BY MICHAEL STAHL
As the Fall holidays approach, visions of tiny costumed tikes under colorful trees shuffling down a residential sidewalk – one hand held by their mother or father, the other tightly clutching a bag filled with their yearly booty – and gigantic tables mounted with a meal reminiscent of a medieval king’s banquet set flawlessly in a grand formal dining room dance through our heads.
These idyllic, dream-quality images represent what most are said to strive for, and few neighborhoods in the five boroughs aspire to see those scenes play out more greatly than Bayside. But eager real estate buyers hopeful for a slice of this American pie must beware. The Bayside market is booming right now, creating competition rarely seen in the region, while helping already healthy closing prices balloon to new heights.
“It hasn’t been like this in a long time,” Anthony Carollo says. He’s serviced much of Northeast Queens, including Bayside, as owner of Carollo Real Estate for 13 years. “People want to sell right now. It’s a great market.”
Recent reports bear that observation out. In an outline of second-quarter sales, Douglas Elliman revealed a whopping 30 percent increase in median sales prices for Northeast Queens, which includes Bayside, when compared to the prior year, along with a near 7 percent jump in overall number of sales. That news came after a quarter-one statement from the real estate giant indicating four consecutive quarters of falling figures in the region. In an exclusive report provided to the Queens Tribune by StreetEasy.com, total sales for each type of property – homes, condos, and co-ops – are on pace to at least equal or exceed record numbers set in 2014. Homes and townhouses – the bread and butter of Bayside real estate – have a median recorded sales price this year of $750,000, which is nearly $100,000 higher than it was in 2005.
“We’re playing catch up now,” Carollo says, referencing real estate market explosions in the western sections of both Brooklyn and Queens the past few years. “Everybody wants to be in Manhattan, or just outside of it, but that’s ok. We like it quiet out here.”
Historically, buyers have been drawn to the serenity of Bayside, not bothered by a longer commute to Manhattan. And though the area has always been perceived as a place where wealthier New Yorkers reside, these days Bayside is seen as a homestead for great value in property.
“It’s a little hidden gem,” Betsy Pollak says of the neighborhood she spent more than 50 years living in, while working as a real estate representative there for the past 29 years. “You don’t need to be a Wall Street executive to live in Bayside. The prices are higher than they’ve ever been, but they haven’t jumped like in other areas.”
Case in point, the Douglas Elliman second-quarter report for Northeast Queens put the median sales price for all homes in the area at a little under $480,000. Over that same timespan, the median sales price in Manhattan was an astounding $980,000, a number that excludes home sales, only highlighting condo and co-op closings.
Of course, a typical Bayside single-family home will cost closer to the Manhattan figure than the one representative of its own region’s median price – yes, Bayside is still on the high end of that spectrum. But if a buyer wants a driveway and a garage, a front and back yard, and multiple levels of housing, those features won’t be found in an average Manhattan condo purchase. Carollo says the Bayside “entrance fee” – the approximate minimum cost for a detached single-family home in the neighborhood, and one that might need some upgrades – is about $700,000. “From where I stand though,” Carollo inists, “that’s a bargain.” He adds that he’s selling an abundance of homes for about $850,000 to buyers who don’t mind putting a little work into the property.
For those who can’t quite afford a new house in the area, Bayside has its shares of condos and co-ops as well. Pollak, working out of the Century 21 Bay Benjamin office in the Bay Terrace Mall, specializes in those property types. “One-bedroom condos in the area start at about $350,000, with two-bedrooms beginning at $500,000,” she says. “With co-ops, you could buy a studio or one-bedroom for as low as $100,000, but there are also co-ops for $700,000. It depends on the building and the location.”
No matter the cost, if a property in Bayside is priced right by the seller, it will be off the market in a flash. StreetEasy.com reports the median number of days in 2014 that Bayside houses and townhouses spent on the market was a microscopic 42. Only two years prior, that number was 123.
Steven Meyer, owner of the Century 21 Bay Benjamin branch says, “In other parts of the country you can spend years trying to sell something. In Bayside, a sale can be made in as quickly as one week.”
One reason for such frenetic movement when a home does reach the market is an incredible dearth of inventory in Bayside. Almost all of the region’s land has long been bought up, and the neighborhood’s zoning laws do not permit high-density developments to go up. Meyer estimates conservatively that re-sales make up 90 percent of his office’s total closings.
According to Meyer, Pollak and Carollo though, all that Bayside has to offer its residents is really what’s helping the area draw so much attention of late. They point to the abundance of shopping, observing that the Bay Terrace mall has recently drawn more high-profile outlets that Queens-ites could only visit after a trip to Long Island. Each of them touts Bayside’s central location near a number of highways and waterfronts, along with the presence of the Long Island Railroad and many express busses. Bayside’s school District 26 is one of the city’s best, and that classic suburban atmosphere persists, just 25 minutes east of Manhattan.
“If you want it all, you come to Bayside,” Carollo says.