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Hudson Valley real estate market revives after Sandy

Simon Ross, receiving manager at Lester's on Boston

Simon Ross, receiving manager at Lester's on Boston Post Road in Rye, scrapes tape off of windows post Hurricane Sandy in Rye. Lester's is a tenant at the building, which is owned by the Village of Rye and has been for sale. (Nov. 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

Superstorm Sandy huffed and puffed, but the Hudson Valley housing market is still standing, real estate industry professionals said.

Richard Haggerty, CEO of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, a White Plains-based trade association, said the storm stalled transactions for two or three weeks but probably did not affect regional sales statistics in the fourth quarter.

"I'm anticipating it to be a really good quarter," he said, despite the dislocations caused by Sandy. "Everybody was pretty much put on hold to do cleanup."

But now, "It seems back to normal," said Michael LaMorte, a real estate agent with Judy Johnson Real Estate in Somers.

The storm was downgraded from a hurricane when it made landfall Oct. 29, but it still left more than 100 people dead, paralyzed transportation systems on the East Coast and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.

That damage included downed trees and limbs that fell on houses, some of which were for sale.

"There was significant damage to properties; that's no doubt," said Gayle Renella, a real estate broker for Baer and McIntosh Real Estate in Nyack.

Renella said problems arose when, for example, a tree hit a house after the buyers and sellers signed a contract but before the deal closed.

The seller might get an estimate for repairs from a contractor and an indication of their coverage from insurance adjuster. Then the seller would have to put money into an escrow account to satisfy the buyer's concerns.

"If a big tree falls on a house, even if there's no damage, it's going to be a couple thousand dollars just to take down the tree," Renella said.

Beyond basic repairs, some mortgage providers sent out their appraisers to re-evaluate properties and make sure that their value did not fall below the value of the mortgage, LaMorte said.

Though most areas of the Hudson Valley have rebounded, waterfront neighborhoods that were flooded by Sandy's tidal surge on the Hudson River and Sound Shore remain in limbo.

"That's a whole different story," Renella said, citing condominiums in the Rockland County Town of Haverstraw and Village of Piermont. "Some homes were just destroyed. You've got mold and all kinds of things."

In Westchester County, agents with listings in Rye and Mamaroneck may be facing issues from flooding, LaMorte said.

In some cases, real estate problems extend to the properties of agents themselves. LaMorte said some colleagues own waterfront property.

"It was devastating for them," he said. "It's very upsetting for people."

Yet another dimension of Sandy's fallout can arise for prospective buyers who no longer can get a good price for their damaged properties in New York City or elsewhere and have to put their plan to move to the suburbs on hold, LaMorte said.

And then there are potential buyers who, after surveying the damage, decide that the threat of future storms like Sandy makes buying a certain home simply not worth the risk, Renella said.

"Maybe we don't want a house after all," she said of their thought process. "Maybe renting isn't so bad after all."

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