Call it a buyer's boomerang.
A year after the Rios family bought and moved into a house in Lindenhurst, they're moving back to Brooklyn.
Demetrio Rios, 50, his wife, Gloria, 45, and their children, Sherly, 24, and Joshua, 17, had longed to escape the three-bedroom Sunset Park apartment where they weathered the worst of the pandemic years.
But soon they were having second thoughts about their Long Island home, soured by two-hour commutes and lack of a city vibe.
Whether they bought in a hurry during the pandemic panic, regret leaving the city for the crabgrass frontier or simply feel Long Island lost its luster, real estate experts say buyer’s remorse is on the rise.
20 minutes on the subway vs. 2 hours on the LIRR
A number of factors can contribute to the feeling of buyer's remorse. Some buyers, like the Rioses, are disenchanted with the location (or LI living in general).
"We were stuck looking at the four walls" during the spring 2020 lockdown, Demetrio said, and longed to live in "a house where you could do some grilling outside, and take a walk around the yard."
Then, miles from urban hubbub, they found "the house that she [her mother] dreamed of," Sherly said. In February 2022, they purchased the three-bedroom Cape on a half-acre for $525,000.
Sherly, who used to walk to her job in a Brooklyn dentist's office, tried to make the best of the move. She carpooled with her mother, who works in a Brooklyn tie factory, and her brother, who's turning 18 in November and going to college in Manhattan.
[Long Island] just feels different.
— Sherly Rios
But, Sherly said, Long Island "just feels different." She misses the city vibe, especially on weekends.
"For me, it's the commute" that soured him on the suburbs. Demetrio, a handyman in a building in downtown Manhattan, traded a 20-minute subway ride to work for a two-hour slog via rail or three-hour drive via expressway.
"We thought Lindenhurst was close to the city, but it wasn't that close," Demetrio said.
Their house is currently under contract for $615,000 — $35,000 over the asking price, said Karen Mancz, a licensed real estate salesperson at Exit Family Realty in Lindenhurst. "We’re actively searching for co-ops for them to purchase in Sunset Park or Bay Ridge, Brooklyn," Mancz said.
Waiving inspections during the pandemic panic
Other buyers may regret decisions made in the rush of an overheated market, such as waiving a home inspection during a bidding war.
"When there's a bidding war, especially when COVID hit, people couldn't go to the house so they let us come in and do the inspection, or, sight unseen, they bought it," said home inspector Matthew Kaplan of HouseMaster of Long Island.
But some homeowners are only now dialing up inspectors to come out and identify costly problems, such as water damage and termite infestations, that might have been addressed by the previous owner.
Kaplan said that in many of the homes where people did not do an inspection during COVID, "We’ve had instances where we would peek our heads into the attic and start to see moisture and mold, or open up the electrical panel and it’s improper wiring."
There's a lot of horror stories, of leaks and termites and all kinds of problems when people skip the inspection.
— Eric Middleton of Uniondale-based Closer Look Property Inspections/EM Pest Control
Kaplan said that an inspection helps to reveal the current condition of a home before signing a contract.
"Most people with accepted offers will find out about hidden costs during an inspection of a house they are intent on buying," said James Swan, of Babylon, owner/operator of Investment Inspection in Bohemia.
"We inspect any parts of the house that are accessible — the attic, the crawl space, the basement." Swan said. "I'll get in there and give my clients an accurate and current report on what they intend on buying and what lies ahead maintenance and repair-wise."
New York State-certified home inspector Eric Middleton of Uniondale-based Closer Look Property Inspections/EM Pest Control, which serves homes throughout Long Island and the five boroughs, said, "There's a lot of horror stories, of leaks and termites and all kinds of problems when people skip the inspection." Added Middleton: "That's why home inspections became so popular in the first place."
High cost of living, mortgage rates
In addition to disliking the location after moving in or discovering more hidden costs than expected, discontent also arises from not getting a better mortgage, according to the Clever Real Estate survey.
But if you sour on your home sweet home, options are limited, not to mention expensive, real estate experts say. Long Island home prices continue to rise, the number of for-sale houses here remains low and the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is around 7.76%, according to Freddie Mac.
If you were "locked into a 2.5 or 3% interest rate during the pandemic… you don’t want to sell and buy new at 6 to 8%," Kaplan said.
It may be even more expensive to rent out your house and move into an apartment — for instance one of those transit-oriented downtown complexes rising around LIRR depots and trendy downtowns. Monthly apartment rents in New York State have continued to rise and now range from $3,000 for a studio to more than $6,256 for a three-bedroom, according to apartments.com.
That high cost of living, and changed feelings about Long Island in general, led James D. Gargan, 46, and his wife, Luz, to pull up stakes after five years of living in Lake Grove. "It's really tough to put a finger on one moment" when buyer's remorse set in, James said. One possible catalyst: "We had some friends who had moved out of state," James said. "They don't have to commute, and their property taxes were a fraction of what we pay on Long Island."
James is a lifelong Long Islander. He grew up in North Merrick, graduated from Wellington C. Mepham High School in North Bellmore, and only left the Island to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2006 to 2010, including two tours in Iraq, and live for a time in Queens.
We weren't getting the same enjoyment out of it. The juice wasn't worth the squeeze.
— James D. Gargan
He and Luz were living in a co-op in Whitestone, Queens, in 2017 when they decided to buy a house.
"We wanted to take the next step in life and move out to Long Island," James said. "We were open to different areas. We just wanted something bigger and to have a yard for our dogs." They purchased a four-bedroom, three-bath Brookfield Colonial on a half-acre for $460,000 in Lake Grove.
"They actually thought it was their dream house and that they'd stay there forever," said Nicole Schwartz, a licensed real estate salesperson and co-owner of RE-MAX Integrity Leaders in Smithtown.
The Gargans installed a patio and a hot tub by their inground swimming pool and often entertained friends from the city.
Then, just like that, Long Island was over for them.
"We weren't getting the same enjoyment out of it. The juice wasn't worth the squeeze," James said. "You've seen everything you've ever wanted to see, and you want to have new challenges and new adventures," he said of their decision to relocate.
Also weighing on the decision: Long Island's high property taxes, traffic and that, in his words, "life's too short to live in the major city areas."
The house sold last May for $699,000. The Gargans are now happily ensconced in a ranch house on an acre in Ocala, Florida.
"We're living near horse farms, lakes and natural springs," James said. "Since we moved here, the only thing she [Luz] regrets is not doing it sooner."