It’s not an exodus: Despite being able to work remotely, New Yorkers are looking to buy homes in the city they already know and love

New Yorkers are looking to buy homes in the city where they already live. Westend61/Getty Images
  • With the coronavirus sweeping the US, companies have allowed their employees to work from home.
  • Early in the shelter-in-place efforts, people expected a mass exodus from New York City to suburban and rural areas.
  • While there are some homebuyers who fit that demographic, Zillow data shows that more New Yorkers than ever before are trying to buy homes in the city they already live in.
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Expanding remote work policies that have been born out of the pandemic mean that fewer New Yorkers are tethered to the city of extremely high rent and little space.

While there are some in the city who have taken this opportunity to buy homes in the suburbs or other states, recent Zillow data show that more New Yorkers than ever are looking to buy property in the city they already know and love.

“There are certain stories from people who say ‘OK now I can work remotely, so I’m going to move to a cabin in the woods in the Catskills or something,’ Zillow economist Jeff Tucker told Insider. “But I think there are a lot more people who are renting around in Brooklyn who are saying ‘Hey, this might be my chance to get my first townhouse or buy my first condo.”

In July, 66.3% of people scrolling Zillow while based in the New York metro area were looking at houses for sale in New York City, Tucker said. It’s up about 3% since last year.

“The state isn’t really showing an exodus,” Tucker told Insider “There might be localised cases – especially in the priciest parts of Manhattan – but at the metro level, the share of New Yorker’s traffic looking at New York increased.”

Zillow data shows where users are based, generally, and the locations of homes that they are viewing. Tucker and his team have no way of knowing if the people browsing on their site purchased the homes they have been viewing.

New Yorkers who are looking for homes outside of the city itself, are browsing in places like Kingston, New York, and Stamford, Connecticut – both within driving distance from the city, he said.

“That’s absolutely consistent with that idea of an increase in interest to the rural or suburban areas adjacent to the New York metro area, but also a lot of interest in staying close to home as well.”

Data has also shown a significant dropoff in New Yorkers browsing homes in Boston, Atlanta, or other urban cities.

Miami saw a bump in interested parties earlier in the summer, but that has dropped back to below normal, he said.

Early in the pandemic, people assumed that they’d be able to get great deals on homes, but with everyone having that idea it became a “self-cancelling prophecy,” Tucker said.

A high demand for homes and low inventory means the properties available right now might not be a steal on their own, but in the long run it might still be beneficial for buyers to find something now.

While interest rates are low this year, buying a home might save people $US100 per month through the life of their mortgages.

“The pandemic has people looking at different home types, or different home sizes, but if this is where your career and family and friends are I think people are inclined to look in that same area,” he said.