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A sudden drop in condo prices? Well, sort of

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It's a headline we don't see too often: New York housing prices getting cheaper.

But Manhattan condo sale prices just saw their biggest month-to-month drop in three and a half years, according to StreetEasy's just released April report, which compares prices of individual apartments over time. Normally during the spring--the busy season for buyers and renters--prices spike to their highest levels.

Still, the drop in sale prices over March was just 1.4 percent, and as all but the most optimistic (or reactionary) among us might have guessed, this doesn't represent any kind of major turnaround in city-wide affordability--even with the decline, prices are up 12.5 percent from the same time last year.

So, what gives? The report speculates that this could mean that "buyers are reaching their price ceiling" for how much they're willing (or able) to spend on expensive new developments, especially as luxe condos make up an ever-larger portion of the selection on the market. (Buyers looking for mid- to low-priced condos may be finding themselves compromising on prices, or shut out of the market entirely.)

Bottom line: luxury buyers might have a few more options than usual. But, as StreetEasy data scientist Alan Lightfeldt tells Brick Underground, "these conditions are particularly challenging" for buyers looking for a condo for under $1.8 million, "as there are fewer listings out there and the share is actually declining."

"We expect this season to be much more tepid than in the past," Lightfeldt says, but cautions that it's "too early to tell" if this is part of a longer term trend or just a "softening of the dramatic price increases" from the last couple of years.

And make no mistake, "the cards are still stacked in the seller's favor," says Lightfeldt, with prices at a high plateau, demand far outpacing supply, and short average turnaround time for sales. If the skew towards high-end developments keeps up at this pace, the report notes, "buyers will face mounting competition and fewer affordable options heading into summer." 

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