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Home Prices in Forest Hills Surge Amid Bidding Wars, Experts Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | January 13, 2014 9:22am
 The prices are reaching new high in Forest Hills, experts say.
Forest Hills Real Estate
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QUEENS — Forest Hills has been a coveted neighborhood for decades, but real estate agents say prices for houses are now reaching record highs.

The surge in prices is being fueled in part by bidding wars among those priced out of Brooklyn and Manhattan and families looking to put down roots in a community with low crime, tree-lined streets and a wealth of transportation options.

In November, a single family Tudor home at 72 Tennis Place, in tony Forest Hills Gardens, sold for a record $4.3 million. The three-story home has seven bedrooms, five-and-a-half bathrooms and a backyard patio.

“The prices are the highest they’ve been,” said Susanna Hof, the owner and a broker at Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty, which specializes in the Forest Hills area.

“A few years ago, if you got anything over $3 million, it was unusual,” she said. “Now, for a spectacular large house, you can get up to $4 million.”

Forest Hills is known for its stability and great location, experts said.

“It’s 13 minutes from Manhattan by LIRR, 20 minutes by subway. We are midway between the two airports, LaGuardia and JFK. We are right at the hub of all highways — Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway and Jackie Robinson Parkway," said Hof.

"In terms of convenience, you can’t beat it.”

The area has many trees and little parks.

“And we have the West Side Tennis Club here, which is like having a country club,” Hof said.

Vincent Koo, a broker with Exit Kingdom Realty, said that a number of buyers settle on Forest Hills after being priced out of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Prices for townhomes rang in at more than $7 million in most areas of Manhattan at the end of last year, according to the latest Corcoran report. In leafy Brooklyn Heights, the average price tops $5 million, according to Corcoran.

For a townhouse in Forest Hills, house hunters can expect to pay about $800,000 and, for a detached house, about $1 million to $1.25 million, Hof said. 

Some also favor the area because, as opposed to up-and-coming areas in Brooklyn, Forest Hills has low crime, established schools, shopping districts and transportation options.

But since last summer, bidding wars in the area, where the inventory is limited, have become common and deals that involve a good portion of cash — sometimes as much as 50 percent, real estate agents said.

As a result, Hof said, homes sell at full asking price or above. She said she just sold a house on Tennis Place that was listed at $2,488,000. The house sold for about $2.5 million, she said.

Jacques Ambron of Madeleine Realty said he also noticed the trend in nearby Rego Park where he recently sold a three-bedroom co-op for $337,000, almost $20,000 more that the asking price.

Consumers in general feel more confident about the stability of the economy and are more willing to invest, experts said. The number of home sales in Queens skyrocketed by nearly 75 percent at the end of last year compared to the same period the year before, according to a report recently released by Douglas Elliman.

Single family homes offered for up to $1.5 million are the fastest sellers.

“If they are well-priced, houses are selling so quickly that they practically don’t even get on the market,” Hof said.

“Our sales people have clients lined up that are ready to bid on them and sometimes they are gone within 24 hours, before I even get them on the website,” she said.

Forest Hills Gardens, a private community known for its mansion-like homes and privately owned streets, is the priciest area in the neighborhood, experts say, followed by the adjacent Van Court community and the Cord-Meyer section, north of Queens Boulevard, Koo said.

Homes in the Gardens have attracted celebrities and elected officials and the area's famous residents have included Geraldine Ferraro, David Caruso and Jimmy Breslin.

For many customers, “what’s really hot is the area just outside the Gardens, which is little bit more affordable,” according to Ambron. In fact, homes on the outskirts of Forest Hills Gardens may be 30 to 40 percent cheaper.

Those looking for cheaper homes in the area should also check the area south of Metropolitan Avenue, experts said.

Three-bedroom co-ops are also very sought after in Forest Hills since a number of young families who want to live in the neighborhood may not be able to afford a house, but they need space for their children.

A large, 3-bedroom coop apartment can sell for $530,000 and up, according to Jacques Ambron.

Experts say that the 2008 financial meltdown did little to affect home prices in Forest Hills.

“Prices were going up at a very rapid rate up to 2007 and then it leveled off for a period of three years,” Hof said.

In some cases, experts said, asking prices went slightly down and prices of co-ops also dropped.

Overall, since the market rebounded, the average price for a property in Forest Hills has increased by 3-4 percent, experts say.

But prices in the Gardens vary wildly. “It’s possible to find a house in Forest Hills Gardens that’s $800,000 and it’s possible to find a house that’s $4 million,” Hof said.

When the Forest Hills Gardens community was built in 1908, it was an experiment in urban planning modeled after a traditional English village, Hof said. "The idea was to build a community that offered all price ranges," she said. "It isn’t just all big $3 million homes; there are also attached, semi-attached and average size detached houses."

JC Fann, who bought a single-family home on 77th Road, between Queens Boulevard and Austin Street, outside the Gardens, for about $900,000 last fall, said he was attracted to Forest Hills because the neighborhood is peaceful.

He said his wife, who plays piano, and his son, a violinist, have a better environment in which to practice, far from the "sound of sirens."

Fann, who operates a company producing plastic supplies, and moved to Forest Hills from the Upper West Side, said other factors he took into account included transportation, greenery and safety.

“It’s been a good neighborhood for so long,” Koo said. “It’s a steady investment.”