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Real Estate Slowdown Spreads To Other, Fast-Growing Markets

By David Leonhardt 
and Motoko Rich
THE NEW YORK TIMES

A real estate slowdown that began in a handful of cities this summer has spread to almost every hot housing market in the country, including New York.

More sellers are putting their homes on the market, houses are selling less quickly and prices are no longer increasing as rapidly as they were in the spring, according to local data and interviews with brokers.

In Manhattan, the average sales price fell almost 13 percent in the third quarter, according to a widely followed report to be released Tuesday by Miller Samuel, an appraisal firm, and Prudential Douglas Elliman, a real estate firm. The amount of time it took to sell a home was also up nearly 24 percent over the previous year.

In Fairfax County, Va., outside Washington, D.C., the number of homes on the market rose nearly 50 percent from August, 2004, to August of this year. In the Boston suburb of Brookline, Mass., where typical three-bedroom houses cost about $1 million, the inventory of homes for sale has increased in just the last few weeks, said Chobee Hoy, a broker there.

For-sale listings have also swelled throughout California, according to the California Association of Realtors. In just the San Francisco area, they have increased 16 percent in the last year, according to Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

“We are seeing a market in transition,” Leslie Appleton-Young, the association’s chief economist, said.

Brokers said that some houses seem to be sitting on the market longer because sellers have priced them too high, assuming that their value was still rising sharply. In other cases, people who otherwise would have waited a year or two before putting their houses on the market — like empty-nesters ready to downsize — have listed their property now out of fear that prices will soon fall.

In another sign that the housing market might have peaked, executives at large homebuilders, whose shares have soared in recent months, have sold almost $1 billion worth of company stock this year.