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Manhattan housing inventory dropped in 1Q

Low inventory and a decline in sales from a particularly busy end of the year characterized the first-quarter residential market in Manhattan, according to quarterly reports.

Douglas Elliman tracked a 33.6% decline in inventory from the first quarter of 2012. It’s the biggest decrease since around 2000, said Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel, which tracks the Elliman data.

“What happens when you choke supply with both hands?” Mr. Miller said. “You cause prices to start rising.”

The median sales price for Manhattan apartments increased by almost 6% to $820,000, according to the Elliman data.

In its own report, Corcoran Group tracked a 26% decline in inventory from the same time in 2012.

“There’s just not enough inventory to satisfy the demands of the buyer,” said Corcoran CEO Pamela Liebman. “It’s more of a seller’s market than we’ve seen in months.”

The brokerages also saw a quarter-to-quarter decline in number of sales, since many sellers were eager to close deals in 2012 ahead of the 2013’s increased capital gains tax. The number of sales decreased by 5% at Douglas Elliman and 23% at Corcoran.

Halstead Property reported that the average apartment price fell 16% in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the same period in 2012, and attributed it to the rush to sell at the end of 2012.

“The luxury apartments were really pushed through at the end of 2012,” said Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property. “You even saw co-op boards accommodating the sales.”

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