Brownstone is down zone, says new report

New block on the block
The Brooklyn Paper / Dennis W. Ho

Prices for the borough’s most luxurious housing have plummeted — speeding a trend that began when the economy took a nose-dive two years ago.

New numbers released last week show steep declines in the fourth quarter of 2009 in all manner of luxury housing — including the borough’s iconic brownstones. But there was one bit of good news: apartment sales, which are often an indicator of a housing market about to rebound, have started to trend upwards again.

It’s all spelled out in a new report from the real-estate consulting firm Miller Samuel, which conducts the quarterly study for the Prudential Douglas Elliman real-estate firm.

The main findings:

• The price of the average one- to three-family brownstone in so-called “Brownstone Brooklyn” — covering everywhere from Brooklyn Heights to Windsor Terrace — declined by 22 percent in one quarter, from $1.48 million to $1.15 million.

Other types of units in the same geographic area dropped in price by an average of 16.7 percent.

The good news is that the number of total sales increased by nearly 10 percent, though the number of brownstone sales was the same as last quarter.

• The only neighborhoods reporting an increase are the average price of all housing were Williamsburg and Greenpoint, where the average price increased by more than seven percent between summer and the end of last year. But the increase is based heavily on an influx of high-priced condo units, which aren’t selling well.

“It’s the new-development versus resale question — when you look at north Brooklyn, it’s 83.6 percent luxury condos,” said Jonathan Miller, president of the appraisal firm that conducted the study. “When prices slip, you’ll see more buyer activity, and affordability improves.”

Breaking down the data from apartment sales is even more revealing: Apartments with sales prices on the lowest end of the scale — say studio units for an average of $371,000 — saw their prices increase by nearly 20 percent. But apartments that sell at the top end of the housing market — say three-bedroom luxury units that sell for close to $1 million — saw their prices plummet by 10 percent.

• Values can be found right now in Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the average sale price for all housing dropped by nearly nine percent. People are obviously picking up bargains there, as the number of sales in the last quarter of 2009 soared by nearly 24 percent.

Overall, Miller said, it’s definitely a good time for buyers — and yet another hard year for real-estate agents. Sales are up (meaning good business), but prices are down (meaning lower commissions).

“That’s becoming the trend in Brooklyn,” he said.