BY MICHAEL STAHL
My girlfriend and I moved in together for the first time three months ago, settling on a Woodside one-bedroom apartment with a balcony after combing Astoria listings for weeks. Though I’d lived in the neighborhood virtually my entire life, rising rents in Astoria ensured I would have to leave its friendly confines if I had any hope of saving a few bucks, even after shacking up with another. As I wrote in the Tribune then, it saddened me to leave my hometown, but I decided to shrug off any melancholy and look forward to experiencing all that Woodside had to offer. The slightly discounted rent of $1,700 a month—my girlfriend and I weren’t uncovering any one-bedroom options in Astoria less than $1,900 per month—would certainly help.
“I call it the League of Nations here,” William “Buck” Butler, 62, owner of Wagner & Kelly Real Estate said last week. “There’s some great ethnic food, but not really many high-end restaurants.”
Just around the corner is La Flor, one of the busiest—and best—restaurants in the area, serving Mexican food with Italian and French tangential touches. There’s a great coffee shop with free Wi-Fi on 59th Street, Lucid Café, and, of course, Donovan’s Pub, the Irish bar mainstay featuring one of the finest burgers in all of New York City, plus excellent football Sunday specials and giveaways. With honorable mentions to Saints and Sinners—another nearby Irish watering hole—and the amusingly named Mister Chicken To Go—delicious rotisserie chicken with side dishes at a remarkable value—I’m just skimming the surface of the gaudy list of Woodside eateries.
Combine these innumerable, eclectic dining options with quick transit—not only to Manhattan on the 7 train but to Long Island as well, via the 61st Street Long Island Railroad Station—and it’s no wonder Woodside has one of the strongest real estate markets in the five boroughs.
“We’ve had houses that used to sell in the $400,000 to $500,000 range less than five years ago that are now in $600,000 and $700,000,” he added. “There are three-family-plus houses selling for well over a million dollars that used to go for $600,000 and $700,000.”
“Prices are crazy,” Chan, who has over thirty years of experience serving Woodside, said. “The amount of transactions I’ve overseen this past year is a great indication of a strong market. There are low interest rates right now, which helps. And even the commercial real estate market is doing well.”
In an exclusive report for the Queens Tribune, StreetEasy.com gathered Woodside sales data from the New York City Department of Finance and rental figures from listings on its own site. It reveals that the median recorded sales price for Woodside homes of all types in 2015 sits at $280,000—up from $258,500 last year. There was a marginal dip in sales prices during the recent recession after the 2008 housing market collapse, but by 2010 Woodside homes went for a median price of nearly $320,000. This prompted an influx of sellers as inventory numbers increased to new highs. In turn, sales prices dropped significantly, but have sharply recovered the past two years.
The StreetEasy report shows that in 2015 the average Woodside home has spent an obscenely low 44 days on the market. (Douglas Elliman’s recent quarter three market report for the entire borough of Queens showed the average home remained on the market for 92 days.)
StreetEasy says the median asking rent in Woodside is now $1,900 per month, up approximately 25% since 2011 in spite of expanding inventory figures. Butler noted the adverse affect this is having on the market for families, saying that railroad-style apartments with less privacy in some of the six-family Woodside buildings represent one of the few remaining options for them.
Sales of homes and townhouses have been minimal this year, according to StreetEasy, thanks to microscopic inventory numbers, but there is decidedly more movement in the co-op sector where the median sales price this year stands at $239,000. Condo inventory is up, and thus the median sales price is down to $390,421 after a five-year high of over $413,000 in 2014. However, considering the fact that Douglas Elliman reported median sales prices of Long Island City condos that approached one million dollars earlier this year, Woodside—just two towns east of LIC—is home to rather remarkably affordable housing.
“What I find is that there’s just a huge pent up demand really for the entire New York metropolitan area,” Butler said. “We’re the town, and you want to live somewhere close to Manhattan. That’s where we [in Woodside] bring value.”