Lower-priced Manhattan condo sales dive 30%

For months, real estate insiders have championed the strength of Manhattan’s high-end condominium market, but according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of fourth-quarter city deeds, that hasn’t compensated for dismal results on the lower end of the island’s condo spectrum.

While the fourth-quarter is historically a slower sales season, volume is down 12 percent this year from the prior-year fourth quarter. That decline was keyed by plummeting sales figures for condos, as co-op sales figures were short just 1.3 percent from last year’s fourth-quarter.

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Overall, closed condo sales sunk 24 percent from the final three months of 2010, and more than 30 percent for sales worth less than $1 million. Proving the relative strength of the high-end market, deals for condos worth more than $4 million remained less than 7 percent below last year’s figures. Further, while median sales prices fell 8 percent from the previous quarter and 6.6 percent year-over-year, median condo prices actually jumped — 11.7 percent quarter-over-quarter and 13 percent since the end of last year — because of the steep drop in lower-priced sales.

Real estate analysts attributed the decline to a lack of confidence resulting from the summer’s gyrating economy and the debt troubles in Europe. The cut in Federal Housing Administration’s maximum loan amount, which was eventually reversed, also scared off buyers. Now, with the dollar strengthening, the foreign buyers that have fueled the upper end of the market may also cut back. [WSJ]