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Westchester County Executive Latimer, HGAR Make Case for Robust Housing Market
WHITE PLAINS— At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Westchester County Executive George Latimer attempted to dispel the online myth that many people are fleeing the county. To prove his point, he enlisted key representatives of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors who, armed with the latest sales data from OneKey MLS, noted that demand from buyers from inside and outside the county is very strong with no sign of letting up.
“There are narratives out there in the community, based on sometimes individual experiences, that there are people leaving Westchester in droves,” Latimer said. While he said that there may be some older residents who are deciding to move to warmer climates, the overall Westchester County residential market “is not just okay, it’s extremely healthy.”
Also speaking at the press conference were: HGAR President Crystal Hawkins-Syska, HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty and Legislative Committee Co-Chair Leah Caro.
HGAR’s Haggerty noted that the county’s housing market has experienced a “dramatic bounce back” from the shutdown imposed in response to COVID-19 back in March 2020. Haggerty described the level of residential sales activity in Westchester County in the second quarter as “staggering.” One of the key factors that has fueled the strong housing market has been low lending rates, he related.
He noted that comparing 2021 sales to 2020 sales (that took place during the shutdown or shortly after COVID restrictions were lifted) would not offer a true picture of the current market. However, in comparing sales activity in the second quarter 2021 market to the pre-COVID 2019 second quarter, single-family home sales have increased 34.5%. Due in part to low inventory, the median sale price of a single-family home in Westchester rose 17.7% to $835,500.
Another sign of the strong housing market has been the turnaround of the luxury Northeastern section of the Westchester County market (Bedford, Pound Ridge, Lewisboro, North Salem), which until recently had not fully recovered from the housing downturn in 2008. Home sales in the Northern Westchester in the second quarter of 2021 have risen 41% as compared to 2020 and registered a 56% increase from 2019 sales in that market.
Haggerty said that COVID has also changed buying habits. Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus last year, many buyers were searching for smaller properties near mass transit centers. An emerging buying trend in the COVID-era has been buyers looking for larger properties that do not have to be located near train stations.
The HGAR CEO said he is very bullish on the market going forward. “I think this recovery is sustainable,” Haggerty said. “Right now, we are not seeing any signs of a slowdown and I think it will continue into 2022.”
Caro, who is president and principal broker of Park Sterling Realty in Bronxville, said that while there are some that are relocating out of Westchester due to lifestyle choices, “I can happily report that a good number of people we are buying and selling with are moving within Westchester County.”
She also added that the county has seen a significant number of New York City residents that have purchased housing in Westchester County and that overall demand is outpacing the available supply in the county.
She agreed with Haggerty that the current housing sales boom is sustainable.
“This is not an artificial boom,” she said. Caro also said that the market is not facing a “bubble” that took place in 2008-2009. She said that in 2008-2009, the housing “bubble” was brought on by “sketchy mortgage products and Wall Street shenanigans” and the increase in home values today is being driven by different factors—mainly low inventory and strong demand.
HGAR President Syska, who is an Associate Broker with Keller Williams NY Realty of White Plains, said the county has enjoyed a rush of New York City residents moving to the county. In addition, a trend she is seeing at the moment is more “multigenerational living” where buyers are seeking larger homes to accommodate older children and or parents.
Even though some of the county’s older homeowners have chosen to leave (Westchester County), Syska has noticed a significant number have chosen to remain in the county.
“So, what I anticipate is that we might see more families looking for variances and maybe some innovation in terms of zoning because Mom and Dad and their children and maybe grandchildren are going to look to live together,” she said.
After the HGAR presentations, County Executive Latimer stressed that the housing and overall business climate in Westchester are very healthy “Westchester County is not hemorrhaging people,” Latimer said, noting that in addition to the housing market, other sectors of the county’s economy are also rebounding from the pandemic.