BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
The housing market is stable but still leaving many would-be Queens homeowners out of the market.
While some indicators of economic health, such as job growth, creep towards pre-recession rates City-wide, the housing market in Queens remains “generally flat,” according to Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers.
The underlying issue for Queens buyers, Miller suggested, is that mortgage lending standards have not eased significantly since the start of the recession.
“So markets like Queens, like Long Island, are seeing modest or stable prices versus in the City, where you have a higher proportion of cash buyers,” Miller explained.
The result is that many residents who might otherwise be looking to own a home remain stuck in the rental market. Without “pristine credit” or the ability to cash-buy a house, home ownership becomes practically impossible, according to Miller.
Both the number of new rentals and rental prices in the Borough were up last year, according to a rental report prepared by Miller Samuel for the real estate firm Douglas Elliman, focusing primarily on the northwestern Queens. Meanwhile, according to a January 2015 Federal Reserve Board survey, home-purchase loans are in weak demand.
“Lenders are essentially looking for reasons not to lend,” he said. “Whereas purchasing generally is much cheaper than renting, a large swath of the population can’t qualify.”
Miller called the scenario “frustrating for consumers,” adding that he does not expect it to loosen for another couple of years.
However, the Federal Reserve Board survey indicates that this loosening may have begun.
“Several large banks reported having eased lending standards for a number of categories of residential mortgage loans,” the survey states.
Meanwhile, while home prices are on the rise, mortgage rates remain low. The most recent figures from Freddie Mac put the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate at 3.66 percent. According to data compiled by Keller Williams Realty, single and multi-family house prices show “sustainable growth,” which the firm expects to continue through 2015.
Among other important Queens market trends that Miller noted was the fact that a housing boom in Brooklyn has drawn out this Borough as an attractive and affordable alternative.
“You have people being priced out of Brooklyn with its rapid growth and seeking out neighborhoods in Queens for affordability, and that has benefited the market,” he said.
Although 2014 was a “mediocre” year for home sale prices, Miller said it finished strong in the fourth quarter with the median sales price up 15.5 percent year-over-year.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.