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Real estate journalists and brokers have been beating the "Brooklyn is the new Queens" drum for years, and, no matter what you want to say about the actual differences between the boroughs and their many neighborhoods, the Long Island City waterfront has gotten a whole new skyline, and young professionals are rapidly reshaping neighborhoods along transit lines as far east as Jackson Heights and Sunnyside.
The western, more densely developed and transit-served section of the borough tends to draw the most attention in these types of discussions, so the findings of a recent StreetEasy analysis may come as a surprise to many. The report released last week found that of the five neighborhoods with the biggest sales price increases over the last year, four are in Queens, and all of them are in the eastern half of the borough, in areas dominated by single-family houses. One person who saw this coming is Eric Benaim CEO of the brokerage Modern Spaces, who hails from Jamaica Estates and whose work focuses on the denser parts of Queens.
"It’s not surprising," he says. "The last I would think 10-12 years Brooklyn’s really been at the forefront as a borough, exploding. Various neighborhoods keep on popping up in Brooklyn. The prices have skyrocketed so high where people have, over the last couple years—I would give credit to Long Island City for starting the boom—and now people are looking out in Queens."
Benaim's childhood home neighborhood topped the list with a median sales price of $435,440—this stat is a bit confusing because houses there regularly sell for over a million—up 186 percent from the median for sales during the third quarter of last year. Given the prices around the rest of the city, Benaim says he can see what is attracting buyers.
"You can buy a little mini mansion for $1 million. Where else can you find that?" he says.
StreetEasy notes that these types of increases could owe to increases in the value of existing properties, the sale of big homes in the latter period, and/or the arrival of new high-end properties on the market. In other words, the third quarter sales for Jamaica Estates last year could have been more comprised of small, low-priced properties, and the mix this quarter clearly included a fair number of lower-cost sales too, but also some bigger-ticket ones that are more typical of the neighborhood.
Appraiser Jonathan Miller of the firm Miller Samuel only tracks western Queens at the neighborhood level in his Douglas Elliman market reports, but he agrees with Benaim's assessment.
"Price growth in Queens, due to its proximity to Brooklyn, has been seeing record prices being set in the last several quarters in aggregate for the borough, so it wouldn’t surprise me that Queens would be over-represented in this analysis," he says. "It’s this desperate search for affordability, and Queens offers competitive prices against Manhattan and Brooklyn."
The Bronx, it seems, is next up for this kind of frantic buying and the price increases that come with it.
The other Queens neighborhoods leading the city in spiking prices according to StreetEasy are the relatively sleepy burgs of Clearview, Elmhurst, and Little Neck. The only non-Queens neighborhood in the running was Midtown South, where the sales for the last season had a median price of $1.34 million, more than double that of the sales in the same period last year.
In addition to pressing further and further out in the outer boroughs in search of lower prices, New Yorkers looking to buy are leapfrogging to the suburbs in large numbers, Miller says.
"We've seen a tremendous increase in volume in the outlying 'burbs as people make a trade to get a large enough property for their family and they’re challenged" by prices in the city, he explains.
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