Twenty-five-year-old Stephanie Constantinou wanted her first home purchase to be in Astoria, Queens, where she was born and raised. “My radius was about 10 miles from my parents’ home,” she says of her search for a condo. “But while looking in Astoria, I realized the prices for real estate were more than I could afford as a single person.”
Once a Manhattan commuter who now travels for work, Constantinou decided to go north with her search for a building to call home, looking in the Bronx and then in Westchester towns such as Bronxville, Tuckahoe, and White Plains. There were many factors to consider: cost, transportation, amenities, and pet-friendliness.
“I am a huge animal lover and I did not want the restrictions of not being able to bring my dog, which I adopted four years ago,” she says. She researched a lot of places before finding a pet-friendly listing at the Riverview Club in Yonkers. In March, Constantinou moved into her condo at the Riverview, a 262-unit building on the Hudson River with condos ranging from $185,000 to $475,000. She chose the building in part because of the security, parking, neighborhood, and nightlife, as well as the five-minute walk to the train station, which she calls “huge” since she visits Manhattan frequently.
Constantinou is like many Westchesterites who opt to buy condos or co-ops, or rent apartments, rather than dive into a single-family home purchase. Luckily for them, the county has a diverse menu of housing options in the condo/co-op/rental category.
The Halstead New Rochelle Metro-North
Catering to Commuters
There is plenty of “product,” in real-estate-speak, for both condo and co-op buyers and apartment renters today in Westchester—a good portion of which is popping up in the form of luxury developments down county. With short train rides to Manhattan and cheaper living costs than can be found in New York City, urban areas such as Yonkers, White Plains, and New Rochelle are popular sites. These locales give young professionals a microcosm of the City lifestyle, with restaurants, shopping, and nightlife—but at a more affordable cost.
“There’s a fundamental housing shortage in New York City, so we’ve been bringing luxury product onto the market in satellite locations like Yonkers and New Rochelle,” says Arthur Collins, president of Stamford-based real estate development firm Collins Enterprises. Collins Enterprises’ Westchester projects include three high-end rental properties on the Yonkers waterfront: Hudson Park South, with 266 units; 294-unit Hudson Park North; and the third phase of its Hudson Park project, which is finishing up now and will house 180 to 200 units. One- and two-bedroom apartments in the Hudson Park properties rent for $1,950 to $3,600 per month. Collins Enterprises also developed a rental apartment complex in Bronxville that is part of the popular Avalon chain, which also has locations in Mamaroneck, Ossining, and White Plains. Rent prices in those apartments range from about $1,800 per month for a one-bedroom in Ossining to upwards of $4,000 per month for a three-bedroom in White Plains.
The renters descending on the Hudson Park buildings, Collins says, have been “a transitional group, between Millennials and Boomers, they maybe just got married or just bought a car and they’re moving from a smaller, more expensive location to a place like Yonkers or Bronxville or White Plains, where they can get a little bit of elbow room and park their car.”
Hudson Park in Yonkers attract young professionals seeking an urban experience
Many young professionals “enjoy the 24/7 lifestyle, yet at rents that are less than half what you see in New York City,” adds Joshua Solomon, president and chief investment officer of The DSF Group, a private real estate investment firm with offices in Washington, DC, and Boston, whose two Halstead rental buildings, situated in White Plains and New Rochelle, are attracting “folks anywhere from 25 to 40…they’re looking for a luxury alternative to Manhattan.”
Millennials and downsizers are also flocking to Westchester’s urban centers. “The millennial generation is just starting to come into the rental market,” Collins says. “They are often looking for smaller, efficient units: one-bedrooms, or one-bedroom dens. They’re also looking for a lot of amenities that they consider to be standard, like swimming pools and exercise areas, as well as WiFi and exhibition kitchens.”
The allure of amenities and service, as well as an easing of the tax burden, has also been a draw for downsizers. “These buyers come from places like Hastings, Scarsdale, and Irvington, so their taxes have been anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000,” says Staci Zampa, co-director of sales at the Riverview Club. “Now, their taxes are $5,000 or less.”
The ability to customize units is a big factor for many of these buyers, she adds, pointing to one buyer with 10,000 albums, who needed a special room just to house the discs. Riverview also offers buyers the ability to combine units—which Zampa says has been attractive to those who are looking to downsize, but don’t want to squeeze into a tiny unit: “We’ve sold about 10 or so of these downsizer combination units. It can give you about 1,800 square feet of living space, with a washer and dryer in the unit,” she says.
Supply for The Suburbs
Of course, not all of those who shun a single-family home want to live in a Southern Westchester downtown district. What’s available for the condo, co-op, or rental seekers who prefer a more bucolic environment?
Many buyers in the northern suburbs are factoring in the good schools and leisure activities that the area is known for. Heritage Hills, a Somers condominium complex with more than 2,500 units as well as a 27-hole golf course, community pools, and fitness features for the family, has long been a popular choice.
New luxury developments are not limited to the down-county cities, either. There are smaller properties, such as Laurel Ridge Townhomes, a 46-unit condominium complex in South Salem, which is nearing completion on the first of three construction phases. The development will include units with two bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, attached two-car garages, and gourmet kitchens. Its two models, 1,568 square feet and 1,952 square feet, start at $429,000 and $520,000, respectively.
Two other Northern areas with a wealth of well-appointed condo, co-op, and rental options are Peekskill (the Chapel Hill, Riverbend, and Society Hill condo developments are popular) and the Ossining area, where places like Scarborough Manor, a co-op community near the waterfront, have seen strong demand.
Ossining is also the site of the newly completed, amenity-laden Avalon Ossining complex, where rent for a one-bedroom starts at about $1,000 per month. The town will also soon be home to Harbor Square, a 188-unit, luxury rental complex on the Hudson River that is projected to open in 2016.
A quick drive up Route 9 takes you to Half Moon Bay, a 158-unit condo development in Croton-on-Hudson with a 173-boat marina. Recent listings there range from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit for $339,000, to a three-bedroom, four-bathroom unit for $749,000, but prices vary based on proximity to water and other factors.
So, whether looking for a condo, co-op, or rental abode, Zampa’s description of her customized Yonkers building—“there’s no typical unit”—seems to be representative of the entire market. There are dwellings for Westchesterites of all walks of life, with an abundance of options to pick from.