- The median homeowner tenure in New York City was 8.1 years in 2022, up one year compared to 2019. This means that owners who sold their homes in 2022 had been living in them longer than sellers from 2019.
- New Yorkers’ preferred housing type was the two-to four-family home, followed closely by the single-family home. Owners spent 10.1 and 9.2 years in these homes — much longer than co-op owners, who sold after only 6.9 years.
- Owners in the Big Apple are big on space: They stayed the longest in homes that were 2,000 to 3,000 square feet or 3,000 to 5,000 square feet in size. Their least favorite? It was not the smallest homes (less than 500 square feet), but rather the homes between 500 and 1,000 square feet.
- How old should a home be to win a New Yorker’s heart? No matter what borough they lived in, homeowners in America’s largest city preferred homes that were 11 to 20 years old. Conversely, homes that were up to five years old or less than 10 years old were New Yorkers’ least favorite.
Everyone wanted a larger home after the pandemic started wreaking havoc. So, emboldened by the new remote work policies and favorable market conditions, home seekers everywhere started bending over backward to secure more space, a bigger yard or, that most elusive amenity of all, an extra room that could be turned into a home office.
Appropriately, New York City seemed to be leading the revolution: Not only did all the renters seem to vanish, but homeowners also fled the city in droves, in search of greener (and lower-density) pastures. Tales of rich, upsizing owners and bitter bidding wars flooded the news, making everyone fear that the end of the bustling urban hub was nigh.
However, homeowner tenure data tells a different story: Looking at the amount of time that home sellers from 2022 spent in their homes before selling and comparing that to how long 2019 sellers lived in their homes, it becomes obvious that people were not that willing to move: Homeowners in NYC spent progressively more time in their homes before selling, going from a median tenure of 7.1 years in 2019 to a median of 8.1 years in 2022.
The Profile of a New Yorker’s Favorite Home: A 2- to 4-Family or Single-Family Home in The Bronx or Brooklyn
Homes with the longest tenures also had at least 2,000 square feet and were 21 to 50 years old
Although it seemed like the pandemic made everyone move, upsize or change their current home, there were actually more risk-averse owners out there than trailblazers willing to just up and leave during a period of such stress and uncertainty.
Judging by how much time they spent in their homes before selling, homeowners were actually increasingly reluctant to change homes as the pandemic months turned into years: From a median of 7.1 years in 2019, homeowner tenure in NYC reached 8.1 years in 2022.
And, almost without exception, homeowners tended to spend increasingly more time in their homes — no matter whether they lived in a condo, a co-op or a single-family home. For example, a homeowner who sold their single-family home in 2019 had been living there for about 8.1 years; in 2022, the NYC owner who sold their single-family home had been residing there for 9.2 years — a 1.1-year increase.
New Yorkers stayed the longest in two- to four-family homes, although the single-family home was a close second, boasting the second-longest tenure. They also preferred homes around 2,000 to 3,000 square feet. However, unlike homeowners in California's largest cities, NYC owners didn't tend to spend more time in a home the larger it is. In fact, in NYC, there seemed to be no correlation between the size of a home and the amount of time an owner lived in it.
Plus, when it came to when their home was built, New Yorkers had a clear preference for homes 11 to 20 years old. The median tenure for these homes was 8.8 years. Homes 21 to 50 years old came second: Residents in the Big Apple spent 8.2 years in these homes before selling and moving. The least-attractive homes for New Yorkers were those that were less than five years old. The median tenure for these homes was just 2.3 years.
Tenure by Housing Type in the Boroughs: Owners of 2- to 4-Family Homes in The Bronx Stay Longest in Their Home Before Selling
Single-Family Homeowners in Queens & Brooklyn Are Close Behind, with Tenures of 11+ Years
Judging by how much time they spent in their home before selling, owners of two- to four-family homes and single-family homes were the happiest with their living situation. More precisely, owners of two- to four-family homes and single-family homes in The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens were the happiest, as they stayed the longest in their homes: In 2022, owners in these boroughs stayed for a median of at least 11 years before moving.
Meanwhile, Staten Island was the NYC borough with the shortest tenures, regardless of property type. Here, single-family owners moved after just 5.5 years, while owners of condos and two- four-family homes spent a little more than 4.5 years before changing homes.
With very few exceptions and almost regardless of what borough we zoomed in on, residents tended to spend progressively more time in their homes in 2022 compared to 2019. Whether it was the shock and uncertainty caused by the pandemic or the increasing mortgage rates, one thing was for sure: Owners were not letting go of their homes as easily as before.
