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Manhattan Home Sales Tumble in a Market Clogged With Listings

•, Oshrat Carmiel

In the three months through September, purchases dropped 11 percent from a year earlier to 2,987 -- the fourth straight quarter with a decline, according to a report Tuesday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Listings piled on to the market at an even greater rate, climbing 13 percent to 6,925 homes, the most for a third quarter since 2011.

A surging stock market typically fuels buyer bullishness on Manhattan real estate -- but not this time. Years of escalating prices, coupled with federal tax changes that increased burdens for some homeowners, have would-be purchasers assessing the value of buying property against other investments. Many who do take the plunge are pushing for bargains, refusing to overpay when they have so many choices.

"It is somewhat perplexing," said Garrett Derderian, director of data and reporting for brokerage Stribling & Associates, which also released a report on Manhattan home sales Tuesday. "The financial markets are quite strong. Mortgage rates, while rising, are still at historic lows. But the perception has become that the market is overheating in terms of pricing. No one obviously wants to come in at the top where they're paying the highest prices as things are going down."

Stribling reported the weakest third quarter for Manhattan since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. a decade ago froze the property market. The 2,212 signed contracts -- a measure of pending sales -- were the lowest for the period since 2008, while inventory was the highest since then.

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