Q & A with Mike Graessle, President of Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors, Inc., on Wall Street's Effects on Westchester's Housing Market

Q. How are the wild swings on Wall Street impacting the housing market in Westchester?
Although the stock market is experiencing extreme ups and downs, the Westchester housing market seems to be on the road to recovery. Unlike the housing market, the stock market has become very international and its impact is different in each locale. Of course, as the net value of a stock portfolio goes down, it may affect the housing decisions of individuals.

Q. What signs of recovery of Westchester’s housing market have you observed?
I noticed that a large number of homes—about 100—in the range of $1.5 million and up sold in Westchester during the spring quarter, from April 1 through June 30. The increase in the average selling price is another indication. During the same second quarter in 2011, the average selling price was $853,439, a five-percent increase over the same quarter in 2010, when the average selling price was $813,370. I had four closings in just one week at the very end of July and the beginning of August, which is very unusual. Usually, I have about 19 or so closings over a year. When the next statistics are released at the end of September, we’ll be able to better measure whether the stock market has had any impact in our area.

Q. What accounts for the increase in high-end sales in Westchester?
I’m convinced bonus money from Wall Street has helped fuel Westchester’s high-end sales.

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Q. How are other areas of the Westchester market faring?
Each community is different and, within each community, each neighborhood is different. For example, the average selling price is up three percent in White Plains, but down 24 percent in Mount Vernon.

Q. What advice can you give homeowners who may be buying or selling?
The news from Wall Street is frightening a lot of people unnecessarily. It’s hard to find a housing market with interest rates any lower than they are now. Homeowners or prospective buyers have to adjust to the criteria and specific situation. Every situation is unique. Pricing houses carefully will make them sell. I always advise homeowners to get three or more agents to give comparative price analyses. People not involved in the sale will help validate where the real sell price is and can help the owner feel comfortable.

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