As city dwellers continue their mass exodus from the cramped quarters of urban living for the bucolic plains of the suburbs, property values in Westchester County continue to soar. Across the board, the area’s leading realtors are continuing to see demand far outstrip the market supply, with a seller’s market continuing robustly into 2021.
“If the opportunity avails, there is no better time to list your home,” says Elizabeth Nunan, President and CEO, Houlihan Lawrence, Westchester County’s most prolific realty group. “There is high demand [at] most price points. The number of showings has increased considerably year-over-year and, with fewer homes on the market, it is typical to have more than one buyer interested in a property. This is creating multiple bid situations on properly priced homes, and sellers are reaping the benefit.”
Houlihan Lawrence saw a staggering 38.9% increase year-over-year in the number of homes it sold for the first quarter this year, with the median sale price rising 10.9% to $710,000. Demand remains high, as Houlihan tracked a 37% decrease in available inventory in Q1. Incredibly, these two factors have led to final sale prices totaling over 98% of original asking price.
The greater White Plains area saw the largest growth in terms of homes sold — a massive 51% — while the greatest increase in median sale price came from the northwest rivertowns — up a whopping 21% year-over-year.
Houlihan Lawrence’s Sr. Vice President and Director of Private Brokerage, Anthony P. Cutugno attributes this same increase in demand with limited supply as the chief factor behind Westchester’s most dynamic (and lucrative) market: luxury sales priced above $2 million.
“One year ago, when the country was in a COVID-19 lockdown, it was hard to imagine that residential real estate would experience a V-shaped recovery fueled by seismic shifts in consumer behavior,” Cutugno says. “A substantially larger buyer pool coupled with declining inventory has generated a consistent rise in luxury sales since last summer.”
Westchester saw an 82.2% leap in the number of $2M+ homes sold this past quarter, though median sale price dipped slightly by 4.4%, something Cutugno says is likely based on customers at that price point buying out of desire rather than “need.” The most expensive home in the county sold in Scarsdale for $7,150,000. Interestingly, the “ultra-luxury” market segment — homes priced above $5 million — is the only one in the county to have more inventory now than before the pandemic. All in all, Houlihan has still declared this the highest quarter for luxury sales in a decade.
“The question on everyone’s mind is: How long will this last?” Cutugno wonders. “Pending sales are up, showing activity is strong and days on market are down, pointing to a solid market through the summer. As we move toward long-awaited herd immunity, we are closely monitoring what changes are here to stay and those that will return to pre-pandemic norms.”
Another leading area realtor, Compass, supports these claims with its own numbers, notably seeing a 34% drop in days on market for single family homes, 12.2% for condos, 1.5% for co-ops, and even 16.1% for rentals properties.
Sales volume for single-family homes climbed a full 62% to $1.37 billion, with median and average prices topping $700,000 and $900,000, respectively. Condos represented another $138 million in volume — a 26% increase year-over-year — with 3-4% dips in average and median sales prices, while co-ops contributed another $109 million — a 38% increase from 2020 — with 5-10% increases in sales price.
“We are definitely seeing a seller’s market here in Westchester County,” says John Piazza, a broker with RE/MAX Classic Realty in Somers. “Most new listings have multiple offers to purchase within days of being actively listed. It is a frustrating time for buyers who are competing with each other in a very limited supply of available homes market.”
RE/MAX saw the average estimated county home value rise 3.3% over 2020 figures to $657,000, with a median list price of about $725,000. For reference, RE/MAX clocks the median list price in New York State at just $429,000 and in the nation at a paltry $118,000.
“The demand for housing is strongly fueled by the millennial generation now approaching homeownership age, coupled with record low mortgage rates,” Piazza says. “The supply of available homes for sale is low since many baby boomers are not able/ready to retire or downsize. The spring market will be filled with a strong demand to purchase. It is unknown yet if that demand can be satisfied with more homes being offered for sale.”
“The frenetic market pace continued where it left off at the end of last year,” says Scott Durkin, President and COO of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who has also seen near-record growth in Westchester. “A few months ago, it was people who were leaving driving demand. Now, it’s people who want both a city apartment and a home outside the city.”
Median sales price rose year-over-year for the ninth consecutive quarter, reaching the third highest on record, and the second-fastest in the entire 26 years market pacing has been tracked. Single-family homes sold faster than they have in a decade, condo sales are up, and the annual sales rate for properties prices above $1 million was nearly triple those below.
Elliman saw a 13% increase in average and a 10.8% increase in median home sale prices, combined with a 16.7% drop in inventory. Altogether, this resulted in a 24.4% drop in how long homes sat on the market.
Single-family homes rose to a median sale price of $700,000, about twice that of condos which fell slightly to $375,000. The luxury market, approximately the top 10th of sales prices, rose 16.6% year-over-year to just shy of $2.5 million.
William Pitt – Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty has also, unsurprisingly, recorded significant year-over-year growth. Median sale price rose to nearly $750,000 — a 12% increase over 2020 — but, more tellingly, the company saw hefty increases to both closings and sales volume alongside a reduction in inventory. Closings rose by 34% to a mind-blowing volume of $1.2 billion, while inventory dropped by 43%.
The latest market report from Sotheby’s notes that volumetric gains have been “consistently much higher than those in unit sales, a sign that more properties are transacting at higher price points.”
“The primary driver behind this unprecedented growth is the influx of New York City buyers in our marketplaces amidst the ongoing pandemic,” says Paul Breunich, President and Chief Executive Officer of William Pitt-Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty. “We feel the momentum will continue well into the future. With our internal company figures show pending unit sales and dollar volume on our own listings tracking to the activity we’re observing in the wider marketplace, we anticipate another substantial quarter in sales ahead.”