The Silver Lining of Covid in West Orange Real Estate

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Charley Dvorin

As Covid cases rose this past spring, so did the value of homes in West Orange. Not only did Covid impact the real estate market for West Orange, but its effect was seen throughout the country. The interest rate dramatically decreased with people fleeing the city and lower taxes than other towns led to West Orange being desirable to buy a home in this past year. 

 Whether you own a house or are planning to buy one, you are aware of how low the interest rates have gotten since last March. Even still, they are dropping as Covid continues to impact us all. George Ratiu, a senior economist at Realtor.com, a website advertising homes, remarks on why exactly the interest rates may be dropping. He stated, “When economic news isn’t so rosy, investors turn to the safety of bonds. The housing market is still strong, so investors looking for someplace to put their money are more likely to put their money in mortgage bonds, which leads to lower yields and lower interest rates.”

The lower interest rates made it more desirable for people to want to buy a home, since it was much cheaper to invest in one. Jill Niculescu, a realtor in West Orange, stated, “There has been a tremendous increase in buyer demand in West Orange. One of the reasons is the low interest rates; it has been great for first time buyers and has doubled my business this year.” In addition, speaking from personal experience, my family started looking into purchasing a home in March when we found out the interest rates were so low, and that was one of the main reasons we were able to move. 

This past spring, New York City was considered the epicenter of Covid. Many took this as an opportunity to move out of the city, whether it was something they had been wanting to do for a long time or not. Niculescu has seen this first hand and stated, “Most people moving to West Orange are people from the city, specifically Brooklyn, wanting more space. I’ve noticed most people moving from urban settings wanting backyards and home offices, since everyone is working from home.”

 Families in the city want to raise their kids in a spacious home that is still close to the city, yet seemingly safer. The coronavirus shutdown pushed Fatine and Oussama Fatri out the door of their midtown apartment. Fatine Fatri described “being cooped up in the apartment, two kids, my husband having to work from home… Before you can take them out to the park, playground. Now, that’s not even possible,” said the mother of 4-year-old and 7-month-old daughters. “It was a nightmare.” They could not even go to places that may have led them to wanting to move there, such as parks, restaurants, or schools. In addition to getting the space they need, it is also a lot cheaper to live in the Suburbs because the houses and taxes do not match the expensive price tag of living in the city. 

One factor that has made West Orange, out of any other surrounding town, more desirable is the low taxes. Columbia High School and West Orange High School have the same rating, which is an “A-”.  However, in South Orange, an 1800 sq ft. house is listed for $639,000 and has a property tax of over $18,500. In West Orange, a house is currently listed on the market for $425,000 and it is over 1900 sq. ft, with a property tax of just under $13,000. For people buying homes, this makes West Orange much more desirable because they have around the same schooling, but it is much cheaper. Niculescu firmly believes that West Orange is considered more desirable than other towns as well. “We have an increase with the jitney routes to the train stations across town and we’re accessible to all major highways, unlike some neighboring towns,” Niculescu stated.

This past spring, while looking for a home, my family lost a couple of homes we wanted because too many people bid on them, and one of the homes went for over $100,000 its original price. One particular home we looked at had 18 additional families bidding. West Orange ultimately becomes more intriguing to home buyers once they see that they have similar statistics to neighboring towns, but with a much cheaper price. 

There is no denying that Covid has helped West Orange raise its home value and reputation. It will be interesting to see if/how West Orange will change in real estate over the years to come because of the increased buyer demand.