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Parts Of NYC Rife With Empty Apartments; Real Estate Experts Say Pandemic Causing Buyers And Renters To Reevaluate Priorities

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - As New Yorkers flee the city amid the coronavirus pandemic, parts of the city's real estate market are rife with empty apartments.

CBS2's Jessica Moore reports the industry is dealing with nearly record low numbers of new condo and co-op sales, while renters are focusing on a new list of priorities.

"It's a reaction to the pandemic, obviously," said Steven James, CEO of Douglas Elliman. "An emotional reaction, like, 'I don't want to get caught in this and so I'm going to leave.' It's the same thing that happened after 9/11."

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Virtual tours, Zoom calls and listings with a smattering of photos have replaced in-person showings. But, they've also turned many renters and buyers away from fully committing to a property.

"That's a human reaction," said James. "'I don't want to just see a picture and I don't just want to see it on video. I want to know what it is because its gonna be my home.'"


Apartment purchases for co-ops and condos in Manhattan fell by 80 percent in May.

The high-end market took an even bigger hit - with sales of those valued between $5 million and $10 million down 90 percent.

Demand remains high in Queens, where you can still get more for your money.

But, home prices in Brooklyn fell at their fastest rate since the Great Recession.

Renters expecting a bargain right now may be disappointed.

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"We're seeing very minimal drops in the rents. In fact, rents are still increasing or staying flat," said StreetEasy's Nancy Wu.

Experts say renters are also more concerned than ever with amenities that allow for social distancing, like in-unit washers and dryers and onsite gyms.

"We've found that a lot of renters are inquiring about parking now," said Sam Charney of The Dime Williamsburg. "They want the opportunity to have their own car."

"And the outdoor space. Obviously gardens are very good," said James. "...a little balcony makes a huge difference for some people."

James said this is a great time for city renters to extend their current leases at the same or even a discounted rate. He said buyers should be prepared to negotiate.

"It could be an excellent time. You just have to ask," said James.

Most experts CBS2 spoke with agree that now is the time to get a deal before life in the city returns to normal.

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