Realtors Overcame Pandemic Restrictions To Post Significant Sales Increases in 2020
John Jordan | January 21, 2021
WHITE PLAINS—Realtors in the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors’ market area that includes the lower Hudson Valley region, adapted to state-imposed restrictions early in the pandemic and rode the wave of pent-up buyer demand to post sales increases as compared to 2019 activity.
Sales in Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Sullivan and Putnam counties soared in the fourth quarter with all markets posting double-digit increases in closed transactions, according to a report released earlier this month by OneKey MLS. Overall home sales in Putnam County in the fourth quarter skyrocketed 61.8%, while Rockland sales soared 51.3%, followed by Sullivan County with a 45.6% rise. Westchester County saw a 41% increase in overall home sales in the fourth quarter, followed closely by Orange County at 40%. Bronx County in the fourth quarter posted a 3% decline in overall home sales.
The single-family home market fueled much of the surge, as Westchester posted a 57.7% increase in sales in the fourth quarter 2020 as compared to a year earlier. Putnam’s single-family market shot up 64%, Sullivan County saw a 45.7% rise in sales, Rockland County posted a 57.3% spike, while Orange County’s single-family home sales activity was 49% higher than 12 months earlier and the Bronx posted a 12.3% increase in single-family sales the last three months of 2020.
For the year, Westchester’s single-family home sales were 14% higher and overall sales increased by 2.5%. Putnam County’s single-family sales rose 20.1% and overall sales spiked 20.3% in 2020. Single-family sales in Rockland increased 14.7% for the year ad overall sales were 10.4% higher. Orange County’s single-family market posted an 8.5% increase for the year, while overall sales were 4.4% higher than in 2019. Sullivan County’s single-family sector posted a 25.8%. increase and overall sales rose 24.4% during that 12-month period.
Bronx County’s single-family market, impacted by COVID-19 and the exodus of city residents to the suburbs, declined by 10.4% for the year, while overall sales in the Bronx fell sharply at 18.9%.
The combination of strong sales and limited inventory caused the median price of single-family homes to rise throughout the region for the year: Westchester up 12.2% to $735,000; Putnam County up 6.0% to $380,000; Rockland County up 9.9% to $500,000; Orange County up 16.0% to $315,000 and Sullivan County ups 36.8% to $195,000. Despite lower sales, the single-family home price in the Bronx for 2020 rose 6.0% to $530,000.
Editor’s Note: To review the full OneKey MLS report and statistics for Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Sullivan and Bronx counties, please see pages 19 and 20.
Crystal Hawkins Syska, 2021 president of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, said that while overall and single-family home sales activity were strong in 2021, the cooperative sector in Westchester County in 2020 suffered a 16.7% decline in sales activity, while the Bronx’s co-op market saw a 17.2% decrease in sales for the year.
“I actually perceive we are going to have a further slide in co-ops because of the fact that there is still this movement out of New York City,” Skysa, who is an Associate Broker with Keller Williams NY Realty in White Plains, said. “People who are seeking homes in the lower-priced points are skipping right past to some of the other counties.”
She said that many are working remotely at their homes and therefore are saying to themselves: “If I can spend $300,000 why even deal with a co-op when I can go further (north) and buy a house.” She blames not only COVID and its impact on the workforce, but also on a cumbersome co-op approval process, which Hawkins Syska said needs to be reformed.
The migration north has also impacted the luxury market in Westchester, particularly the Northern Westchester market and surrounding suburban locations, according to Elizabeth Nunan, president and CEO, Houlihan Lawrence.
She said the fourth quarter sales activity reflected an unprecedented level of activity in the Fall 2020 Market. Every price point was active, including the luxury market that lagged in some locations during previous years. Year over year, Westchester County inventory was down 27% while pending sales were up 46% at the end of 2020.
“In Lower Westchester, sales remain strong as buyers anticipate returning to commuting to New York City and the ease offered by these communities,” said Nunan. “However, it is noted that many buyers anticipate continuing the ‘work from home’ model and have ventured further north. Northern Westchester stands out as home sales soared 40% and inventory declined 40%.”
Joseph Rand, chief creative officer for Howard Hanna | Rand Realty, stated in the brokerage firm’s review of the New York markets that the pandemic’s divergent economic impact is skewing sales to the high end, because entry-level buyers at lower price points are more affected by the economic slowdown than higher-income buyers. He noted in the report the people who normally buy entry-level single-family homes or lower-prices condos and co-ops are more likely to have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut, especially if they’re in industries like hospitality or leisure.
“We can see proof of this impact throughout the region, in that lower-priced property types like condos, co-ops, and rentals are not seeing the same surge in activity that we’re seeing in the higher-priced single-family home market,” Rand stated.
“Going forward, we believe that demand will be strong throughout 2021. We know that the pipeline of new contracts going into 2021 is much higher than a year ago, that inventory is low, that interest rates keep falling through historic lows, and that economic conditions should improve with the continued distribution of the COVID vaccine,” he predicted.
Brokerage network Westchester Real Estate, in its fourth quarter report, noted the sales surge in the fourth quarter. “The fourth quarter is normally on the quieter side for real estate but not this year. Sales soared as we saw a continuation of what started in the spring – an exodus from denser urban areas to suburban and even more rural outposts; a search for homes with more indoor as well as outdoor space; and a determination by potential new homeowners to buy while mortgage interest rates are still below 3%.”
The report, authored by Westchester Real Estate Executive Director Gail Fattizzi, added, “With inventory already drained from earlier months, and no decrease in buyer interest, the biggest challenge was ﬁnding homes to buy, then outbidding the competition. Not every home saw multiple offers, but desirable new listings saw robust activity and over-ask contract prices, even in areas that buyers previously had not considered.”
Westchester Real Estate concluded that the only clear limitation to the expected strong 2021 spring market is the low inventory of available homes for sale.