Wealthy families who escaped New York during the pandemic are ending up in the city’s suburbs, competing for a scarce supply of homes in the commuter towns of New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and Westchester.

The open houses are held on video, and the real estate agents wear masks and gloves. But that hasn’t slowed the inquiries and offers. Many of the buyers are city dwellers with young children and budgets of $1 million to $2 million, agents said.

One recent weekend, Ann Hance, associate broker at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty who specializes in the north shore of Long Island, held five virtual open houses and sold three of the homes within a week.

“The demand in my community is outrageous,” she said. “Young families are coming in droves. We’ve had bidding wars.”

Many of the buyers aren’t in New York anymore. They’re living with parents or in vacation homes far from the city. Two clients of Kristin Gildea Fox, broker associate at Christie’s International Real Estate, are moving to New Jersey without ever returning to their city apartments. They’ve hired movers to pack up and move everything to their new homes, she said.

For these buyers, there’s a premium on homes that are empty and ready to be occupied.

“People want immediacy,” said Hilary Levy, a Coldwell Banker agent in the Westchester town of Dobbs Ferry. “The urge is now, not three months from now.”

Meanwhile, Levy added, local inventory is low because many older Westchester County homeowners who might have downsized are holding onto their suburban spreads, at least for now. Many are hosting adult children or college students who have moved back in since the pandemic began.

The exodus of affluent families will only add to the woes in New York City, where the virus has killed more than 20,000 people. The outbreak has been an economic calamity for the city, which thrives on tourism and live entertainment, knitted together by once-crowded subways. New York’s population has been slowly declining since 2016 and now that trend could accelerate, worsening local budget problems.

In Greenwich, Connecticut, the most popular homes are listed below $2 million, said Halstead agent Rob Johnson. The buyers in this range are generally people who had been renting in the city -- meaning they don’t need to worry about selling an apartment at this difficult time. Many have young children, but not all, Johnson said.

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