Just six years ago, the bursting of the housing bubble sent the United States hurtling into a major recession.
As we enter 2014, Queens, the most diverse area in the country, is experiencing something of a real estate boom.
According to the latest Queens Elliman Report, a quarterly study of real estate conducted by the Douglas Elliman Real Estate group, there were 9,088 more sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 than in the final three months of 2012, a 35 percent increase.
Additionally, the number of listings on the market fell 39 percent to 5,248, the lowest total since 2005, and the amount of time a listing sat on the market fell to 4.7 months, the shortest amount of time in eight years.
In laymen’s terms, that means the last three months of 2013 saw a surge in home sales compared to the same time a year ago, and real estate listings are sitting on the market for a very short period of time.
When it comes to a comparison of 2013 to 2012, the number of sales jumped 74.7 percent while the average number of days a listing spent on the market fell 5 percent.
In terms of the type of housing that experienced the biggest sales increase, co-ops saw a 126 percent jump, while condos saw a 148 percent increase.
Luxury housing and one-to-three family homes experienced 76 percent and 40 percent increases respectively, as well, cementing the current market as a seller’s one.
Laura Copersino, president-elect of the Long Island Board of Realtors and an Elliman Real Estate agent in Bayside, believes the current boom is all about inventory.
“Interest rates are down, and with inventory being low, people are rushing to buy,” Copersino said. “It’s causing prices to edge up a bit, and more buyers are out there looking. Homes are selling much more quickly now because of it.”
The low-inventory market is not only a Queens trend, but a national phenomenon in the real estate industry, according to Copersino. She says it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why there are so few homes available, but possible factors include economic instability and people feeling secure for the time being in their current homes. She projects that inventory will rise with the temperature come the springtime.
Because prices are still low and there are fewer homes on the market, she says she hasn’t been this busy in years.
“In the two-family home market, we are really experiencing that low inventory,” she said. “We’re watching and waiting for new places to come on the market, and when they do, we end up with multiple offers and even bidding wars.”
According to the Elliman Report, Central Queens, which it defines as neighborhoods such as Forest Hills and Rego Park, and northwest Queens, defined as Long Island City and Woodside, are ground zero for the real estate boom.
Copersino believes the jump in sales there can be attributed to the beauty of the areas, but areas in Southeast Queens have fallen behind the rest of the borough when it comes to growth.
Foreclosures have been common in neighborhoods like Jamaica, and their future isn’t as bright as other sections of Queens.
“It’s all about desirability. Forest Hills is always hot,” she said. “But in places like Jamaica and Rosedale, they are pretty much stuck in the short sale and foreclosure market right now.
“Homeowners owe more to the bank than what their house is worth,” she continued. “It’s been like that for years now.”
Much like Copersino, Jerry Fink, owner of Jerry Fink Real Estate in Howard Beach, has been incredibly active as of late. Homes are flying off the market so fast that he hasn’t had time to spend on or with anyone else.
“This is normally the slowest time of the year, but it’s been very active. Right after Christmas, I didn’t have a day off,” Fink said. “I have showings every day. I had a place on the market for four months at above market price and as soon as we dropped the price, we got four offers.”
Just 15 months after Sandy, Fink believes the market in South Queens has recovered well and will continue to do so throughout 2014.
“People are more confident now that we’re past the one-year point,” he said. “It’s a great market and a great area. I believe it is going to bounce back nicely.”
Maryanna Zero, owner of Home Hunters in Maspeth, has also seen that the market is thriving in her area. The inventory is so low, she says, that the only things left on the market are hard sells.
“We have had houses on the market and on the first showing, someone will make an offer at the sales price or even higher,” Zero said. “It certainly makes up for all of the bad times recently.”
Zero believes the bump can be attributed to the area’s unique, tight feel and proximity to other bustling areas of the city.
“We’re very close to Manhattan and close to Williamsburg but there’s still that neighborhood feel,” she said. “This neighborhood is a great place to be.”
Long Island City, a unique enclave that attracts potential buyers from both Queens and Manhattan, has also felt the borough’s housing boom.
Eric Benaim, CEO and founder of Modern Spaces: Long Island City, has also seen a hyperactive winter and believes that the market shows no signs of letting up.
“We’ve seen our busiest winter in years,” Benaim said. “I definitely do see the market keeping up in 2014 and 2015 because there’s less inventory.”
Part of Long Island City’s recent boom can also be attributed to the Manhattan housing market. Benaim believes any price increase across the East River positively impacts the housing market in the waterfront community.
“Because the Manhattan market is out of control right now, the average person can’t afford anything there, so people come to Long Island City,” he said. “They’re getting their bang for their buck here.”