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New York’s Real Estate Market Pulls in Opposite Directions Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

To buy or not to buy, that is the question.

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New York’s real estate market has proven to be notoriously difficult to predict, yoyoing about even without a global pandemic. But as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc, buyers and sellers in the Big Apple are trying to work out the wisest move to make.

It appears that prospective buyers are separating into two camps: those who are steering clear of the market, fearing contagion at viewings and/or stock market uncertainty, and people who are seizing the opportunity to nab property while mortgage rates nosedive.

Brian Meier, a broker with Christie’s International Real Estate in Manhattan, has seen the split among his own clients. Meir told Bloomberg five would-be buyers canceled their appointments to look at properties this week, while two sellers withdrew their listings because they didn’t want the public walking through their homes. Others are backing out of purchases entirely after seeing the stock market plummet.

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On the flip side, the subsection of New Yorkers with real estate FOMO are digging in, as borrowing costs head toward historic lows and put otherwise prohibitive properties well within reach. Case in point: one renter who, after browsing three-bedroom condos for a year, made a rash offer on a property last Sunday. The seller, perhaps more motivated to sell amid an uncertain market, accepted his bid on Tuesday, Meier said.

Perhaps those with one foot in each camp may have found the most advantageous solution. While open house attendance has dropped to the lowest rate this year, according to an index compiled by Fritz Frigan, the traffic to Meier’s online listings is 50 percent higher than usual. For the time being, people are more comfortable perusing properties online and scheduling private showings than attending a crowded condo viewing.

So, when we expect things to get back to normal?

Melissa Leifer, a broker with Keller Williams Realty, believes once the crisis subsides the rates with level out. “Once it’s over, then everything will start stabilizing again,” Leifer told Bloomberg. “Then the rates will start to creep back up and everybody’s going to say, ‘I should have bought that apartment when I got a 2.8 percent rate, and now I’m at 4 percent.’”

If nothing else seems “normal” these days, that feeling certainly does.

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