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A Seller’s Market

By Kate C. Patchett - September 10, 2020

Throughout the course of the pandemic, the North Fork real estate market saw a swell of interest early in the season with buyers and renters looking to escape the confines of urban areas for open space. There was a sharp increase in demand with inventory moving quickly. Changing protocols for doing business impacted how realtors were able to show properties, the process of buying and renting, what consumers are now looking for, and the accelerated movement within the market all presented a new set of challenges to navigate.
Realtors have noted a shift in cultural values that are being reflected in the real estate market, with properties featuring separate living spaces being in high demand. The home office is one of the most essential spaces. “Extra space for working and living is the biggest feature buyers are looking for,” shares The Corcoran Group licensed real estate broker Sheri Winter Parker (SWP). “The home office has become increasingly important and even the seemingly smallest aspect like a strong WiFi connection in the area is a must.”
For families, dedicated spaces for virtual learning have been a factor as well. “With the expectations of working from home and less students physically in school, buyers currently want the extra space that they were not willing to pay for nine months ago,” notes Thomas McCloskey, Douglas Elliman Real Estate licensed associate real estate broker. Room for a pool or tennis, if not already in place, is on many buyers’ wish lists. The family compound is another sought after type of property.
Because of the high demand and shrinking inventory, and the consumer’s need to be in place quickly, properties are selling at or above asking price if they’re turnkey. Some realtors have also noted transactions are being completed at a much faster pace. “Many buyers have been caught in bidding wars with homes selling (or renting) at over asking price and transactions being completed in a matter of hours versus a more traditional market where the inventory is absorbed over a period of weeks,” says Nicholas Planamento, Town & Country licensed associate real estate broker. Even homes in need of renovation are moving, whereas in recent years move-in ready properties were more sought after.
It has been quite the shift. As the fall season approaches, North Fork real estate agents anticipate the market will keep trending in this direction. Autumn lends itself well to the appeal of the East End, especially during a pandemic where social distancing will continue to be a high priority. Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty real estate salesperson Jon Tomlinson doesn’t foresee much change in how the season will be enjoyed. “Autumn on the North Fork has always been about spending time outdoors whether it’s been apple and pumpkin picking or wine tasting,” he explains.
The North Fork has grown in recent years to become more of a year-round destination, though it still very much attracts the tourism populations. If these trends continue as the uncertainty of the pandemic still looms, there is a chance this growth will continue as well. Agents now share their thoughts on the current real estate market.

NFRES: Where do you see the market heading for the rest of 2020?
SWP: I see the market continuing to rise for the rest of 2020. There is no current end in sight with demand being extremely high. I can see the demand being even stronger in the fall and winter, for both rentals and sales.

NFRES: In what price range is inventory scarcest right now?
SWP: The under $2 million range is very tight right now, with the hottest segment being under $1 million. Though scarce, there still are properties available. 575 Ackerly Pond Lane in Southold and 55915 County Road 48 in Greenport in both of those segments have had a lot of interest. There are absolutely still buyers in the over $2 million range as well. The demand is across all price points.

NFRES: What fall North Fork activities do you think will be most popular this year?
TM: Generally speaking, anything that people can do outdoors. I expect boaters, sailors and fishermen will have an extended season this year as these activities are great family outings and still conform to social distancing guidelines. New and used boat sales on the North Fork were very strong this year, and these new boaters will likely want to max out the season. The vineyards and other agri-tourism businesses will be as full as they legally can be under the new guidelines due to COVID-19.

NFRES: In what price range is inventory scarcest right now?
TM: We need to at least double our inventory below $600k to meet current demand. There are numerous buyers ready to go and almost nothing on the market to show them. They will have to be pre-approved for a mortgage and willing to act fast to purchase a good property.

NFRES: What amenities/features are buyers most interested in right now?
NP: Consumers are seeking move-in ready amenities — immaculate homes often with the furnishings negotiated as part of the purchase transaction. Top questions include where a pool or tennis can be placed (and how difficult it is to achieve permits) along with people expressing interest in school districts and other community amenities such as beach passes and parking.

NFRES: Where do you see the market heading for the rest of 2020?
NP: All signs indicate that the market will remain in the seller’s favor. I project that values will remain high — perhaps in some cases too high — as sellers and landlords are eager for a deal in their favor. It’s my hope values will continue their upward trend, as consumers continue to work remotely.

NFRES: What changes have you seen in the market throughout the course of the pandemic?
JT: The rental season started much earlier than usual beginning in April, through May and through the summer. After the rental fervor, I began to get people from the city who had been long thinking about buying on the North Fork deciding to pull the trigger to purchase. They either wanted to leave the city all together or have a backup place to live if there was a recurrence of the pandemic.

NFRES: What amenities/features are buyers most interested in right now?
JT: Easy: either a pool or room for a pool, enough land to create a family compound, and room for an office in case they needed to work remotely.

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