Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Yearly Update

I must take a moment to run through the past week. There are 115 active listings in the Skaneateles area. There is one new waterfront listing, actually a re-list down almost 10% from the original list price. One home has sold and gone directly to pending - the list price is currently 35% off the original price. Nothing closed.

Now it's time for the fun to begin!

Skaneateles had 64 closed properties for 2008, as compared with 103 in 2007. The median price was a resounding $410,000 as compared to $300,000 the year before. The least expensive property closed for $68,000. The most expensive closed for $2,066,250 and was not surprisingly waterfront. In 2007 the least expensive was $43,000 but the most was 4.9M. It's the one on West Lake Street currently being remodeled.

Camillus by comparison closed 267 this year as opposed to 299 properties last year. They were well ahead of their number until the fall when things seemed to slow. The median price remained virtually the same, however, at about $137,000.

Elbridge closed 60 single family homes this year as compared with 54 the year before, a nice increase. The median price also rose from $106,000 to $118,720.

Marcellus sold 59 this year and 60 last year. The price was slightly lower ($148,000 in 2008, $155,500 in 2007) but not appreciably different. Stability. Always a good thing, at least in this market.

Waterfront in Skaneateles was certainly the big thing this past year. Almost 36% of the sales were waterfront of some kind, whether lake rights or right down on the water. The previous year the number was 26%. Multi-million dollar properties were big in 2007 - 11 homes closed for over $998,000. In 2008, there were only three. So why the increase in the median price? There were a lot of homes, waterfront and non- in the 500k to 700K range.

Next year will be better, I predict! I resolve on my end to close more homes (I've got a couple in mind right now) and sell all my listings. I need your help - come and buy in Skaneateles!

Happy New Year!

Predictions and Resolutions

In no particular order, I want to memorialize these thoughts so I can go back and check them next year. And I probably will. Knowing that readers are out there, too, may keep me on the straight and narrow. Whatever it takes!

I resolve to sell every home I list in 2009. I know selling is a combination of sellers, buyers and agents as well as marketing and the economy, but what the heck! No goal, no drama.

I resolve to establish financial goals that are not all monetary. I will run my business as my business; my personal finances will be separate. I've already gone to M&T and spent a wonderful few minutes with their manager, Mary Adsit, who got me rolling. I've done all right so far with my bookkeeping, but this is another level of expertise I want to add to my list of accomplishments. (Besides, it will be easier at tax time!)

I predict that Alex and Rachel will be married under sunlit skies on the lawn of the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles on July 18th.

I resolve to fit into some little dress with high-heeled sandals for their wedding.

I predict I will cry at the wedding.

I predict that the Syracuse University basketball team will get to the Final Four.

I predict that the Syacuse University football team will have a winning season. (Did I write that?)

I predict that two real estate agencies will merge into the largest in Central New York (Oh, wait! That already happened! Prudential was bought out by Hunt...)

I resolve to write my blog three times a week.

I predict that between 80 and 85 single family homes will close in the Skaneateles area in the coming year.

I predict that the percentage of waterfront homes sold will be in the 25% range.

I predict that the real estate market in Central New York will remain one of the best in the country, buoyed by mortgage rates under 5%.

I predict that I will participate in a transaction this year with a fixed mortgage rate of 4%.

I predict that the TV show Lost will not end in 2009.

I predict that there will not be over 150 single family homes listed in the Skaneateles area at one time.

I resolve to spend more time cross country-skiing, biking, sailing, kayaking, hiking, swimming, skating and water-skiing than I did this year.

I predict that I will meet many more new people - buyers and sellers - in the coming year and I will credit them with my supreme enjoyment of real estate.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I went into the Elbridge M&T Bank last week and ran into Sherri Dattler, their mortgage consultant. I've known Sherri for years, back to Skaneateles days when I first arrived. I thanked her profusely for putting together a mortgage for the people buying one of my listings. She shared that the rates had gone down substantially since they first applied three months ago. I told her about this blog, and asked if she could share what that meant dollar-wise. She eagerly went back to her office (they've just remodeled) and calculated.

It means that if you have a 30 year fixed mortgage for $100,000 and a rate of 6.5%, the cost per month would be $634. The rate currently is 5%, so the payment would drop to $538. That's a savings of $96 every month and almost $1,200 per year. Push that out even 10 years and the savings are almost $12,000. That could buy a lot!

The point of all this is two-fold. Those homes that seem expensive can be purchased literally for a lot less. Think what this means for a $400,000 mortgage - takes one's breath away! The other point Sherri begged me to stress was that now is a great time to refinance. She also urged me to send along her phone number (315-424-4022) and her e-mail:

Back to business. There are currently 116 active listings in the Skaneateles area. Two new ones came on this week, both re-lists of homes that have been on the market. One is waterfront and another town. Both have been reduced almost 20% from their original price. (Think 20% off the price plus the 15% off for the mortgage....)

Good news! Three other properties have been marked contingent. All have been on the market at least 5 months but reductions vary from 2% to 20% of original price. Of course we won't know what they actually sold for until they close. Nice mix: town, waterfront with lake rights, and village (11 Onondaga - hooray!)

We now have 64 closed properties (last year there were 100 at this time) and one new one. It actually closed a year to the day it was listed. The price was 10% under the original list price - and add in that mortgage savings (think a mortgage of maybe $400,000) and the new owners got a very good deal.

You can, too! Remember those 116 listings? They are all waiting for you! What a great last minute gift one would make!

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season

As I bake cookies in our unfinished kitchen I have a great opportunity to marvel at the cards and photos we've gotten this holiday season. We put them up on the wall with tape - the wall is going to be repainted anyway, at least that's what we said last year - and they have become a gallery. We only took down last year's pictures when we started getting new ones after Thanksgiving.

As I look at them I realize how much my real estate career has given me. Not just a place to go and people to meet, but entire families with whom I work and stay in contact. As an only child of an only child, I have few relatives. My birthfamily is spread all over, from Alabama to Minnesota to Kentucky to Rochester. Bob's family is here and ever-present, a wonderful gift. But there's always room for more.

I want to just tell about a few families, inspired by the baby pictures on the wall. This year we received a lovely photo of three children, all pre-schoolers. They are decked out in their holiday clothes, even the baby. I met the parents when I first started out. They were engaged then, looking for a home to live in for a bit before they built their own. They've married, enjoyed the births of these beautiful children, bought and sold a home, bought and built on land. I also work with both their families and friends. I just put on a new multi family in the city - another friend. I treasure their faith in me.

Another couple came into my life in a whirlwind. He had just taken a job with Welch Allyn and she had given birth to a tiny baby on New Year's Eve, six weeks prior to their entrance. We worked together to buy homes, but none were right. "No room at the inn!" we used to laugh. They eventually built a home in Camillus, and were happy there for a bit. On Christmas morning they would stop over and say hello with their now-growing little boy. After a couple years they returned to Georgia and family. We stayed in touch and when they visited would find me. Always on Christmas I received a letter. Last year was sad - the mother wanted another child, but somehow couldn't have one although she longed openly and prayed often.

This year the picture they sent was of a mother, father, and a maturing little boy holding a picture of his new sister, Hannah, who will join them in the new year from Korea. Huge smiles everywhere. I am thrilled for them, and for allowing me to stay in their lives despite the miles.

My last couple didn't send a picture this year. I met them at an open house in the city, and while the house I had wasn't right for them they remembered me. When the mother of the young woman, a Realtor herself from Buffalo, suggested they find a buyer's agent the couple suggested me. I met with the mother and we all found a great house for them, after many precarious moments. Through the process we became friends; Bob and I attended their wedding two years ago.

A year later the young woman's mother died of breast cancer. I was so glad she had seen them married. I knew they were busy with work and grad school and their commitment to the man's native Ghana, so I thought about them often but didn't call.

This Christmas they sent me an e-mail. The young woman gave birth to twins prematurely on December 4th. So I don't have a picture perhaps, but I have a website to track their babies' growth.

These are a few of my families and my babies - and as the snow falls and the cookies bake, I think about them all and thank you, my readers, for this yuletide indulgence.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

You would think nothing would happen at this time of year, but my listings are being shown or at least inquiries are being made. And why not? The mortgage rates are going down and there are deals to be made.

There are 117 active listings in the Skaneateles real estate market. Only one new one came on this week and that was a re-list. Of particular interest to many is the marking of 11 Onondaga as contingent - again. We believe this sale will go through, but in the event it deosn't back up offers are more than welcome.

A newly pended home is in the village - it never bothered to go contingent, just pended! I think everyone is a bit gunshy right now and would prefer to wait until the commitment comes across our desks.

We had three closings this week - three! In the town a home closed above the list price - imagine! In the village a small investment opportunity closed at two-thirds of the original list price. Waterfront also closed - but at a reduction of about 25% from the original price.

We now have approximately 65% of last year's closings, with 24 being waterfront. Of the 20 true waterfront, as in on the lake not just with lake rights, only three were over one million dollars. And another three were under half a million dollars. But within that vast 70% of the closed waterfronts between 500k and 999K the range was huge. Gorgeous new construction vs. tear it down - please! How do you set the price? I think the answer is a combination of all things - location, condition, ease of movement, and subjective perception. Some people want the tear downs and others think a camp should be a camp, not a castle. Skaneateles has all kinds!

So enjoy the winter months, enjoy the last weekend of the Dickens celebration, and "Come Home to Skaneateles!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just a Few Things.....

