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The exodus continues: Northeastern housing markets fill up with former city dwellers

Upstate New York, Maine and Connecticut are seeing booms

The pandemic-fueled exodus continues as apartment dwellers in big cities flee to the suburbs and beyond. The suburbs and rural areas of the Northeast are attracting more homebuyers, as Redfin reports that three out of the 10 metro areas with the largest net inflow increases are located in that area.

Buffalo, New York, ranks third highest in metro areas with the biggest net inflow. Burlington, Vermont was right behind it at No. 4 and Syracuse, New York, came in at No. 10.

Buffalo saw 107% net inflow in the third quarter this year, and 34.4% of its searches came from outside the area.

That renewed interest is being felt on the ground, according to Keller Williams Realtor Danielle Buchbinder. “Inventory is too low, people need to decide to sell their houses,” Buchbinder told HousingWire.

“[There are] a lot more buyers than there are sellers right now, causing an increase in purchase prices,” Buchbinder said. “A lot of multiple offers and people are having to bid over asking in order to secure properties and be creative in other ways, too.”

Buchbinder said that because of the lack of inventory, she thinks that some buyers feel like they’ve lost out on an opportunity to buy the perfect home.

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“[Buyers] just kind of feel deflated, and are waiting it out, hoping that there will be more inventory next spring,” Buchbiner said. “But the amount of buyers still definitely outweigh the listings that are out there. So we don’t see [prices] dropping anytime soon, especially if interest rates stay low.”

Closer to New York City, Scott Miller, a broker with Catskill Mountain Realty, said that demand is also outweighing the supply of houses in his market, located in Kingston, New York. If the homes are priced right, they’re gone within a week, he said.

“Kingston has become [like a] Brooklyn East,” Miller said. “We’ve had a lot of people move up from the Brooklyn area buying houses, building businesses.”

All types of buyers with all different price ranges look in Kingston, and Miller said that through the holiday season, he thinks they’ll continue to be busy.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since 9/11,” Miller said. “[After 9/11] there was a lot of influx of people moving up from the city.”

Even closer to the city, Tammy Felenstein, a Realtor and the executive director of sales at Halstead in Stamford, Connecticut, said that her market right now is the busiest she’s seen in 14 years, when the bubble burst before the last recession.

“Initially, we had people coming up looking for short-term rentals or even yearly rentals, and then we saw the conversion from rentals to purchases in late spring, and May and June,” Felenstein said. “I would say that, that sort of frenzy, the crest of that wave held strong, all the way through into early fall, and now…I would say that the frenzy is over. But we’re still seeing a very high level of activity, compared to what we would normally see at this time of year.”

As of Wednesday morning, inventory in Felenstein’s market was 64% lower than it normally would be this time of year, and Felenstein said that there are still lots of people coming in from Manhattan and other New York City boroughs.

“People are continuing to reassess their living situation, as COVID continues, and as people are continuing to work remotely,” Felenstein said. “With interest rates being as low as they are, it is the right time to buy if you can find the right house.”

The flight from the city is being felt as far away as Vermont and Maine. In Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Doug Schauf said that it’s definitely a seller’s market, and some homes are selling in about two days with housing inventory “very, very low.”

“[in Cape Elizabeth] I would say in a normal year there are probably somewhere between 30 and 50 listings on the market at any given time,” Schauf, a RE/MAX Realtor said. As of Wednesday, there were eight.

Not only are buyers coming in from Massachusetts and New York, but Schauf said that surprisingly, he gets buyers from California, too.

Although his phone has stopped ringing as much as it did this summer, Schauf said he thinks that home sales will continue to increase, at least through 2021.

“People that are moving up here are able to work from home,” Schauf said. “So they do want a home office of some sort, and plenty of space to have that.”

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