At a showing last Sunday, coronavirus guidelines were taped on the entrance to the yellow two-family house at 4 Ave. B in Locust Valley. Mary Stanco, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Laffey International Realty, was waiting inside with a mask on. There were Covid-19 disclosure forms on the kitchen counter.
“It’s a hot market, that’s for sure,” said Stanco, a company sales manager for Glen Cove who has been in the business since 2005. “Plus, Glen Cove is a hot area now, with all those buildings that are being built — condos, rentals. We’re getting people from all over.”
At an Inside LI panel presented by RichnerLive, Deirdre O’Connell, CEO of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International, explained that because of the pandemic, people are spending more time at home and, as a result, reassessing their lifestyles. For many who live in apartments in New York City, that means fleeing east to look for a home with more space.
“Housing isn’t just about a place to sleep anymore,” O’Connell said. “It’s a place to live, and then you add on the low interest rates and it makes doing it more affordable, no matter what the price point.”
Many Manhattan clients who own vacation homes in the Hamptons are also purchasing homes in Nassau County, said Anthony Piscopio, senior executive manager of sales for Douglas Elliman’s North Shore Region. “Some of them wanted to be in between Manhattan and the Hamptons,” he said, “so they’re purchasing here on the North Shore.”
Mishelle Berger Calo, an associate broker at Glen Key Realty in Glen Cove, said she hadn’t seen so many people move to Long Island from the city since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “But [that was] nothing like this,” she said. “We haven’t had bidding wars like this. Houses are just coming on and then they’re just gone the next day, with multiple offers in every price range.”
“Then you have the interest rates,” Berger Calo added. “People were getting locked in under 3 percent during the summertime, so the interest rates were at a low, low, low. I had a lot of first-time homebuyers that were coming out of the woodwork and just taking advantage of that.”
And Berger Calo, like O’Connell, has noted that people want more out of their homes now that they’re places of refuge, quarantine and often education for children learning remotely. “They want home offices,” she said. “They want pools. I just had someone put on the market an open floor plan.” It was hard for their children to learn remotely there, she said, adding, “They wanted something more traditional so that they can have separate rooms.”
Terry Sciubba, and owner/broker at Sherlock Homes Realty Corp., in Sea Cliff, said that many people are trading homes in the city for those on the North Shore because of the schools. “They don’t want to send their kids [to school] in the city, because they’re either doing virtual or going to school two days a week,” Sciubba said.
“People are leaving and moving around for different reasons,” Berger Calo said, “which created bidding wars, and our house market has gone up.”
Locust Valley resident Lucy Meola said that her family has owned the house at 4 Ave. B for 45 years. “My mom passed, and I’m already at this house [next door], so we wanted to sell this house to somebody else,” Meola said. “This is a beautiful neighborhood, and the neighbors are really nice, so I want somebody else to have the same experience.”
Selling a home right now can be difficult, said Meola, who is selling one for the first time. “I feel bad for Mary [Stanco] because she has to do things creatively,” she said, “but yeah, it is hard.”
Many agents are allowing no more than two people inside when showing a house. Masks are required, as is the signing of Covid-19 disclosure forms, which ask about symptoms and recent travel. At the height of the pandemic, in-person showings weren’t allowed, and houses were shown online.
“We had to completely reinvent everything, from daily operations — where we had to shut down our offices — to how we show the properties,” Piscopio said. “Everything became virtual: virtual open houses, virtual showings, guiding the person through a property live on video.”
Douglas Elliman had some success despite the restrictions, Piscopio said, but it wasn’t anything like business as usual. “It was a valiant effort by our agents and our management team and our clients to restructure how we present the properties,” he said. “It was difficult.”
Berger Calo said that she had noticed an increase in rental deals as the pandemic raged. “A lot of people were coming from Manhattan that wanted to rent for six months, three months,” she said. “That was very busy in March and April.”
Then, all of a sudden, Berger Calo recounted, the market took off. “Once we were open and ready to go, the market was just selling,” she said. “It’s good. It’s a hot market. It’s really good.”