Last Friday Syracuse University got a new football coach. He is Doug Marrone who played for SU in the 80s. Not that I remember him, but he was part of a good group of strong SU supporters, Tim Green and Scott Congel to name two. He played under Coach Mac.

I am still skeptical. Alex is willing to bet me $100 of his hard-earned money that SU will have a winning record in two years. I want it in one year, and apparently so does Coach Marrone.

I like what he says. He wants to take the players who are there and build his offense around their strengths. Coach Robinson believed differently - take HIS offense and make the players use it. It didn't work.

Now this may seem far-fetched, but I can relate this to the real estate market. Hang in there! If you use Marrone's philosophy, you analyze the situation (the players) and work with them. The economy is the situation in real estate and home-selling must accomodate the market. G-Rob said "This should work!" as in the west coast offense, and when it didn't he was lost. He didn't know how to monitor and adjust. As in the market - sellers must adjust, the market isn't going to.

Enough! Welcome to Coach Marrone (offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints until today)! He said that coaching SU was his dream job, something he worked for his entire life since he was a kid in the Bronx. How wonderful that he has achieved his dream!

Other stuff: Floyd Little, running back extraordinaire for SU in the 60s and Kansas City in the pros is going to the inauguration. He hopes to present Barack Obama an SU jersey with number 44 on it, commemorating the brilliance of 44 in SU history and Obama's own presidency (number 44, as it were!)

When sports and real estate and politics collide! I love it!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bright Spots

The news has been so poor lately that I thought I'd write about what is good that's happening out there. As I came through Yahoo to get here I caught a brief "Five Reasons to Suspect Your Job is in Jeopardy" headline. I'm sure I could return for more bad news, but who needs it?

This morning in the paper ( a real estate deal was announced. In Elbridge, the residents of the Champion Mobile Home Park have banded together to buy their park for 3.6 million dollars. They formed a homeowners association and borrowed money to do so, all with the gentle nod of the owner who had kept it running in good form for years. That means 350 families became home owners today. I think that's wonderful!

I opened my mail for my monthly bill from M&T. I borrowed, like so many did, from my home equity line of credit this year to get past a very slow real estate spring and a very expensive tax season. The interest rate has dropped from about 5.5% six months ago to a munificent 4.0%. I'll be able to pay it off with the next closing, and there are closings on the near horizon.

My e-mail produced rate quotes from Ed Nash who seems to e-mail everyone in all the offices. I keep his quotes as reference points. Today he promised a 30 year fixed rate of 5.1%. If you only want 15 years the rate drops to 5.0%. I won't tell you about the ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages). I'll just let you guess that they are lower.

When I bought my house in Skaneateles in 1990, my rate was 9.5%. My attorney, John Yuhas, congratulated me on getting such a good rate. His was presumably much higher. Think of that. A 100K home garnered about $10,000 in interest alone back then. The yearly interest now is a much lower $5,000. Prices of homes are higher, yes. But there is equity accumulating, not interest for the banks.

The brightest point for me now is the realization that I have the ability to give to others. It may all sound a bit hokey, but I am glad that I can send a check out to the Food Bank ( or Wanderers' Rest ( where we found Boo. I am sorry so many people need extra help this year, but I am thrilled I can provide some of it. I'm not alone. Pat Snyder from Williams Realty told me she had a grand time buying blankets and chocolates for Christmas baskets and the elderly this week.

So take some of that interest you've saved and spread it around to those who need it this year! It will warm your soul and create a bright spot that no gloom and doom headlines can take away.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

It feels as if I just did the weekly update. The world is moving swiftly again. Since I last wrote, three of my homes with contingencies on them seem to be getting ready to close. The waiting is over. I wish the same for everyone out there this holiday season!

This week there are 121 active single family residential homes listed in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Two new ones have come on - one in Marcellus Schools but Skaneateles township, and the other a village re-list with a slightly reduced price.

There are only 2 properties listed as contingent and now 10 marked pending. No new home has been publicly announced to be sold.

There are 57 closed properties as compared to 97 last year at this time. Both are village homes in the higher range ($400,000 to $750,000). But neither, for once are waterfront.

I went back and looked at my blog of six months ago to see how far we've come. There were 149 active listings (about to balloon to 169), only 18 had closed and 3 were recently marked contingent. Compared to the year before, the number of closings was well under 50% (18/39). We have increased that percentage to almost 60%. And by the way, gas cost $4.11! I just paid $1.87 at the Hess station in Camillus Commons.

Now, if only the rumored 4.5% mortgages would become reality!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Creative Home Selling

An old friend came into the office today to show me the Tuesday Wall Street Journal ( article he had found about creative home selling. There were several examples of incentives offered by owners:

Austin, Texas - Buy the house, get a $50,000 Porsche Boxster for free! Of course the list price is two million....

Phoenix, Arizona - Buy the house, get a pool, patio and professional grill installed prior to closing. Don't want them? - take $100,000 off the price of 1.5 million. "The market is so bad, it's hard to get people to even take a look at the area right now."

LaHabra California - Buy the house, get free yardwork for 6 months, a washer/dryer, flatscreen tvs and all furnishings (maybe). "Saving people a little time is pretty attractive."

New York, New York - Buy the house (or condo), get 10 personal-training sessions, a $500 American Express gift card, or a romantic getaway to an inn upstate, or a free bike for a place near Prospect Park. "...we wanted to be attractive, special amd sexy."

Scottsdale, Arizona - Buy the house, and get free solar panels that will cut electric consumption by 60%. "We have seen a greater sensitivity to monthly payments...A big concession like a $20,000 discount is less impressive than these sorts of incentives."

Fort Lauderdale, Florida - Sell (as in real estate agent) the house, get an all-expense-paid-trip for two to France. Yes, 300-400 people then saw the house, but it only sold after the price dropped from $7.4M to $6.3 million.

The reason my old friend took the time to drop in at the office was because we had a similar adventure two years ago. In November of 2006 we put together a list of incentives to sell his home at 72 Jordan Street in Skaneateles. The list price was around $650,000 at the time, having started at $699,000. We added to that 20 antiques the owners had accumulated over the years, a John Deere tractor, huge European Christmas ornaments for the pine trees in front, and by far the most exciting part - two round trip first-class airline tickets to anywhere in the world.

We got noticed. Above the fold of the November 16th Post-Standard in brilliant color was the picture I'd taken of this beautiful home. The headline read: "Motivated sellers throw in more than the kitchen sink". I am quoted as saying, "We wanted to create some sort of buzz."

"Advertising like that you can't buy!" I heard everywhere I turned. The owner and I were invited on to a local radio show to talk about what we were doing and why. I got to plug my open house that I'd scheduled for that Sunday (by sheer coincidence - ha!)

But did we sell it? Yes, after we removed the incentives and lowered the price a bit more. The owners kept their John Deere and are enjoying their new home. But while it didn't work for us, I do believe that the effort and the creativity counted for something somewhere. If only in our strategizing and the attention we paid to the process. And who knows? Maybe the buyers heard about the house because of our efforts!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I spent a great deal of time yesterday going over the numbers for some people interested in selling their home. I pulled out active listings, closed, re-listings, changes of price. Since I love numbers and statistics, what I found fascinated me, just as the weekly updates I do for this blog keep me well-informed. Self-imposed homework.

This week there are currently 120 active listings in the Skaneateles area. Two new listings came on, one a truly new lake rights listing and the other a re-list (or reconfiguration actually) of an existing listing.

In the contingent category the number remains the same (4) as well as in pending (8).

There were two new closed properties that although vastly different - waterfront and double wide - had similarities. Both were first listed in the fall of 2007. Both came down in price substantially and then closed within 10% of their last list price. However, they closed at 35% of their original list price.

Now, before anyone suggests that all properties need to be reduced this much in order to sell, or that this is the beginning of a trend, a better explanation is that the original price was overly optimistic. I can relate from experience that when three agents are brought in to give a price opinion and two say one number (as in "Tell me what it would take to sell this before winter"-type-number) and the other goes 30% higher, the owners take the much higher number and run with it. And live with it. And see it sit until the next winter. Then unfortunately it closes under the number the other two agents suggested. (Sorry, but these were too perfect of an example!)

One of the statistics I looked at yesterday was the number of homes which had been withdrawn from the market. Year-to-date, 75 homes were withdrawn. Within the past six months 50 were removed. In the past three months (think Labor Day) 26 have come off. By comparison last year only 26 were taken off from Memorial Day and 9 from Labor Day. That's a significant jump.

What happened to these 26 homes not on the market since September? At least 2 were rented, probably more. There were 5 re-lists that are currently active. Three others were taken off and amazingly received offers - two are pending and one is closed! But that leaves more than 10 in limbo - waiting for next year, I think. Of the 9 from 2007 all but one was re-listed, and 3 sold in 2008 (at lower prices.)

I said to someone recently that it's as if you have to "pay your dues" here in Skaneateles. "Only been on for 8 months - you're a newbie!" It's not true, but I wish it were, so that selling would be just a matter of waiting out some imaginary time period.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Selling a Home

Over the past week I have used my time efficiently and prepared holiday cards for my clients and friends. I bought them at Chestnut Cottage this year. Usually we go up to the Adirondacks in September to the Great Camp Sagamore and I find cards in the Old Forge Hardware Store, but this year the family went to the Poconos and I stayed back to sell and list that weekend.

