Home Sales in Most Local Markets Rebound from Pandemic Lockdowns

John Jordan | October 2020

WHITE PLAINS—Homes sales in the northern suburbs of New York City, with the exception of the Bronx, have emerged strong from the COVID-19 restrictions on real estate showings that were lifted in June and most brokerage firms expect that trend of high sales to continue for the remainder of this year.

As Real Estate In-Depth went to press, sections of the Hudson Valley and New York City were seeing increases in daily COVID infection rates and some isolated “hot zones” were subject to some state restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. However, for the most part, the conventional real estate transaction has been re-established and buyer demand, including an increase in interest from New York City residents, is fueling strong sales activity. The only real normal market-related impediment to sales activity is a continued lack of available for-sale inventory throughout the region.

According to the “2020 Third Quarter Residential Real Estate Sales Report Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, and Bronx Counties, New York” released on Oct. 5 by OneKey™ Multiple Listing Service LLC, the single-family segment throughout the region, with the exception of the Bronx, posted increases in sales as compared to last year. Sullivan County experienced a 45% increase in single-family sales over the third quarter of 2019; Westchester County, posted a 12% single-family residential sales increase; Putnam County’s single-family sales were 8.4% higher, while Rockland single-family home sales were up 4.8% and Orange County posted a very respectable 7.9% single-family sales gain.

The Bronx, which likely felt the impact of the troubled New York City market from the coronavirus outbreak, suffered a 21.7% single-family sales decline.

Median sale prices of single-family homes were higher in all counties and significantly higher in some locations. Sullivan County had the highest percentage increase at 33.1% ($197,550 up from $148,450 in Q3 2019). The median sale price in Westchester increased 15.9% to $810,000 from $699,00 (Q3, 2019), the Orange County median was up 14.6% to $330,000 from $288,000 in the third quarter of 2019, Rockland’s median increased 7.4% to $510,000 (from $475,000) and Putnam County’s median rose 9.7% to $411,250 from $375,000 in 2019. The median single-family home price in the Bronx increased 2.5% to $525,000 in the third quarter of 2020.

If there are concerning trends in the region it is the weak sales in the co-op and condominiums sectors. In Westchester County co-op sales were down 25.7% in the third quarter as compared to third quarter of 2019, while condominium sales fell 19% during the same period. Bronx County co-op sales decreased 35.5%, while condominium sales activity fell nearly 31% during the third quarter of this year as compared to the same period in 2019.

OneKey MLS, LLC Board of Managers Chair Leah Caro, who is also president and principal broker of Park Sterling Realty of Bronxville, noted that it was June 10th when restrictions on in-person showings were lifted by the state and “real estate came out of hibernation.”

In an interview on the Building and Realty Institute’s radio program Building Knowledge on WVOX-AM, Caro stated, “Third quarter sales were wild,” noting the double-digit increases in single-family home sales and median sale price in Westchester County.

A key data point for the markets is the low level of inventory. Caro related that the inventory of single-family homes for sale in Westchester fell 28.4% in the third quarter of 2020 as compared to a year earlier. She added markets throughout the OneKey MLS area are suffering low inventory levels as well.

“You know what that means, it means people are buying what is out there, just snapping it up, and it also means that anyone thinking of selling their house, get with the program and get your house on the market because the market is there for you,” Caro said.

She theorized that the slowdown in the co-op and condo markets is at least partially due to property owners being more cautious about lifting COVID-restrictions.

Across Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties, the coronavirus has escalated buyer demand to an unparalleled degree, according to a third quarter report released by Houlihan Lawrence.

“New York City buyers leaving the city have rewritten the rules of what today’s buyers want and need. As entire families work from the same home, additional space is a necessity, and the safety of lower density communities during the pandemic has driven demand to historic levels in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties,” said Elizabeth Nunan, president and CEO of Houlihan Lawrence. “Homes on large parcels that will accommodate extended family with space for one or more home offices represent the new ideal home.”

Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors President Gail Fattizzi, who is also executive director of local independent brokerage real estate network Westchester Real Estate Inc., noted that the trends of higher sales and depleted inventory is happening in markets across the country.

In the Westchester Real Estate third quarter market report, Fattizzi stated that New York City rental prices are down 20% to 25% with a 50% increase in vacant rental units and property sales in the city have also slowed, though she added that there can be significant variances from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“We are encouraged by home sales so far this year, particularly single-family properties, in a year where a worldwide pandemic and U.S. presidential elections could easily have sidelined the housing market,” Fattizzi said. “The Hudson Valley is resilient and we expect the real estate market here to continue strong through the end of 2020 and into 2021, barring any other unforeseen major obstacles.”

Looking forward, she believes that mid-range priced properties will continue to be very strong and that buyers should be prepared to wait on lines with dozens of others at open houses for new listings and then plan to compete with over-ask offers. They need to be well-prepared and act quickly to find success, she said.

“Despite this, sellers should avoid overly aggressive listing prices if they want to sell this year. While buyers fall over each other to compete for well-priced and located homes, and bids are often above the asking price, they are refraining from sky-high offers and overpriced listings,” Fattizzi warned. “Sellers of luxury homes can expect more interest than they’ve seen the past few years.”

Sales of homes priced at $3 million and above in Westchester were up 50% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020, reflecting what she described as a willingness to invest in greater space, comfort and amenities as people are now spending more time at home.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth