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Back to normal and what we can look forward to in the coming year.

By Victoria Vinokur

After a considerable falloff in activity and prices in 2009, the Spring and Summer of 2010 saw a tremendous rebound of activity and even slight price appreciation in selective segments.  This transformation was due to a variety of factors such as low interest rates, government stimulus, first-time tax credits and pent-up demand from 2009.  The Fall & Holiday seasons of 2010 ended on a seasonally slower note whereby indicating the return of a normal and seasonal market place.

The lower to mid-range segments of the market – properties priced up to 2.5M – definitely saw price stabilization and the upper end of the market will see an increase in activity in the coming year.  While the first-time homebuyer demand have somewhat slowed down, there has been an uptick in interest for mint luxury properties in the 5M+ range in top buildings and locations.

At the present time, January 2011 has seen roughly 1300 new listings come to market. If you’re out there looking and thinking that there is ‘nothing out there’ that’s because 1300 is relatively low compared with an average of approximately 2000 new listings that have been coming to market in the month of January over the past 4-5 years.  From January through mid-February, I would say the sellers were in a bit of a holding pattern, but they’re now breaking the spell in preparation for the Spring Season, which continues to remain the most active time in Manhattan Real Estate and good activity leads to an even better price stability and possibly price appreciation.

The neighborhoods that will see the most activity (from downtown to uptown) are Soho, The West Village, Greenwich Village, Midtown West, Lincoln Center / Columbus Circle Area, Upper West Side and Upper East Side West of 2nd Avenue.  Midtown East and Murray Hill will be a bit slower in activity as there is more overall inventory in these areas.

What about the banks? While everybody I have been working with who needs financing and is employed, has excellent credit, no debt and documented assets has had no issues obtaining a mortgage, this does not mean that banks have eased their requirements – going through the mortgage process remains quite an arduous task.

If you’re planning on selling in 2011, pricing right and preparing your property to show in its best possible light are the two most important things you can do in order to achieve the top price the market can bear.

For those of you looking for a new home, pied-à-terre or an investment property – get to know the market and get your financial information in order.  Being prepared and understanding value are the key factors in being comfortable with decisions you will make.

My overall suggestion to both buyers and sellers is to analyze every comparable property on its own merits.  While there is almost an overload of information available in print and online, the data that you see does not tell the story behind the numbers and the story gives context and clarity to closed prices.

Victoria Vinokur is a Vice President with Prudential Douglas Elliman and can be reached at 917.952.3452 or at