Photo by Vinny Garrison | Flying Films NY
Bastions of budgetary prudence, these county neighborhoods prove that frugality doesn’t have to completely bust your home search.
Single-family Westchester homes considered deals? Really? Believe it. No one will ever call Westchester a cheap place to live. But, if you know where to look, there are pockets of relative affordability where you can still score an excellent deal on a house.
These seven towns/neighborhoods prove that a tight budget doesn’t have to bust your home search.
Bedford Hills has some wealthy neighbors, including laid-back but monied Katonah to the north and horsey Bedford to the south — both home to a handful of celebrities living quietly and (very) comfortably.
And while Bedford Hills is certainly not mansion-free, it offers areas of cute and affordable homes that place owners right in the middle of a safe, well-maintained community in an excellent school district (Bedford Central) for a relatively low price of entry.
Sales here this year ranged from $327,500 for a 1,225 sq. ft. home on .23 acres of land to a large estate for $4.4 million, with the median price working out to $573,750 — quite affordable by Westchester standards, says Joanna Rizoulis, Realtor with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International. And although the commute to Manhattan from this lovely spot in the northern part of the county is about 55 minutes, living here doesn’t mean giving up all the perks of towns closer to the city.
“Many buyers now are asking for the ability to walk to the train and to have a little village to walk to,” says Alaina Bainlardi, associate real estate broker with William Raveis. Bedford Hills’ train station is right in town across from the village center, and many affordable homes are tucked in along the streets nearby.
Residents of this close-knit community can walk easily, not only to train and town but to local parks and the elementary school, as well. More spots worth walking to include MeMe’s Treats Bakery, Nino’s restaurant, and Bedford Hills Wine & Beer Bar, which is across from the train station. “People can come right off the Metro-North and socialize,” Bainlardi says.
Residents aren’t limited to what’s available on foot, of course. A quick drive leads to lots of green open space north and east, as well as to the convenience of more commercialized Mount Kisco, five minutes to the south, complete with healthcare options, movie theater, Target, fitness clubs, and both boutiques and chain stores. For a small town, Bedford Hills (population just under 4,000) checks a lot of Westchester boxes, except for a hefty price tag.
On the Market
24 Sunset Dr, Bedford Hills
3 BR, 3BA; 1,969 sq. ft.; .53 acres
$12,477 estimated taxes
This home offers a cul-de-sac location coupled with renovated kitchen boasting large center island, Cambria quartz counters, and stainless-steel appliances, plus finished lower level and two-car garage.
After perusing interior and exterior shots of the pretty homes available in this northeast corner of Westchester County, one starts to wonder: Is this an Internet real estate search of South Salem or a digital issue of Country Home magazine? While not always grand, the houses are spacious, the yards large and landscaped, and the prices in the sweet spot.
On the downside, there is no train station, so the trip to Manhattan from South Salem (almost 60 miles) isn’t ideal. Commuters must drive to the train station in Katonah, or perhaps New Canaan, and then ride the Metro-North for about an hour. But the roomy, well-appointed properties available for under $700,000 here may just win out. And many commuters do live in South Salem, in large homes that aren’t particularly close to anything but parks and trees and tennis courts (and more trees).
This is old-school suburbia, where neighbors are comfortably distant, properties need a considerable amount of attention, and the seasons pass in quiet splendor. Children will be in the highly ranked Katonah-Lewisboro School system, and the dog will have perhaps two acres to call his/her own.
“The rule that the farther you get from the city, the more opportunity you have dollar-wise holds true for the most part,” confirms Realtor J.B. Avery of William Raveis, “but you do have to drive everywhere.” Before long, however, the 15 minutes in the car, give or take, required to reach the restaurants and shops in nearby towns, such as Bedford, Pound Ridge, and Ridgefield, CT, seems acceptable, he says. “The different towns start to feel like one large community,” Avery insists.
Still, he and other locals are happy to report that the shopping center in Vista (the easternmost section of South Salem), is becoming “something of a hub,” with its Greenwich Produce, pizzeria, Chinese restaurant, and health club.