This could be due to what has been called "the golden handcuffs" phenomenon. Although there will always be homeowners who need to sell due to major life events forcing them to do so, most owners are quite reluctant to give up on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages that they secured when interests rates were at rock bottom:
"The lack of housing inventory is one of the major reasons home prices have remained near record highs, despite seven straight months of declining sales as interest rates have roughly doubled since the start of the year.
“I like to call it the ‘golden handcuffs’ of mortgage rates. You’ve got existing homeowners who are sitting on these rock-bottom rates, and what is their financial incentive to move and lock into a rate that’s potentially as much as 3 percentage points higher than what they’ve locked into?”
– Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American Financial Corp
Tenure by Square Footage in the Boroughs: Owners of 2,000- to 3,000-Square-Foot Homes in Queens Stayed There the Longest
Similarly-sized homes in The Bronx a close 2nd
Analyzing square footage data, The Bronx came in on top again. Although this number might be skewed by the fewer transactions of small homes in The Bronx, owners of homes less than 500 square feet in size spent no fewer than 21.7 years in their homes before selling and moving. What's more, homeowner tenure in The Bronx was longer than it was in any other borough, with owners here spending at least 10 years in their homes before selling, no matter the size of the home.
Plus, this was all the more impressive because New York City — and The Bronx, in particular — has some of the lowest homeownership rates in the country. According to a report by the Office of Budget Policy and Analysis:
"New York has the lowest homeownership rate among the states, with only 53.6 percent owning a home in the second quarter of 2022, compared to 65.8 percent nationally. For New York, the low percentage is driven by the high share of multi-family housing in New York City, where about 40 percent of the population resides. Homeownership rates are as low as 20 percent in the Bronx and 24 percent in Manhattan."
The residents who do own their homes, though, seem to have been mostly drawn to The Bronx, but also to Queens and Brooklyn. Generally, the larger the home, the more time owners spent in it before selling. However, there were some notable exceptions: In Brooklyn, owners spent the least amount of time in the largest homes, or homes larger than 5,000 square feet. The same went for Staten Island. In Manhattan, owners spent less time in homes 3,000 to 5,000 square feet than in all of the homes that were less than 3,000 square feet.
This could be due, in part, to the higher maintenance costs associated with larger homes, but also their scarcity: In America's largest city, where multi-family housing is predominant and large homes are as rare as they are expensive, finding and keeping a 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot home is a dream that seldom becomes reality.
Tenure by Home Age in the Boroughs: Old Homes Are In, New Homes Are Out
Buyers spend most time in homes that are 21-50 years old
Although it makes sense for homes less than five years old to have the shortest tenures, it was obvious that New Yorkers weren't big fans of new homes. In Manhattan, the median tenure for homes less than five years old was a very short 1.4 years, meaning owners didn't even spend two years in a home before selling it.
This could also be because new homes are usually starter homes and first-time buyers will jump at the opportunity to buy one just to get a foot on the property ladder. Sacrificing location and even square footage for a lower price isn't inconceivable for someone who wants to make the transition to homeownership.
But, if there’s a strong reason to upgrade — like a growing family or a new job — New Yorkers would probably upgrade, leaving the starter home behind.
What owners in The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan truly loved was the 21- to 50-year old homes and, their second favorite, the 11- to 20-year old homes.
New Yorkers' favorite borough, judging solely by the amount of time they spent in their homes before leaving, was The Bronx, followed by Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Staten Island had the shortest homeowner tenure of all of the boroughs, no matter the age of the home.
Of course, homeownership has many advantages. According to the previously mentioned report by the Office of Budget Policy and Analysis:
"Research finds that homeownership has social benefits that include higher rates of neighborhood stability, civic participation and community engagement, as well as better maintained housing stock and greater housing security.
Homeownership also has economic benefits. While purchasing, maintaining, and supporting the mortgage of a home entails financial risk and does not always prove to be a solid investment for everyone, overall, homeownership has served as an important vehicle for Americans to build wealth, which occurs as home prices appreciate and equity grows over time."
That said, New York City still has a long way to go to reach the homeownership levels that other American cities and states boast. But in time, by easing people's access to homeownership and implementing measures and policies in support of owners, the city could create a culture where the American Dream becomes the norm, not the exception.
- Working with proprietary data from our sister company PropertyShark, we looked at all the home sales in New York City from 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2019 that also had a previous sale date. Consequently, we excluded all properties that didn't have at least two reported transactions.
- The number of transactions included in our analysis were as follows:
- In 2022, 40,000 transactions recorded.
- In 2021, 45,000 transactions recorded.
- In 2020, 27,000 transactions recorded.
- In 2019, 34,000 transactions recorded.
- We calculated the homeowner tenure as the difference (in years) between the most recent sale date (one of the four years of reference, meaning 2022, 2021, 2020 or 2019) and the previous sale date.
- Co-op data for the borough of Staten Island was not available.
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