Come and listen to my story ‘bout Jillian and Josh
Millennials from Brooklyn whose digs were not real posh
And then a pandemic shut everything down
And that’s when Josh said, “Let’s get out of town!”
New York, that is. Big Apple. City that never sleeps.
Well, the next thing you know, Josh and Jill are livin’ large
They exclaim in disbelief, “No way ...we got a two-car garage!”
What better place to settle down and raise a family
Than in the friendly flora of this verdant Valley
Hudson, that is. Barbecues. Garden tools. Top-rank schools.
For those who don’t know “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV theme song, don’t blame me that you were born too late (or that you don’t watch MeTV).
But surely you know about the caravan that’s been headed our way for the past bunch of months. The one from the south. Crossing the border. With their little ones in tow.
By south, I mean the five boroughs of New York City, notably Brooklyn and Manhattan, and by border, I mean the Westchester County line, and by little ones I mean little ones.
Ask any realtor what’s happening with the Westchester housing market boom since the pandemic panic chastened urbanites who suddenly realized the energy and hipness that gave the city soul were on furlough. Instead of our pioneering American ancestors’ rallying cry of Westward, Ho!, for cityfolk with a hankerin’ to join their country cousins, it’s Northward, Ho!
I get a little homesick every time I meet a Millennial today who tells me they live in Astoria, Queens. It’s my birthplace. Before I had entered kindergarten, my father had moved us to the new promised land of 1950s postwar America—the suburbs!
For us, the new homestead was Long Island, the Garden City South/Franklin Square pocket of western-most Nassau County, to be exact.
Upon arrival in our new “dream home” (a suitably modest but comfy Cape Cod), I’ll never forget my two older brothers and I discovering the wondrously green backyard, when my mother poked her head out the kitchen window and marveled that, “I can even watch you play from here!” That sums up the suburbs in all its uplifting evocation of Americana—expansive, invigorating freedom as big as all outdoors.
It took a once-in-a-century public health crisis to propel what’s now being characterized as arguably the most accelerated market in suburban home sales in metro New York area since that post-World War II era of prosperity that seeded the mid-20th Century suburban sprawl.
If a sizable part of the workforce is going to be working more frequently from a horizontal home instead of from a vertical office building, and if they value the medical wisdom of keeping their and their children’s distance from a density of humanity, trading in a city home for a country house (or adding a get-away home) is a logical life choice.
That trend has spurred the statistics on steroids that realtors have been reporting of late, as published in major media like The New York Times. That’s where I read July home sales in Westchester for this year were up more than 100 percent over July 2019.
There are many anecdotal reports too of lines out the door for open house viewings, and of desirable properties fetching 20 percent above their asking price, with one realtor calling the fierce competition among buyers a “blood sport.”
Houses are being bid on without the prospective buyer ever stepping foot on the premises. A video tour is enough.
According to a Redfin study of 1,400 people in 29 major markets, almost half of the home buyers surveyed recently said they made an offer without bothering to check out the home in person.
It’s no surprise, then, that municipalities like Yorktown, Cortlandt, and Peekskill are mounting marketing initiatives to position and promote themselves as quality-of-life destinations for the city evacuees, as well as for businesses looking to put down stakes in more affordable, peaceful surroundings, where instead of looking at a window at a skyscraper you can look out a window at the sky above and nature all around.
MARKETING JINGLE NO. 2
There’s another vintage TV show theme song that one of the above towns might want to appropriate as its musical signature to lure the newbies. Remember “The Jeffersons”?
Movin’ on up, up the river
To a quiet, private patch in the ‘burbs
Yeah, we’re movin’ on up, from the closeness
To spread our wings alongside the birds
Horns don’t blare after midnight
Neighbors are distant and chill
Plenty of space
For walks at our pace
Can’t wait to see my tax bill
We’re movin’ on up…
Bruce Apar is a writer, actor, consultant, and community volunteer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 914-275-6887.