There are two types of people in New York City: the ones who stayed and the ones who called it quits. Those who stayed wear it like a badge. With a sense of pride, they call themselves the ‘real New Yorkers’. They supported Our Lady of Liberty in her time of need. They consistently ordered delivery to help prevent restaurants from closing. They donated their time and money to the city’s hungry and homeless all while cheering on healthcare workers every night.
Those that left bear a stain on their New York resumé. The old way to tell a real New Yorker was if they had lasted and hit the 10-year mark. The new way is faster: if you stayed during the pandemic. It’s like the vaccinated and unvaccinated: there is really no in-between.
More than 320,000 NYC residents left in 2020. A significant number of them are now questioning the financial implications of their decision. The headlines were saying NYC was dead. Even residents were saying it would never be the same. Thousands who had the ability to leave rushed to ‘more desirable markets’ out of fear and desperation, as well as for more space, safer communities and the ability to go a full day without hearing a siren.
The problem was, a lot of other people had the same idea. As demand rose in the suddenly popular suburbs, prices hit an all-time high. Brokers had a field day pitting buyers or renters against each other, and went so far as to advise interested parties to put down a deposit on a home ‘sight unseen’. The fugitives found they had entered a whole new rat race.
Worse still, if your new home required renovations you were going to pay more for them due to shortages in labor and supply. The price of lumber alone quadrupled between March 2020 and May 2021. The saying on Wall Street goes ‘Buy low, sell high.’ Most of the traders who exited stage left for greener pastures did the exact opposite.
The common question asked to those who stayed is, ‘So how’s it going in New York anyway?’ The tone is akin to asking about an old friend who has terminal cancer. They think they already know the answer and it’s not good. But here is the thing: New York is back. And it has no interest in accommodating the deserters looking to return.
Those who sold their units during the pandemic fearing a decline in value are now realizing they should have held on for a little longer. If they want to buy back in, they face yet more bidding wars: the most coveted places, the ones with a bit more space, are now selling at a premium. If they want to rent, the number of available rental units in New York City is now lower than it was in February 2020. Landlords have been raising their prices by up to 70 percent. Gone is the renter’s market, when landlords would entice prospective tenants by advertising a month or two rent-free.
The time to get a good deal on a rental or purchase was during the height of the pandemic. With 41 percent of all employees returning to their offices in September, the market has changed overnight. Since July, subway ridership, hotel occupancy and foot traffic in Times Square have all continued to increase. You can see it, and you can feel the buzz is back in the air. People addicted to the energy are finally getting their fix and feeling most at home in a ‘city that never sleeps’.
Broadway has reopened its doors. The pent-up demand can be seen in your Instagram feed, with masked fans holding programs and some even teary-eyed. More people attend Broadway shows than all of the sports teams in the New York area combined; plus you can’t watch Broadway on TV.
The New York restaurant scene, which you will never find in the suburbs, opened 700 new establishments between March and May, and an additional 1,300 have applied for permits. The best of the best chefs all have new places opening. There has never been a more exciting time to take a bite out of the Big Apple, but the regulars are the ones getting all the best reservations.
So how is New York anyway? In the city where dreams are made, it’s the same as it’s always been: flashing before our eyes in a New York minute.