Experts: Real-estate boom about to go bust

It may be the beginning of the end.

Housing prices remain strong in Brownstone Brooklyn, but a huge drop in the number of sales portends coming doom, experts said.

“A decline in the number of sales nearly always precedes a decline in prices,” said Jonathan Miller, president of the real-estate consulting firm Miller Samuel, which conducted the study for the Prudential Douglas Elliman real-estate firm. “Price trends are actually the last thing to look at when you’re looking at the health of a market.

“There is always a lag time between a drop in sales and a drop in price, but we’ve had such sustained euphoria [during the boom] that the reorientation of sellers is simply taking longer,” Miller added. “Buyers are looking low, and sellers are looking to hold on to last year’s prices.”

That said, neighborhoods that have long appeared immune to price collapses — the so-called Brownstone Belt that binds Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope — saw their average sales price increase slightly from $786,189 to $786,789.

But that barely perceptible gain came at a time when the number of sales in the area dipped 23.3 percent, plummeting from 516 sales in third-quarter of 2008 to 396 in the fourth quarter of the year.

Even the toniest brownstones — which experts say tend to hold strong during even the toughest economic times — saw a drop in the number of sales in the area, falling 14.3 percent, from 70 sales in the third quarter of 2008 to 60 sales in the fourth.

The prices themselves remained the strong, increasing 7.5 percent since last quarter to $1,640,645.

But experts say they likely won’t stay that way.

“Sales have declined definitely and prices are just beginning to drop off,” said real estate broker Jonathan Hanten of Smith Hanten, which deals in properties in Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.

In Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, the average sales price fell four percent from the third quarter to the fourth, falling from $508,362 to $488,250, while the number of sales slid from 1,238 to 1,027.

In Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the average sale price dropped 7.3 percent, falling from $688,529 to $637,996, while the number of units sold plummeted from 191 to 142.