Brooklyn and Queens post steep sales declines in first quarter

By Sara Polsky | April 15, 2009 10:43PM

alternate textFrom left: Jonathan Miller and Sofia Kim

National trends held true in the local market last quarter as sales declined sharply in Brooklyn and Queens, according to a first-quarter market report released today by Prudential Douglas Elliman.

“[Sales are] really the driving force in housing because transaction activity leads to price trends,” said Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, who prepared the report.

Sales volume in Brooklyn dropped 57 percent year-over-year to 1,186 sales of co-op, condo, and one-to-three family properties in the first quarter of this year from 2,761 sales in the first quarter of 2008. Sales in the borough dropped 36 percent between fourth-quarter 2008 and first-quarter 2009.

The percentage changes in Queens were similar, with a 52 percent drop in sales to 1,801 in the first quarter of 2009 from 3,771 in the first quarter of 2008. Sales dropped between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 by 34 percent.

Price trends between the fourth and first quarters paralleled sales, but the price declines were not as sharp as those seen in the same period last year, according to the report. The median sales price in Brooklyn fell 10 percent to $474,600 last quarter from $527,000 in the first quarter of 2008. In Queens, the median sales price fell to $393,000 from $413,000, a 5 percent drop.

Streeteasy.com recorded slightly steeper drops in median sales prices and shallower drops in the number of closings than the Elliman report. There was a roughly 16 percent drop in median sales prices in Brooklyn year-over-year and a 10 percent drop in Queens, according to data Streeteasy.com provided to The Real Deal.

But, said Sofia Kim, Streeteasy’s vice president of research, “[our data is] consistent with the trend [Elliman’s report reveals], which is that prices are dropping and transactions are falling.”

Within each borough, Miller the appraiser said he now sees more regional price differences. In Brooklyn, some of the steepest price declines of any one area are in East Brooklyn, which saw a 25 percent decline in median sales price year-over-year. East Brooklyn has also been an area with a high number of foreclosures, Miller said.

Northwest Brooklyn, commonly called brownstone Brooklyn, remained a relatively bright spot in the first quarter, with median sales prices up more than 1 percent year-over-year and 7 percent from the fourth quarter. The median sales price in brownstone Brooklyn was $657,500 in the first quarter.

Sales numbers were also positive in Northwest Queens, with median prices up 16 percent year-over-year and 37 percent from the fourth quarter to the first quarter. The numbers reflect the new development boom that occurred a year to 18 months ago, the Elliman report states.

In a first-quarter Brooklyn report released yesterday, the Corcoran Group reported that the borough’s median home price stayed at $565,000 year-over-year and that co-ops and condos posted median price gains. But new development closings skewed the condo prices higher, said Frank Percesepe, Corcoran’s regional senior vice president for Brooklyn.

Corcoran’s report covered Brooklyn, north of the area Windsor Terrace and included only about 200 sales, Percesepe said. The Elliman report includes nearly four times as many sales spread across a wider range of Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Percesepe said he has seen a lot of market activity among first-time homebuyers, and that activity is likely to show up in the second-quarter reports.

Miller the appraiser also said he expects to see some seasonal improvement in Brooklyn and Queens in the second quarter.

“I think we’re still going to see continued weakness in price trends and a lower pace of activity,” he said, “but the second quarter will probably prove to be less of a problem.”