Real estate brokers and agents in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow have experienced the past year’s economic turbulence differently; some suffered in 2009 and look hopefully to the future, while others sailed through the last year but predict a bleak 2010.
Unlike the unstable stock market prices and increased unemployment, the housing market’s downturn represented a positive condition for some buyers who could afford homes in areas that had previously been out of the question.
“We did a lot of business in 2009,” said Patty Neuwirth, owner of Hudson Homes Real Estate. “I think this was in part because homes had become more affordable and in part because of government tax credits for buyers. People wanted to take advantage of the stimulus money while it was there.”
Legends Realty agent Phyllis Lerner disagreed.
“Last year was the worst year for me," she said. "It was not until the end of the year that people started buying again, and improved economic indicators make me feel optimistic for 2010.”
But by Neuwirth’s logic, the possible discontinuance of government stimulus programs could have just the opposite effect.
“Government programs to promote home purchasing have so far not been extended to last beyond the spring," she said. "Without the added incentives, I don’t believe as many people will want to buy.”
In 2008, the federal government approved the First Time Home Buyer Credit, which called for an $8,000 tax credit for all first-time home buyers between April 8, 2008 and December 1, 2009. The end date was later extended to April 30, 2010; however, whether such programs will continue beyond April is still unknown.
“I don’t personally believe that the government will continue to offer credits because the market should, in theory, already be stimulated by then,” Neuwirth said.
Despite reporting a slow year, Lerner did notice the effects of both decreased prices and the government credits in the general profile of her clients interested in moving to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.
“Many young couples moved in last year,” Lerner said. “The majority of my clients were just married, getting married or about to have a kid.”
Unlike 2007, when homes were often sold for more than one million dollars, 2009’s postings showed very few homes for more than $700,000 dollars. A current list of available homes in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow as of January, 21 shows not one home for more than $700,000 and most in the $300,000-400,000 range.
“The economic downturn did create a more moderately-priced housing market,” Neuwirth said. “But I don’t see that as a bad thing. I’ve been in the real estate business for a long time, and it’s my experience that the housing market has a way of correcting itself. Homes were priced way too high in 2007.”
For just that reason, Neuwirth has been working with more potential home buyers than sellers.
“It’s definitely still a buyer’s market,” she said. “But I always remind my clients that where you live dictates a certain lifestyle. There’s no reason to stay in a house you no longer want to live in just to wait for the market to pick up. It may take five years.”
The only current stumbling block to selling homes in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow is the tax rate.
“Taxes are definitely a problem,” said John Sardy, executive director of Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow’s Chamber of commerce and a realtor for Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty. “And they’re probably only going to go up.”
Despite their varied experiences over the last year and differing outlooks for the future, local realtors agree on one thing — they’re not going anywhere.
“We’ve seen economic instability in the past, and so far it has always leveled off,” Neuwirth said.
Lerner added, “Westchester will always be desirable—especially towns near a train station. So I’m not worried.”