GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Finding the New Normal

GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Finding the New Normal
HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty

As I write this article, back at my desk at the HGAR offices in White Plains which we reopened July 6th, I can’t help but think back on the last four months when we were all working remotely from home. So much has happened in that short period of time, a world-wide pandemic, real estate transactions coming to a virtual standstill, a recession, schools closed and kids sent home, protests about racial inequalities spreading across the country. It seems like a decade’s worth of tumultuous events were shoved into a few brief months!

As I have said before, there is no going back to “normal.” Once we entered phase two of Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward plan, and agents were able to conduct in person showings again, it’s as if the flood gates opened and buyers came pouring into the market. While the second quarter sales numbers as reported in this edition of Real Estate In-Depth were predictably grim, I think we will start to see a recovery in the third quarter as well as the fourth quarter, reflecting all of the buying activity that is occurring now. However, with the new normal, I expect fewer and smaller open houses and I believe that virtual tours are not just here to stay, they will become more sophisticated.

There are caveats to that rosy prediction. New York State and the northeast states in general currently seem to have a handle on COVID-19, with new cases and deaths steadily decreasing. However, as we know from looking at the national headlines, that is not the reality in many other states across the country where cases are rising at alarming rates. We must continue to be vigilant about the dangers posed by COVID-19 and not let our guard down. We cannot afford to go back to “pause!”

The other caveat, which to my mind is equally pressing, is rebuilding the New York City economy, which is the linchpin to the New York State economy. Currently headlines are focusing on everyone leaving the city, the fact that Zoom meetings have illustrated how easy it is for employees to work from home, and the challenges posed by employees returning to large commercial buildings while having to practice social distancing. The reality is that our current economy is structurally linked to those individuals who work in the Manhattan commercial buildings, buying their lunches from the local bodegas, frequenting the restaurants and buying from the stores. It’s dependent on tourists visiting New York to shop and binge watch shows on Broadway.

A full return to work and tourism is not going to come back soon—not until, as a country, we have COVID-19 contained and a vaccine is in sight. In the meantime, the federal government needs to step up to the plate with a relief package targeting support for state and local governments. From my perspective, we cannot truly begin the economic recovery without such support. The new normal may involve more people working from home, but the new normal still needs a strong and vibrant New York City, a city that has always bounced back from adversity in the past, demonstrating tenacity and resiliency.

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