The next frontier: Why investors are flocking to Rego Park

Both residential construction and investment sales are skyrocketing, but the area is better for long-term plays

TRD New York /
Jan.January 22, 2018 07:30 AM

Rego Park, where developers have added both new condos and rentals.

Hipsters and Rego Park might not get along very well.

“It’s not trendy enough for them,” said Kobi Zamir, a broker with GFI who focuses on the neighborhood. “They’re looking for more nightlife, and I think it’s a little bit lacking in Rego Park.”

Luckily for the Queens neighborhood — a roughly two-square mile area, which is nestled deep in the borough between Forest Hills and Elmhurst and located right along the Long Island Expressway — there are plenty of less-hip New Yorkers and real estate players who like what it’s selling.

The number of applications for residential units in Rego Park jumped 116 percent to 190 in 2017 from 88 units back in 2008, according to TRD’s analysis.

While those numbers are undoubtedly tiny compared to anything a Manhattan neighborhood would log, commercial sales volume skyrocketed as well, jumping to $143 million in 2017 from about $112 million in 2008 after peaking at about $203 million in 2016.

Developers have added both new condos and rentals to the neighborhood, where median rents clock in at roughly $2,275 and median sales prices are a modest $392,000, according to StreetEasy.

Aaron Hillel, a broker with the Hillel Group, said interest in the neighborhood has spiked as more buyers and renters realize that the commute to Midtown is about 30  to 40 minutes and that the area has an array of retail, including several large brand-name stores.

And bigger investors are clearly circling in pursuit of the returns.

In July 2016, for instance, Madison Realty Capital and Ariel Capital dropped $136 million on the 419-unit Saxon Hall rental complex at 62-60 99th Street — the largest transaction in Rego Park history.

Blumenfeld Development Group also placed a big bet on Rego Park last summer, scooping up 99-01 Queens Boulevard from Vornado Realty Trust for $31.2 million. (Vornado is a major investor in the area. It owns the Rego Center, a large shopping mall that opened in 2010 and anchors the neighborhood, along with the Alexander, a 312-unit luxury rental above the mall.)

Meanwhile, Queens residential developer Kenny Liu is planning a 50-unit condo that will include a 12,000-square-foot health care facility on the first two floors.

The investment sales market in the area was also stirring near the end of 2017. In October, a Manhattan-based real estate firm bought a 113-unit residential building for $31.5 million, and the LeFrak Organization sold an 11-story office building. 

Modern Spaces CEO Eric Benaim described Rego Park as a better play for a long-term investor than for someone looking for a quick turnaround.

“If somebody’s looking to buy, fix up and flip right away, I don’t really see that being that lucrative,” he said. “It’s more for somebody looking to buy something, fix it up or do ground-up construction and hold it for five or 10 years.”

Click here to read more about outer borough areas that investors are running to in New York City.

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