Riverdale: The Next Real Estate Hot Spot?

The Bronx neighborhood offers more space for less money

High-rise apartments like this one are a common sight in Riverdale. Patrick Ralph for NY City Lens.

High-rise apartments like this one are a common sight in Riverdale. Patrick Ralph for NY City Lens.

Matthew Fowler and his wife, Shuen Lin, lived in Brooklyn for 13 years—eight of them in Park Slope, five in Crown Heights. When their monthly rent kept going up, reaching $1,700 per month in Crown Heights for a 500 square-foot apartment, they soon realized that Crown Heights was no longer affordable.

So they began to look for a more budget-friendly option. One area kept coming up in their search: Riverdale.

“Riverdale was much cheaper and it offered the space that we wanted,” said Fowler, who now live in an 800 square-foot apartment for $1,300 a month. “Plus, it’s a very safe area too.”

Fowler and Lin are just one example of many New Yorkers making the move to Riverdale because of affordability and space. Some real estate observers are positing that the Bronx neighborhood may be the next real estate hot spot.

The number of property sales are up 10 percent in the Riverdale market, which also includes Fieldston, Hudson Hill and Spuyten Duyvil, according to a report conducted by the Douglas Elliman real estate firm. With the increase in sales, prices are also creeping upwards. The report also found that the median sales price of condos, co-ops, single family, and multi-family homes during the fourth quarter of 2016 in Riverdale rose over seven percent.

“We offer both affordability and flexibility up here,” said Susan Goldy, a real estate agent at Halstead Property. “We used to joke it was the best kept secret.”

“You’re getting a lot of value for your dollar and finding a quality of life that’s difficult to match,” said Bert Trebach, owner of Trebach Realty.

As neighborhoods across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens experience gentrification, many people are being forced to move out and look somewhere more affordable to live. Goldy says that Riverdale is reaping the benefits as a result. “The market here has been appreciating for a long time,” said Goldy.

“There’s an increase in demand for rentals here because people are getting priced out of Manhattan and Brooklyn,” said Trebach, who said that rental prices in Riverdale are rising too.

Trebach said that prices for studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments in Riverdale have all steadily risen. But, these prices are much cheaper compared to their equivalents in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens in December 2016, according to the Elliman report. The median sale price for apartments is $280,500 compared to over a million for Manhattan, $750,000 for Brooklyn and $389,500 in Queens. 

A 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment for sale on 235th Street in Riverdale. Patrick Ralph for NY City Lens.

A 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment for sale on 235th Street in Riverdale. Patrick Ralph for NY City Lens.

Located in the northwest corner of the Bronx along the Hudson River, Riverdale is a geographically and economically diverse area of New York City. While the southern and eastern parts of the neighborhood resemble other city neighborhoods, the northern and western sections of Riverdale feature lots of green space akin to that in Westchester County, and housing options include everything from small apartments to sprawling mansions. Goldy also says that Riverdale’s diverse community makes it a unique place to live. According to census data compiled by the NYC Department of City Planning, more than half of the population of Bronx Community District 8, of which the Riverdale market encompasses the majority of, is non-white.

“You get a very broad spectrum of people; an entire cross-section of the city,” said Goldy. “From singles who rent apartments to families who have lived here for years, it serves everyone.”

Jonathan Miller, the author of the report for Douglas Elliman, said that Riverdale is part of a phenomenon that is happening in the NYC housing market. “The high density areas in the city are going through an affordability crisis,” said Miller, who is a real estate appraiser at Miller Samuel. “Lower quality of life issues exist now in the city, which is making living in the five boroughs more interesting.”

As a result, Miller said that more buyers are moving into Riverdale. “Many are renters who are becoming buyers for the first time,” said Miller. “And others are trade-up buyers from one bedroom to two or three.”

Trebach also mentioned that a very low crime rate in Riverdale has played a big role in the neighborhood’s real estate success. According to DNAinfo.com‘s Crime and Safety Report, Riverdale is the safest neighborhood in the Bronx and one of the 15 safest neighborhoods in New York City.

Along with a low crime rate, Trebach believes that Riverdale’s strong schools are another reason for the neighborhood’s real estate strength. P.S. 024 Spuyten Duyvil and P.S. 081 Robert Christen in Riverdale are two of the 10 best non-charter elementary schools in the Bronx, according to GreatSchools.org, a leading national source of school performance information.

“We have some of the best schools in the world here,” said Trebach, who said that the schools have played a big role in the community’s growth. “We have good public and good private schools. If students go to these schools, families like to live up here too.”

But some in the local community see Riverdale’s real estate boom as an impediment to the schools, citing rising enrollment numbers and over-capacity classrooms.

“The public schools are very full now and people are paying attention to that,” said Tracy Shelton, executive director of the KRVC Development Corporation, a non-profit community organization. “Possibly another public school will be built to accommodate for the growing numbers of students.” According to the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Student Enrollment, P.S. 007 in Kingsbridge and P.S. 024 in Spuyten Duyvil have seen overall enrollment numbers consistently increase.

Trebach and Goldy said that the only concern they see with the Riverdale market’s success is that its inventory of rentals and homes is slipping because of high demand.

But even newcomers like Fowler and Lin admit that not everything is perfect about their new neighborhood. While Riverdale is only a subway, Metro-North, or car ride away from Manhattan, Fowler says his and his wife’s commute into the city is longer now than it was when they lived in Brooklyn. It takes both of them more than hour.

“It makes for a more annoying commute,” said Fowler. “And it’s also kind of a pain now to get to the airport.”

But there is an upside:  Excursions upstate to the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Hudson Valley become a whole lot easier traveling from Riverdale instead of Brooklyn. “There’s less traffic and it’s definitely less stressful getting home,” said Fowler. “My wife always says that she feels like she’s on vacation now.”

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