A Guide to Buying a House in: New York

(Because it's NEW YORK ...no extra incentive necessary.)

So, you're mulling over the idea of buying a house in New York, but your perception of the whole state's a little clouded by NYC, and on top of that, the housing market remains a thing of mystery. It's totally understandable, because conversations about New York typically lean more towards, "The Empire State Building is sooo cool!", and less towards home values.

But it's all good, we've come to the rescue - with a little guide to all things housing market in The Empire State. We'll take you through the basics and even throw in some fun state-specific trivia and goodies as a bonus treat. It's precisely the kinda thing we'd be looking for, if we were in your place. So let's get this show on the road.

The Most/Least Expensive Cities in New York

There are so many decisions to make when buying a new house - what color to paint, wood vs. carpet floors, and where to hang the life-sized portrait of your prized toy poodle. Wouldn't it help out quite a bit to pinpoint your specific destination if you knew the most/least money-hungry areas in the state? We all know NYC's among the most expensive, but check out some other honorable mentions. 

Most expensive cities:

  • Garden City
  • Lawrence
  • North Hills
  • Pelham Manor
  • Great Neck 

Least expensive cities:

  • Jamestown
  • Dunkirk
  • Salamanca
  • Niagara Falls
  • Buffalo 

And there it is. Now you've  been given the wisdom necessary to embark on a home-hunting journey that'll appease your current financial sitch. Cue the victory music. 

No matter where you choose to buy your new home, you can always find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

New York's Housing Market

Before you show up in New York all ready to buy your new house, you might wanna know a thing or two about the current outlook of the market there. So next up, we'll hit you with a housing market overview, New York-style. (Thank us later.)

It seems that there's a real shortage of supply currently in New York, but home prices AND sales are rising faster than you can say "Manhattan." Interest rates are also on the rise - they were 13% as of 2017, but in 2018 they've crept up to as high as 15%-20% in certain cases. 

The market overall received a rating of 4.1/10 by Zillow, which it calls "less healthy." It's a seller's market and you'd better buy your house soon, because from this point on, prices will only go up.

Where to Hunt in New York

So, aside from the obvious, where are THE places all the cool kids (and slightly-older-than kids) are moving to these days? First up is Long Island - 'cuz it's got great schools, job opportunities, culture, beaches, historic estates, seafood, shopping, outdoor activities, museums AND it's apparently a great place to raise a family. Home values average $463,800 in the town of Oyster Bay, in Nassau County.

How about for those peeps seeking a more affordable area? Buffalo's here to save the day - it's got the lowest cost of living in the state, but it's also a great place to move thanks to its many job opportunities, great food and culture, bike-friendly nature, cool architecture and vibe of not being too big/small. 

Home values here average a much-less-threatening $81,200, and the list price per square foot is about $117. Renting a house here costs about $1,100/month.

Hold up, though - New York's also got a ginormous amount of new construction popping up everywhere. A large amount of the new construction is underway straight across the state's midline - from Buffalo to Ithaca to Albany. 

However, there's even MORE throughout the state's lower right hook - across NYC, Long Island and beyond. So, if you've got your heart set on a brand-new place, hit up one of these areas.

Home Property Values and Costs in New York

Awesome, so you've narrowed down your list to a couple of potential areas to look for your house, but now you might be concerned about HOW MUCH you'll be paying for the thing. So, we're moseying right along to an overview of some home prices/values, especially for you.

To begin with, the median value of New York homes is currently $282,600, and houses are listed on the market for an average of $381,037. And we're sure it's no shock that much of New York's rent ain't cheap - the median rent for a house is $3,195/month. 

In addition, home values have increased 6.3% in the last year, and they're expected to rise another 4.4% next year. The list price per square foot for a house is about $180.

We know that we wouldn't be super helpful if we didn't talk about apartments, though. Albany's one-bedrooms go for an average of $1,078/month, and two-bedrooms for $1,273/month. Rochester has apartments listed for an average of $912/month. 

Buffalo has one-bedrooms going for $909/month and two-bedrooms for $1,061/month. So, clearly there are areas of the state that offer housing for muuuch closer to the national average than its major metropolitan area.

