Rockaway’s Housing Market Resurgence
By Harry Kane

As the popularity of an area grows, so do the home prices. That’s been the case in Rockaway, as an influx of newbies and affluent Manhattanites have decided to make the move to the peninsula.

The Rockaway real estate market has rebounded in 2015, as major homebuilding projects and renovations have come to completion and businesses reopen.

Many homeowners and business owners think that Rockaway could be on the verge of becoming the next boomtown, and local realtors seem to agree.

In recent years the migration of money in real estate has gone into neighborhoods like Williamsburg or Long Island City. But now, as those neighborhoods have become too expensive, and the deadline looms for the end of rent stabilized apartments, more people are thinking of moving to other areas like Rockaway.

Brian Heffernan has been a licensed real estate broker in Rockaway for the past 15 years.

“My opinion is the Rockaways are undergoing a gentrification,” he said. Heffernan feels that the growth started in Rockaway Beach, and with the opening of new surfing beaches, home sales will continue to increase.

“I’m optimistic,” Heffernan says. “I see the sky as being the limit as to where this could go. Sales are brisk, inventory is extremely low and there’s a big demand.

Upscale areas on the peninsula such as Belle Harbor are in high demand. In fact, one street may be the borough’s most expensive block. According to a report by Property Shark, the median home price for a house in Neponsit between Beach 145th and Beach 146th streets, on Rockaway Beach Boulecontinued vard is $2.5 million.

Rewind a bit; the housing bubble burst during the financial downturn had already caused significant devaluation in home prices in Rockaway — and then, the storm of the century crippled residential sales prices by an additional 25 percent.

Since a low point in mid-2013, the average home price has increased back to $625,000 in the western part of the peninsula, while it is $385,000 in the east end, according to an article in Real Estate Weekly.

“It’s my honest feeling that most of the homeowners in the Rockaway Beach area and throughout Rockaway deserve and need a boost in the way of appreciation to their property,” Heffernan said. “Many people bought in the height of the market around 2005-2006, and have been underwater for some time.”

Overall, there’s been slow but steady growth in the home valuations and the rental market. Real estate agents have been renting to the younger generation, who are attracted to the spacious, sprawling beaches, suburban communities and trendy bars and restaurants. Plus, the boardwalk is open — part of it anyhow — and new condominiums, summer rentals and buildings for working professionals are available.

In the last month, three houses closed for more than $1 million, says real estate agent Robin Shapiro. Two of those homes were in Neponsit and one was in Belle Harbor. Over the last few months Shapiro has had five houses listed at $899,000, and four of those homes have offers — two are in contract.

If a house is priced properly it sells in a week, explained Shapiro.

Average rental prices are $1500, and any studios or one bedroom’s that are listed for $1100 are rented immediately, she says. A two bedroom can go anywhere from $1200-$1700, or more if it has a deck with an ocean view.

While significant progress has been made, one major obstacle stands in the way of home prices increasing to homeowners’ expectations. The lack of infrastructure in Rockaway continues to prevent the area from becoming a boomtown, according to some residents, who feel it’s a crucial part of developing the area.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who many view as Rockaway’s most vocal supporter of infrastructure improvement, says that better transportation is a huge need for the area.

“Our families deserve to have the safe, reliable transportation infrastructure they need to move around the community each day,” said Goldfeder. “We have made tremendous progress after Sandy in repairing damaged infrastructure, however there is still work left to do. That’s why it’s so important that our city agencies be made aware of any issues with our roadways so that the necessary repairs and changes can be made.”