattern, expanding to 170 days, more than 3 weeks longer than the 146 days on market seen in the same period last year. Co-Op Market – Prices indicators and number of sales dropped All price indicators showed sharp declines The co-op market is a better barometer for housing price trends than condos because of the absence of new development as a significant property type. New development has caused significant price skew over the past several years, as a function of its higher price concentration and its frequent 12 to 18 month lag time between contract date and actual closing date. The median sales price of a Manhattan coop was $587,500 in the current quarter, down 21.7% from the $750,000 median sales price of the prior year quarter and down 13% from the prior quarter median sales price of $675,000. The current median sales price falls between the fourth quarter 2004 median sales price of $527,000 and the first quarter 2005 median sales price of $610,000. The average sales price was $1,193,144 this quarter, down 14.4% from the prior year quarter average sales price of $1,393,548. Average price per square foot saw the same pattern, falling 14.2% to $968, from $1,128 in the same period last year. Number of sales dropped sharply as inventory expanded There were 414 co-op sales in the first quarter, down 58.8% from the 1,004 sales of the prior year quarter. The highest number of co-op sales in a single quarter was reached in the third quarter of 2007 when there were 1,811 sales. As a result of the lower pace of sales listing inventory has been rising. There were 4,807 co-ops on the market at the end of the quarter, up 33.4% from the prior year quarter total of 3,603 and 26.2% higher than the prior quarter total of 3,808. Despite the rise in inventory, which is expected this time of year and has risen in six of the past seven years, when comparing the fourth to first quarter transitions, it still remains well below the high mark set in the first quarter of 2003 with 5,484 units. Co-op market share slipped The market share of co-op sales dropped sharply from the prior quarter and the prior year quarter. Co-ops accounted for 34.8% of all sales this quarter, down from 44% in the prior year quarter and about half the market share of the same period five years ago, which was the first quarter of 2004, when the market share was 63.6%. The drop in co-op market share was attributable to the surge of condo new development activity that has been added to the housing stock, not weaker interest in the co-op form of ownership. Days on market rose as listing discount jumped As the pace of sales drops and inventory expands, the length of time it takes to market a property correspondingly expands and negotiability increases. The number of days a property was on the market in the first quarter was 155 days, nearly two weeks longer than the 142 days on market average of the same period last year. This is the highest level reached for this indicator in the decade it has been tracked. Listing discount was 9.3% for the quarter, more than two times the 3.9% listing discount of the same period last year and higher than the 4.5% listing discount of the prior quarter. Condo Market – Overall price indicators mixed as number of sales declined New development prices rose as re-sale prices fell The overall median sales price of a Manhattan condo was $1,227,200 this quarter, up 5.8% from the same period last year which had a median sales price of $1,160,000. The average sales price was $2,161,237 this quarter, up 9.1% from the $1,981,802 average sales price of the prior year quarter. The average price per square foot was $1,413 in the first quarter, essentially unchanged from the prior year quarter price per square foot of $1,416. The mixed results of these price indicators were caused by the rise in the size of new development units that happened to close in the quarter, which more than offset the decline in re-sale prices. The average square footage of a new development condo this quarter was 1,680 square feet, up 39.7% from the same period last year. Conversely, the average square footage of a re-sale condo was slightly smaller this quarter than the prior year quarter. Average square footage was 1,222, down 1% from 1,234 square feet during the same period last year. This provided significant skew to the average sales price and median sales price indicators. The median sales price of a condo in a new development project was $1,525,000, up 33.4% from the prior year quarter median sales price, while the median sales price of a condo re-sale was $985,000, down 15.7% from the $1,169,000 median sales price in the same period last year. Number of sales declined as inventory expanded There were 5,638 condos available for sale at the end of the quarter, up 35% from the 4,175 units in the same period last year. This is the highest level of condo inventory in the decade since this metric has been tracked for the report series and includes both re-sale and new development listings. Inventory results do not include “shadow inventory” which are completed or nearly completed units that are ready to enter the market, but have not been formally offered for sale. Until recently these units have remained relatively constant, but are now believed to be higher than the total inventory tracked in