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‘Flat the new black’ for NYC housing market, says Miller

Despite recent economic volatility, Manhattan’s housing prices and sales were stable from 2010 through 2011, according a new report tracking the past 10 years from Prudential Douglas Elliman report.

Average co-op and condo market prices fell slightly, down from $1.46 million to $1.43 million in 2010. Both years showed strong sales numbers, increasing by 101 to 10,161 in 2011 and following a decade low of 7,430 sales in 2009.

Since “flat is the new black,” that makes Manhattan one of the best housing markets in the country, said Jonathan J. Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel, Inc., who compiled the data in the report.

“The test between a good market and a weak market is a good market is flat or stable and a weak market is declining,” Miller said. “There are no housing markets as a region that are improving or rising.”

The average price per square foot rose by $27 to $1,087 from 2010 to 2011, primarily due to reductions in average square footage across the board (one to four-bedrooms shrank, with minor increases in studio apartment sizes).

Average prices increased by nearly 80 percent between 2002 and 2011, from $795,079 to $1.43 million, according to the report, which tracked the market since 2002.

Perhaps a better indicator of the housing market’s strength was the total number of sales, Miller said. The 10,161 sales last year were the third highest since 2002, behind market peaks in 2007 and 2008, when there were 13,430 and 10,299 sales, respectively.

Despite high unemployment, tight credit and a lack of a national housing strategy in an election year, Manhattan benefits from not having all of its “eggs in one basket,” Miller said.

Among the eggs in separate baskets are the bedrock financial services industry, increased foreign demand due to the cheap dollar and a high concentration of Fortune 500 companies with record cash on hand, he added.

Homes spent 127 days on the market in 2011, on track with numbers from a decade ago, but up 6.7 percent from 119 in 2010.

“Part of the problem is the banks at the lower end of the marketplace, which is a big chunk of the sales,” said Steven James, president of Manhattan brokerage at Prudential Douglas Elliman, referring to studios and one-bedroom homes.

“The banks just were not the easiest to deal with, as opposed to the upper end of the market which really, for the most part, doesn’t rely on financing.”

Greenwich Village saw the greatest spike in condo prices between 2010 and 2011, rising 21.9 percent. The Financial District’s co-op and condo prices rose 8.6 percent, while Washington Heights’ prices declined 20.4 percent.

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