It’s too early to tell what effect Hurricane Sandy had on the real estate market in Howard Beach, experts say, as the neighborhood continues to recover from the storm three months later.
“There is really no way to figure this out yet,” Arlene Pacchiano, a realtor at ConnexionI on Cross Bay Boulevard, said of the housing market in the neighborhood.
Because of how long it takes to sell a house in recent years, many homes in Howard Beach have been listed since before Hurricane Sandy hit. At least one home, located on 95th Street on the banks of Shellbank Basin — one of the worst-hit blocks in Howard Beach — is listed for over $1.6 million.
Fred Kolsin, a real estate agent who deals with properties in Howard Beach, said the storm hit an already-struggling market.
“The market was bad to begin with,” he said. “You add in all the flood damage, it makes it worse.”
Kolsin said the neighborhood is in a different category than Broad Channel and Rockaway neighborhoods like Breezy Point and Belle Harbor because most houses did not suffer structural damage, with the exception of a few in Hamilton Beach and closer to Jamaica Bay.
“We didn’t have what we had on the Rockaway Peninsula,” he said. “Most of the damage is easily fixable. Now we’re in the recovery stage.”
Once flood-damaged homes are fixed, then the market’s condition will depend on demand. Do people still want to buy in Howard Beach? Pacchiano said there is still interest among buyers in the neighborhood and the real problem is realtors’ inability to show houses while they are being repaired.
“After the homes are fixed, things could go back to normal,” she sad. “There is no reason they shouldn’t.”
She believes most buyers will still be attracted to the same attributes that brought prospective residents to the neighborhood before, and that they would acknowledge the flood risk as real, but any flood issues are usually minor and rare.
The last time the neighborhood experienced a storm surge like that of Sandy’s was in 1960 during Hurricane Donna, but even that storm did not do the damage Sandy did, and the neighborhood was not as developed as it is now.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has redrawn its flood maps to include the entire neighborhood south of the Belt Parkway and Lindenwood west of 84th Street as “flood zones,” which will require residents to get flood insurance — already mandated on new mortgages — and could lead to many homes being upgraded to withstand floods.
Kolsin said the effect of the new flood maps on prospective buyers is another factor to watch.
Also in question is whether residents would leave, even if they move to a higher part of the community, such as the high-rise co-ops of Lindenwood. That section of the neighborhood not only escaped the flooding from the storm, but also kept electricity throughout the aftermath.
Kolsin said there has not been an outmigration from the neighborhood as of yet and he suspects most residents will stay.