Another plus: The South Salem area is dotted with parks, nature preserves, and lakes (including Truesdale and Kitchawan), many with surrounding communities consisting of cute summer cottages that have become year-round homes. These affordable, smaller properties offer lovely views and lake-centric activities — a great first investment to give the northern suburb lifestyle a try. But be forewarned: You might really like it. “I bought a little starter house here 23 years ago,” Avery says happily, “and never left.”
On the Market
6 Deer Run Rd, South Salem
4 BR, 2.1 BA; 2,244 sq. ft.; 1.34 acres
$16,457 estimated taxes
Bright, updated, and spacious home with with features including a wood-burning stove, four-season sunroom, and landscaped property complete with pond.
If you really love Scarsdale but consider the town too pricey, “why not hop across the Bronx River Parkway, live in Hartsdale and have the best of both worlds?” asks Realtor Melissa Colabella of Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International.
The towns are quite similar in terms of lifestyle and architecture, she explains, but Hartsdale is “a better buy.” Colabella cites a recent listing in the Manor Woods section as proof: “I just sold a lovely Tudor there for under $800,000 that would have easily gone for over $1 million in Scarsdale or Bronxville,” she says.
There are affordable properties near Hartsdale Avenue and the train station, which constitutes the downtown area. Offering a somewhat urban feel, this vibe is exactly what many suburbanites want today. “You walk outside, and everything you need is just steps away — the train station, trendy bars, restaurants, cafés, and shops — it’s almost like living in a city,” Colabella says.
With many attractive options under the $1 million mark, buyers can snatch up “a Cape Cod or split-level for about half a million.” And there aren’t many places in Southern or Central Westchester where that’s possible, she adds.
Full disclosure: Contributing factors to the price point include schools that aren’t as highly rated as others close by and minimal lot sizes. “You’re lucky to have more than half an acre; you are going to see your neighbors,” Colabella points out, which actually suits many buyers transitioning from Manhattan and Brooklyn just fine. “They are primarily looking for a fast, seamless commute (about 35 minutes) and low maintenance landscaping,” she explains.
On the Market
17 Findlay Ave, Hartsdale
4 BR, 3 BA; 1,880 sq. ft.; .15 acres
$20,923 estimated taxes
This Manor Woods Tudor offers a mix of cozy spaces and modern updates, including new windows and kitchen appliances, plus a short walk to town.
More is Less
“A lot of the homes in Yorktown Heights, if you picked them up and put them in Southern Westchester, would cost $100,000 to $200,000 more,” says Maureen Connolly, real estate broker with Coldwell Banker. That fact lures many buyers up to this laid-back and leafy town in Northern Westchester. “If you’re looking for value, Yorktown Heights has it,” adds Joanne Rizoulis of Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International, who notes that the majority of homes sold here last year were between $350,000 and $650,000, with a median price of $500,000. “That’s not an insignificant amount of money, but it is affordable for many people who are thinking of moving to Westchester,” she says.
That said, buyers don’t seem to be reaching for the biggest, most expensive house they can afford. McMansions are out, Connolly says, along with labor-intensive fixer-uppers. Instead, buyers are seeking well-maintained, move-in-ready homes that have been staged, with reasonable price tags, which will leave them with a fair amount of disposable income to “take their vacations and to live active lifestyles.”
While many of the houses in Yorktown Heights are traditional four-bedroom Colonials (roomier and farther apart than in more pricey sections of Westchester), there are also homes dating back to the 1700s. The inventory is diverse, says Rizoulis.
By no means simply a bedroom community, Yorktown Heights does have its fair share of commuters who drive to the nearby train stations in Katonah, Croton-on-Hudson, or even Mount Kisco. (Yorktown does not have its own Metro-North station.) That inconvenience is somewhat offset by a commercial center in the heart of town, which offers a Lowes Home Improvement store anchoring a new shopping complex, a CVS, health and tennis clubs, a TJ Maxx, fast food, and a number of grocery stores, including Turco’s, a large gourmet market.
Outside of town, the setting turns bucolic almost immediately, with several parks, nature preserves, reservoirs, farms, and orchards to be enjoyed just moments away.
