I have been tracking the Manhattan housing market in report format for more than 12 years, appraising it for more than 20 years and I often worry I became Manhattan-centric as a result. Things that I thought were pretty standard here I assumed would apply to other markets in the same way.
- rating a neighborhood by whether a resident can buy strawberries at 3am (never done that, but I have heard this discussed more than once)
- hailing a cab in a downpour to get to work (but doing this on a street going in reverse of the morning rush ’cause the odds are better)
- buying a few bags a of groceries at a time because thats all that can be carried (but making the argument that its because you eat only fresh food)
- taking a dozen elevators rides per day and still remain fascinated by the changing floor numbers
- not making eye contact with oncoming strangers when walking
- taking comfort in the fact that 80% of all clothes worn are black
- and the subways are actually pretty clean and reliable
…ok you get my point.
…while Manhattan real estate related assumptions include…
- the fact that price per square foot rises with larger properties
- new development is nearly always targeted to the upper end of the market
- its tough to build without tearing something down
- co-ops are a pretty standard form of ownership
- average days on market is about 120 to 150 days in a balanced market
Average days on market is measured by taking the number of days from the last list price change, if any, until contract date.
For the 2nd and 3rd quarter, the average days on market in Manhattan was 144 and 150 days respectively.
This market stat should be relatively consistent around the country in housing markets that are relatively price stable (coming out of a boom period) like Manhattan is. When I began crunching the data for Long Island (Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties) this stat was pretty consistent by county and averaged 86 and 83 days respectively. This was curious to me because it was so different than the Manhattan market, yet the position of the markets is fairly similar. In fact, the argument could be made that Long Island is a weaker housing market than Manhattan right now. So why is the average days on market so different (lower)?
I was speaking to an appraiser last week who covers Northeast Ohio and his marketing times for a market in weaker in health to Manhattan is about 90 days. Another appraiser I know in Charleston, SC  reported a 54 day marketing time this quarter for a market in a similar stage.
My 120 to 150 day rule of thumb is sort of on all Fannie Mae forms used for nearly all residential mortgage lending. There are three choices for describing marketing time:
- Less than 90 days,
- 90-120 days,
- greater than 120 days
(translation: fast, medium, slow).
The Employee Relocation Council  defines reasonable marketing time (a balanced market) as 90 to 120 days, yet most markets that are argueably buyers markets (not balanced = slow) actually average a shorter period than this standard.
I also looked to the stats in an appraisal organization known as Relocation Appraisers & Consultants [RAC] . Their appraisers (self-included) are considered among the best relocation appraisers out there and they compiled stats in each of their markets. The RAC Report  covers a variety of markets across the country and like New York, the results are also all over the place.
Since the 3Q results are not posted by RAC yet so I looked at the 2Q results. They break out the DOM figures by price strata so I selected the middle price strata of each market and rounded.
- Las Vegas (40 days)
- Los Angeles (55 days)
- Atlanta (75 days)
- Texas (overall – 50 days)
- Denver (100 days)
- New Jersey (40 days)
- Chicago (western suburbs – 90 days)
_plus the previously discussed 2Q results_
- Manhattan (144 days)
- Long Island (86 days)
- Northeast Ohio (90 days)
- Charleston, SC (43 days)
One lesson in all this is that real estate is local but I wonder, is there a different efficiency in the way a property is sold or takes to sell in different markets? Is it the legal process? In other words does the time it takes to actually go to contract once the meeting of the minds occurred play a key variable here?
And how do those fresh strawberries get to Manhattan all year ’round?
UPDATE: Speaking of Strawberry Fields, did you see the full page ad by Yoko Ono in the NYT this Sunday? I’ll always remember exactly where I was on December 8, 1980.