I digress. The point about the holiday cards is that it takes all day because I want to write something personal in each one. In order to do this, I have to bring up faces and conversations and homes from the past. I have been in contact with most of my clients/friends over the course of the past year, amazingly enough, but for some this is the only time I will contact them. I want it to be a postive contact.

When I was an administrator in the Waldorf School in Saratoga I learned to slow down and consider each child and family as I got ready to sleep. The teachers were supposed to bring up faces and incidents from the day, not to dwell on but just to think about. I thought of families and "took them into sleep." Often I'd wake up in the morning with fresh insights.

I use the yearly card-writing as a time for that, even if the client has moved away and I may never see him/her again. It still brings a resonance to what I do. I don't just sell houses, I settle people. How can I do it better?

This year I have been mulling around the idea of selling in this market that is so much different from all the other years. As I brought up the names, I remembered past sales and thought about lessons learned and applications for current homes.

Dina Pollitts McCarthy ( has made me more aware of staging than I have ever been before. She promises (I hope that's a good verb) to provide the "WOW!" factor to homes. While I have trouble believing that you can do this for every home, I do think that maximizing the home's potential is certainly quite important in this market.

One of the couples I remembered had that "Wow" factor in their home. I met them through a friend who wanted me to help them sell in order to build. The house from the outside was not impressive, the neighborhood older and close to a commercial center, but I was game. I never know what's behind a door but I am generally eager to find out.

Behind their front door was an amazing home. Everything was perfectly placed and immaculate. The dining room invited large family dinners, the kitchen was a place for talking while they cooked, the yard had a huge inground pool and patios and flowers and more flowers. But the piece de resistance was a family room that had been added - huge windows, gas fireplace, hardwoods and decorated to the max. They wanted a price higher than any home had been sold in their neighborhood - ever - and I agreed (to my own amazement.)

It sold in a day. Cash, if I remember correctly. To a family who had a similar home but no pool. Similar, but not the same. No real "Wow." They backed out a week later, nervous that their home wouldn't sell.

Another couple came in and put in an offer - full price again - immediately. What makes this so memorable was their request to go back in a few days later. "I know I loved the house," the wife explained, "but I can't tell you anything about it or where anything was. I just fell in love!"

They carried through and bought it, my selling couple built their new home and moved in to make that another incredible place. And as I went through the cards I thought of them and wondered how to re-create what they had accomplished. Maybe it's not possible.

The gentleman passed away this weekend. I had no idea when I wrote the card - I'll pull it from the pile and send a different one. I know that I enjoyed the time I spent with them, however brief, and their home remained vivid in my mind over the years. I think also it wasn't just the home, but the experience of knowing the two of them, of seeing how they imbued their surroundings with their joy of living.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Old and New Crises

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we got into the mess we're in financially. Basically I know how, but not why it wasn't seen earlier enough for prevention. It was like we woke up one day and "Surprise! Make way for the Depression!"

Paul Krugman's editorial talks about this today from a financial point of view. People did predict it, we heard long and loud about there being a real estate bubble, mortgages couldn't be handled the way they were, and who said we had unlimited natural resources for energy...? Dr. Krugman explained it quite elegantly: "...nobody likes a party pooper."

So if looking back on history didn't help us to stay out of this mess, maybe we shouldn't do it again. Or maybe this time the nay-sayers need to shout it from the rooftops. I just want this slowdown/meltdown to not happen again.

To this end I think we need to look at what we are doing right now and change things for the future. In real estate, houses climbed too rapidly to high prices. Builders built too rapidly and tried to get in under the radar gun of supply and demand. (Go to Vegas - it doesn't work!) The mortgage companies gave out loans left and right. Yes, we got a "no doc" loan to buy this house because we were a retiree (my mother) and two independently employed workers. And we knew we could pay it back once our homes sold - so did Commonfund and we did pay it off.

Solutions as I see it:
1 - Homes need to come down in price, perhaps as much as 10 per cent right now unless they were priced correctly as opposed to optimistically. In Skaneateles there were always the stories of the guy from New Jersey who needed a house and overpaid by $100,000. It had happened and it won't any more. His casual money expenditures went out with Lehman and his kids' college fund.

2 - The builders need to get rid of inventory before they advertise new homes for construction. I would not want to be a builder today.

3 - Mortgages need to return to the 20% down that used to be required. Yes, that means not everyone can buy a house - but our family could have if we had to, and I'll bet many others could, too. It's not as easy to walk away when you have 20% invested.

4a - Homes on the market today need to do everything they can to simply sell. Pricing has to be realistic, and if you can't get $300,000 to "do what you need to do," then you can't do it. Simple. If you said, "I need to get $2,000 for this '85 Escort or I can't buy a new car..." everyone would say "Duh! Then you can't get a new car!" Why pretend?
4b - Fix the homes up. People do not have money for major repairs. They might now, but they don't want to gamble on that rolled roof lasting another two years. They know that something's bound to happen and they'll take their chances on the unknown, but the known problems have to be fixed.
4c - Make it look good. I know lives are busy and it's hard to keep a perfect home (another reason to price to sell) but they must look like the decorator just swept through there. I used to think it wasn't necessary, and frankly it wasn't. Now it is - the competition is too fierce. I remember coming through the village and looking at five homes one weekend with a relocating family. That was it - there were only five! In these times most agents reserve several days for showings if the buyer has to buy. There's so much to see!

So I guess I'm the party pooper. But I don't want a large inventory of unsold homes because I don't know what the next level of this crisis could turn out to be. I want my sellers to move on, to buy or build the house of their dreams, or invest in their children's future.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Convoy Revisited - Thank You, Chamber!

On this grand Thanksgiving Day I want to take time to thank the Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce for their brilliance. Whether the idea came from Sue or Candy or someone else - wow!

On the front page of the local section of today's Post-Standard the headline reads Skaneateles Chamber: See 'Big Truck Parade.' The article begins, "There will be no "Bah! Humbug!" in Skaneateles Friday." I love it!

The reference is to the much-touted convoy of angry truckers who are supposedly driving into the village on Friday at the same time the Dickens' festivities begin. "Just coincidence," said their leader, but whatever. I wrote about this in my blog of November 18th entitled "Convoy." The internet version of the Post-Standard picked it up (seen thanks to a loyal friend who told me about it) and featured it with the article on

The Chamber has decided that instead of a line of women and children holding hands across Genesee Street to block the big bad trucks, we should make friends. So they suggest:

Come early on opening day, so you don't miss the Big Truck parade!

Isn't that just marvelous? The article goes on to suggest where to park in the village. Marketing Skaneateles - and doing it so positively!

I was reminded of the Big Trucks day hosted by the local quarry on 321 at the end of September for years and years that benefits the Skaneateles Nursery School. The kids love climbing in and out - seeing those huge tires and all those levers. It's always a fun day.

So now they can see the Parade of Big Trucks coming specially (coincidence or not) to Skaneateles to herald the Dickens extravaganza. I would love to see the truckers dressing up (see the Grinch comment on my blog) and little children placing wreaths on the front of the cabs while they sit in gridlock on Genesee Street. Well-supervised children, of course. Maybe Tiny Tim can catch a lift with his crutches in tow, or the drivers receive some roasted chestnuts from a Dickens character. Maybe the drivers can collect toys as they move along Route 20 and into the village for children who will have a less than spectacular Christmas this year due to those gas prices. Maybe it's their children.

Whatever happens, whether the Grinch's heart grows and glows or not, the Chamber is to be praised for setting the stage for Convoy, the New Skaneateles Christmas Tradition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Is the glass half full or half empty? The turkey ready for leftovers or not enough to get to Sunday?

We now have (only) 121 active listings in the Skaneateles area. Only three came on this week and all were re-lists of previously attempted sales. A lot or a few?

There were three newly marked contingent sales. One is selling under the price the owners paid for it just a year ago, another at about 3/4 the original list price. The last dropped the list price considerably and found a buyer, but until it closes we don't know what it actually sold for (as in price.)

There are still 3 waterfront homes hanging out marked contingent, waiting for a town approval or mortgage or whatever other contingency is needed.

There are 9 pending properties and none new this week. One needs to be finished, as in new construction, another is a very delayed closing and three are not in Skaneateles schools but in the town and out a ways with lower prices.

Going back to the newly sold (hooray!) contingent properties....While we don't know what they sold for, we do know their assessed values. All three sold well under their assessment - as in $27,000, $53,000, and $57,000. (Ouch!) These are in the 15% - 25% range. People have long complained that assessments are too high in the village and town - I would be surprised if the new owners didn't take their sales sheets to the town for re-assessment at market value, i.e., what they paid for them in todays' market.

This does not apply to waterfront. One of the "properties in waiting" sold in the range of 200% OVER the assessed value.

There were two closings this week - one lake rights and another town, closing above the assessed value and within 3% of the list price. Needless to say, it sold quickly.

We now have 53 closed properties in the Skaneateles area year-to-date. Last year there were 90. However, going back and analyzing the data reveals that in this fall market only 25 closed last year while in 2008 23 have closed. Hmmm....My guess is that the market started to change in June/July of last year so it more nearly represents today's market. Looking at the comparison of last June to September: 34 closings for 2007 as compared to 13 closings in 2008, June to September.

