Amazon Bails on Queens, Leaving Real Estate Speculators Holding the Bag

Photo Credit: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock
February 15, 2019
Updated 27d ago

By Carlo Versano

If you are among the many who bought a condo in a glassy high-rise on the Queens waterfront sight unseen ー via text message ー when news broke last fall that Amazon was coming to town... well, that decision may not look so smart in the cold light of day on Friday.

Amazon's ($AMZN) decision to abandon its plan for a massive campus in Long Island City took New York by surprise on Thursday. While progressives cheered and the governor stewed, homeowners and real estate investors in that neighborhood grappled with a more personal set of calculations in the wake of the announcement.

Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, said home prices were on the rise in LIC even before Amazon made its splashy announcement that it was coming to town.

Now, she told Cheddar, speculators looking for a quick return from an Amazon bump will likely be disappointed.

As of January, prices in Queens were 8.3 percent year-over-year, according to Realtor.com data. That is a faster rate of growth than New York's other boroughs and is at least partially thanks to Amazon, Hale said.

For current homeowners, Amazon would have acted as a boon for their investment. But for first-time homebuyers who don't have the benefit of using equity they've already built, the company's addition of 25,000 high-paying jobs would have exacerbated an affordability crisis that is already worsening in New York. Long Island City was already the fastest-growing neighborhood in the entire nation even before it was Amazon's destination, and the cost of living there were on the rise. In 2010, the median rent for a studio in LIC was $1,975, according to StreetEasy data. In 2017 ー a year before Amazon ー it rose to $2,465.

Meanwhile, in Arlington County, Va., where Amazon is in the process of building the other half of its new "HQ2", a similar affordability crisis hasn't led to related opposition from local officials and activists. The median home price there, a suburban area that is far less dense than New York City and is mostly filled with single-family homes, is up more than 18 percent since the November announcement. "We've definitely seen a lot of activity in the Arlington market," Hale said.

"Limited inventory has only become more limited since the announcement."

For full interview click here.