Hoboken Is a Hit With NYC-Area Homebuyers Shut Out of Suburbs
(Bloomberg) -- Early in the pandemic, it wasn’t easy selling homes in Hoboken. Now the county that includes the packed city across the Hudson River from Manhattan is beating every other part of New Jersey.
This year through mid-September, purchase contracts in Hudson County -- also home to Weehawken and Jersey City -- jumped 35% from the same period in 2020, according to data from Otteau Valuation Group. Deals statewide were up just 1%, a slowdown driven by sky-high pricing for limited inventory.
Buyers are turning to the county’s urban waterfront communities -- a short train, bus or ferry commute to New York -- after sales markets in the nearby suburbs have been picked clean of anything affordable. The pandemic-driven frenzy to find a house far from the city, with a backyard and extra space for remote school and work, has given way to more-practical goals, like being close to in-person offices and avoiding brutal bidding wars.
“You kind of get discouraged in the suburbs,” said Kash Vaidya, a sales agent for Redfin in Jersey City. “There’s really not many options and the houses still need work.”
He has first-hand experience: Last year Vaidya and his wife, expecting their first child, mounted a search for the biggest single-family abode they could afford, knowing they’d soon outgrow their one-bedroom apartment in downtown Jersey City. They got snared in 10-way battles for each house they bid on in suburban Passaic, Bergen and Essex counties, and walked away empty-handed -- even after offering 10% above the asking price for some properties that needed major renovations.
They turned back to Jersey City, where listings were more plentiful, and easily found a newly built three-bedroom condo in the Heights neighborhood, with private parking and outdoor space -- enough to accommodate their growing family.
In his professional life as a Hudson County real estate agent, Vaidya navigates bidding wars on behalf of his seller clients, who are quickly listing units to capture the sudden surge in demand.
“The pendulum swung so far off, that eventually it came back,” Vaidya said.
While home listings remain critically low across New Jersey, offerings in Hudson County -- largely condos, townhomes and multifamily dwellings -- are relatively robust.
At the current pace of deals, it would take 4.2 months to clear all the county’s sales inventory, Otteau data show. That’s still a sellers’ market, but it’s the highest measure for any county in New Jersey. Statewide, it would take only 2 months to find takers for all available listings.
‘Everyone Was Fleeing’
It was different in the spring of 2020, when Coldwell Banker Realty agent Jill Biggs had as many as 200 sales listings to show in Hoboken and Jersey City. The clients she had helped to buy those homes were all rushing to relocate to places where they didn’t have to be so close to neighbors.
“My phone rang and rang and rang, and it was all people who wanted to sell,” recalled Biggs, who specializes in the 3-mile stretch of urban high-rise communities along the river. “Everyone was fleeing. Every single person that was trapped with their kid in a two-bedroom decided this is not going to work.”
Now some of those who fled are coming back. They’re looking for pied-a-terres in Hoboken or Jersey City, to soften an arduous commute once they return to the office, she said. Others are regretting their hasty moves and seeking to buy again in their old neighborhoods.
“People who really never intended to move to the suburbs, went to the suburbs,” Biggs said. “Then remembered they were urban.”
New Yorkers are another source of Hudson County demand -- people who could afford to buy in places like Brooklyn but got priced out when that market roared back. Their odds are better in New Jersey, where prices are lower.
“These buyers from New York, they come to play,” said Tukeitha Sylvers, an agent with Provident Legacy Real Estate Services in Bayonne. “They’re coming with pre-approvals, they’re coming with 50% down payments, or all-cash offers.”
After toughing out 2020 in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan’s East Village, newlyweds Clay Kohut and Paola Bernal were ready for an upgrade, and perhaps a little outdoor space for their Australian shepherd, Una.
With a budget of $1.2 million, they searched from New York’s outer boroughs, to Connecticut, to the far reaches of New Jersey’s suburbs. They almost bid on a home in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, but it was too far for Bernal, an architect and lighting designer, to commute to the city a few days a week.
At about an hour each each way, “it would potentially be miserable,” said Kohut, whose job at a tech firm is permanently remote.
In January, they put in a successful $850,000 bid for a yet-to-be-built condo in Jersey City Heights with three bedrooms, private rooftop space, two parking spots and a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline. The couple, both 31, moved in this month and bought a car.
“We essentially jumped across the river and we got two extra bedrooms,” Bernal said.
The buyers gravitating to Hudson County have more measured expectations -- they aren’t insisting on super-sized homes the way they might have a year ago, according to Sylvers. In Bayonne, her specialty, properties spent a median of 15 days on the market this year through August, down from 31 days in the same period of 2020, Otteau data show.
“People are adapting to the situation,” Sylvers said. “Now the kids are back in school so it’s ‘OK what do I really need?’ A lot of people just want peace.”
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