White Plains resident Lou Tallarini is a real estate investor and expert, the president and CEO of advisory firm Real Property Investors, Inc., and has been an influential figure in the Columbus Foundation since 1979. (Among his many local business ventures, Tallarini at one time owned Westchester Illustrated, an early precursor to Westchester Magazine itself!) Country Bank president and CEO Joseph Murphy Jr. once praised the selection of Tallarini to the board, saying, “His expertise in real estate matters adds value to the bank.”
That expertise is what helps Tallarini explain why real estate sales traditionally take a winter dip — even in a market as hot as this one — and, more importantly, how homeowners can use that knowledge to their advantage.
Chiefly, he says, the reason Westchester sees slower real estate sales in winter is because most of the buying in our area is done by families. Many residents are willing to buy a new home if it means getting their child into a better school district, but enrollment cutoff dates in late fall tend to mean a winter move would be too late in the school year.
“The perception, which becomes reality in most people’s minds, is that winter is not a good time to sell a home,” he says. “They want the grass to be green and the leaves to be on the trees. But it’s just traffic is less, not that it’s not a good time.”
However, there are many contributing factors in deciding when to buy a home, Tallarini says, some as simple as it being a fairly hectic time of year. “We have several religions that have holidays in December and January, and [people] are just not in the mood to deal with what we know is a major disruption in one’s life,” he says.
That being the case, Tallarini emphasizes that a chilly season is no reason to get cold feet about selling your home. While it’s true that most families prefer to not move during the school year, thanks to its international schools, Westchester sees a relatively steady influx and outflux of non-native families less beholden to the traditional September-to-May educational calendar. Additionally, just because there is lower inventory of listed homes in winter, doesn’t necessarily mean there is less demand for homes.
“There are many reasons why people move,” Tallarini notes. Job or career changes, financial shifts, even a new baby or other change in a family’s living situation can set a family to wanting a new home, and these events aren’t confined to just the warmer months. As a result, Tallarini says, “There’s always a buyer for the right kind of real estate.”
Homeowners can leverage this, knowing that prospective buyers during the winter months are often in more immediate need or are otherwise more serious about their offers. Owners looking for a faster sell with less haggling may find cold weather a rather hot time to sell properties.
And that might be very important this winter season in particular: After a Republican Congress capped SALT deductions in 2018, many Westchesterites have taken a hit on their property tax deductions. Though county, state, and federal governments are acting to counterbalance or undo much of this, property taxes remain exceedingly high in Westchester County while deductions are capped. “A house that you might want to own in Westchester that has twenty-five or forty or fifty-thousand dollars in taxes…you’re only getting a $10,000 deduction now,” Tallarini says.
“The other thing is Westchester is such a desirable place to live,” Tallarini says, echoing what other real estate experts have been chanting for the better part of two years, as Manhattanites and Brooklyn residents have fled the city in a mass exodus for the less dense climes of Westchester and the Hudson Valley. “I’ve lived here all my life except for a year or two years I spent in the army and a year or two I lived in New York City, but it’s unparalleled. It’s amazing. Quality of life is something people will pay for.”