Half eaten? We have been in this slow market for more than 15 months. The good news is that we are surviving and improving, up from our low point. I say there's more for leftovers!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Interesting stuff I've dug up. Now what does it mean? More later.....

Just the facts: there are currently 122 active listings in the Skaneateles area. Two new ones came on this week, one is a re-list and the other prime village waterfront for under one million. Not so bad!

There are only 3 properties marked contingent and 11 still pending. We now have 51 closed properties year-to-date with 2 new ones this week. One was waterfront in the 2 million dollar range, and the other was a home in the town, but just over the village line. Both showed reductions in the original price, but both had other compensating factors.

To date there are 16 waterfront closings out of the 51. Last year there were 89 closed properties with 19 of them being waterfront. As I've said all along, waterfront is still selling, certainly at a faster rate than non-waterfront.

I decided to look at another factor, in part because I was researching the facts for a conclusion on a home I want to sell. Last year by this time the percentage of closed non-waterfront homes under $300,000 was 58% (n = 41). Under $400,000 it climbed to 76% (n= 53).

Now - wouldn't you think that in difficult economic times and a slow real estate market more people would buy in this range? Not so, say my figures. This year - same period of time - of our 35 non-waterfront properties the number is 16 and the percentage is 45%. Under $400,000 the number is 22 and the percentage is 63%. Statistically significant? I would think so, especially if you consider these are the non-waterfront homes.

In others words, more people are buying pricier homes. My guess related to the type of home being purchased and for what reason. The under $300-$400,000 market generally means homes for families in Skaneateles. The higher priced are reserved for people who want an investment or can afford to take a chance even when the market is soft. They also may be the buyers looking for a deal.

I received a phone call today from an agent with whom I am working a deal to be closed next week I hope. Without any lead from me, she began lamenting the lack of buyers in this price range. I had started the blog last night and had to stop to run to the Syracuse game, so the numbers were fresh in my mind. She works out of an office in another area even - so Skaneateles, you are not alone!

So what does this mean for the home I want to sell in this range? It will be difficult - but it's such a good deal!


The morning paper caused a very spirited discussion at the breakfast table. We have to do something to keep warm now that the snow is here, I guess.

On the front page there was an article about a trucking association which is planning a demonstration in Skaneateles on November 28th, the kick-off of our annual Dickens celebration (and shopping spree.) Supposedly 400 trucks will drive down Route 20 and arrive in the middle of the village just in time for the opening ceremonies at the Sherwood Inn.

The protest concerns the Governor's (and others) attempt to ban truck traffic in Skaneateles that is just passing through on its way south or north. The trucks currently jump off the Thruway at Weedsport and careen (my word - guess which side I'm on!) down the back country roads to arrive in Skaneateles at the light on State and Genesee (aka Routes 321 and 20). They turn left, go up to the light at East Lake Road and fly down the lake to Homer where they pick up Route 81 and continue south.

For years the village and town have wanted this practice stopped. These are trucks that do not belong on the small, two-lane roads for miles and miles. It's a safety issue much more than an aesthetic one. I have been on East Lake in the winter and there are freak snowstorms that create white-out conditions. It's hard enough for cars, but with a truck breathing down your back it's even harder. Last year Alex hit a wall of snow on his way up from Manhattan and promptly went off the road. Thank goodness no truck was following!

In the summer the trucks zoom down East Lake past camps close to the road. Kids, dogs, joggers all use the side to play, walk and run. Cars have to back out into the road. I'm amazed there haven't been more accidents.

The article quoted a driver - "Since when do we tell people where they can drive?" To the truckers it's a matter of livelihood. Coming off at Exit 15 and getting on 50 (?) miles down the road saves miles and therefore money in both tolls and gas. Why should they go around and through the city of Syracuse? The entrance to 81 is dangerous as well right at the university with an odd merging system that makes me hold my breath and hope noone hits me every time I drive there.

Bob's point was the libertarian side. How can we tell the drivers no, don't come into our village? Who really has the priority here? The truckers pay more for that Thruway every year than cars. We need them and the goods they bring. If they can save a buck, then we save a buck down the line as consumers.

I sincerely hope that there is a way to compromise. The truckers will meet with Mayor Bob Green to find one, but they may not be well-liked if they disrupt the festivities. But then again, Charles Dickens would have appreciated a fracas. Imagine Scrooge taking on a truck with his cane? Queen Victoria being held hostage? Come to the village on the 28th and see for yourself. And stop in to my open house on Knightsbridge on the 30th, while you're visiting....

Friday, November 14, 2008

House of the Week

The call came in at 8:45. "The house is going to be finished today, furniture and people come tomorrow. If you want to see it, come today!"

The voice belonged to John MacDonald, a builder with his partner, Patrick McCarthy, of spectacular homes. They've done cottages before - concrete walls, specially designed windows, shake siding with their own green clapboard. Lovely homes that live in the trees. In Oswego.

The day of course was cold and blustery with snow in the air. Not the day to drive 40 miles one way, all north. Intrepid Janet had to work, the dogs were unreliable, Bob was at my aunt's finishing a job, but I had to go. Ice or no ice! Neither wind nor rain......the houses they build are that special.

This one was more so, about 5,000 sf of "moreso." I came up the 800 foot drive to a sea of contractors' vans and the rear of the house and wandered in. John said hello and made a dump run, giving me over to Patrick.

The first room I entered was the daughter's room with - I kid you not! - a mote outside the windows (actually basement window wells) but the analogy made sense. The walls were textured, the woodwork phenomenal, the doors - all interior wooden carved doors - were arched. The effect - spectacular. And I hadn't gotten out of the rear bedroom yet!

Down a hall to the kitchen - huge, naturally, and solid and big. Ovens and wine coolers and stone and granite. An arch over the 6 burner Viking stove, stainless steel appliances except for the dishwasher hidden away in a panel. Patrick pulled open a couple drawers in the island and said "Look at this!" I had no idea what I was looking at - I'm not sure he did, either! He didn't even bother trying to explain the steam oven.

Beyond that was a fireplace and den, then another one I think but I'm getting lost. All the richness of detail. I said it was like a castle, and he agreed. That was the intention - a new home that felt like it had been there for years. The carved wood - but not overbearing with light everywhere.

The main room was a great room open to the kitchen, centered by a massive fireplace. The chandelier - copper and filagree - could be lowered to dust or change bulbs. The staircase on the side caught my eye - spindles had been ordered from Italy for it. Above the room it opened into a small balcony overlooking what could be mad revelers or a round table with knights.

Upstairs was quiet. A den, a guest bedroom, the master bedroom - everywhere details and texture. I met Dina Pollits McCarthy, Patrick's daugher-in-law, who completed the tour while he went off to work. She graciously showed me through - the bathroom off the den, blue, with the prettiest flooring! - and told me that her husband, Noel, had crafted many of the built-in wood fixtures.

The master bath took my breath away. I love bathrooms. I think they are both essential and lend themselves to creativity. This was no exception. Dina explained that the focal point, a massive jacuzzi double seated tub was situated in the center so the owners could see the stars while they soaked. She demonstrated a screen that could be raised and lowered for privacy that stayed hidden when not in use. I'm sure I'm going to think of that tub in the winter months to come.

There was so much more. The lighting, the furniture, the closets - all massive and chosen by Dina to give a sense of stability and function as well as beauty. She explained those drawers Patrick had pulled out - refrigerated vegetable drawers near the stove for the weekly organic delivery. And yes, you can bake a cake in a steam oven.

Dina was the decorator who had a vision, but as she explained to me the vision came only after speaking with the owners. And they are thrilled, understandably. They are moving in to a gorgeous home that is both a magnificent piece of art and a home.

I walked outside into the winds and the cold, realizing that I hadn't felt one buffet while inside. John told me the house was built to accept wind, solar, and geothermal energy systems. The goal is zero cost eventually when all is in place.

As I drove home I listened to NPR and Talk of the Nation which providentially had a program on real estate. The experts agreed there were two spots in the entire country in which properties increased in value: some odd areas of North Carolina and Upstate New York. But even in the midst of this most dismal economic year, a home such as the one I had just visited could be built with relative certainty that it would hold its value.

To see photos, Dina will soon load them on her website:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

You've heard it all before, but I assure you things are moving again!

I had an open house this weekend. Same house - 3802 Knightsbridge - as a month ago. Turnout was dismal then, but this time I was busy throughout the two hours. And then just as I was packing up a couple showed up and we went off to see another home for comparison's sake. The agent of that home said it had a real offer on it - after almost two years and many reductions. The next day lovely 11 Onondaga was shown twice, and one family was looking because their home had just sold!

There are the same number of listings - 129 - active in the computer for the Skaneateles area as last week. Two fell away somehow and were replaced by (1) a re-list of a waterfront property in the 2M range, now reduced by 10% which seems to be the magic number and (2) a re-list in the mid$300,000s in the town. There were no new "sales" as in contingent sales, and only 1 new closing. This was a village 2 (yes, 2!) bedroom home that sold in the mid-$300,000s within 5% of its list price almost immediately. It was one of those homes that people wait for and when it arrives, they pounce and apparently were able to pounce.

We now have 48 closed single family homes this year as compared with 87 last year. We're doing better percentage-wise - certainly well above the 50% mark where we were through most of the year.

I happened to look at land for sale today. There are 87 pieces of property, most of them building lots, for sale in the Skaneateles area. This year to date 11 have closed. Last year at this time there were 16 closings, thanks in part to Butters Farm.

