From the Federal Reserve:
Construction and Real Estate
Housing markets in the District have been mixed but generally weak since the last report. A New Jersey industry contact reports that the market for new homes continues to weaken, reflecting an ongoing overhang of inventory, but notes some leveling off in the resale market–both in terms of volume and prices. However, the more high-priced areas nearest to New York City are still characterized as especially weak. In particular, one contact specializing in the higher end of the market reports that sales activity has slowed considerably–with buyers increasingly reluctant, many sellers are taking their homes off the market. Home prices at are estimated to be down roughly 20 percent from their peak levels of a couple years ago.
New York State Realtors report that home sales continued to weaken in November, falling nearly 24 percent from a year earlier and that median selling prices posted double-digit percentage declines in and around New York City but were mixed across upstate New York. There appears to have been substantial deterioration in Manhattan’s housing market, based on reports from both a major appraisal firm and a large real estate brokerage. Co-op and condo sales fell roughly 9 percent from a year earlier in the fourth quarter, led by a 25 percent drop in sales of existing apartments (re-sales). In contrast, closings of newly-constructed units surged 35 percent from a year earlier, but these largely comprised contracts negotiated in late 2007 and early 2008. Based on current contracts, overall apartment prices fell by 20 percent or more from the third to the fourth quarter and the number of transactions fell sharply. Manhattan’s apartment rental market has also weakened substantially, with asking rents reported to be down across the board in November, and 2 to 6 percent lower than in June; moreover, an industry report maintains that the reported decline in asking rents likely understates the true weakness in the market, with a growing number of landlords offering concessions. The inventory of available rental units reportedly increased 17 percent between September and November, with a particularly large rise in the number of high-end listings.
Office markets in the District were mixed in the fourth quarter. Manhattan’s office vacancy rate climbed to its highest level in two years, while asking rents fell 8 percent from the third quarter and were down 5 percent from a year earlier. An industry contact notes marked weakening in December, in particular. However, office markets in the outlying areas were steady: Vacancy rates in northern New Jersey, Westchester and Fairfield County (CT) were little changed at high levels, while Long Island’s rate fell to a two-year low; asking rents were little changed from a year ago in all these areas. Office markets in upstate New York metro areas were steady to somewhat stronger in the fourth quarter, with vacancy rates down slightly and rents up modestly overall.