No, fifth-story walkups are worth that, really

/ Source: The Associated Press

Amid a housing slump that’s plaguing the rest of the country, Manhattan’s residential real estate market finished the final quarter of 2007 with record average prices, according to two separate reports released Thursday.

Prudential Douglas Elliman said the average Manhattan apartment price, which includes cooperatives and condominiums, jumped 17.6 percent in the fourth quarter to a record $1,439,909 from the year-ago period, while Brown Harris Stevens reported a 34 percent increase to $1,430,514, another record.

The median also rose, but not as sharply. Prudential reported a 6.4 percent increase to $850,000, and Brown Harris Stevens said the median price gained 14 percent to $828,000. The median price is where half sell for more and half sell for less.

When the average price outpaces gains in median price, that typically indicates higher sales activity at the top end of the market, said Brown Harris Stevens Executive Vice President Jim Gricar.

Sales of apartments over $10 million more than tripled during the quarter, while closings at the ultra-luxury apartments The Plaza and 15 Central Park West averaged $6.95 million and made up 7 percent of all quarterly condo sales, Brown Harris Stevens said.

Many foreign buyers, capitalizing on a weaker dollar, are snapping up some of these high-end condos in the city, Gricar said.

“I had a friend in town from London last week who said the market here was like a big 50 percent off sale,” Gricar said.

Meanwhile, Prudential said price increases on two- and three-bedroom apartments helped to push up prices overall. Prices on two-bedrooms jumped 22.1 percent, while three-bedroom apartment prices surged 39.8 percent.

Prudential Chief executive Dottie Herman noted that as more families stay in the city, instead of moving to the suburbs, demand for larger apartments is growing.

However, being a small island with a growing population is Manhattan’s greatest advantage. Unlike other markets nationwide struggling with a glut of unsold homes, Manhattan inventory shrunk by 13.5 percent in the fourth quarter from the prior year, according to Prudential Douglas Elliman.

“Across the country, houses are being built and inventory increases,” Gricar said. “In New York, it’s the reverse story. There’s simply no inventory.”

Prudential’s report is based on 2,518 home sales, while Brown Harris Stevens’ report tracked 2,531 sales.