On the Market
3111 High Ridge Rd, Yorktown Heights
4 BR, 2.1 BA; 2,584 sq. ft.; .27 acres
$20,325 estimated taxes
Located in the Bridle Ridge community, this spacious home offers a two-story foyer, living room with cathedral ceilings, gourmet kitchen, family room with fireplace, and large deck.
Central and Unpretentious
Applying the Westchester-real-estate theory of relativity brings many buyers to Thornwood and Hawthorne. Both part of the town of Mount Pleasant, these spots offer tax rates lower than the Rivertowns to the west and tonier villages to the south — which allow residents to keep the cost of living down, according to resident and Houlihan Lawrence Realtor Deborah Valentino.
For example, a cute little house in Thornwood on .28 acres, recently listed at $549,000, has taxes around $12,000 a year, while the average annual property-tax bill in Westchester last year was about $17,400, with many residents paying much, much more.
As for prices in general, Valentino points out that 24 of the 57 houses on the market (in July) in the area of Thornwood and Hawthorne were listed for less than $700,000. Of course, price isn’t the whole story. Exactly what does this money buy? The average selling price of about $690,000 typically affords buyers a four-bedroom, two-bath house of about 2,300 square feet on roughly half an acre of land. “Here, you can definitely expect a decent yard,” Valentino cites. As for architectural style, Thornwood and Hawthorne offer a mixed bag, with “lots of character.” Buyers will see Cape Cods, split-levels, and high ranches, as well as older homes (late 1800s to early 1900s) — some with sought-after wraparound porches.
And while Hawthorne and Thornwood (recently labeled “unpretentious” by The New York Times) might not make any “trendiest towns” list, the area boasts a peaceful, residential feel, despite its convenient proximity to White Plains and the rest of Central Westchester, says Valentino. Those who commute to Manhattan can expect a roughly 50-minute ride to Grand Central from the Hawthorne station.
The Sprain Brook, Bronx River, and Saw Mill Parkways are easily accessible, as well. Regarding utilities, town water and sewer are supplied to most residents here. Residents enjoy a number of shopping centers and town parks, including a community center with a large and popular town pool. “I love Mount Pleasant,” sums up Valentino, a 13-year-resident of Hawthorne. “It’s a pocket that is centrally located in the county that still has affordable taxes and easy access to NYC.”
On the Market
63 Amsterdam Ave, Hawthorne
4 BR, 2 BA; 2,276 sq. ft.; .12 acres
$14,241 estimated taxes
Colonial touches, like crown molding, original baseboards, and windowed conservatory meet modern updates like radiant heat and new windows, roof, and electric in this centrally located property.
Take Me to the River
According to Compass real estate agent Francie Malina, “Ninety-nine percent of our buyers, no matter how hard we push, will not go north of Route 287,” she says with a laugh. “They want Southern Westchester for ease of commute.” And it’s no secret that buyers are going to pay for the convenience of shorter commutes. But, if you’re looking for a good deal in the lower, more costly half of Westchester, “Hastings-on-Hudson is one of the places where you’ll get a good house for the price,” Malina explains. “You’re going to do much better here than, say, in Rye.”
She is quick to add that Westchester’s Hudson-adjacent towns aren’t strictly for the budget-conscious but instead offer a lifestyle unique to this section of the county: a little more artsy and low-key, with an emphasis on education and outdoor activities enjoying the magnificent view. And yes, for those waiting for the ‘H’ word to drop… the Rivertowns have been branded as “hip,” dotted with wine bars, funky boutiques, coffee shops, and understated-but-stylish farm-to-table restaurants, some that appear “plucked straight out of Brooklyn,” Malina says. As for deals, homes priced under $1 million are hot, and Malina notes, “most Gen-Xers and Millennials are looking in that price range.”
She advises bargain-hunting Rivertown buyers to expand their search to include nearby Dobbs Ferry and Irvington, and to “take the best house in any one of three.” For about $750,000, buyers in this area can expect a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half- or two-bath home on a quarter-acre or less. Some smaller options in the $600,000s are to be had, as well. Relatively low inventory is a given here, based on the limited size of the area.