Around here it's 60 days to closing, we like to say. That's 60 days from the time of purchase offer through inspection through mortgage commitment to closing date. Everything slows around the holidays. Everything meaning attorneys and mortgage people and banks. We Realtors keep going, or at least most of us do. It's always good to start the new year with sales in our pockets - or for me, the bottom drawer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I know this update is a day later than usual, but yesterday was not a usual day. We elected a President. I am still in awe of the process and the numbers that turned out, both voters and in that Chicago Park. We watched MSNBC most of the night, so I don't know what everyone else saw, but Jesse Jackson's face with tears streaming down said it all.

On to real estate, which I firmly believe will pick up now that the election and uncertainty are over. I've had three calls already this Wednesday morning for showings on my listings!

There are currently only - I love saying only - 129 listings in the Skaneateles area marked as active. Last week there were 137 so some have fallen off or been rented or simply withdrawn for the winter. There have been 13 withdrawals this past month which seems high to me.

The 2 new listings are interesting for what they say about the economy and the expectations of the sellers. Both are village re-lists. One came down $20,000 or the 10% I suggested a while back would sell almost all the properties. The original list price last year was about $80,000 higher! Pricing, pricing.... The second re-list went up $10,000. I know people who believe this works. I'll keep an eye on it.

There are 8 single family homes listed as contingent and I just put one of them into the pending column to add to the 11 that were already there. Close within a month? Mine will, but I can't speak for the others. Some have extremely delayed closings into the late spring, I do know that.

There was one new closure - lake rights, wouldn't you know it! The sale came in within 5% of the list price and was a fairly rapid sale. There are now 45 closings this year as compared to laster year's 84 at this time. Either this year is gaining, or the slowdown started about this time in 2007. That would make us a year into it and coming out. Hooray!

Did you see the comment I published on the last update? One of the blog's avid readers suggested that 10 feet of waterfront sold for $300,000. Amazing! Skaneateles has a lot of money and more money is coming in every day. My guess is that this 10 feet improves someone's property and it's worth it to buy privacy. Let's hope that we don't get to the point where every last inch is developed and privacy becomes a rarity. Frankly, the village homes and waterfront can't be found anywhere else - but then, I'm a mite partial.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wild Boars ("or do you mean wild bars?")

Last year I wrote about the wild boars that roamed the southeast end of Skaneateles Lake. It was hard to believe that these great monsters could be out there in the hills.

On Friday, I believe, one was shot and killed, his picture in the Sports section of the Syracuse Post-Standard. All 270 pounds of him!

And he was taken not on the south end of the lake, but on the west side just two miles from the village. No! Yes!

The farmer chased him down Hencoop (there are a couple lovely homes for sale on the road, by the way...) and finally did him in with his third shot. Hencoop!

These piggies grow to be 400 pounds. Since they're wild, I bet they don't like to be harassed. The DEC requests politely that you don't harass these babies because they are trying to catch them and relocate them. Relocate where? And who is out there making their lives miserable?

We have a friend who thinks he saw one crossing Franklin Street Road where it intersects with County Line. It wasn't a dog, it wasn't a deer, and it rumbled.

So here's my question: What do you do if you confront one? I am picturing myself out in the woods wearing my fluorescent orange. The pig thinks I'm a day-glo pumpkin and decides to investigate. Boo - all 85 pounds of him in his fluorescent orange vest - and Koko in her SU orange sweater are with me. We're unarmed (duh!) except for Boo's lead which I use to keep him from visiting his French bulldog girlfriend named Alex on our way home. I digress.....

So there we are, on the hill above the cornfield, and this boar wants to make our acquaintance. What do I do? What would Boo do? Koko's too old to see or hear it, so she would probably miss everything.

I had two dogs in Seattle years ago. They started barking furiously one Sunday afternoon, then stopped as suddenly and slunk away. I looked out the window. A wolf had gotten loose from the Woodland Park Zoo and was wandering down the street with an entourage behind her, waiting for the sedative to take effect. My dogs wanted nothing to do with her, as if they recognized this was no ordinary canine. I digress again....

So someone tell me, please! I know my blog is linked to and their blogs. Maybe someone reading this will know. What should we do - besides run like hell! There are tree stands in the woods - do I climb one with Koko and leave Boo to fend for himself? Scream - cry - charge the pig? Help!

Another sighting was on the border between Skaneateles and Elbridge - just over the hill. I think I need to know, and soon!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween!

What a wonderful day! I left the house at 10:30 to make the rounds wearing gloves and my favorite fall coat. I bought the coat years ago in Saratoga, waiting until the price dropped so I could afford it.

I remembered another fall day when I wore it. Alex was 7 and we had gone overboard on Halloween that year. He wanted to be Garfield, so together we created a papier mache head and tiger costume for him. It was grand!

I was teaching in an alternative high school and one of my students decided I didn't seem scary enough for Halloween so she teased my long hair and then sprayed it to stand up straight. Why not? It was the spirit of the day that mattered.

I went to help out at Alex's school with the parade and party. A camera crew was there from the station in Albany and they loved Alex, following him around all afternoon. Of course in the parade the oversized Garfield head fell off and he uttered a word they promptly cut out of the news segment. Another time he fell - couldn't see in that giant head either - and I helped him up, pretty coat and scary hair and all!

We still have the tape and Alex plays it for newcomers in his life. The Garfield head, quite battered and buffeted, resides on the top shelf of my closet. It's memories like this that come back on these gorgeous fall days. I'm glad I'm not teaching any more; instead of being in a classroom I went down the lake to see a family with a beautiful camp. But I miss having my own small boy on Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tales from the Salt City

Bob and I went to Syracuse Stage last evening to see Tales from the Salt City. It's a play, but not really a play, more of an extended interview with "cast" members telling their individual stories. The stories are honed from real life - they "play" themselves - by Ping Chong, the director.

For 1 hour and 33 minutes I sat in rapt attention on the play (for lack of a better word). I know that part of it - a good part - was because I knew so much about what the actors described. I knew the streets, the schools, the times. I knew Syracuse, or at least as much as my own experience alotted.

The main actor was Albert Marshall. We grew up in the same area of the city, at the same time, and graduated from Nottingham High School. I've watched his progress as an actor over the years and seen several shows. He was a dominant presence on the stage as he told his story.

Because he is African-American, his story was different than mine, as he pointed out several times. But it fascinated me that of the extremely minimal details of his childhood he extracted there was the Westcott Cinema. He remembered, as I fondly do, standing in line to go to the movies. When he spoke about high school he praised Mrs. Katzenberger for pushing him into acting. I remember her well for being that special English teacher everyone raved about.

The other stories were equally mesmerizing, but they were stories I didn't know or hadn't guessed. We knew another of the actors, a Cambodian Muslim, through friends. His incredible journey to the person he is now was overwhelming.

The other actors came from Cuba, Mexico, Macedonia, The Sudan (one of the Lost Boys), and the Onondaga Nation. They are all real people telling their real lives as edited by Ping Chong. While at times I had to strain to understand the strongly accented English, the effort was worth it.

Just like my friend Eva's complaints about the United States, these people also missed the ease of social contact they had enjoyed in their homelands. Eva speaks about the cafes of Germany and Mexico where she's lived; people expect to mingle and socialize on a daily basis. It doesn't have to be an occasion that is prepared for weeks in advance. I wish there were some way to bring that richness here.

As the actors brought us up to date on their lives I was sorry to see the end in sight. I remember being a child at Sumner School and hearing about the lives of the many immigrant children in my class. It's as if they all grew up in front of my eyes.

If you are interested in seeing Tales from the Salt City you'll have to hurry - the last performance is November 2nd.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Let's just say, "Not much has changed!" and go and enjoy the snow that's falling outside my window. You can go and enjoy it - I will when it becomes light and fluffy and December.

There are currently 137 active listings in the Skaneateles area. Last week 8 new ones came on the market; this week we have only one. It's in the town, mid-$300s, and a renovated home. I think listings will slow now for a bit which will drive people to the existing homes and reduce our inventory. Supply and demand!

On the "sold" or "soon to be closed" side there are 10 marked contingent and 10 marked pending. No house moved into this category this past week according to the computer.

Closings year-to-date now number 44, as opposed to 82 at this time last year. One property did close this past week: lake rights, close to the village. It had started on the market in April of 2007, took a break over the winter, and then has been marked sold for a number of months. The issue is the price. It started in the high $700s - and closed in the low $500s. That is a huge difference.

Part of the reason is that pricing waterfront, especially lake rights, is difficult. No two homes are alike. How do you value a few feet of waterfront? In this case, as in others on the lake, the rights are not within easy reach - so do they count? Yes, in the summer and probably not in the winter. So prices are based on what else has sold that could possibly be similar. But each sale is a one-time snapshot - that buyer bought it at a certain time under certain conditions. Those conditions as well as the house are not replicable.

But! Skaneateles has gained in value steadily over the years, "they aren't making any new waterfront," and we have gorgeous homes. Bring in the offers!

Welcome to Skaneateles!

I had lunch at Creekside ( with Intrepid Janet who used to go to broker's opens with me over the summer. Now that she's teaching, I miss seeing her.

As we stood in line she mentioned that she's feeling more at home in Skaneateles. They bought a house last year through me and we became friends. She said now when she moves through the village she sees people she knows and they say hello. It's not just me or her relatives any more.

