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New Apartments in the Suburbs Attract New Yorkers


Some New Yorkers who have moved out of the city since the beginning of the pandemic headed to the suburbs, but not to a typical suburban life.

Instead of a house with a picket fence and a front yard, many urbanites have opted to rent in newly developed apartment buildings or to buy condominiums in denser, walkable suburban communities, where apartments tend to be bigger and offer more outdoor space than comparable units in the city. The increased traffic from city dwellers surprised developers at first, but it quickly became clear that many New Yorkers were hoping to secure what they felt would be a safer, short-term future outside the borders of the city.

“Back in April, the narrative of this outbound migration to the suburbs was anecdotal,” said James Fitzpatrick, division president for luxury home builder Toll Brothers. “But over the past three months, that’s now become real and measurable for us.”

Sales on single-family homes in the suburbs spiked when the pandemic began in March. Many families fled New York in search of temporary rental homes or permanent second homes where parents could work remotely, children could attend online classes and everyone could enjoy the summer with sufficient social distancing. New Yorkers who chose to leave the city for a new apartment or condominium, however, had different priorities, namely an affordable and active lifestyle — two things that a locked-down New York no longer offered.

“Affordability became paramount almost overnight,” said Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. “Covid-19 removed, in the short term, a lot of the things in New York that make it the reason to be there.”

Nowhere is this shift more visible than in the suburbs of northeastern New Jersey. Until the pandemic, Hudson County, which includes Hoboken and Jersey City, was the top-performing real estate market in the state, according to Jeffrey Otteau, president and founder of Otteau Group, a real estate analytics and appraisal firm. But demand for condos, a popular market in this part of New Jersey, dropped by 13 percent in August compared to the same period last year. The rental market there also suffered as people moved farther out into the state. Now, there are over 1,300 fewer occupied apartments in the area.

The rental market just beyond Hudson County, however, is a different story. Across the state’s 19 more suburban counties, new apartment complexes have popped up to take on demand.

Next door in Essex County, PEEK Properties is opening a 39-unit rental complex at 475 William Street in downtown East Orange. In the two weeks since launching the property’s leasing website, the developer has received over 50 inquiries from prospective tenants, with 60 percent of them coming from New York.

Suburban New Jersey isn’t the only area that has benefited from this urban flight. New buildings on Long Island, and in Westchester and Rockland Counties have also seen increased interest from New Yorkers.

Suburban condominiums like the Brownstones at Edge-on-Hudson in Sleepy Hollow have seen a boost in sales since June as well. Mr. Fitzpatrick of Toll Brothers said they have sold 46 of the 72 new townhomes to date, with about 65 percent of new residents coming from the five boroughs.

Straight east and situated on Long Island Sound in Stamford, Conn., Harbor Point — an 11-building, 3,400-unit development — has welcomed scores of New Yorkers to its newest tower, Allure, in the last few months. Since June, 188 new leases have been signed, according to Ted Ferrarone, co-president of the site’s developer, Building and Land Technology, and about 35 percent of the residents who moved into the building in June came from New York. Three more buildings are under construction in the development.

“The pandemic has turned into a real driver of demand,” he said. “Interest across all our properties slowed for about three weeks at first, but then traffic really ramped up.”

Erika Colon, a headhunter for Covid-19 nurses and the owner of her own recruiting agency, moved to Allure in May after seven years in a 400-square-foot East Village studio apartment. Without a proper desk to work from, she often made phone calls from her bed during the pandemic.

Ms. Colon, who is originally from Stamford, now lives in a one-bedroom, corner unit with ample space and a waterfront-facing balcony. She said she now has enough room to breathe and focus on work.

“Sometimes you have to do something to make sure you feel comfortable from a mental health standpoint,” she said. “New York will always be there. It’s just a train ride away.”

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