Never fear, townhouse lovers, we're showing you some love next. New York's got townhouses for rent ranging from about $525/month for a one-bed/one-bath joint in Buffalo, to about $2,150/month for a three-bed/two-bath joint in Brooklyn.

Arm Yourself with Some Hurricane Insurance in New York

New York's a great place jampacked with lots of culture, diversity, entertainment and opportunities. Unfortunately, it also gets hit by some natural disasters - hurricanes being one of them. In fact, New York's one of those 19 lucky states that require a hurricane deductible as a part of a homeowners insurance policy.

But what does that mean, exactly? Well, basically you'll have to pay your insurance company a certain amount of money before they'll cover any damage to your home dealt out by an angry windstorm. Deductible costs are typically about 1%-5% of the insurance value of the home, but it really depends on where you live, too. 

For example, those living in a low-risk area in a smaller/cheaper house might pay $300 towards their deductible, while those living in a high-risk area in a fancy mansion might pay $30,000.

No one likes hurricanes (or paying more insurance deductible costs), but if you're REALLY concerned about them, you could always move to a state that's more central. Areas further inland have a buffer of protection, but they also come with their own breed of risks. Nowhere's gonna be immune to EVERYTHING.

...and Maybe Some Flood Insurance, Too

New York's actually most prone to blizzards - of all the different flavors of natural disasters - and when that snow melts, it's gotta go somewhere (like your basement, for ex.). Flooding (along with those long-lost relatives who just wanna stay with you so they can see NYC) can be a real unwelcome guest in this state. So to protect yourself from potential hassles, you might also wanna pick up some flood insurance to add to your growing stack of homeowners insurance.

If you live in an area deemed to be "high-risk," your mortgage lender might require you to purchase extra homeowners insurance coverage specifically for flooding. However, it's important to note that even areas not in designated high-risk areas might still need it. Why? Because as that old annoying (but even more annoyingly ACCURATE) expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Okay okay, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and the belongings in it - to some extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.) wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

Check out your specific coverage, so that you're SURE you'll be good to go. Call your agent and have a chat about what EXACT homeowners insurance you need, because you do NOT want to find out too late that you didn't have enough. They won't mind, and you'll thank yourself later. Trust us.

Quality of Schools in New York

All ye who seek knowledge might wanna know about the quality of the school system in your new state - so we'll check out a glimpse of the overview in just a New York minute.

Here are some 2018 WalletHub stats about how New York schools ranked in the country:

  • #22 overall for the US
  • #24 for quality
  • #12 for safety
  • #3 for the highest median ACT scores 

New York's top-rated schools are the Baccalaureate School for Global Education (a high school) in Astoria, and Columbia University in NYC.

Reasons to Move to New York (...or Not)

Whew, that's enough factual/serious stuff. Time to get down into the more fun section of our guide (try not to get too excited). We'll check out some reasons why people would even WANT to move to New York - but we'll listen to some folks who already did that. So, strap in and get ready for some woo-hoo!s and some ughhh!s related to New York life.

PROs (as voted by totally authentic New Yorkers):

  • Tons of stuff to do: Between the unique themed museums and coffeehouses, concerts, sporting events, historical sights, waterfalls, state parks and celebrity sightings, you'd have to be absolutely crazy to say there isn't anything to do here.
  • Nature galore: The flip side of living in the hustling NYC area is living in the quieter, upstate area, which offers a slower pace of life and many natural wonders. When the exhaustion of NYC sightseeing hits, upstate New York offers a peaceful haven to unwind and explore more green territory than in the "concrete jungle." In addition to Niagara Falls, there's also the Ausable Chasm (said to be "the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks"), Chimney Bluffs State Park, Fillmore Glen State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and more.
  • Celebrity sightings: While you may think this is reserved for NYC only, that's not true. In fact, many celebs have found their home in upstate New York, including: Al Roker (who lives in Chatham), Kelsey Grammer (who plans to open a brewery in Delaware County), Susan Dey of The Partridge Family (also in Delaware County), Kate Pierson of the B-52s (who has her own motel in Ulster County), Liam Neeson (who lives in Millbrook), Mark Ruffalo (in Callicoon) and even Yoko Ono, herself (she has a mountaintop estate in Franklin). So mark your stalking itinerary as you see fit.
  • All four seasons: The residents of New York enjoy all different types of weather throughout the year - from bone-chilling, snow-heavy winters to T-shirt-wringing, sweat-inducing summers. No matter your weather of choice, there's some of that here for you.

