Memorial Day weekend has ushered the summer in. Has it also ushered the superheated New York real estate market out? Is buyer interest still seasonal? Will June 15 see all our prosperous families decamping to their country or seaside homes, not to be seen again till Labor Day? For a variety of reasons, probably not. Here’s why:
- 2021 doesn’t resemble any other year. In the wake of the disastrous COVID-driven shutdown which made much of Manhattan a ghost town during the spring and summer of 2020, the city’s re-awakening issues a clarion call to its true adherents, wherever they may have gone: come back! With restaurants serving capacity crowds, with movie theaters and sports and concert venues tentatively opening to limited crowds, New York feels poised to come back to life. A different life, perhaps, but life nonetheless. Tourists are starting to appear in Rockefeller Center, people are carrying shopping bags (which suggests that they have been shopping!) and sidewalks are beginning to feel crowded. Native city dwellers and those from the tri-state area want new homes in the city. Maybe bigger, maybe smaller. Maybe pieds-à-terre, maybe big enough for families, or home offices, or terraces. There’s a run on city apartments, unlike anything local agents have seen for years. And a change of seasons is not going to stop it.
- Seasonality has become less a feature of the New York market in recent years. Even before Covid struck, the market for city homes had evolved into a year-round phenomenon. Primarily due to differently configured families, the notion of the “summer bachelor” alone at home during the workweek while the wife and kids were in the country seems increasingly anachronistic. In today’s world, Mom is as likely to be employed as Dad, and neither is as likely to migrate to the beach for the whole summer, Zoom notwithstanding. More and more workers are returning, at least a few days a week, to their offices. And with such a hot market, buyers at all levels are worried about missing out while both prices and mortgage rates remain reasonable (relatively speaking.)
- The flight pendulum is swinging back. As early as December of last year, agents in New York began to hear from clients who wanted to return to the city. The promise of a vaccine made city dwellers less anxious all over the country, and as that promise became a reality, a steady stream of committed New Yorkers wanted back in. Many who had enrolled kids in schools outside of town began planning a full-time September return to both urban school and urban home, maybe to the apartment or house they had left but maybe to a different place more in keeping with a newly-discovered sense of priorities. Palm Beach, Southampton, and Greenwich may be lovely, but with the fear of infection dissipating as more and more people receive the vaccine, it becomes clearer that they just aren’t New York. For true New Yorkers, nothing else is.
In significant ways, the new controlled-pandemic world will operate quite differently from that we knew before. Part of that change will be a reduction in the seasonal nature of real estate sales. As the option to toggle between time in the office and remote work becomes further ingrained into our life systems, many people, especially those without school-aged children, will move more freely between locations, regardless of the season. As adherence to stricter schedules wane, and online marketing becomes more and more sophisticated, real estate buyers nationwide will shop from anywhere, any time. A quick July visit to New York to make a home purchase will simply become a moving part in a more fluid post-COVID residential world.