BY MICHAEL STAHL
Queens is an afterthought in New York real estate. I just don’t get it,” said Ira Schulte, a real estate broker for Citi Habitats with more than 21 years of experience. “It’s peculiar, especially in eastern areas of the Borough that rival all those sought-after parts of Brooklyn in terms of community, schools and commute times to Manhattan. Yet some of the Queens prices are more than 50 percent less.”
According to Zillow.com, Queens real estate rates remain significantly lower than City averages, either by cost-per-square-foot measurements or by overall home listing prices. Both comparisons reveal that Queens rates are, on average, 30 percent less than City-wide figures, while the median rent in Queens is $400 a month cheaper than the City’s average rate.
“I recently sold a two-bedroom apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn – a neighborhood that’s still early in its gentrification stages – for a million dollars,” Schulte continued. “A comparable place in Forest Hills would go for about $400,000.”
Even with all of those relatively favorable, buyer-friendly statistics, Queens real estate prices are undoubtedly on the rise, recently surpassing records set prior to the financial crisis that began in 2008. Zillow.com says that the value of a Queens home has gone up 8.5 percent in the past year alone and generally labels the market as “very healthy.” There are a smaller percentage of homes in Queens with negative equity when compared to national tallies, while only one in 20,000 Queens homes will suffer a foreclosure, which handily bests the national average of nine foreclosures per 20,000 homes.
The reason behind the market’s swell is simple: people are exploring new places to live.
“They used to leave Manhattan and go to Brooklyn to save money on the cost of living,” said Ira Schulte’s son and Citi Habitats team member, Michael. “Now it’s Queens, which is definitely trending upward. There are new developments going up all the time.”
Michael, who has more than five years of experience in real estate himself, added that he’s not just seeing fresh residential construction in trendy Long Island City, but also in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, and Ridgewood.
“Ridgewood is one of the hottest areas in Queens right now because of its proximity to the L train,” Michael said, pointing out that location relative to public transportation is always a driving force in the local market.
Indeed, if one were to purchase a home within walking distance of the M train’s Metropolitan Avenue station in Ridgewood, they could ride that line four stops, transfer to the L and find themselves in Brooklyn’s über-hip Williamsburg in 25 minutes. Sunnyside, which sees the 7 train travel through it, has experienced spikes in rent, with the same reports coming out of the streets below Astoria’s N and Q elevated lines.
The Schultes have also noticed a growing interest in Queens luxury properties as well. Michael noted that the units in a few new TF Cornerstone developments on Center Boulevard in Long Island City were gobbled up at a staggering pace, and when he was tasked with leasing luxury apartments in The Roosevelt Building in Jackson Heights, he did so with relative ease.
“It seems like the more luxurious a property gets, the more it’s sought after,” Michael said.
The Baron, an eight-story condominium with a glass façade and seventy-seven units, is set to open on 14th Street in Astoria come September 2016. The former site of St. John’s Hospital on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst is well on its way to becoming Queens Pointe, a 150-unit rental building with multiple penthouses that will feature Manhattan skyline views.
These massive projects and so many others – including the controversial Astoria Cove project – point to a growing interest in Queens on the part of developers hungry for opportunities in a market with unimagined possibilities. Though there has been a great push for developers to guarantee inclusion of affordable housing in their plans, precedents have been set in the past – i.e. the Atlantic Yards project – that seem to ensure such housing will become but an afterthought.