By Holly Dutton
In the aftermath of Sandy, the term evacuation zone has replaced schools and parks at the top of New York apartment hunters wish list, according to brokers.
“People will now ask things like, what zone is this in?” said David Maundrell, founder of Brooklyn-based real estate brokerage firm and website aptsandlofts.com, which features listing in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
“This is just something New Yorkers didn’t think about before, even though we’d been warned. This is something that will be with us for a very long time.”
Waterfront property has always been a coveted asset in real estate, not just in Manhattan, but worldwide.
But New York City is not usually a place people think of when they consider Hurricane-prone cities like Miami, whose university football team is the Hurricanes.
But Thomas Guss, president of residential brokerage firm New York Residence believes more renters and buyers will now think twice about moving to waterfront property in the Big Apple.
“They will look more closely at how a building is protected,” said Guss.
As of Nov. 16 — a full 18 days after the hurricane hit — 2,360 Manhattan resident were still without power; 1,267 had sought shelter in emergency facilities set up by the city.
With thousands of residents of the Financial District, Seaport and Lower East Side alone displaced, people are looking for long-term housing in other parts of Manhattan, according to Guss.
At Centurion, a midtown luxury condo building that is exclusively marketed by New York Residence, the number of prospective buyers visiting the building has doubled since the storm.
“Some of them are from downtown, and many are investors who would have previously considered buying downtown but now are focusing on midtown and uptown,” Guss said.
Though more buyers are looking uptown, the broker believes “people will always buy” in Lower Manhattan. “Downtown Manhattan is a beautiful area,” he said. “People will always appreciate a quieter life.”
In addition to looking north for housing since Sandy, Guss said buyers are focusing on safety in their search.
“I’ve never seen this in my entire career, people want to see the staircases,” he said. “Suddenly there is a new consciousness regarding the safety of the building. What happens if power is out? How do I get emergency services? This type of thinking is very rare; I’ve never seen this before.”
If Hurricane Irene last year was a warning, Sandy was the alarm sounding.
At a recent Executives’ Association of New York meeting, Damon Gersh, CEO of Maxons Restorations, a disaster recovery company that helps commercial and residential buildings after disasters, said the breadth of damage from the storm was some of the worst the New York City area has ever seen.
“I’ll say this was more challenging [than 9/11]” said Gersh, whose company was heavily involved in the cleanup following the September 11 terrorist attack.
“Changes in the way buildings are constructed will be more desirable now,” said Gersh, adding that designing buildings where electrical panels are above the ground floor is high on the list of priorities.
Maundrell, meanwhile believes real estate may see long-term changes as a result of Sandy. “In the age of internet and social media, everyone’s seen photos of places really affected by the storm,” he said. “I know people are going to keep those images in the back of their head for a very long time.”
However, he doubts that there will be a long-term dent in pricing.
Though it may be too early to tell, especially now in the “slow” part of the selling season, Maundrell said, “It will die down. The owners in these [city] buildings will adjust.
“Units on the ground floor, there could definitely be issues there with people being hesitant to buy those places,” said Maundrell. “Ultimately, with people being resistant, that’s where prices will loosen up, but it will be very specific.”