Realtors say first-time home buyers should be patient

With mortgage rates near 20-year high, some buyers cooling their heels


When it comes to the volatile national housing market, Riverdale forges its own path. Home sales slowed annually in the third quarter of 2022 for the first time in nearly two years, according to Douglas Elliman’s latest market report.

The median sale price of Riverdale-area co-ops, condos, and 1-3 family homes rose 0.9 percent year-over-year to $370,000 in the third quarter of 2022, according to Elliman.

Pamela Trebach, who heads her family firm, Trebach Realty, said “small” is the keyword in Riverdale.

It’s a “beautiful enclave in the Northwest Bronx,” she said.

“It’s in one of the five New York City boroughs, yet is much more affordable than Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

“So long as the supply is not incredibly high, Riverdale has the demand.”

The continued decline in local listing inventory suggests sellers are thinking twice about entering the market. Douglas Elliman reported Riverdale listing inventory fell to 181 last quarter, an 8.6 percent decline year-over-year.

Nearly one in five sales in Riverdale entered a bidding war last quarter — the third highest market share on record.

“We have had several bidding wars on properties that are desirable and in low supply,” Trebach said. “We have buyers waiting for specific properties, whether it be a multi-family home, a single-family house in the estate area, or a co-op. So long as there are not multiple listings just like it, there are buyers ready to make the move.”

The U.S. housing market rocketed into the stratosphere in 2021 and has barely begun to nudge downwards despite the high cost of borrowing. The median sales price of single-family homes fell less than 1 percent nationally the last two quarters, while volume of sales took a nose dive, dropping 20 percent over the same period, according to Marcus & Millichap’s analysis of data from Freddie Mac and Moody’s Analytics.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is now well above 7 percent. In New York City, buyers who need financing to purchase a home must contend with all-cash offers, an appealing route for sellers hoping to skip the underwriting and appraisal processes and close in a matter of weeks rather than months.

“The environment we’re in right now means it’s going to take work,” said Jennifer Streaks, a personal finance advisor and Forbes columnist. “The financial picture you present to a mortgage lender needs to show you are stable enough to add a mortgage to your financial picture. It’s going to take a determined buyer who really wants to get the best deal.”

Then again, patience is a virtue.

Streaks recommends taking time to pay down lingering debts with an eye to lowering your debt-to-income ratio.

“You should run your credit report before you even engage an agent,” she said. “It’s better to go through the statistics the right way.”

Trebach advised first-time home buyers to buy within their means.

“You can’t time the market,” she said. “I have been licensed for 35 years. I have seen markets go up and down. Rates go up and down. You can try to time it, but you can’t.”

Yet “there’s no reason to put your life on hold,” she added. “Your life is happening now. It’s a purchase in Riverdale. It’s a solid investment in a solid neighborhood.”

Trebach remembers her parents returning happily to Riverdale after a vacation one year with a sign they fashioned while away. It said: “If you’re lucky enough to live in Riverdale, you’re lucky enough.”