We took our lunches - I had the curry chicken wrap (so good!) - and went upstairs for a chat. A group of four women were there ahead of us and one gave Janet a lovely greeting. We laughed - "See?" she said.

As we ate she told me that it's often the real estate agent who is the first contact in a new town. Janet and her family have not moved that much, but she says she's been lucky to turn a business relationship into a friendship whenever they have moved.

It struck me how true that is - especially the part about the first contact. People move in for work purposes - men and women take jobs locally so they at least know some people - but their spouses may not. Often it's the agent engaged to find them a home who really sets the tone and provides the first rudimentary social occasions.

Quite a responsibility! I'm glad Janet brought it up and helped me examine this unwritten part of my contract with buyers. I try hard to make the searching pleasant, but I know I will try even harder with her words in mind.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You!

As I was driving home from a closing - a very satisfying closing, I might add - I heard on the news that sales of existing homes rose 5.5% last month. This is the HIGHEST percentage in five years, the reporter said.

Obviously some of this is the result of foreclosures being sold at rock bottom prices and the correction of pricing, now estimated at 10 per cent. I do see more foreclosures out there from the brokerages who deal with them. Just the signs. And then some sit for a while, so the price can't be that good. And frankly, not so many in Skaneateles. We are still doing all right.

I had another closing on Thursday but in the city. When the home - my listing - was on the market I was overrun at an open house. We had two offers within a matter of weeks. The interest remained high even when it was marked contingent and pended. But this was a home in the low $100,000 range and in excellent condition.

I will state it again: there are bargains out there. Buyers have only to look and not wait. If they wait too long the bargains will cease to be. Investors and risk-takers will buy up the extra inventory and we will be back to business as usual - 75 homes on the market in Skaneateles, not 140. Prices increasing, not decreasing. And those who wanted to wait will pay more.

Warren Buffett gives sage advice on which he has built his fortune. I paraphrase, but it's something like buy when everyone else is fearful, hold back when everyone else is buying. He would say, and has said, that now is the time to jump in to the real estate market. My clients who are closing - and I have several - are thrilled. Some don't pay rent any more into the deep hole and others have moved into homes they have dreamt about for years. My investors just smile.

And the mortgage crunch? Don't believe it! With good credit everything is still possible. One of my recent buyers received a 5.87% fixed rate mortgage (30 years) and - and! - almost $1,000 back at the closing, no money down. While that program may be gone now, there are others out there for the single family home buyer. There's a rate cut coming next week and an election to bring about change. We are on the upswing - it's time for everyone to move!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I started to get excited when I saw the the number of active listings in the Skaneateles area - 139 - had dropped by one from last week yet there were 8 new listings this past week. How could that be? Certainly one or two could be withdrawn or expired, but more likely they were sold.

The new listings were divided between re-lists (3) and new construction (4). There's also an intriguing brand new home for sale which appears to be near 80 acres that are now on the market for $1,000,000 (give or take a thousand of two.....) Incredible views, I would imagine, and a great opportunity to build.

The number of contingent homes has dropped to 9 and pending ones seemed fairly static, so......

Yes! Four homes were reported as closed this past week. Hooray! Take that, 2007! You only had 2 homes close that same week!

Again, this was simple division: 1 new construction, 1 waterfront, 1 lakerights, and 1 village. I thought it was interesting that the waterfront and the village home both sold within 5% of their listing price, while the others conceded reductions. The new construction came in 10% off the price while the lakerights was 25% down. Both had been on for a while, but then so had the waterfront.

There are now 43 closed for this year as compared to 80 last year up to this moment.

For the past few weeks I've watched a new section of the Sunday Post-Standard that lists the five most expensive properties that close the previous week in Onondaga County. The first week the numbers were dismal - in the $200,000 range. That doesn't sit well when 4 of my listings are above $200,000. The next week was better - the lowest was $300,000, but I also knew that was a transfer of property within a family, not a true marketed sale. This past week added homes in the $500,000 range - and yes, several were the Skaneateles closed properties.

I take from this that there are buyers out there ready, willing and able to buy expensive homes. Or that there are homes beginning to sell elsewhere which allow for sales to take place here. We may have a fantastic finish to the year yet!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

House of the Week

I held my lovely listing, 3802 Knightsbridge Road, open on Tuesday. We had 19 agents come through the house, each one pleased with what they saw.

The owners took a plain old split level with 3 bedrooms and 1 full bath and added and remodeled and added again. There are now 4 bedrooms, 2 full baths and a half bath right where it should be off the kitchen. They put up crown molding to give it a non-60s look as you walk in and got rid of the bluestone planter that was such a cornerstone of these properties. You know immediately you are in a very different home from the original.

They added a HUGE kitchen with stainless steel appliances, built in ovens and a HUGE island. The overhang allows for four stools so the chef of the moment can give demonstrations in cooking (gas and jennaire right on the island!) There's a nook for the computer and patio doors that look onto the deck (of course new!) A mudroom coming in from the garage keeps the floors clean.

Off the kitchen is the master bedroom - also looking out on that new deck and the new HOT TUB, too! Follow through to a walk-in closet - almost enough room but then, there's never enough - and a luxury bath. Two sinks, a shower with seats and pretty tiling, and the great jacuzzi sitting under a window. The day of the broker's open the sun was shining through and the owners had placed a grand vase of flowers on the ledge - truly inviting!

A formal dining room, formal living room are in the front of the home and then upstairs to three bedrooms and a full bath. Go downstairs to the lower level and a family room has been created, large enough for a computer desk, pool table, couch and oversized television. Do the laundry down there, too!

Outside it's an acre lot and a corner lot to boot! Part of it is fenced in - the part with the hot tub, deck and the INGROUND POOL (new liner, 2005). It's very attractively landscaped with a slight rise up to the pool. Sitting in the sun of the large deck was wonderful! I could see through to the front door to welcome agents and stay outside as much as possible.

The rest of the land has several trees, the largest spreading its leaves that then swirled with the autumn wind. If you sit in the Adirondack chair under it you look across to the fields and trees. Very pleasant, soothing....a tall glass of iced tea, Newsweek, the late afternoon sun.....

Many of the agents remembered the home before it was remodeled. They were impressed. Four others came from RE/MAX in Fayetteville because they wanted to see it, and they were impressed also.

Check it out if you're in the area - out Onondaga (past my beautiful 11 Onondaga with the carriage house - available!) to New Seneca Turnpike a mile or so to Knightsbridge in Manor Heights. Offered for $289,900.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Currently there are 140 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. There were 3 new ones this week: 1 with lake rights, my gorgeous Knightsbridge listing (see House of the Week upcoming), and a village re-list. The latter listing is significant because the original price was 25% higher. The comments under the special instructions are - "time to sell." I guess so. I will remember to keep it in mind as the weeks go by - did the new pricing strategy help?

We do have 4 homes marked as contingent this week. Three are waterfront - no surprises there! - and my lovely Autumn Tree Court. The owners priced it to sell and by golly it did!

Altogether there are now 11 properties in the contingent category and 13 pending. Of the 24, 9 are waterfront and 2 are lakerights.

I read recently in the New Times an article about real estate in the higher priced waterfront towns of Cazenovia and Skaneateles. The agent they interviewed in Caz said buyers were flocking in from out of state because they didn't want their money in the stock market and saw great opportunity in her area. She stated she was on her way to show a $500,000 home and expected mulitple offers on it.

The Skaneateles Realtor said she was experiencing the same phenomenon and that she had sold 4 homes in the past few weeks over $1 million dollars. Wow!

It's odd to me. I have spoken with other agents and home owners in other parts of the country and they say the market has just died. No showings, no sales. People are waiting it out.

I went back and looked at our closings - still 38, none added this past week. Fourteen are waterfront of some kind. We are still in the 35 to 40% range of closings, but definitely increasing the percentage in contingent and pending to 45 to 50%. And this is without seeing those 4 sales that the agent reported.

Yes - money in real estate will stand the test of time, at least in Skaneateles and on the lake. To paraphrase one economist: "It's easier to own property and have it fluctuate in value because the numbers are not as stark." As I watch the Dow, my stomach fluctuates. But I can go home and run the dogs, grab a tomato from the garden, start a fire using wood from our own trees, and enjoy my home without thinking of the loss of equity. If there is any!

There Ought to be a Support Group - or - Cogs

The good news is that I have clients closing on properties. I've had one a week for a bit and I expect two more this week.

The bad news is that it's like giving birth. Everything is a strain.

And, except in one case, it's not the banks. It's the "cogs" as the alternative title suggests. Those cogs just aren't working well. They need some grease, and what that grease is I have no idea.

The banks have for the most part come through. One is giving problems but that's a direct result of the owners not signing the contract quickly before all mortgage issues went haywire this summer. The mortgage people have been spectacular, doing what needs to be done quickly. Maybe they are more attuned to the markets and know speed is necessary.

The cogs are all the people involved in a transaction. The agents start the process and turn it over to attorneys and mortgage handlers. The attorneys order the surveys and the mortgage people order the appraisals. Reports are generated, abstracts are updated, and we go to closing.

But it's breaking down somewhere. A cash deal I had took two months to close while a Nehemiah loan - they still did them until the end of September - is due to close this week after only a month. In both these cases the surveyor was not on the same page as the rest of us and we are stopped. The owners are complaining, the buyers are complaining and I am complaining to the attorneys who refuse to tell me who the surveyors are because I would no doubt complain to them!

