Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.
  • Small Business Spotlight: Pandemic Uncertainty Fuels Suburban Housing Shortage

    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    WCBS 880 (NEW YORK) — The housing market has flipped upside down.

    As people grow accustomed to new living habits, their housing needs have changed.

    Alison Bernstein, founder of The Suburban Jungle Group, owns proprietary software that helps families develop a “home search strategy,” focusing on the neighborhood rather than the housing transaction.

    “I think this whole pandemic and the way that we live and the way that we look at life has really shown that thinking about, objectively, all of your options is transforming the way you purchase real estate,” Bernstein said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    She started the company in 2004 shortly after having her first child when she was considering moving out of the city to New York’s suburbs to raise her family.

    In her home search, she realized there are three bedroom homes everywhere, but only one neighborhood that best suits each family.

    “You want to understand, specifically, the community before you get into the home purchase,” said Bernstein.

    Her employees are trained to be objective advisors to find the right community fit for each family depending on their lifestyle. For example, The Suburban Jungle Group would recommend a town on Long Island with Little League teams for a family with a young boy who’s interested in baseball. They partner with local agents to make the home purchase.

    People are resetting their priorities and Bernstein believes they’re catching onto the flexibility of remote work, which has enabled The Suburban Jungle Group to grow, attract and retain talent, and expand nationally. They recently opened offices in Denver, Philadelphia and South Florida.

    “The other piece of it is never having a written out business plan because I always explain to people that your business changes every day and I think where some of these businesses really got stuck when the world changed so quickly (is) they kept going back to this plan,” she said, adding, “You have to be quick and nimble.”

    Bernstein told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso the housing market is in a bit of a “holding pattern” right now because people are unsure if they will return to the office five days a week, work on a hybrid schedule or stay fully remote as the COVID-19 pandemic extends past a year.

    “Right now, all across the board, specifically in the New York market, we’re facing an inventory issue outside of the city and a lot of that has really been driven by sort of the weirdness of the dynamic,” she explained. “This back to work is a big question. There are so many thoughts on what that’s going to look like and nobody really knows and that’s going to be a key determinant in terms of what’s happening in the market.”

    The real estate veteran said there’s a lack of housing inventory in the suburbs nationwide, noting people used to live close to where they work, but commuting distance may be outdated for some workers in the post-pandemic economy.

    “The home has been completely redefined,” Bernstein said. “Not only is it a place where you sleep, but now, you’re working, you’re schooling, you’re shopping, you’re eating, you’re exercising, so everything about the home is different. And so, now people’s take on home and where they want to be is also very different.”

    See the new trends in the real estate market as people’s living habits and needs have changed on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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