While the real estate boom is showing signs of leveling off elsewhere in the city, a continuing demand for city life outside of Manhattan seems to be keeping the boom going in Queens for the time being.
A report by the city Department of Finance issued last week found that while property values are starting to level off in the other four boroughs, property values in Queens grew by more than 13 percent last year, almost as much as the previous year.
Still, real estate professionals cautioned that property owners can’t expect to see values grow this fast forever. “We’re still going up, but I don’t know how much longer it will last,” said Barbara Frechter, president of Glenjay Realty in Forest Hills.
The department’s estimated total market value for the entire city grew by 9.25 percent between May 2005 and this January, compared with a 13.6 percent increase between 2004 and 2005. By contrast, Queens’ total valuation grew by 13.3 percent this year, compared with 13.6 percent the previous year.
The total estimated value of all the property in the city was $670.7 billion. The value of Queens property was estimated to add up to $197.8 billion.
In comparison to Queens, property values rose 5.4 percent in Manhattan, 7.6 percent in Staten Island, 8.5 percent in the Bronx and 10.7 percent in Brooklyn.
Helping Queens numbers was a continuing strong growth in the value of one-, two- and three-family houses, condominiums, and vacant land. Across the city, the value of these properties grew by 13.0 percent, while commercial properties grew by only 7.5 percent.
In Queens, the average sale prices of homes increased 16.0 percent between July 2004 and July 2005, according to Department of Finance figures.
According to the Long Island Board of Realtors, the average sale price of a home in Queens in 2005 was $448,193, compared with $376,670 in 2004.
Miguel Flores, owner of Sunnyside Realty in Sunnyside, summed up the real estate market simply: “The market is crazy.”
Part of the driving force behind the rising values is that young professionals and recent immigrants who are seeking to buy houses also want to maintain connections to their old neighborhoods and remain close to mass transit, Frechter said. They also want to avoid the higher property taxes in the towns surrounding the city.
“You can pay $9,000, $10,000 a year in taxes on Long Island,” compared with about $2,000 for the same property inside the city, she said.
Also, while Queens property values have been rising rapidly, sale prices still trail the rest of the city. “In Woodside, Queens Village, there are still affordable homes,” Flores said, explaining that two-family homes can still be found in those places for as little as $600,000.
As a result, home buyers have been willing to pay whatever sellers have been asking to settle in Queens. Houses that went for $400,000 a few years ago are going for $750,000 now, Frechter said.
South of Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills Gardens remains one of the city’s most coveted neighborhoods, while to the north the Cord Meyer neighborhood remains popular with buyers looking to tear down and build bigger homes, she said. “I just cannot believe the prices these homes go for.”
The so-called “McMansion” trend has provoked strong reactions around the borough, causing residents in several neighborhoods to petition for zoning changes to stop what they call runaway development.
Despite the steady increases of the past few years, Frechter said she thinks prices have finally peaked, with more and more buyers rejecting properties because of cost.
Flores agreed that the market is near its peak. “I think it’s coming real soon,” he said.
However, Frechter said many of the sellers she deals with don’t believe that and continue to ask for higher and higher prices. “They still think there’s a golden rainbow out there.”