The Westchester County Business Journal reported that the residential real estate market last year saw a 26 percent drop in sales from 2007 levels, according to the Westchester-Putnam Multiple Listing Service statistics.
Westchester County Board of Realtors CEO P. Gilbert Mercurio was hopeful the housing market would rebound but added that fourth-quarter closings do not reflect the impact of “the economic chaos” that began last October. He explained that such damage to the market cannot be measured until the close of this first quarter of 2009 at the earliest.
“Westchester housing prices are in rare retreat and are presenting a more affordable prospect to moderate-income and first-time buyers,” his report concluded. If federal economic stimulus programs restore public confidence in the economy, that combined with the bi-county area’s economic strengths and historically low mortgage interest rates “could combine to move Westchester-Putnam real estate out of recession as quickly as we entered it.”
To be fair, this analysis is coming from within the real estate industry and is spun appropriately to reflect the most positive forecast for 2009. There is bound to be an impact on tax revenues, particularly mortgage tax receipts, and such a drop in sales can only end up impacting many other parts of Westchester's economy.
The median price of a single-family house in Westchester averaged $650,000 for the year, a drop of 5 percent or $35,000 from 2007. The mean or average price of a single-family house in 2008 was $881,793, a 6 percent drop.
Mercurio added that unemployment in the financial services sector is "a particular worry" for Westchester and Putnam counties and its full impact on the real estate market “is not yet known.”
The impact on the tax bill is not yet known either -- but one would hope County lawmakers will be ready to revise revenue projections to reflect the reality rather than rely on inflated estimates.