With such a favourable exchange rate giving us almost two dollars to every pound, flights to New York are packed with bargain-hungry Brits heading for a shopping frenzy. Most are hunting for clothes or cheap electrical goods, but some are discovering that property is one of the best bargains around.
The US has always been a popular hunting ground for the many British buyers who prefer to look for a second home in a destination where they speak English. Until recently, Florida saw the bulk of the buying action, but today's buyers increasingly want more from their homes than a sunny location, and where better than upstate New York?
Manhattan's property prices are as steep as its skyscrapers but head north through the Hudson Valley and it is possible to find reasonably priced homes that have access to the city and the meandering countryside around it. The Hudson river and countless lakes mean that even waterside locations won't break the bank. Head further north, up near the Catskill Mountains, and you can even find locations that will give you skiing in winter months.
Foxtons' boards are a familiar sight to Londoners, yet it now has a visible presence in much of New York state as well as in New Jersey and Connecticut. Foxtons began selling here in 2002 and the company is rapidly expanding up the Hudson Valley and has opened offices in many counties throughout the state. US Foxtons' vice-president, John Blomquist, says that this area offers fantastic opportunities for British buyers, particularly because of the favourable exchange rate and the current economic climate in the US. "There's a correction happening in the market. Many people now need to urgently offload their second homes, and that presents a great opportunity for the British, particularly as the pound is so strong against the dollar."
Foxtons has a range of properties that are within easy reach of NYC yet in a rural setting. A good midway hunting ground is Putnam Valley in Putnam County, which gives you a peaceful location yet is only a 40-minute drive away from Manhattan. Foxtons is selling a three-bedroom, two-bathroom "ranch-style home" on Lake Shore Road priced at $450,000 (£229,000). The house is on a quiet country road in a lakeside community yet is minutes from the Taconic State Parkway, which leads directly into NYC. Also in Putnam County, a Cape Cod-style house, near the quaint village of Carmel and directly overlooking picturesque Lake Carmel, has three bedrooms, a den area, garage and lake rights. The property has a price tag of $339,000 (£174,000). The low prices are tempting but is it worth waiting for the dollar to fall even further? "Wait any longer and the dollar may strengthen, so my message is buy now," adds Blomquist.
While a 40-minute drive to NYC is attractive, there are many towns and villages throughout this region to suit buyers who prefer a more rural setting. Around 50 miles north of NYC, about an hour's drive from the city, the quaint village of Cold Spring will appeal to those looking for period property with a rural location. Antique shops and restaurants line its streets, and the town is a good base from which to explore the surrounding countryside of Fahnestock State Park, Breakneck Ridge and Bear Mountain Bridge. McCaffrey Realty is selling a charming three-bedroom stone cottage set in landscaped gardens with mountain views for $349,000 (£179,000). Agent Robert McCaffrey has seen an increase in British buyers but is surprised that there aren't more: "Compared with the much better-known Hamptons, this place is a well-kept secret yet it's a great location and you have easy access to spots like Woodstock."
There are few who have not heard of Woodstock, scene of the legendary music festival in 1969. Back then it attracted more than its fair share of hippy campers. Today's visitors are looking for second homes in a peaceful setting which gives them access to a range of activities. Here, that includes tubing on the river Esopus and skiing in the nearby Catskills or Adirondacks. Woodstock has long attracted an arty set, and Tinker Street is full of galleries and shops selling jewellery and pottery. Joan Lonergan of Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty says, "Today's Woodstock is still an eclectic place which attracts all kinds of people. They come here for a peaceful rural setting yet the bright lights of Manhattan are not far away."
Coldwell Banker is selling a four-bedroomed Victorian farmhouse hidden away in rolling countryside. It is what is known locally as a typical "Woodstocky" property, with painted blue-grey boards and a huge terrace that runs round three sides of the house. Crammed with period details, the house still has its high ceilings, ornate ceiling fixtures and original wide plank floors. It is set within a one-acre plot, has stunning mountain views and is within walking distance of a local "swimming hole" and the village. The house is for sale for $349,000 (£179,000).
Foxtons: 001 (800) 369 8667; www.foxtons.com
Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty: 001 (845) 679 2255; www.villagegreenrealty.com
Robert McCaffrey Realty Inc: 001 (845) 265 4113; www.mcaffreyrealty.comReuse content