The New York Exodus created a “suburban dream about steroids” – however will it final?
When Amit Bansal moved from Manhattan to the suburbs of New York last July, Amit Bansal knew he would love the bigger house, spacious yard, and when the time came for kids, the great local schools. What he wasn’t prepared for was the calm.
“Here my wife is the only person I interact with personally all day. It’s a challenge for me, ”says the 36-year-old venture capitalist, who works from his new home in Larchmont, a Westchester County village, a 40-minute train ride from New York’s Grand Central Station.
“The energy of [Manhattan], the randomness you get from nearly two million people: On every block, unexpected interactions, different people from different walks of life. I live on that kind of energy. I miss that very much. “
New Yorkers like Bansal have flocked to the suburbs since the coronavirus hit the city in March 2020 in search of more space, lots of greenery, less risk of infection and a school system that is less prone to Covid-induced closings.
However, as the growing demand for suburban living drives property prices soar and newcomers face their drawbacks – from isolation and higher property taxes to threatened local transport services – the boom in suburban apartment sales is showing signs of slowing.
And has demand for New York’s suburbs peaked with New York’s vaccination program, which offers the prospect of a return to normal life in America’s most populous city?
Data from the U.S. Postal Service shows how fast the exodus from the city was after the Covid-19 hit. Between March and July, according to MyMove, 108,969 requests were received to temporarily change addresses that the postal service uses when address changes – more than six times the number received in the same period in 2019.
A Virtually Empty 42nd Street, Manhattan, March 2020 © Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images
A boom in suburban home sales suggests many have taken a permanent move: 4,422 homes were sold in adjacent Westchester and Fairfield (Connecticut) counties in June and July, up 65 percent from the same, according to Serhant Months in 2019.
In Westchester County, the Pelham, New Rochelle and Larchmont neighborhoods have the classic features of affluent suburban living: tennis and country clubs, golf courses, and popular beaches and marinas on Long Island Sound.
Along Long Island’s north coast, Port Washington and Manhasset are popular neighborhoods that are just a 45-minute train ride from Penn Station. further east, Roslyn and Oyster Bay attract shoppers.
Home sales in the $ 600,000 to $ 900,000 price range were the busiest, according to Owen Berkowitz, a Douglas Elliman representative in Westchester. City exiles typically seek a four-bedroom home on 4 acres. “Your own fenced property and lots of space. [Coronavirus] put the traditional American suburban dream on steroids. “
Supported by the new demand, average prices in Westchester and Fairfield counties rose 7 percent in November, according to Serhant.
Finding the right home for New Yorkers is getting harder and harder, agents say. Sam Chandan, chairman of the Schack Institute of Real Estate, part of New York University, points out the sluggish construction since 2008 and the many vacant houses in January that are now inhabited.
“There just aren’t that many houses to buy.” Since the peak of sales in the summer, year-over-year growth has still been strong, but has slowed: 1,164 homes sold in Westchester and Fairfield counties in November were 17 percent higher than last year, according to Serhant.
High suburban property taxes are another disadvantage. Serhant research director Garrett Derderian said the annual property tax on a typical single-family home in Rye, near Larchmont, at $ 33,254, is more than three times the $ 11,064 for a typical Manhattan condominium for the same price.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 has jeopardized the suburbs’ easy access to the city, a pillar of its appeal. 32-year-old Joe Germani, who bought a house in New Rochelle near Larchmont in October, drives back to his old Manhattan neighborhood with his wife in 30 minutes and commutes by car when his office reopens. He says living this close is “a great way to dip our toe [in the suburbs] without being fully committed ”.
How close it will feel next year is uncertain. The MTA, which operates the Metro-North Railroad, the main commuter rail service that serves Westchester and Fairfield, warns that non-federally funded commuter services will be cut by up to 50 percent over the next year.
There will be severe overcrowding of employees, especially at peak times, and longer and less predictable travel times, according to a report from NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation and consulting firm Appleseed in October. The popular routes from affluent suburbs are getting more expensive, says Mitchell L Moss of the center. “There will be price increases for the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad.”
City dwellers moving to the suburbs either haven’t considered doing so or are unrealistically hopeful of a massive federal bailout for the MTA by the incoming Biden government, Chandan says. “You’re discounting the worst-case scenarios.”
New Yorkers who rely on private suburban schools may also be disappointed. Greens Farms Academy, a 750-student private school near Southport, Fairfield County, has seen a boom in admissions from New Yorkers since May.
Students enrolled in New York schools made up 15 percent of inquiries and applications between September and November, says headmaster Bob Whelan. “Typically the proportion is between 1 and 3 percent”.
Parents report fears of school closings in the city and in smaller locations, which can increase the risk of infection. Applications from students in local public schools are increasing for similar reasons.
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After the 9/11 attacks – when many New Yorkers moved into their second homes and enrolled children in local private schools – not everyone was happy with the results, says Whelan, who was working elsewhere at the time.
“After the transition glow wore off, in some cases their expectations were not fully met,” he says, adding that many compromises have been made to avoid disrupting another school move.
Germani currently sees few compromises in his new suburban life. However, when Manhattan’s main perks – opera, concerts, and proximity to the office – are available again, that may change.
“We might get bored of living in the suburbs. In this case we are moving back to Manhattan. We’re in the honeymoon phase, so it’s difficult to say exactly what would pull us back – probably what got us out: the feeling that there is a better lifestyle. “
Once the vaccine makes New York work again, many converts will move to the suburbs and back to the city, predicts Kenneth T Jackson, a Columbia University history professor who owns homes in Westchester and Manhattan.
“Sure, the suburbs have it – space, greenery, and great public schools – it’s just that people haven’t wanted it for the past few decades,” he says. “When the city gets back on its feet and things are open – the opera, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, museums, theaters, cinemas – people will come back.”
Properties for sale in the suburbs of New York
New Rochelle, Westchester County, NY, $ 999,000
This five-bedroom single family home is located in the Beechmont neighborhood of New Rochelle, about 15 miles from Midtown Manhattan. The property was built in 1922 and has 3,800 m² of living space. Available from Compass.
Townhouse, Manhasset, Nassau County, NY, $ 1.248 million
A two bedroom, three bathroom house in Manhasset, 15 miles from Midtown Manhattan. The property has 2,016 m² of interior space and was built in 1979. There is a home office and a lounge with a bar in the basement. By Douglas Elliman.
Waterfront Home, Larchmont, Westchester County, NY, $ 2.7M
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In Larchmont Village on the shores of Long Island Sound. The property, which was built in 1889, has 3,168 m² of living space. It has five bedrooms and four bathrooms. Available from Douglas Elliman.
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