The Covid-era real estate story is a complicated tale.
While the market was hit hard during the shutdowns, pending home sales across the Island were skyrocketing at this time in 2020. So, what has changed? And what are buyers looking for now? To break it all down, the Press asked experts to provide a snapshot of the current situation on Long Island and beyond.
“During the pandemic, many renters became homeowners, and millennials were the major buying force,” says Tsui Ying (Judy) Hsu, a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with Compass Greater NY, in Garden City.
She also notes: “Due to limited listings, bidding wars have occurred; supply couldn’t keep up with buyer demand. Plus the more square footage a house has, the fiercer the bidding wars can be.”
Overall, buyers want more space. Storage is a priority and necessity. A space for their Peloton indoor exercise bike is also on that list. And biking around the block is nice but a home near a park is even better! The pandemic made folks realize it’s time to own a home and invest in their families’ future.
“A moving trend from New York City – skipping Queens, straight to Long Island and farther out to Suffolk County – became the new norm due to lower taxes there vs. Nassau County. Also, bigger houses and lot sizes for the same buck. It’s a no-brainer,” Hsu explains.
Her two recent sales echoed that trend. A young couple moved from small digs in South Ozone Park, Queens to a two-bedroom house with a huge backyard in Valley Stream, near shopping, restaurants, parks, and the Long Island Rail Road. A large, second-level attic serves as a walk-in closet.
The other buyers – from Forest Hills, Queens – snagged a great starter home in Hempstead with nice outdoor spaces. A bus nearby goes to the Jamaica train station. After a reno, it met their needs for more living space.
“Open concept is still optimal. Extra bedrooms and/or office spaces, a home gym top the list for most buyers,” Hsu says. “Nowadays, a little TLC is okay. But gut renos cost a lot because supply prices skyrocketed during the pandemic, so first-time buyers still steer away from it.”
John McSherry, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate, in Garden City, also weighed in:
“Two of my most recent sales were in Rockville Centre – a quiet, walkable community. Both had ample space for playrooms, home offices, and family/sunrooms, along with large lot sizes. These buyers were interested in open layouts, but also seeking Old World charm. A lot of the older Tudor- and Victorian-style homes may have choppier layouts and closed-off spaces. So, the key is to find a balance of old and new or be willing to make updates if needed. Seems most buyers want to move further out, but are mindful of staying close to public transportation, in case they need to go back to work in the city.”
He adds: “The post-pandemic buyer is faced with increasing prices on Long Island, which is forcing most to move further out east, but I see the market starting to normalize a bit as more inventory starts to come out. So, we will have to see where the market goes after most people start to commute back to work.”
Haley Mills, Communications Coordinator at Zillow Group, gave a broad overview:
“Across the country, suburban ZIP codes have become increasingly popular over the last 18 months, according to Zillow pageview data. However, that is not a sign that there isn’t demand for urban living, and the data show that demand is strong in both urban and suburban markets,” she notes.
The difference? There is high competition for limited suburban homes. For example, in March 2021, for-sale inventory in the suburbs was down nearly 40% compared to the previous year, whereas urban inventory was down only 15% in the same time period, according to Zillow.
“Those buyers seeking a suburban home are left looking at a shrinking number of homes, driving up competition. In New York specifically, inventory is down 14.1% since last year, but was up 2.4% from June,” Mills adds.
Buyers want features that mix functionality, entertainment and relaxation, and are willing to pay a premium for it. Homes with steam ovens, smart appliances, and quartz/butcher block countertops, were associated with a higher sale, as are highly desirable outdoor features, i.e., pizza ovens and outdoor kitchens. Amenities that create a spa-like vibe are also increasing in popularity.
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