In New York bruised by the pandemic, the exodus has begun

The trauma of the pandemic has already pushed many New Yorkers to leave the city for good as quickly as possible, leaving many apartments empty and causing real estate prices to soar around the metropolis.

“I was not ready to leave,” recalls Nick Barnhorst when he sees each other again in February. At 41, in New York for 11 years, in love with the city, he was thinking of a move, but not for at least a year.

In the space of a few weeks, his wife became pregnant with her third child and the coronavirus ravaged New York. Suddenly, “it has become: we must get out of here as quickly as possible”.

Next week, Nick is expected to sign the deed of sale for a house in Mamaroneck, a wealthy town north of New York.

An employee in a protective suit in front of a market regulates the flow of customers, May 18, 2020 (AFP / Archives – Johannes EISELE)

“I had always imagined leaving would be heartbreaking,” said the native Californian, “but today I’m at the height of excitement.”

A weekend away with his parents-in-law in Massachusetts at the beginning of March, a friend of Nick’s was much more radical. He never returned to live in New York.

His wife eight months pregnant, he sold his apartment and bought in Bronxville, a town located immediately north of the Bronx neighborhood.

“Nothing that makes New York New York currently works,” says Nick, because theaters, bars, cinemas, concert halls, or museums have not reopened. “So it’s easier to leave her.”

At the John Kennedy Airport of New York, May 13, 2020 (AFP / Archives - Johannes EISELE)

At the John Kennedy Airport of New York, May 13, 2020 (AFP / Archives – Johannes EISELE)

In a bustling real estate market, which “leaves no room for negotiation”, Nick had to struggle to find the house he was looking for.

Around the popular town of Montclair, New Jersey, it’s no longer uncommon to see homes selling for more than 20% above the listed price, according to data from Richard Stanton, owner of Stanton Realtors. .

“I did not expect demand so strong,” said the real estate agent, who does not expect supply to catch up with demand for six months or even a year.

A resident of Darien, Connecticut, says, on condition of anonymity, he received several calls from potential buyers when his home was not for sale. “This is the first time this has happened to me,” he said.

– The telework factor –

A platform at Grand Central station in New York, June 8, 2020 (AFP / Archives - Angela Weiss)

A platform at Grand Central station in New York, June 8, 2020 (AFP / Archives – Angela Weiss)

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio often compare the current situation with that which followed 9/11, the city’s other great trauma, promising the same rebound.

But in terms of real estate, the repercussions of the attacks “were anecdotal”, tempers Richard Stanton.

“After September 11, the pride of New Yorkers rather made me want to move to New York,” says Dillon Kondor, guitarist who was then a teenager and lived in the suburbs of the metropolis.

He, who has worked on several Broadway musicals, also took the plunge in June and left New York for an apartment in Tarrytown, in the Hudson Valley.

For him, everything changed with one of the first beautiful days of spring, during a walk in Central Park, crowded, where masks were too rare for his liking.

On returning with his wife, “one of us said: we must leave this town”.

A taxi on Park Avenue, desert, April 27, 2020 (AFP / Archives - TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

A taxi on Park Avenue, desert, April 27, 2020 (AFP / Archives – TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

In New York, at the beginning of July, moving trucks abound during the day.

In lower Manhattan, more than 5% of apartments are vacant, unheard of in ten years that the real estate firm Miller Samuel has published these statistics.

More than September 11, Richard Stanton compares the current economic situation to the period 2003-2005, which saw a wave of New Yorkers pushed out by rising rents.

He also evokes the 1970s, marked by a degradation of public services and an increase in crime, which many of those who could afford it had fled.

But this time, besides the coronavirus effect, “there is a heavier trend linked to the fact that there will be more people working from home”, analyzes Richard Stanton. In many cases, “we will have a shorter week in the office”.

This movement could even bring down the real estate fever in New York and allow a new generation to settle in a city that would otherwise have been inaccessible to them, imagines the real estate agent.

At first, Dillon chose to rent, not to rule out, while waiting for Broadway to restart. But he finds it difficult to plan to return to New York. “There are so many unknowns that it seems hard to imagine.”

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