And here we sit - all my people who are ready to move, who have worked hard to make it all happen for themselves and their opposite numbers.

Thank goodness it is like childbirth and the pain will be less after closing, but not forgotten.

I don't want to stop writing and leave the impression that it's always the surveyors. It's definitely not - everyone takes turns being the difficult cog. And not all closings go this way - it just seems as if there is an inordinate number of delays recently. I think we all have our eyes on the market. Some, perhaps, more than others.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

So the market may be falling, the bailouts may be increasing, but Skaneateles is looking a bit more reassuring. Where do you put your money when the market is not performing for you? In real estate, my friends!

Currently there are 142 active listings in the Skaneateles area. Five "new" listings came on this past week, but 4 were actually re-lists.

Looking at those gives a sense of what is happening in Skaneateles. Each was re-listed to give it a "fresh face." The numbers are now going to be different - over the 200,000 mark so each new one will bear a number like ML#201003. It will be readily distinguishabl,e from the old 19....... numbers. There is a category called "history" on the listing, and if the address is in-putted correctly the history will appear. But to the naked, non-trained or non-deciphering eye the listing looks "new."

Usually a re-list accompanies a new price, too. One of the waterfront re-lists came down $30,000; the other came down $100,000! One of the homes in the village came down a small percentage, while the other re-list stayed at the same price. Will this help them sell? Probably - but it will be the price reduction rather than the "new look."

There is one new home marked contingent - a tale unto itself, too. After over two years on the market and a list price dropped to 70% of the original, this waterfront property has sold - but we won't know of course until closing what the final number was. There are 8 properties marked contingent at the present time.

The "P" properties are those that either have a mortgage commitment or don't need a commitment because the transaction is cash - and there are 13 of them. Yes, even with all the issues out there economically, people are still being approved for mortgages.

We added 3 closed properties to the list this week to give us a total of 38 so far this year. They range from a village home under 200K to new construction in the mid-500s. A lake rights property settled in between them in price. The closing price of all three was under the list price.

But we hit a new mark. Up until this week we were at or under 50% of what closed last year during the same period. We are now above that - not much, but any good news is worth spreading.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Declutterization - Part Three

We last left my poor house waiting to be decluttered with the aid of a friend. As things have it, she took a different position and I was left with a full closet and basement and half the garage filled with "stuff." I then went off to a very busy late spring and early summer. Now that I am more at home (as opposed to camp) I see the closet and the basement, etc. and want it gone!

This past weekend I saw an article in the Post-Standard about a woman, Marlene Gallo, who helps to make the clutter go away. She was featured in Bob Niedt's column; the name of her company is Tender Transitions. She sounded more like a grief counselor than what I needed, but I gave her a call anyway.

Marlene and I talked briefly. She will go through everything after understanding what is important and find homes for things. She doesn't do e-bay, but maybe I can learn and I have done Craig's List. Things will go after being gone through - amazing! She works by the hour or by the project.

This is going to be a horrible year for many, many people. As I write the Dow is down 500 points. Jobs are going to be lost, people are going to be hungry and cold. I want those good clothes of mine and my mother's to help, the crocheted blankets to warm someone. I haven't done it yet and I know that I won't alone.

I scheduled an appointment for tomorrow evening. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thoughts on Sean Kirst's Column

On Wednesday, Sean Kirst wrote his column about his family and the effects of the Great Depression. He vividly remembers his parents talking about it, sharing stories, shuddering over the possibility of another catastrophic downturn. And their advice.

My parents were also Depression parents. My mother lived on welfare in Syracuse with her brother and sister while their mother struggled to work in a florist shop and keep food on the table. She gave them music, though, and memories of old-fashioned German Christmases. Their holidays were spent at Onondaga Lake, taking the tram out.

My father never talked about his parents or his strict upbringing in Auburn. He did love his camp on Owasco Lake and mourned its loss. He was in college during the Crash, and then worked as an accountant afterwards.

The effect on him, like Sean's parents and Bob's parents and so many others of their generation was life-molding. My father never bought on credit. He had a small mortgage on the home he bought for my mother in Syracuse (I think it was $5.00/month!) but that was it. Cars, appliances, and even the camp were paid for in cash.

I cannot imagine an economy like that. We've become so accustomed to pulling out the plastic, dredging up money from our homes when we need it, borrowing for multiple cars and convenience. I would like to have an economy like that, though.

I heard Paul O'Neill being interviewed on MSNBC. He proposed that all mortgages be required by law to have a 20% down payment. Interesting. The interviewer suggested that maybe returning to the all cash, no credit days would also help. O'Neill became furious - "That would be terrible for the economy!" he bellowed. No one would be able to buy anything and therefore jobs would be lost, etc.

Sean concluded his column:
As Wall Street trembles, we lose more witnesses to the Great Depression....Now, more than ever, we ought to heed their wisdom.
Our rattled Congress will undoubtedly come up with some maneuver to postpone the crisis at our door. The deeper question is whether we sober up as a nation, whether we stop to wonder why a baby boom generation proud of owning so much stuff remains so wistful about a collective childhood in which we had so little.

I remember saving for the tv set. I remember picnics with my grandparents and cousins at Verona Beach. We took only one major vacation that I can remember - a road trip to Williamsburg, Virginia - I came down with the measles before we got to Binghamton. They broke out on the way home. Once we got the camp, that was it. Any extra cash went into that.

I had a lot, looking back. But the reason I had it was my father's insistence that we never live above our means - or even at our means, I used to think. He paid cash for my college education, saved a ton so that when he was gone my mother would never have to worry about money. And she didn't.

He passed away 29 years ago today.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

And that was the week that was...and I want it gone, removed from my memory! The ups and downs, the "Yes, we'll go ahead," the "No, I want to think about it" deals. Just like the stock market, and the Congress, and every conversation!

But here we are, a new update. The world keeps spinning and I keep writing - albeit with a heater next to me and the rain falling, but we keep going. Always.

There are currently 147 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. There are 5 new ones: 2 re-lists, 1 country with Marcellus schools, and another with lake rights. The fifth is new construction - 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 2300 sf. for only $349,000. Interesting.

Contingent sales show 10 marked as such with 2 new ones. One of these sold within a day of listing it and the other has been on the market for almost a year. Both were on the very low end of prices. One word of caution: with all the fragility of the market, some of the active listings could actually be contingent on financing. I doubt if any agent is totally comfortable if a mortgage is involved taking it completely off the market without at least a chance for a conversation with another agent.

There were no new closings this past week - 35 have been closed year-to-date.

I spent a pleasant half hour here looking at numbers which intrigue me. The following is a comparison of Skaneateles with three other westside of Syracuse towns: Camillus, Marcellus and Elbridge.

In the computer, 834 total closings show for Skaneateles. Remember, we have only 35 so far with 147 active listings. The median list price of the closed homes this year is $425,000 and the selling price is $387,500. This is a decrease of slightly under 9%. Naturally some of this is skewed if the orginal price (in another listing) were actually higher.

For Camillus, a much larger area and population, 2,335 properties were listed as closed. This year alone they have closed 213 homes with a phenomenal 192 active listings. However, the median listing price is only $139,900 but the selling price is $136,000, a decrease of 2.7%

Marcellus has 533 properties closed in the computer. Of these, 48 have closed this year and they have 82 active. The median list price was $159,900 and the sales price was $150,000. This is a 6% difference.

Little Elbridge has an amazing 44 closed properties year to date and only 41 active. Altogether there have been 502 closings during the time the computer has scanned. The median list price was a respectful $124,900 with a median selling price of $122,000. Like Camillus, the town is having a phenomenal year. I hope to add to that total and raise the selling price in the next month!

What's to come? Who can predict! My guess is that the market is like the stocks - prices come down and you begin to itch to get into the game, the deals are too good to pass up. As I watch Skaneateles grow before my eyes - the renovation and expansion of the Old Stone Mill, the condos coming into Jordan Street, the shops filling with so many, many tourists - I have to believe that the abundance will continue.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Day of the Eagle

Yesterday I took the dogs out for their very early morning walk up the road at the lake. Boo ran ahead with his friends, Koko lagged behind. Nothing different than usual. But as I passed a camp a few down from ours, I saw this huge bird flying over the water. "A heron," I immediately guessed. Then realized what I had seen.

I ran home to find Bob already out on the deck with his camera. I was chased down the hill by our dear friend Martha who was yelling to us to "Look! Look!" She was followed by her three dogs running circles around her and barking.

We all met up on the deck and she pointed him out to me. All I could see was a triangle in a far tree, but she assured me that was our eagle. He had first been sighted by my brother-in-law when he was out kayaking this summer. Martha and her husband saw him fairly regularly after that. We were never so privileged until just then.

Bob went down to get our kayak in the water and we were joined by an elderly woman who walks her three golden retrievers about the same time we're out there. Martha did the honors, then told us how she had launched herself one time to take a photo and tipped over, camera and all. So now we were four crazed adults and eight dogs - 7:30 AM, remember.

Bob got his photo - amazing! To think that one of those magnificent creatures lives in our neck of the woods. We saw the male - and by golly he looks just like an eagle! Martha says there's a female out there, too.

