The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Westchester home sales are on the rise

By EVE MARX

Second-quarter real estate reports in Westchester show a noted bump in sales, propelled by a rebounding economy and renewed buyer interest. While foreclosures remain high, some buyers are profiting from lower prices or short selling.

“The news is good. Single family house sales picked up in the New York region by 16.7 percent,” Gary Leogrande, president of the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, summarized the report. “People are buying, but it’s not as easy as it was before.”

In addition to the information from Hudson Gateway, statistics were also provided by CoreLogic and the Miller Samuel real estate and appraisal agency, which works as an independent source for Prudential Douglas Elliman.

The numbers overall present a brighter picture for the Bedford area. “If you’re looking at the Bedford ZIP code, at the moment, things look very good,” Mark Boyland, an associate broker with Keller Williams in Bedford.

Speaking specifically to the Bedford market, Mr. Boyland said that in a June-over-June comparison to last year, inventory is down 18 percent. “General activity since March has been good compared to last year,” he said. “In northeastern Westchester, there has been a steady increase in properties going to contract. Properties sold are up about 7 percent.”

According to the Hudson Gateway report, agents reported 1,788 closed residential sales in Westchester County during the second quarter of 2012, which accounts for the winter and early spring, a 13.0 percent increase from the totals posted during last year’s second quarter.

In Westchester County, single family house sales led the improvement with a 16.7 percent increase. Condominium sales were up by 12.8 percent and co-op sales by 7.0 percent.

According to the report, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the second-quarter sales in Westchester were equivalent to an annual sales rate of some 6,810 units, an increase of about 2 percent from the prior quarter. Taking the first quarter of 2012 into consideration, the likely year-end total sales — assuming this pace of growth persists — will be in the range of 6,700 to 6,900 units in Westchester, making 2012 the strongest year since the real estate recession gripped this region in 2008.


Foreclosures still high


According to CoreLogic, which released its National Foreclosure Report for May, New York State ranked fourth among states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes.

New York’s foreclosure inventory is reported to be as high as 5 percent. Westchester County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni stated in the CoreLogic report that “the foreclosure activity in the first half of 2012 looks much like the first half of 2011. The office of the Westchester County clerk reported 832 foreclosure actions started between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, as compared with 885 during the same period last year.”

Mr. Boyland attributed much of the foreclosure and short-sale news to the robo-signing scandal, which just now is being effectively dealt with.

“Thousands of documents a day were being processed to foreclose on people,” Mr. Boyland said. “The government settlement for $26 billion included the terms that the banks could foreclose, as long as they follow correct procedures,” he said.

Mr. Boyland said there are people in the Bedford area who haven’t paid their mortgages in five years. “A lot of people who thought this day would never come are going to be getting notices,” he said. “Short sales will avoid foreclosure.”

He said short sales numbers will start to pick up, even here. “We’re not Florida or Arizona or Nevada,” Mr. Boyland said. “People are not going to be foreclosed on en masse. But we have a bigger backlog of homes about to be foreclosed in New York than other parts of the country. More distressed properties are going to be hitting the market.”

Miller Samuel’s Jonathan Miller, author of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s second quarter Westchester & Putnam Sales Market Overview, said that the Westchester housing market enjoyed one of its busiest spring markets in five years.

Mr. Miller said overall housing prices showed stability, while the luxury market experienced modest increases. The second-quarter inventory of all single family homes fell to its lowest level in seven years.

“Despite the remaining challenges such as tight credit and a slowly improving regional economy, we are encouraged and look forward to continued stability in the upcoming quarters,” Mr. Miller said. “Short sales do get the market moving, but lenders have not been good at it, or not really wanting to do it.”

He said that buyers who are unfamiliar with the terms often don’t understand that there’s not much of a discount on a short sale.

Mr. Miller said that the takeaway message from these reports is that there has been an uptake in sales activity and inventory is falling. “Inventory is falling, not just in this region but nationwide,” he said. “And this is a phenomenon which helps stabilize pricing.

“What you are seeing is somewhat of a decline in the spread between what’s being asked and what properties are selling for,” Mr. Miller continued. “What that suggests to me is sellers are more willing to come down, and buyers are more willing to go up. There’s a little more give and take in negotiating, and that is a significant trend.”

Mr. Leogrande attributed the positive uptick to a number of factors, including the warm winter and early spring. He also mentioned the softening of prices and low interest rates.

“The New York State property tax is a problem,” Mr. Leogrande said. “That needs some mandated relief.”

Another factor that Mr. Leogrande said will affect the market in coming months is unemployment, which is still a little bit better in New York than in other states, “but less than what we’d like to see in a robust economy,” he said.

And it is an election year. “In a presidential election year, we’ve traditionally seen a pulling back because of uncertainty,” Mr. Leogrande said. “We’re mindful of that going forward for the third and fourth quarters. But if you look at the prices and the interest rates, it’s a great time to be a buyer.”


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