"This is August, when you would think nothing is doing, but when apartments are priced right at all price points they will sell in a week," said a Manhattan broker. Across the country, inventory of unsold apartments has been rising, but in New York, brokers say it has been tightening. Properties that had lingered on the market for many months during the housing downturn are getting sold, and not yet replaced with new inventory.

Despite rising gloom about home sales across the country, sales of apartments in Manhattan appear to have strengthened this summer, with median prices up, inventory down and an increase in the number of apartment closings.The figures suggest that the Manhattan market, buoyed by a resumption of hiring and a healthy Wall Street bonus season ahead, has so far escaped much of the distress across the country. The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that existing home sales nationwide plummeted by 27% in July, following the expiration of federal housing tax credits.The tax credits, worth as much as $8,000, had much less of an impact in the Manhattan market because the credits made up a much smaller percentage of sale prices than in lower-priced markets. July’s median home sale price in Manhattan was $900,000, compared with $182,600 nationwide.Still, there is some worry among some brokers here that economic uncertainty may stall luxury sales in the fall, as buyers become more reluctant to sign contracts. Some also fear a rush to sell by owners worried about likely increases in capital gains tax rates next year could push down prices. Dolly Lenz, a top-selling broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman, said that buyers have begun holding back. "There is a lack of confidence and a lack of direction," she said. "You can feel the mood and it is not a good mood. There is no rush to buy and people are gambling that prices are going down."
By Josh Barbanel, August 25, 2010 WSJ

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