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Jamaica Will Be Hot Among First-Time Homebuyers, Experts Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 29, 2014 7:31am | Updated on January 2, 2015 5:15pm
 The median sale price in Jamaica in 2014 was 27 percent lower than the median sale price in Queens.
Jamaica Attracts First-time Homebuyers With Affordable Prices
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QUEENS — Padmini Bisnauth, 48, a single mother of three children, was forced out of her Jamaica apartment earlier this year after 14 years because her landlord needed it for his family.

She decided then it was time to buy her first home, and to buy it in Jamaica.

“Many people are moving in [to the area] and they are making it brighter,” said Bisnauth, a real estate agent at Exit Kingdom Realty. “The value [of homes] goes up so it’s a good investment for me."

In July, she bought a single-family detached home on 148th Street, near 116th Street, for $330,000, she said. Renting a new apartment would cost nearly as much as her $2,300 monthly mortgage payment.

Bisnauth is among a growing group of first-time homebuyers looking in Jamaica, because it offers more affordable prices than other parts of the city.

StreetEasy, a real estate website that tracks home prices in the city, projected Jamaica to be one of the five “hottest” neighborhoods in the city among renters and buyers next year.

“Its median sale price in 2014 was nearly 27 percent below that of Queens, making it a particularly attractive market for first-time homebuyers,” said Alan Lightfeldt, data scientist at StreetEasy.

The median sale price in Queens in 2014 was $400,515, according to StreetEasy. In Jamaica, it was $292,662.

“So much of inventory in Manhattan and Brooklyn is priced well above that,” Lightfeldt said, adding that the median sale price in Manhattan in 2014 was roughly $800,000.

Bisnauth said for a similar house in Richmond Hill she would have to pay at least $375,000. In Forest Hills, the cost would have been at least $600,000.

Vincent Koo of Exit Kingdom Realty said a large number of Jamaica homeowners were forced into foreclosure or had to sell their properties at a significant loss.

Many of those houses, Koo said, were later purchased by investors, who renovated them and put them back on the market.

“They would buy [homes] at a discount, they would spend money on improving the property and now what you have is a neighborhood full of renovated homes for these first-time homebuyers,” Koo said.

Bisnauth said her house, which features three bedrooms, a living room and dining area, an attic and basement, as well as a back porch, was also fully renovated when she bought it.

Isa Abdur-Rahman, a Jamaica-based real estate attorney, said Southeast Queens also attracts buyers who might be drawn to Long Island but are enticed by the city's lower real estate taxes.

In Jamaica, he said, taxes for a single-family home average about $3,000 a year — a third of what one would pay on Long Island.

Abdur-Rahman said he believes that next year, home-seekers interested in Jamaica will focus mainly on homes near the subway lines, particularly along the F line, which also serves Jamaica Estates and Hollis.

“Its close proximity to four New York subway lines as well as the Long Island Rail Road … makes it accessible to job centers in New York and Long Island,” Lightfeldt said.

In recent years, Jamaica has been undergoing numerous changes. Following the opening of JFK’s AirTrain in 2003 and the area's 2007 rezoning, new housing developments and hotels have started to pop up around the neighborhood.

But there are still negative perceptions about crime, experts say. But NYPD statistics show overall crime continues to decrease in Jamaica. 

Abdur-Rahman said he believes Jamaica will follow the trend set by Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Those neighborhoods, he said, had also struggled with similarly unfavorable perceptions, but “have [recently] exploded in terms of popularity."