31 July 2020
People living in New York City are fearful after facing the worst of the coronavirus health crisis. This fear is fueling a sudden increase in home sales and rentals around the small towns and wooded hills to the city's north.
Anil and Joyce Lilly will not be staying in their Bronx apartment much longer. They just bought a house north of New York in the Hudson Valley. It takes about an hour to reach from the city.
"We were locked into the apartment for three months, a solid three months," Joyce Lilly told the Associated Press, explaining their move to Washingtonville, New York.
"I feel like I'm getting out of prison and I want to run as far away as possible," she said.
Property sellers describe an active market recently, with many house hunters able to work from home. Steven Domber is president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hudson Valley Properties. He said a large number of the home buyers are coming from Manhattan, in the heart of the city. Many of them are experiencing "cabin fever, which is wanting to get out of an apartment and having some land if...there's a lockdown again," he said.
The Catskill Mountains and parts of the valley north of the city have been longtime vacation spots for New Yorkers. But agents say sales and rental activity is far above normal. Domber said his June sales were up about 30 percent compared to the same month last year. Home builder Chuck Petersheim said he took eight orders in one month, compared to his usual one-and-a-half each month.
But New York City is in no danger of losing a lot of people any time soon. The movement north only represents a small part of the city's population of 8.3 million.
New homes in the area cost from under $200,000 to more than $1 million. They are an escape many people cannot afford. But the increase in sales and long-term rentals suggests many New Yorkers see the city as less livable.
Susan Cohen rented a home in Rhinebeck, New York with her husband after sheltering in their Upper East Side apartment.
She said: "For six weeks in our two-bedroom apartment, all we talked about was without a vaccine, we will never go on the subway again...we won't go to the movies, we won't go to the theater...And we said, ‘What are we living here for?'"
County-level home sales numbers from May and June still show a decrease compared to last year. But agents say those numbers are the result of delays of one to three months between offers being accepted and closings on home sales.
Agents have described recent bidding wars over homes that had been on the market for some time and new listings being bought quickly by buyers with cash. Realtor John Murphy said some homes are selling for $100,000 or more above their asking prices.
Home hunters Tony Speciale and Jerry Marsini learned about competition recently when they walked through the front door of a home in Kingston, New York. At that same moment, their agent got a message from the seller about a cash offer from someone else.
"If we find a house that we're interested in, sitting on it more than a few days doesn't seem like a good idea," Speciale said.
The Hudson Valley is not the only area outside New York City experiencing an increase in home buying.
Along the New Jersey Shore, there are far more buyers than homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Wendy Smith noted homes are selling above the asking price and "once a thing comes on the market everyone is jumping on it." She is president of Monmouth Ocean Regional Realtors.
Extremely low lending rates from banks are helping the market. Work-from-home policies resulting from the health crisis also help people to decide to move from the city.
Joyce Lilly said her husband's ability to work at a distance as an information technology supervisor helped them to decide to move from Riverdale in the Bronx on Tuesday. Susan Cohen just retired in January and her husband is able to work as a financial technology advisor from home.
I'm Pete Musto.
Michael Hill reported on this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
rental –n. a property, apartment or home, in which a person can live by paying the owner regular payments
apartment –n. a room or group of rooms in a building that is used as a place to live
lockdown –n. when people are forced to stay in their homes for emergency reasons
afford –v. to be able to pay for something
county –n. an area of a state that has its own government to deal with local matters
bidding –n. the process of making a competitive offer of money to buy something and which others can compete by offering more money
cash – n. money in the form of coins or bills or their equivalent
price(s) - n. the amount of money that you pay for something or that something costs
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