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City real estate sales slow amid stock market volatility, experts say

After a near-correction earlier this month, experts expect a flat, if not slightly-declining, market.

Early February saw a tumultuous stock market, which

Early February saw a tumultuous stock market, which triggered reservations and hesitation among home buyers and sellers, according to local real estate experts. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

When the stock market plunged at the beginning of the month, Kobi Lahav, managing director of Mdrn. Residential, had two potential home buyers delay deals because they had planned to use their Wall Street investments to pay for them.

The clients wound up waiting, liquidating their investments and taking the next step — one closed on a home purchase, and the other made a down payment, Lahav said.

“Had the market kept going down, I don’t know that they would be liquidating; I think we would have a real issue,” Lahav said. “I heard from other agents that it happened to them as well.”

Although not all agents, brokers and salespeople have seen deals delayed, many are assessing what a presumed plateau or drop-off on Wall Street could mean for local real estate. And they have had time to think, given that buyers and sellers seem interested in waiting for clarity before rushing into transactions.

On February 8, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 10 percent from their peaks in late January. Their declines approached what analysts consider a market correction, but stock prices have since regained some of their losses.

Adam Kamins, the New York economist at Moody’s Analytics, anticipates the stock market leveling off and maybe declining slightly. He said last month the exchange has been reacting to presumptions about how the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates and described the stock market as “a bit overvalued” in terms of how its prices compare to earnings and corporate profits.

Some potential buyers have been waiting to see if Wall Street falters, dragging down home prices, according to Lahav. He said some sellers are also asking if this is the best time to make deals.

“Both sides of the equation were immediately reacting to what was going on,” Lahav said. “We’ve got a lot more people trying to actually consult with us.”

Similarly, Michael Shapot, an agent at Keller Williams NYC, said he has seen fewer transactions.

“The stock market volatility kicked in and the market quieted again,” Shapot said, referring to skittishness recently seen when new tax federal tax policies were enacted. “Buyers are just reluctant to pull the trigger.”

Still, the stock market’s volatility could have a silver lining for salespeople such as Nicole Grandelli of Stribling & Associates. Grandelli said she has been working with wealth managers, adjusting investment portfolios to include more real estate ahead of an anticipated slowdown in the stock market.

“I’m a 100 times busier than I was last year,” Grandelli said.

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