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Most Affordable Neighborhoods for First Time Home-Buyers in the City

By Amy Zimmer | January 25, 2016 7:55am
 Living room at 76-12 35th Avenue.
Living room at 76-12 35th Avenue.
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Brown Harris Stevens

QUEENS — Many first-time buyers dip their toes into the market with “starter apartments” — one-bedrooms or studios — and then “trade up” as they get more purchasing power and need more space.

But some families looking to make the jump from renting to owning need bigger units right off the bat.

So what neighborhoods should they be looking in?

They’ll have the best odds in South Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay and Eastern Queens’ Forest Hills, according to a new report from StreetEasy.


The real estate search engine calculated that a “typical” first-time buyer could afford a home priced up to $524,050 and then scoured which neighborhoods had the most listings in the past year in that price range.

Sheepshead Bay had more than 300 two-bedroom homes last year that were under $524,050; Forest Hills came in second with 169.

Other neighborhoods that had a significant number of two-bedrooms that met the threshold included Jackson Heights, Central Harlem, Carnarsie and Rego Park, StreetEasy found.

Riverdale in the Bronx had the most units overall, from studios to two-bedrooms, that were affordable to the typical first-time buyer.

Bay Ridge, in South Brooklyn, and Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, also made the list.

“To find the home that fits a lower budget, first-time buyers should open up their search to large neighborhoods with plenty of inventory like Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and Forest Hills in Queens,” StreetEasy data scientist Alan Lightfeldt wrote in a blog post about the study.

“Although these areas of the city require a slightly longer train commute to Manhattan," he said, "they are a far more friendly territory for those seeking starter homes.”

(StreetEasy’s analysis assumes that most first-time buyers were in the 31- to 35-year-old range, since this group has the largest increase in home ownership. The report then used Census data that showed the median annual household income for these individuals in New York City was $66,738.)

Lightfeldt, who will be participating in StreetEasy’s free seminar for first time buyers Feb. 6, also suggested that house hunters on a budget concentrate their searches on co-ops rather than condos, since co-ops tend to be less expensive. Even in Manhattan, the discrepancy was evident: The median recorded sales price in 2015 for co-ops was $675,000, while it was $1.8 million for condos.

Many brokers said they’ve seen a rise in first-time buyers looking in these neighborhoods as house hunters have become more “price conscious.”

Even though their commutes to Manhattan may be longer than some trendier and pricier areas, "they have a lot of new development or tight-knit communities that [buyers] find appealing,” said Doug Perlson, of online brokerage Real Direct.

And these areas, while still relatively affordable compared to others in the city, are also seeing price jumps.

In South Brooklyn, for instance, the median sales price in the fourth quarter of 2015 was $570,000, representing a nearly 30 percent increase, according to a Douglas Elliman report.

But Lightfeldt looked on the brighter side.

While a budget of $524,050 may seem low amid all the record sales prices in the city, there were homes priced at or below that amount in nearly every neighborhood across the borough in 2015. Of those roughly 13,500 listings, the greatest numbers were in Brooklyn (nearly 30 percent), followed by Manhattan and Queens at roughly 23 percent.

Streeteasy compiled a map to help you find the neighborhoods with the greatest — or least — inventory of affordable homes for first-time buyers.