Single-family home sales have emerged as one of the few slow spots in the Westchester economy, although there are positive indicators in some segments of the market. “In 2018, we saw a leveling off in a softening market,” reports Heather Harrison, team leader for the Heather Harrison Team at Compass, a New York City-based real estate agency and growing player in the Westchester market. “Last year, we saw an an increase in inventory, and the number of transactions declined, with single-family home sales down about four percent. Then, inventory shrunk in Q4 so buyers realized that properties were selling.” She adds, “Scarsdale kindergarten enrollment was down about 20 percent in 2018, indicating not as many families were relocating from New York City.
“Many of the Millennials coming into the market have student-loan debt, and their entire outlook is different than people had 20 years ago.”
—Debbie Doern, Office Manager, Houlihan Lawrence
“It’s all cyclical,” observes Debbie Doern, Larchmont office manager for Houlihan Lawrence. “Prices were at an all-time high, so it’s only natural that the ebb and flow of prices will happen.” One major unknown, according to Doern, is the impact of changes in the property-tax deductibility. “The tax-law change has kept people on the sidelines as they wait to see how it impacts their tax bills in April.”
Doern says another difference is the mindset of first-time buyers. “Many of the Millennials coming into the market have student-loan debt, and their entire outlook is different than people had 20 years ago,” she says. “They are very value-conscious and tend to buy below their means. They don’t care about how big the property is, because they want to keep their expenses down, so they can enjoy their lifestyle.”
Some types of homes are selling briskly. “Multifamily homes throughout the county have continued to show strength, as there are many buyers chasing fewer top-notch properties,” according to Daniel Berger, broker/owner of RE/MAX Prestige Properties in White Plains. “There’s also a fast-paced market in the single-family $500,000 to $999,000 range.”
Gina Cipriani LaPlaca of Coldwell Banker agrees, adding, “The Rivertowns are selling really well, but the higher-priced market is a little bit slower no matter where you are. Anything under $1 million, though, goes very quickly.”
“Westchester real-estate prices also follow the stock market somewhat, so a prolonged sell-off could impact prices further,” Harrison observes. Regardless, she says, “I am very optimistic about 2019. Single-family home sales are pointing to be strong. Since the new year, relocation has picked up. So far, there has been tremendous activity, with buyers coming off the sidelines.”