Queens Luxury Real Estate Market Picking Up Steam

By Nigel Chiwaya on October 18, 2012 1:52pm 

QUEENS — It's not quite Park Avenue, but a new report shows that the Queens luxury real estate market is heating up.

High-end homes in the borough sold at a faster rate and at higher prices during the summer compared to the spring, according to a report compiled by Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers for Prudential Douglas Elliman.

And Northwest Queens, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside, saw 40 percent of the borough's 250 sales, while pricey homes in Rockaways saw their values soar to a median price of nearly $800,000.

Prices for luxury homes — defined in the report as the top 10 percent of condo, co-op, and one- to three-family homes — increased 8.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012, reaching a median price of $852,500, up from $825,000 in the quarter before.

Sales prices at the top end of the category are also up, reaching a median price of $1.36 million.

While that's no match for Manhattan market, where luxury homes sold for a median price of over $4 million during the third quarter, the Queens luxury market's strong performance has brought median prices closer to pre-recession levels.

"Mathematically we’re still below, but we're getting close," said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel. "I’d describe Queens up until a year ago as holding on by its fingernails. That’s transitioned into stabilization in 2012."

In the first quarter of 2009, considered the low point in the market, luxury homes were selling for $814,600.

According to real estate insiders, the bump in sales was spurred by growing economic confidence, which allowed potential luxury buyers to finally take a chance on acquiring property.

"I think what we’re seeing is the release of pent up demand," said Michael Guerra, a vice president at Elliman. "What happened in 2008 was those who had means to buy chose to stay still while they figured out if [what] we were in was global economic Armageddon or something else.

"I think we got to a point in 2012 where there was enough confidence for people to begin saying: 'I'm no longer waiting, now I'm going to make my move.'"

Northwest Queens, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside, saw the biggest jump, as it accounted for 40 percent of the borough's luxury sales during the quarter. Guerra attributed the surge to the area's proximity to Manhattan, and the high number of new construction projects.

"In Long Island City there's enormous inventory that has been delivered by developers, with more on the way," said Guerra. "Astoria is also desirable. It has all of the local amenities of an established neighborhood, like restaurants and cafes."

It is hard to pin down who exactly is buying the homes, Guerra said, because Queens is so diverse.

"Queens is a patchwork quilt of buyers," Guerra said. "There's an awful lot of foreign or immigrant money in, but there's also local Queens commerce that has generated enough income for people to buy."

The Rockaway region, which includes Howard Beach and Broad Channel, saw the median price of its most expensive homes jump by 13 percent in the third quarter, coming in at $795,000.

"It’s a reinvention of a neighborhood," said Guerra. "It's a neighborhood that was dominated by seasonal bungalows and as those waned in popularity there was the development of public housing that cast a pall over that market. Now is the reemergence of that market. What is driving that re-creation is proximity to waterfront."

The news comes just months after a report showing that the median price for all homes sold in the Rockaways during the second quarter jumped to $386,994 from $342,500 the year before.

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