Memorial Day weekend opened the beginning of summer. Have they also driven the overheated New York City real estate market? Is customer interest still seasonal? Will all of our wealthy families flee to their country or seaside homes on June 15 so that they will not be seen again until Labor Day? For various reasons, probably not. That’s why:
- 2021 is unlike any other year. After the catastrophic COVID shutdown that made much of Manhattan a ghost town in spring and summer 2020, the city’s resurgence is a loud call to its true devotees, wherever they go: come back! With restaurants catering to crowded crowds, with movie theaters, sports and concert venues tentatively open to a limited number of visitors, New York City feels ready to return to life. Perhaps another life, but still life. Tourists are starting to appear in Rockefeller Center, people are carrying shopping bags (which means they were out shopping!), And the sidewalks are getting crowded. Native townspeople and residents of the three states want new homes in the city. Maybe more, maybe less. Maybe a pieds-à-terre, maybe big enough for a family, or a home office, or a terrace. City apartments are raided, unlike anything local agents have seen for years. And the change of seasons won’t stop it.
- In recent years, seasonality has become less common in the New York market. Even before Covid struck, the urban home market had become a year-round phenomenon. Primarily due to the different configurations of families, the idea of a “summer bachelor” alone at home during the working week, when the wife and children were in the countryside, seems increasingly anachronistic. In today’s world, Mom is just as likely to work as Dad, and neither of them is likely to move to the beach all summer despite Zoom. More and more workers return to their offices at least a few days a week. And in such a hot market, buyers at all levels are afraid of missing out, while both prices and mortgage rates remain reasonable (relatively speaking).
- The flight pendulum swings back. Back in December of last year, agents in New York began to hear from clients wishing to return to the city. The vaccine promise made city dwellers less anxious across the country, and when that promise became a reality, a steady stream of dedicated New Yorkers wanted to return. Many of those who enrolled their children in schools outside the city began planning full-time work. September returns both to the city school and to the city house, maybe to the apartment or house that they left, but maybe to another place that is more in line with the newly discovered sense of priorities. Palm Beach, Southampton, and Greenwich may be great, but with more and more people getting the vaccine and fear of infection disappearing, it’s becoming clearer that this just isn’t New York. For real New Yorkers, there is nothing else.
In many ways, a new world with a manageable pandemic will act very differently than we knew before. Part of this change will be to reduce the seasonality of property sales. As the ability to switch between office time and telecommuting becomes more and more solid in our life system, many people, especially those without school-age children, will move more freely between locations regardless of the season. As adherence to stricter schedules looses and internet marketing becomes more and more sophisticated, home buyers across the country will shop anywhere, anytime. A quick July visit to New York to buy a home will be just a moving part in a more mobile post-COVID residential world.