this report as lower sales activity has had the effect of backing up supply ready to enter the market. There were 781 sales this quarter, down 38.9% from the 1,278 units closed during the same period last year. This is the lowest level of activity since the fourth quarter of 2005, when there were 726 sales closed. This was immediately followed by what was designated as the end of the housing boom in New York in mid-2005, a period characterized by 20% annual price growth. Days on market, listing discount expanded According to the days on market indicator, the average Manhattan condo took 178 days to sell this quarter, 29 days longer than the 149 days on market set in the same period last year. This was the highest level reached in the decade this metric has been tracked. This is largely a function of increasing inventory and the contraction of credit, providing more choices for fewer potential purchasers. The listing discount jumped to 14.1% this quarter, up sharply from the 2.7% listing discount of the prior year quarter and up from the already high 9.4% listing discount of the prior quarter. Luxury Market – Price indicators mixed as listing inventory rose Price indicators trend higher, new development market share jumped The median sales price saw a sharp gain, while both average sales price and price per square foot had more modest gains. The median sales price of a luxury condominium jumped 32.2% to $6,595,000 from $4,989,425 in the prior year quarter. The market share of new development sales within the luxury submarket jumped in the first quarter as re-sale market share dropped. New development sales reflected 68.3% of all luxury sales, more than double the 26.8% market share of the prior year quarter. However, it was a significantly higher skew in resale prices that caused the overall prices to jump in this market segment, not new development. The median sales price of a new development sale was $6,595,000, down 27.7% from the same period last year while the median sales price of a re-ale jumped 56.4% to $7,000,000 over the same period. Listing inventory continued to expand There were 1,610 listings available for sale at the end of the quarter, up 25.9% from the same period last year when there were 1,279 listings. Growth in luxury inventory trailed the overall market and represents 15.4% of total inventory, its second lowest market share of the past three years. Luxury inventory had a 16.4% market share in the prior year quarter and a 19.1% market share in the prior quarter. Although inventory is clearly rising, the trend suggests that sellers in this market segment are more likely than the overall market to wait until conditions improve to list their properties. Days on market, listing discount increased Along with a larger supply of listing inventory, it took longer to market a property and involved greater negotiability than the same period last year. The days on market averaged 153 days in the quarter, 18 days longer than the 135 days on market averaged in the prior year quarter. This is 17 days faster than the overall Manhattan market, which has been at a fairly regular pattern for the past two years. The listing discount reached 7.8% this quarter, roughly triple the prior year quarter listing discount of 2.5% and up only nominally from the prior quarter. prior year quarter listing discount of 2.5% and up only nominally from the prior quarter. Loft Market – Price indicators rose, skewed by new development New development market share surged The market share of loft new development sales jumped to 74.2% of all loft sales this quarter, up from 29.1% in the same period last year, causing loft price indicators to show across the board gains. The median sales price surged 29.1% to $2,065,000 this quarter from the $1,600,000 median sales price in the same period last year. Average sales price and price per square foot also showed significant increases over the same period. The median sales price of a new development loft nearly doubled over the period, which was caused by a significant increase in the size of units that transferred during the period. Number of sales fell, listing inventory expanded There were 89 loft sales in the first quarter, a 51.1% decline from the 182 sales in the prior year quarter and 42.9% below the 156 sales in the prior quarter. As a result, listing inventory expanded, if only modestly. There were 834 loft apartments available for sale, a 9.5% increase from the 761 listings of the same period last year. Loft apartment activity accounted for 7.4% of all sales activity and 10.6% of total dollar volume. This is relatively consistent with the 8% market share of units sold and 10.3% of total dollar volume during the same period last year. Listing discount and days on market increased The days on market average was 158 days for the quarter, 23 days longer than the 135 days on market average in the prior year quarter. The listing discount was 8.9%, well above the 3.3% listing discount of the same period last year and the highest level of negotiability to occur over the past decade.

http://www.realestatechannel.com/us-markets/residential-real-estate-1/dottie-herman-prudential-douglas-elliman-ny-q1-2009-manhattan-market-overview-ny-home-re-sales-prices-co-op-sales-prices-loft-prices-condo-new-york-real-estate-news-614.php