“We are tiny: We sell about 80 houses a year per school district. That’s not a lot of homes,” compared with other Westchester markets, Malina says. This distinction, as savvy house hunters may have already guessed, contributes to one of the county’s higher tax rates. Each Rivertown has its own school district — Hastings-on-Hudson School has about 140 students per grade, which translates into residents paying higher taxes per capita, Malina explains.
This added expense, while frustrating to some buyers, undoubtedly works to suppress house prices in Hastings-on-Hudson overall, Malina points out, keeping the market competitive with other sections of Westchester. And in the good news/bad news department: Recent tax-code changes limiting property-tax deductions to $10,000 have perhaps slowed sales in the Rivertowns market even more than the rest of the county, causing some prices to drop. This, Malina points out, actually makes it a decent time to buy here.
On the Market
22 Nepperhan Ave Hastings-on-Hudson
3 BR, 1.1 BA; 1,316 sq. ft.; .12 acres
$19,489 estimated taxes
This Tudor home features historic details, like wood beams, embellished arch doorways, and stone fireplace. Outside are multiple patios and a brook.
Rye Neck (Mamaroneck)
So, you want to live on the Sound Shore but think living near the water is cost-prohibitive? With a bit of luck and some local knowledge, buyers can jump in for a relatively reasonable price point, says Coldwell Banker Realtor John Hofstetter, a native son and current resident of Mamaroneck.
Navigating neighborhoods is key, he explains, as relatively affordable pockets exist near areas dotted with large homes. He thinks there are values in the Rye Neck section of town — a lovely little enclave, with its own school district, that straddles the village of Mamaroneck and the southwest section of Rye. (For comparison, the nearby Rye Central School District serves more than twice as many students as does the Rye Neck system, though both are quite well-regarded.)
In Old Rye Neck, which is closer to town, houses are well-cared for but “somewhat small and close together,” says Hofstetter, explaining the lower price points, which generally start in the low $600,000s. (If just slightly larger, these houses would be well over $1 million, given their prime location, he adds.)
Well-suited to young families, these more compact properties (read: lots under .2 acres) are not a compromise for buyers today, Hofstetter is quick to add. First, smaller properties mean less work to maintain and, perhaps most importantly, lower property taxes. Add in walkability to town, train, and schools, a reasonable commute on the New Haven line (35 to 45 minutes, local or express), and Rye Neck seems even more of a steal.
And there’s more: “Mamaroneck offers diversity — demographic, ethnic, and housing,” Hofstetter says, “as well as access to the beach [the 44-acre park on Harbor Island is a huge draw] — it’s just a rare gem.”
On the Market
1310 Henry Ave, Mamaroneck
2 BR, 2 BA; 1,180 sq. ft.; .13 acres
$13,995 estimated taxes
This well-located Dutch Colonial offers a rocking-chair porch, newly finished dark-wood floors, large eat-in kitchen, and updated baths.
Where the Deals Are
We searched high and low for towns and neighborhoods throughout Westchester that offer homebuyers good bang for the buck. Whether a home search takes place in the North, Central, South, Rivertown, or Sound Shore area of the county, there are surprising deals to be found.
Population: Most recent data provided by factfinder.census.gov; Median Household Income based on 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates from factfinder.census.gov; Median Home Sale Price: Houlihan Lawrence; Estimated Average Property Taxes: calculated by Westchester Magazine based on effective tax rates from Westchester County Tax Commission; # of Houses Sold, Average # of Days on Market: Houlihan Lawrence; Property and Violent Crime Rate: most recent data from www.bestplaces.net; Average Train Commute to Grand Central and Train Stations: Metropolitan Transit Authority; Main School District and Public High Schools: www.trulia.com. *Bedford’s population represents Bedford town.
**Scarsdale median household income sourced from www.datausa.io.
*** To calculate the estimated property taxes for villages, the overall effective tax rate for the village was used (the non-village area was not included). If the village is served by multiple school districts, the tax rates were averaged. To calculate estimated property taxes for towns, the rate (averaged if more than one municipality) of the non-village area is used.
****Property crime, on a scale from 1 (low crime) to 100 (high crime). Offenses include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The US average is 35.4.
*****Violent crime, on a scale from 1 (low crime) to 100 (high crime). Composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The US average is 22.7.