Dotted with brownstones and 19th century Romanesque mansions, Park Slope houses evoke the urban landscape of 1950s Brooklyn, but boast a modern-day price tag.
The median sales price of homes has increased 41.7 percent from the same quarter last year and escalated by 19.3 percent over the last five years, according to trulia.com — a residential real estate search engine that tracks market trends. A home that cost $300,000 10 years ago sells for $1.3 million today.
Additionally, Park Slope houses cost 145.28 percent more than the median sales price in the general Brooklyn area.
Judith Lief, a senior vice president and associate broker for Warren Lewis Realty, said this year’s market was “healthy and active” in February and March, sluggish in June and July and currently marked by a “flurry of activity.”
Lief said the housing market in Park Slope was growing upwards of 15 percent annually before the 2007 recession. Prices dropped five to 10 percent overall, she said.
“We were one of the last neighborhoods to be hit,” Lief said. “The neighborhood came to a halt in terms of sales. Everyone panicked; they were worried about savings, bonuses. It’s also my perception that we were among the first neighborhoods to rebound.”
Median home sales prices dipped to $750,000 in 2008, spiked in 2009 and slumped again to almost $800,000 in 2010, according to trulia. The prices began increasing steadily in late 2010.
Agent Debbie Fuka of Aguayo & Huebener said Park Slope’s real estate sector fared better than other neighborhoods after the crash.
“There was a slight slowdown in sales, but it didn’t really affect it so much because people still want to move here and are still building new constructions,” she said.
The rental market has experienced the same upward surge. One and two-bedrooms rent for $2,200 and $2,900, respectively.
“The rentals are a little bit more in Park Slope [compared to other neighborhoods in Brooklyn] because of the school system,” Fuka said. “Once you put an apartment on the market, it’s rented immediately. In Prospect Park, it’s probably $300 to $400 less for apartments.”
This reflects a borough-wide trend as home sales in Brooklyn climbed 18 percent in the third quarter of 2011, according to a joint report filed by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. They reported that 2,219 condos, co-ops and one- to three-family homes were purchased this year, compared to 1,879 in 2010. At $510,000, the median price of homes in Brooklyn also spiked by five percent from last year.
While Park Slope homes out-price those in Boerum Hill, Bedford Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, Lief said they compete with Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights.
Despite the persistent growth in market prices over the years, Park Slope continues to attract residents with its open spaces, prestigious public schools and quiet alternative to a Manhattan lifestyle. Young Manhattanites have been fleeing their pricy residences for more affordable housing in Park Slope since the mid-1990s, drastically transforming the neighborhood’s real estate market and social demographics. This trend has forced residents unable to afford inflated rent prices to move to the southern part of the neighborhood.
Park Slope resident Arthur Littman, who moved to the area 30 years ago, said the neighborhood transformed in the 1960s and ‘70s from an Italian and Irish enclave to a primarily low-income African American and Hispanic district.
“The neighborhood was in decline during the late 60s, early 70s — during the economic crisis,” Littman said. “A lot of families moved to the suburbs. Those who stayed bought three-story brownstones cheaply and renovated them, selling them for much higher prices later.”
Littman bought his home for $67,000 in 1981. He suspects that the residence is now worth $1.7 million.
Three-year South Slope resident Brenda Milis, who rents a three-bedroom apartment for $3,300, said people continue to gravitate toward the area because it’s relatively cheaper than similar neighborhoods in Manhattan. Milis said Park Slope’s public school and transportation systems, as well as its parks, restaurants, novelty bookstores and clothing boutiques lure people to the area.
Moreover, Lief said Park Slope is an ideal example of the New Urbanism movement that promotes livable communities with spacious neighborhoods.
“In the suburbs, when two feet of snow fell, people couldn’t get anywhere,” she said. “You can walk under 10 minutes in any direction and get to a train. … The neighborhood is demographically diverse, politically active and has a strong Civic Association. You sit on the stoop, you know the neighbors, the merchants.”
Six-year Park Slope resident Francesca Neville said the neighborhood has retained its romantic mid-20th century spirit.
“It has reinvented itself back to the way it looked in the 40s and 50s,” Neville said.
While gentrification forced some people to move to different segments of Park Slope, Neville said it displaced others completely.
One-year South Slope resident Billy Weymer said gentrification is more threatening in other regions, including Bed Stuy. Despite its drawbacks, he said the phenomenon could also be rewarding to the population at large in terms of yielding neighborhood beautification projects.
However, 20-year resident Rita Cumming said it’s a saddening trend.
“It’s painful for me to see people coming here from Manhattan and push people away who have been living here for years,” Cumming said. “I feel a lot of guilt.”
Agent William Hendrickson of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate said the area could become even more gentrified with time.
“I think Park Slope will continue to experience the trend that it’s had for many years to the extent that people move from Manhattan,” he said. “I think Park Slope is a special place. … This is the biggest brownstone neighborhood I think anywhere.”