Amazon’s LIC flirtation may have been brief, but brokers say it buoyed area’s appeal

Amazon's about-face in Long Island City may actually assist the real estate market by raising the area's profile, brokers said. 
Amazon’s about-face in Long Island City may actually assist the real estate market by raising the area’s profile, brokers said.  Photo Credit: Courtesy of StarChefs

Amazon may have had second thoughts about moving into Long Island City, but real estate experts and brokers say the about-face is not fazing prospective buyers.

In fact, some say the company’s brief flirtation with the Western Queens market may have enhanced the area’s appeal.

Real estate brokers said they have not heard from clients who have signed contracts for condos and future developments saying they would like to back out or are second guessing the transaction. Rather, they said the spotlight has drawn more people to the neighborhood, some of whom are particularly eager to explore purchases now that a corporate campus is no longer pulling up prices. 

Eric Benaim, CEO of the Long Island City-based Modern Spaces brokerage firm, said potential buyers packed an open house just days after Amazon announced on Valentine’s Day that it was no longer pursuing plans unveiled in November for a Long Island City campus.

“Surprisingly we actually had 19 more inquiries," Benaim said of turnout the week following the pullout, compared with the week before. 

The listings company StreetEasy said searches for property in Long Island City rose 152 percent the week after Amazon’s pullout, as compared with the prior week. (Searches also spiked when the company debuted its plans in November.)

“We expect that the spike in searches will level out over the next several weeks to pre-announcement levels,” said StreetEasy spokeswoman Emily McDonald.

But StreetEasy said it did not notice dramatic shifts in the number of closings in Long Island City since Amazon set its sights on the neighborhood. 

The firm counted 58 closings in the area during the three months before Amazon’s announcement, and 52 in the three months that followed it.

Although some buyers may have decided to dive straight into contracts after learning about Amazon’s plans, most who immediately acted on knee-jerk impulses would still be in the process of negotiating and completing a purchase, according to Jonathan Miller, the president of the Miller Samuel appraisal firm.

“There was a lot of hyperbole. [Amazon] put eyeballs on that market in new interest,” Miller said.

But on the macro-level, Miller said the tech giant’s campus could have served as a bailout for developers, who are struggling to fill units amid a building boom. He estimated more than 10,000 new homes are slated to enter the local market in the next four years.

Now, Miller said developers and owners will have to recalibrate their expectations back to an environment teeming with new homes. He said the media attention surrounding Amazon’s whirlwind relationship with Queens may support sales.

“What it does is: It basically telegraphs to the market that the market still has opportunities,” Miller said.