Brownstones in Brooklyn defy real estate bust
By Rebecca Wolfson
Special to amNewYork
Theyre old, theyre beautiful and theyve got character: Brooklyn brownstones are still hot properties even as the rest of the housing market flounders.
The median sales price of a one- to three-family Brooklyn brownstone was $1,287,500 in the fourth quarter of 2008, a 12 percent rise from the same period in 2007, according to the latest report from Miller Samuel Inc. and Prudential Douglas Elliman. Overall, the median price in Brooklyn was $490,000, down 7.5 percent from the year before.
The reason for the disparity is clear to most people who track real estate: Its a niche market and it has a serious following, said Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel.Sales of brownstones only made up about 3 percent of total sales in Brooklyn in the fourth quarter. The short supply is one reason the market is still strong.
You can build new high rises. Out in the suburbs you can build single-family homes. But there are only so many brownstone houses, said Gigi Zimmerman, real estate sales manager at Brownstone Real Estate LLC.
Zimmerman not only is in the brownstone market, she owns one.
I live in a house that was built in 1851 theres something very special about that, she said. It has details, fireplaces, a history.
Desiree Jeffcoat, 37, became a brownstone Brooklyn resident when she closed on a $1.55 million home in December. She and her husband moved from Atlanta.
I like the character and style of living in a brownstone more than a condo, Jeffcoat said.
The one aspect of the market that brownstones are not immune from is the credit freeze, which is making it difficult for prospective homebuyers to find financing. There were only 60 brownstones sold last quarter, down 36.2 percent from the year before. Overall, sales activity in Brooklyn was down 42.7 percent.
Jeffcoat experienced that frigidity in the credit market.
The financing process was painful, she said. It involved bi-weekly updates on her and her husbands bank accounts. This was my fourth mortgage and Ive never gone through something like this.