A new wave of condominiums is rising over Long Island City, marked by sleek modern design and built of steel, glass and light. It’s carrying with it droves of late 20 to early 40 year old Manhattanites who are snapping up units that look (at least from the other side of the river) like amazing deals. This market has seen nothing of the purported real estate slowdown. Many unfinished buildings are already over half sold. “There’s too much money being poured into this neighborhood for it to go sour,” noted Rick Rosa, a sales agent for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate based in Hunters Point. Looking around at the vertical steel I beams, cranes and concrete skeletons dotting the industrial landscape here, that seems like an understatement.
Rosa alone is handling sales of condominiums in three new “boutique” buildings, including the 12 unit Galaxy on 50th Avenue where an unspectacular 847 square foot one bedroom goes for $636,000 and a two bedroom unit for $998,000.
In the Echelon on Jackson Avenue, a 1,161 square foot 12th floor one bedroom is listed at $810,000 while a similarly sized fourth floor one bedroom is $675,000.
Arris Lofts on Thomson Avenue offers some of the most extravagant amenities around, including a lap pool, recreation room and a lush courtyard. Marked by high ceilings, leftover structural elements like columns and bump outs of the old Eagle Electric building retooled as “charm,” these condos are each unique.
The cheapest space presently available is a second floor, 741 square foot studio facing the courtyard for $525,000. A fifth floor, west facing 1,300 square foot studio plus home office (essentially a windowless bedroom) goes for $870,000. Arris is also offering sprawling, upper floor units with multidirectional views for a cool $2 million to $3 million.
Buyer’s Market Offers More Time, Better Price
To hear brokers tell it, now is the best time to take advantage of the 18 month lull in the national housing market and seal the deal on a new home, condo or co op.
Likely advice from a real estate agent, maybe, but only a handful of local markets in Queens have stayed hot since the bubble burst last year. In some neighborhoods, prices have dropped anywhere from roughly 5 percent to 10 percent.
Meanwhile, lower interest rates show few signs of falling much further. “I think it is a realistic possibility that we may be looking at the low in terms of prices, and that we may well see a strengthening by the spring,” said Tom Vastola, a broker with Middle Village based Eliot Hill Realty. “Obviously I don’t have a crystal ball, but the people who are buying now may end up looking pretty smart next year.”
With properties sitting on the market longer, buyers today also have the luxury of being able to explore their options fully before pulling the trigger.
“People can use this time to shop around and get to know the market so they can find the best deal,” said Ana Bogdan, a broker with 1st Option Realty Group in Glendale. “Buyers should take advantage of the fact they have time to educate themselves.”
That education should not be relegated to learning about the best bargains. Whether you are eyeing high rise condos in Astoria or affordable co ops in Kew Gardens, buyers should do all of their homework on properties and their surrounding areas, brokers say.
Start by consulting the real estate listings in local newspapers, then move to the Internet, where you can browse hundreds of Queens listings, peruse photos and take virtual tours.
For parents, the Web should also be one of your first stops for learning about schools. Two Web sites—insideschools.org and greatschools.net—provide the most comprehensive and up to date information on nearly every public, private and parochial school in the city, with enrollment and class size data, test scores and parent ratings and reviews.
Once you’ve singled out a few home prospects, some brokers advise investigating the builders. Cautious buyers may want to review online press clippings and ask current owners whether they are satisfied with the after purchase quality of their property. While this may seem like a needless precaution, today’s homes simply aren’t built to stand the test of time the way they used to—and nobody wants to pay hundreds of dollars in repairs and unforeseen maintenance costs.
Above all, brokers say show a little restraint in the home stretch of your search. While prices and interest rates are at a record low this year, the temptation to low ball a seller or toe too hard a line during negotiations should be avoided. And while time is a rare luxury these days, don’t wait too long.
“People have this perception that, because the so called ‘bubble’ has burst, they can just walk in and offer ten to twenty percent less than the market value, and then dillydally while they consider a counter offer,” Vastola said. “But when that happens, somebody else usually comes along, sees a reasonable price and takes it.”
—by Colin Gustafson, Assistant Editor