2013-05-23 / Other News

Gerritsen Beach Real Estate Still Holding Strong In Spite Of Sandy

By Linda Steinmuller

House for sale at 16 Bartlett Place. House for sale at 16 Bartlett Place. Buying a home is a big step – many people work hard and save money for years with the hopes of owning their own house one day – after all, it’s the American Dream. For many Gerritsen Beach homeowners, that dream was shattered in a matter of minutes when Superstorm Sandy tore through their community. The raging floodwaters swept away everything they worked so hard for — destroying their homes, cherished possessions, and changing their lives forever.

To make matters worse, homeowners are frustrated dealing with the endless delays associated with insurance companies, Rapid Repairs, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — often waiting months for reimbursement checks that are barely enough to cover the cost of repairing their house. It’s enough to make anyone pack their bags and move away – anywhere away from the coastline!

House for sale at 47 Celeste Court. House for sale at 47 Celeste Court. Those affected by Sandy are torn over what to do with their homes. Should they sell their house “as is” or should they make the necessary repairs and then sell? If they choose to stay in the neighborhood, there are concerns about the rising cost of insurance and the new elevation requirements to raise their homes. And, what if a storm like this happens again?

“The community is not moving. The truth is that Gerritsen Beach remains a desirable area. People still want to live here. Where else can you have your own beach, a library, a volunteer fire department and ambulance besides Long Island?” said Joseph Sciulara, owner of “Best Seller” #1 Properties, located at 2692 Gerritsen Avenue.

“I have not seen many people abandon their homes. However, 10 percent of Gerritsen Beach residents are still displaced from their houses due to storm damage. Homeowners are using their insurance money and whatever money they received from FEMA to fix up their homes and stay in the neighborhood. We have a great school system here, churches, parks, and shopping within walking distance. Where are you gonna go?” Sciulara continues.

Vacant lot sits right on the water. Vacant lot sits right on the water. According to Sciulara, the homes that are selling were already on the market prior to Hurricane Sandy. They are typically second homes, which are often used as rentals. “Those are the homes that are selling.”

Sellers are getting good prices for their property. If a house is worth $400,000 and there is $50,000 in damages, then the house is selling for $350,000. The seller already had their heating and electrical panels replaced by Rapid Repairs. Buyers can use the extra money to fix up the home exactly the way they want it – for instance, designing their own kitchen.

There is a lot of concern about the new elevation requirements. That’s the first question a prospective buyer asks Sciulara. “I tell them to ask their architect. An architect can answer the question best. We’re realtors, not engineers. People are also coming in to get their homes appraised as they are nervous that home values may have declined.”

Sciulara recommends that any newly constructed home should be raised to the new elevation requirements. Buyers will most likely have to purchase flood insurance. It will definitely cost more money to build, but he says that it will be a safer home. And if Gerritsen Beach becomes Zone A, he’s not sure how it will affect real estate in the area. “It all depends on the cost of insurance.”

There is some relief for prospective buyers.

A program named CityLIFT, sponsored by Wells Fargo, provides down payment assistance of $30,000 to those who purchase a home in Brooklyn. CityLIFT will host an event, which will be held on June 7th to 8th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Pier 94 (711 12th Avenue) in Manhattan. At the event, you can learn about available homes, find out if you qualify for the down payment assistance, and reserve your funds for 60 days – even if you haven’t yet found a property. Admission is free but you must pre-register by visiting www.wells fargo.com/citylift or calling 866- 802-0456.

To help finance the purchase of a home, many lenders offer 203k loans, which lend extra funds to buyers to complete repairs and make general improvements to the home.

Typically, in a down market, commercial real estate values decline first – then co-ops, condos, and residential properties. When the market changes, residential property values go up first – then co-ops, condos and commercial properties. Sciulara says that residential properties have not been going up much, but they haven’t been going down either – and it’s the same for commercial real estate.

“The bottom line is that the government must come in to help with the cost of elevating homes. They’re going to have to contribute to the cost. Homeowners cannot afford the cost of elevating their property on their own,” declares Sciulara.

“The hurricane affected everyone, but people here are bouncing back. You see smiles on the faces of people now. If anything, the community is much closer now than it was before Sandy. People really care for people here,” Sciulara added.

Sandy may have destroyed peoples’ houses but not the spirit of those who call the tight-knit community of Gerritsen Beach their home.

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