The pandemic-triggered New York City exodus brought nearby Westchester County to its strongest year for home sales in more than two decades.
In 2020, a total of 6,635 purchases were made in the northern suburbs. This is the highest number since 1996, according to a report by broker Houlihan Lawrence.
It was an abrupt reversal for a county that has struggled for years with declining demand due to the highest property taxes nationwide and an oversupply of older, rambling homes away from railroad lines. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed these concerns aside as city dwellers – armed with record-low mortgage rates – fled urban areas in search of more space to work, study and relax.
"Everything sells," said Debbie Doern, senior vice president of sales at Houlihan Lawrence. "It's not easy to get a house right now."
The average price for single-family homes that changed hands in the fourth quarter rose 20% year over year to $ 738,250, appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and real estate agent Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report Thursday. It was the biggest annual jump since late 2002.
Real estate moved quickly once it hit the market, exhausting the supply of offers. The county's single-family sales inventory declined 29% year over year to 1,299 homes in late December, the fewest on the 1994 records, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said.
At the current sales rate, it would only take 2.6 months to vacate all of these properties, the fastest pace ever recorded.
"Buyers are ready," said Scott Durkin, president of Douglas Elliman. "They have finance in hand, deposits in hand, they are more forgiving of home inspections, and they are ready to pounce."
The introduction of COVID vaccines has not yet suppressed demand. As of December 31, Westchester had 1,459 home sales outstanding, Houlihan Lawrence said. That is 46% more than at the end of 2019.