CONs (also from the mouths of totally authentic New Yorkers):

  • High cost of living: CNBC ranked New York as #2 on the list of "America's 10 Most Expensive States to Live in 2017" - finishing behind only Hawaii. Home prices/taxes are high and groceries are expensive. So many people living here means the state KNOWS it can profit off its high demand. People will pay more to live here, simply because it's NEW YORK. 
  • Tourists and traffic: New York is home to many of the top-grossing tourist attractions,not just in the country, but also in the world. All those people rushing to see all things Empire State of course creates tons o' traffic. Though most of it's in the southern part of the state, even upstaters complain of terrible commute times. There are probably plenty of tourists rubber-necking when they spot a celebrity walking their dog (in any part of the state) and causing those infuriating traffic jams.
  • Extra harsh winters: Break out the chains for your tires - you'll need 'em when the snow dumps in buckets. On the plus side, this could be a very good thing for all you snowmobile lovers out there.

Stuff to Do in New York

Everyone knows New York has tons of stuff to do, at all hours of the day/night/twilight. We've already looked at WHY people move here, so now we'll look at a few specific examples of WHAT those fast-paced, fast-talking New Yorkers do for fun. We bugged the locals for just a little bit longer to get the insider deets on things to do and see here, from state parks to museums and more.

Here are just a few of the state's epically-enticing attractions:

  • Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum: Located in Jamestown, NY, it honors "the first couple of comedy," Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, most famous for the iconic '50s sitcom "I Love Lucy." Ball's hometown wanted to pay homage to the star by offering a place for tourists to view the show's original costumes and memorobilia, as well as the awards the couple stockpiled AND photographs of their lives (both onscreen and off). The museum also features re-creations of famous sets from the show, including the beloved living room. "Lucy, I'm home!"
  • National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame: Located in Saratoga Springs, this museum was founded to honor famous American Thoroughbred racehorses and their jockeys/trainers. Annual inductees are announced during Kentucky Derby Week each May. The museum features photos of horse racing through the years, art inspired by the sport, and memorabilia from the industry. Trophies from past winners are on display, as well as uniforms/gear from jockeys.
  • Rockefeller Center: From impressive sculptures, shops and restaurants, to a fishbowl view of NBC studios and an ice skating rink, this iconic plaza is often referred to as one of the top must-sees in NYC, as well as all of New York state. You could spend at least a week here, between watching tapings of the “The Today Show” and performances at Radio City Music Hall. It's also infamous for its ginormous, sparkling eye-candy Christmas tree during the holiday season. You've undoubtedly seen it in at least half a dozen movies, including Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
  • Breakneck Ridge Loop: Located between Beacon and Cold Spring along the Hudson River, this hiking trail was listed as one of the top ten hikes in the country by Newsweek magazine. Some sights include Storm King Mountain, a fjord carved by glaciers through the Appalachian Mountains, the decaying Bannerman's Castle on Pollepel Island, dating from the early 1900s, and Constitution Island. Just be careful - this trail has seen many hiker deaths in its day.

Marking Your Territory in New York

And there you have it, folks - our brief (but hopefully super-informative and helpful) Reader's Digest version of a guide to New York's housing market. While we obviously can't get to ALL of your concerns about buying a house here (we've got way too much sightseeing to do), it's our sincere hope that you've taken what you need to get that confidence upped and that proactive get-stuff-done attitude flowing. And bonus points if you learned some cool New York stuff along the way.

If buying a new house in New York, with its tall buildings, celeb sightings, and awesome national parks, sounds like the tune to YOUR song, then turn the volume up and sing your heart out. Then get over here and make it real. Make sure your new home is covered properly with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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