The “COVID Refugee” Phenomenon – Are New York Residents Going to New Jersey?
One of the well-known changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in the New York metropolitan area is the accelerated migration of city dwellers to less crowded suburban and sometimes even rural areas to avoid the increased risk of infection in dense urban environments. Many of these “refugees” are temporarily cocooning in second homes along the coast and in the mountains with the intention of returning to the city when the virus is better controlled or even eliminated. However, those without the luxury of multiple homes are moving permanently from New York City – which begs the question of how the exodus is affecting the property market in nearby markets – such as New Jersey.
Temporary or permanent?
One question is whether these nomads are making a permanent move or just a temporary move in order to return to New York after the pandemic ends. An easy measure of the inconstancy or persistence of the phenomena is whether newcomers to New Jersey are renting apartments or buying houses. Obviously, a purchase indicates a long-term commitment, while a rental can indicate that the mover will increase stakes and move again in the not-too-distant future.
Eugene Cordano, Broker and President of Brown Harris Stevens, New Jersey has a front row seat for the real estate aspect of this unprecedented event. “The main reason for the exit from New York residents is still single-family homes,” he says. “I would estimate that perhaps every twentieth buyer we see – around five percent – is looking for an apartment rather than a house. You’re not ready to give up the convenience of home living just yet. One interesting aspect of this market, however, is that since the first of this year we have had more New Yorkers looking at apartment buildings in more suburbs than before. The focus is no longer just on the Gold Coast, directly across from Manhattan along the Hudson, which allows for a five-minute PATH ride back into town. ”
What is Driving the Exodus?
Aside from simply escaping the density of the city proper while still maintaining access to the urban lifestyle that made it so desirable in the past (albeit a little less nowadays), what are those who cross the river into New Jersey looking for? in a new accommodation? Often times, the answer is New York’s most sought-after decor: outdoor space. While New York life has always given residents adequate access to parks and public spaces, even these outdoor spaces seem suspicious to some. While the main risk for COVID-19 is spending long periods of time in poorly ventilated spaces, the fear is great – and in the past year otherwise intrepid New Yorkers have become significantly suspicious of public spaces. Add in the winter chill and you have a strong impetus to look elsewhere.
After a private outdoor space, Cordano lists the following amenities as those most sought after by New Yorkers to New Jersey: “Private entrances available in townhouse communities in the suburbs and on the Gold Coast are also in demand. And of course they are also looking for parking spaces and sufficient storage space. “