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Housing sales in 4-county survey rose 15% in 2012


A "sale pending" sign hangs outside a home located at 12 Long Meadow Dr. in New City. (Dec. 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

Westchester and Rockland counties posted double-digit gains in housing sales in 2012, but prices continued to lag, according to a report released Monday.

The survey by a unit of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors found that 11,481 residential units of all types sold in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties, a 15 percent increase from 2011's total of 9,973 and a reversal of a "steady decrease in annual sales that commenced in 2004."

Westchester County led the rebound in sales volume with a 14 percent boost, followed by 11 percent for Rockland and 9 percent each for Putnam and Orange counties. Westchester accounts for about two-thirds of the sales activity in the four-county region, according to the report.

Richard Haggerty, chief executive of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, said the region has posted three straight quarters of strong transaction growth, but muted pricing could continue.

"Prices are going to remain flat because we're still dealing with a fair number of distressed properties," he said.

The increased volume in Westchester County came at the cost of price concessions as median sale prices year over year fell across all property types. Single-family homes' median sale price slid 2.2 percent to $587,000, condominiums declined 9.8 percent to $330,000 and cooperatives dipped 7.2 percent to $148,450. Two- to four-family houses also registered a decline of 2.9 percent to $330,000.

Still, Haggerty noted, there is a "glimmer of hope," with a 4.2 percent median sale price increase to $547,000 in Westchester County's single-family housing.

"The dip may be starting to reverse," he said, "but I'd like to see another two quarters of improvement."

Westchester County condominiums posted the strongest annual sales volume growth, rising 20.2 percent to 1,004 units. Sales of single-family homes in the county rose 16.3 percent to 4,465.

Haggerty attributed the gains in condo sales to affordability.

"One of the things that's driving transactions is there is a lot of moderately priced housing," he said.

Meanwhile, single-family homes in Westchester County that were priced at $1 million or higher largely stayed on the sidelines. In the fourth quarter, million-dollar homes accounted for less than 18 percent of single-family sales. Their share of the market went as high as 30 percent five or six years ago, according to the report.

Median single-family house prices in 2012 fell 7.7 percent in Putnam County, 2.6 percent in Rockland County and 4 percent in Orange County.

In a separate report, industry researcher CoreLogic forecast that home prices would rise 6 percent nationwide in 2013.

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