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Brooklyn and Queens saw stagnant sales, even as prices edged up

The median price in Queens hasn't seen an annual decline in 17 months.

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2020
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Buyers and sellers haven't been eager—or even able—to dip their toes in the New York City real estate market in the past three months and as a result sales have plummeted. The shutdown effectively pulled the plug on residential sales as businesses were ordered to close. Open houses have only been allowed to take place by appointment since the city entered Phase 2 of the re-opening process less than three weeks ago. 

The sales data for the second quarter paints a picture of falling listings and stagnant sales in the outer boroughs. According to Douglas Elliman’s second-quarter sales market report for Brooklyn, Queens, and Riverdale, sales declined at the highest rate in a decade. In Queens, transactions reached more than an 11-year low.

Conversely, the median price for apartments edged higher, setting a record in Brooklyn. The 0.6 percent increase pushed the median sales price to $820,000 there. 

If that feels counter intuitive, it's likely because the pandemic removed buyers in the lower price range, leaving only those in the strongest financial position who were better placed to close on more expensive apartments.

The falling sales are due to the fact that "the market was largely shut down by state mandate,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel and author of the report.

The data doesn't show the impact of the reopening process, which began for the real estate market in mid-June because of the lag time between contract and closing. That data, Miller says, “will start to creep in during the third quarter.”

In Brooklyn, the number of sales dropped 40.5 percent to just 1,525 transactions. Listings were up 2.6 percent compared to the last quarter but were down 21.1 percent compared to last year. The listing discount on apartments was up slightly from 4.4 percent to 5.2 percent. 

In Queens, listings dropped by 18.5 percent—the largest decline in three and a half years.

The number of sales in the borough also dropped by 46.7 percent but as in Brooklyn, those better able to weather the uncertainty of the pandemic and its economic consequences were able to close—pushing the median price up 6.2 percent to $607,350. The median price in Queens hasn't seen an annual decline in 17 months.

The picture was similar in Riverdale, where the number of sales saw the largest decline in nine years and listing inventory fell to its lowest in more than two years. Median sales price rose by 3.7 percent to $325,000.

Other market reports

According to Compass' second quarter Brooklyn residential market report, activity hit record lows, but June saw an uptick in contracts signed compared to April. The $3 million-plus price point saw significant median and average price increases, primarily due to limited market share, the report said.