He flew away, Bob took the dogs home, Martha went off to work, and I was left to deal with all the mortgage and real estate woes of the past week. It was a gorgeous day - the lake was smooth as glass, the sun was warming, and shoot - why not? I put on a sweatshirt, shorts, took off my sneakers and trundled the kayak down to the water.

I paddled around the point and down the lake. The wind was coming at me from the south, so I knew I'd have an easy time returning. No one was around - no boats or people on shore. I paddled and paddled. About the fifth mile down I let out a breath. I was breathing again. I took several deep breaths and kept on.

My goal was a camp I had sold a few years ago. I still see the owners regularly, but it's barely accessible by car so going by water is the better way. But since it's at the south end of the lake, I hadn't gotten there in my kayak or before that the canoe. I made it - the camp looks great - and then I started back, feeling satisfied that I had accomplished one goal at least.

The rest of the day I spent at the lake, reading, napping, doing work as it came my way. "Have you heard anything yet?" was the phrase everyone used. No, nothing yet, was my reply. The world had stalled.

That night we watched the President looking scared and delivering a speech to tell us that we are in difficult economic times. He had plans for it all, however, and we needed to rely on him and his cohorts to save us from ourselves. That message wasn't going over well in my house.

But this is the country that embraces the bald eagle. Somehow having seen that bird, free and unfettered, I realized the hope I believe in was within sight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

What a week it was! Somehow I thought the economic upheaval would have a fallout here, but it doesn't seem to have changed things much. We are still making progress, slow but sure.

There are currently 144 active listings in the Skaneateles area as defined by the Central New York Information Service (MLS). This is down from a high in the 160s a few months ago. Of course it could be seasonal, but this is a prime season in which to list and sell. The number of people on the streets and in the shops is a good indicator. The village continues to be filled with wonderful visitors from all over the world. Please see the comment under the blog "Communication."

We have five new listings this week - 1 waterfront, 1 village re-list (under the sales price of a year ago, I believe), and 3 homes ranging in value. Three properties were marked contingent - 1 new construction and 2 village homes, one of which just came on and found a buyer immediately! Well done!

There are 9 total homes marked contingent and 13 pending, just waiting to close. So far there are still 34 closed properties year-to-date and none this past week.

We lost the contingency status of 11 Onondaga due to the economic woes of Wall Street and the world. I hope the deal stays together, but in the meantime we must go on and look for back-up offers that could rapidly become prime offers. It will be open again on Saturday, 12:00 to 2:00 if you'd like to see it. I've heard tell that the attic is cleaned out and looks HUGE!

Rentals are proliferating. There are 16 current homes/apartments available. Of these, 8 are in the village. Their prices range from $895 to $7,000 on the water. The majority cluster around the $1,500 mark, but this could come down as winter approaches.

I think this past week promotes the belief that buying and selling need to be done in the moment, not drawn out. You don't know what awaits you or the world. Certainly I have heard the phrase "We thought we had a deal, but the economy........(and the voice trails off.)" It will be fascinating to watch this all play out - and enlightening, too. I am ever-optomistic about the future, both of the real estate market in Skaneateles and the fortitude of the people of the United States.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Contingent on the Sale of a Home

Many people find the home of their dreams before they've sold their current house. Living space is very important - they don't want to risk not having a wonderful home, so they don't list their home until they've found the next one. Some risk losing that house, but many place an offer "contingent on the sale of their home."

The offer is in place, and essentially this means they have "dibs" on their dream home. Usually the home inspection is done and negotiated. They don't want to find out that the roof is caving in and that funny crack in the basement leads to a sink hole, for example. Naturally they are not in the best position to negotiate - they are not ready, willing and able buyers yet - but they are in good shape. Price their current home with the market and they are ready to move on. It only takes a buyer to make both deals happen.

The agent writes in a recall - 48 hours to remove the contingency of the sale of a home or show they can financially buy the house or add an extra non-refundable deposit. The recall can be activated by the homeowner of the desired house receiving a bona fide offer in writing with few if any contingencies. Even if it's 5:00 on Friday evening, the clock starts ticking once the notification has been made. Someone will have bought the house by Sunday at 5:00 PM.

Now here is where it gets sticky. What if the original seller takes an offer contingent on the sale of the home from the buyer, and that buyer in turn takes an offer contingent on the sale of a home from another buyer...and on it goes. A couple years ago there were five (5!) houses in a domino effect here in Skaneateles. It was successful in the end, but it was also a last minute deal.

Today we are dealing with more and more contingencies. The buyers are afraid to buy a home and get a bridge loan because of the market. Getting stuck with two mortgages is not pleasant, even when the buyer can actually afford it. Volatility abounds. Take the safe route.

So I hear over and over - three e-mails today alone - about homes around here or in other parts of the country that need to sell. I am totally convinced that somewhere in the depths of Minnesota or Wyoming there is a little home that is on the market. Once that sells, it will trigger a great landslide of home sales.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I sat at my open house yesterday deep in misery, I admit. I had several deals pending in different stages of flux, which I suppose is a kind word, and the past week to remember while I waited for resolution. There must have been at least 10 people - agents, buyers, owners - who needed to call me in response to my messages.

A few did, but the majority didn't. And that is what drove me....drove me.....well... nuts.

Two people called me several times and I told them how much I appreciated their communication. It makes my job so much more pleasant. We can commiserate or bat ideas around or simply talk. But without a phone call the imagination takes over. Imaginations, I've found, generally tend to dwell on the negative if not downright disastrous. Look at the past week we've had economically!

Eventually the calls started rolling in, and frankly all the news was good. I was able to say that progress was being made - if only that the players were at least talking now. Throughout the rest of the afternoon the words got better and better. Hallelujah!

It still doesn't take away those few solitary hours that could have been used (mentally) more productively. I used to have a pact with Alex. We'd set a time to talk, or when he lived with me, to come home or call me. We called it "panic time." It was an absolute. If 5:00 was the panic time, then by golly I would hear from him at least by 4:59 because a minute later I would assume the worst. But up until 5:00 I wouldn't worry (or at least not as much). It was a matter of trust that we didn't abbrogate. It made it much easier to live with him - and I'm sure he would say the same about living with me!

When I have a deal that requires communication from a third party, I usually tell my clients when they will hear from me. "I will call you by noon tomorrow," I promise, "even if I haven't heard anything at least you will hear from me." This saves everyone from wondering if they missed a call or didn't get voicemail. It's a great system.

I think the best compliment I've ever gotten was from a client/friend - "Meg always calls you back!" Now I have to live up to that - I just wish everyone else did, too!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

...And Then Along Comes Mary....

"Mary" as I will call her - dear "Mary" decided to buy a home. She and her husband prepared for this purchase. Yes, they had a house to sell, credit to repair, but they wanted and needed a bigger house with some specifics not easy to find.

They looked for 18 months. Through the snows and the heat, all over Central New York. "It doesn't exist!" I'd complain to Bob. "They will never find it!"

But I kept looking and kept checking things out. Once I even told lovely Lisa in our office I was going to drive about 40 miles one way at night to not sell a house. "Where's your confidence?" she asked. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because they want me to - but this isn't the house."

But then it came on the hotsheet one day. Just what they wanted - exactly what they wanted and where they wanted. I called them and we hustled out there. They put in a full price offer and won out over the other people who wanted it.

The key was that they were prepared. They had done their homeowork, not just for the house but for their credit. They had a pre-approval in the bag and could buy without selling.

And good things come to those who prepare. While they searched, their own home was going through a transformation to make it highly marketable. They did what they needed to do - they had a home inspection so they knew the flaws, they took out piles and piles of junk, they decorated for the new buyer. They priced it right, too. After two open houses, it was sold.

Everyone closes in a couple weeks. "Mary" and her husband will have their new home, their buyer will move in soon after.

Key to this great tale is a willingness on everyone's part to be flexible - the sellers of the house "Mary" bought priced it to sell, "Mary" and her husband knew they had a good deal and were willing to make a concession or two, the buyer moved rapidly. Everyone delivered papers on time to attorneys and mortgage people and we will have a happy ending.

This is not a fairy tale. "Mary" is real. And she's not alone - there are many people out there doing the same thing, thank goodness.

So while I rant a bit about things not being easy, I must also speak glowingly about the successes - the deals that balance the hard ones.

Postscript - If you want to laugh and laugh, go to the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse's eastern premiere of "Church Basement Ladies." It stars the incomparable - and Skaneateles native -Maureen Quigley.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What a Week!

I have learned so much this week - about how to handle stress, mainly. And I know I'm not alone.

I've heard from several people who lament the passing of an art form - meet people, share houses over the internet, go see houses, check comps, negotiate briefly to buy the house of their dreams, have a home inspection that finds only a few issues, work out those issues, apply for a mortgage and get a good rate, get the commitment and update the abstract and have it surveyed and meet in an attorney's office to sign the papers. Ah, the good old days!

Now no deal is safe. It should be. Stocks rise and fall, but there's always the land. Nothing is so totally lopsided in Skaneateles, as it is in other parts of the country. Hold onto the property and it will increase in value.

Everyone complains about the bizarre market we're in. It's not just me, and it's not just agents. Anyone in the mix - attorneys, home inspectors, insurance people, mortgage processors and brokers - we all have our stories to tell.

So I walked a few miles today in this positively gorgeous fall weather, mowed the lawn the day before, talked and talked on my cell trying to work everything out and make my clients happy at least. It's going to be a few months or more before the good old days come back, but I have absolute faith they will!