From the Wall Street Journal:
Where Home Prices Are Holding Up
By JEFF D. OPDYKE
May 20, 2008; Page D1
Downtown: It’s been among the safest places to hide from the housing downturn.
Much has been made of the way the nation’s real-estate bust is affecting some American cities far more than others. But even within a single metro area, changes in housing prices can show wild variations.
And in big cities, prices in the central cores often fare the best. Far-flung suburbs — where home building exploded in recent years — have more typically gotten hammered. In between is a patchwork of established suburbs and city neighborhoods peripheral to downtown that can be all over the map in terms of price declines — or even increases.
For today’s buyers, all this means that shopping for housing bargains is increasingly complicated. The best deals may be where prices have slid the most, but such areas could easily fall a good bit more before hitting bottom. Meanwhile, you’ll get few bargains if you buy a home in San Francisco or Manhattan or downtown Boston. Of course, if the housing crisis broadens, the central core areas also could see price drops.
While New York’s commuter market — which includes suburban New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — is down about 8% from its peak in mid-2006, much of Manhattan continues humming along. Neighborhoods such as SoHo, the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Murray Hill, the Upper West Side and Harlem are all up in the past year, according to DataQuick’s Zip Code analysis.
Bidding wars still happen. Toni Haber, an executive vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman, a New York City real-estate firm, says 60 people waited in line recently at an open house to view a three-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village. The owner had four competing offers within the week, and agreed to sell for about $2.5 million — $300,000 over the asking price.
Part of the city’s strength comes from the fact that few buyers were investing in properties to flip them. Moreover, many apartment buildings in New York aren’t condominiums but co-ops, which impose financial demands on potential buyers far more rigorous than banks do — which helps keep the number of foreclosures down. In addition, foreign investors have been exploiting the weak dollar by grabbing Manhattan real estate.
One area of weakness: the Financial District in Lower Manhattan, where median prices are down, in part because of an abundance of new construction in the area.
Those areas of Brooklyn that are close to Manhattan are also holding up well. On the periphery, places like Jamaica, Queens; parts of the Bronx; and nearby New Jersey towns such as Jersey City and Hoboken are off between 3% and 14%.
Farther out, popular commuter towns like Summit and New Providence, N.J., are down at much as 16%. Pockets of suburban strength do exist, though. High-end suburbs in New York’s Westchester County such as Chappaqua are up over the past year.