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Though pricey, apartments selling fast in Manhattan

Manhattan apartment sales nearly doubled in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, according to a report released yesterday by the Real Estate Board of New York. The lobbying group, the largest real estate organization in the city, found that co-op sales surged 47% to 847 units sold, while condo sales swelled 42% to 1,112 units sold. The average sales price for a co-op increased 12% to $990,819, and condo sales prices jumped 23% to $873,000. Real estate agents say the numbers may be misleading. The data was gathered from deals that closed from January through March, when the market reached a fevered pitch.Since then,there has been a slowing of the buying pace. "The frenzy that we had in January, February, and March is not there anymore," said a Douglas Elliman agent, Jacky Teplitzky.

At one recent open house for an apartment on the Upper East Side, Ms. Teplitzky had 20 potential buyers show up. An apartment of the same size in the same building four weeks earlier had 47 people at its open house. "I just don't see the same number of buyers out there," she said. Sales prices have also slowed. "It used to be you would price an apartment in February higher than it would have been priced in January, and an apartment in March higher than one in February.Those prices are now steady," Ms.Teplitzky said.

"I have not seen any evidence of a change in the market," said the head of research for the Real Estate Board,Mike Slattery."With interest rates a question, there may be some instability in the economic climate, but nothing significant." Interest rates have been at all-time lows, but have begun to rise slightly, and many economists are calling for more rate hikes as the presidential elections get underway. Highlights in the report include prewar apartments, which increased 12% to a median price a square foot of $731, and postwar units,which were up 5% to $675 a foot.

The West Side saw prewar condos increase by 10% to $756, while postwar apartments downtown were up 15% to $684 a square foot. The East Side also saw rises in the price for a square foot, with apartments of under 650 square feet seeing an increase of 31% to $740. Northern Manhattan also continued to see sales prices rise, up 31% compared with the first quarter of last year, to a median price of $210,000. "Although apartment prices are at all-time highs, residents are still looking to get a piece of the action before interest rates rise," the president of the Real Estate Board, Steve Spinola, said in a statement. "It is further evidence of the tremendous value of owning a New York City property."



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