Monday, June 30, 2008
There are currently 162 active listings in the Skaneateles area. Of these, 8 are new this week: 5 brand new (without a history) and 3 re-lists. There were no sales or closings. We still have 19 closings listed for the year in the multiple listing service.
Being that this is the Fourth of July holiday week, I thought a bit of history might be interesting and also give some perspective on the market. And since we're at the mid-point it is a good time to pause and take stock. The results of this search are actually incredibly informative.
Just the facts:
1/1 - 6/30/Year** # of listings in the first half** # of closings in the first half:
2008** 151 **19
2007** 167** 43
2005 **71 **37
2004** 61** 39
2003 **64 **35
Now, this does not take into account the number of houses (and these are all single family residences) that were re-listed. It's a simple count, and if homes hadn't been selling in 2004, for example, there would have been re-lists then. But they did sell.
The numbers are fairly stark. We are in a holding pattern. People who used to take a chance and buy a house without a contingency or even with one are not doing anything, taking no risks, because they've seen houses sit without buyers.
The good news is that it can all change in a minute. Think about the weather - it all evens out eventually. We are having a bit of a cloudy spell, that's all. And if I am right about all this - the next half of the year or next year will be good, very good, to make up for lost time.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I have a friend who somewhere in upstate New York was selling her beautiful home. It was on the market - 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths - very lovely in a country setting. One Realtor quoted her well over $300,000 for a list price but she decided that she would use the services of another Realtor who started under $300,000. Pricing is everything.
The house, minimally furnished, languished on the market for 9 months until a buyer made a low offer but they countered to bring up the price a bit. Closing was set for early April.
The day before closing, for reasons still unknown, the buyer called the town's building inspector/code enforcement officer and asked about the fourth bedroom. It was located with a full bath on the third floor of this 1990-built home. The building inspector pulled the files - yes, the contractor who built the home had a Certificate of Occupancy, but there was no mention of a fourth bedroom. Uh oh.
"So really," the buyer drawled, "this is only a three bedroom home."
Double Uh oh.
After discussion about a sprinkler system (cost prohibitive) and a fire escape (ugly) and the attorneys getting involved, the buyer walked away from the deal.
Imagine. All the furniture has been moved out of the house, the rates have gone up, the market has turned south in this town (NOT Skaneateles, by the way) and there's this perfectly good house going back on the market as a three bedroom home after many nail-biting months not selling as a four bedroom home.
The Realtor went back to work and put it on as the three bedroom home it was, with not a bit of staging furniture in sight (all sold, actually) and the home found a buyer within two weeks! Not only was this the perfect buyer, but they paid $9,000 more for the property! Closing went smoothly and all is well as we end our cautionary tale.
Morals of the story:
"It's not closed until it's closed."
If you have gorgeous cherry floors don't cover them up with rugs - staging isn't the answer to everything.
A quasi four bedroom home (think of two flights of stairs to the master bedroom) is beaten every time by a three bedroom home with an incredible third floor bonus room with a full bath. But then, who knew?
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I am not choosing the fantastic waterfront property off East Lake Road with the winding drive down to a ton of wood, stone, ceramic and tile plus creative lighting throughout. Not the sauna and the wine cellar, or that kitchen with every upgraded appliance and gorgeous granite. It's offered at $2,000,000 and seems a bargain at that.
I am also not choosing the totally decorated and reconfigured home on West Genesee - again stone and tile and tremendous style whose price includes all the furnishings: $729,900.
I liked - and forgive my taste but I thought it sweet and full of potential, "a little bit of heaven" the owners called it - a home I saw on Richard Road out past Borodino. From the wood stove on the main level to the wood stove in the basement, I was charmed. I loved the views most of all - 12 acres down not to the lake, but to more mature trees. Looking out the front windows you could see across the lake to the shore and then up into the fields. It must be spectacular in the fall.
The potential I saw was in the development of the home. It already had two bathrooms upstairs and a full basement just waiting for a family room or additional bedrooms. The doors downstairs were thrown open to manicured lawns. A stream trickled down the north side. The home begged for French doors off the living room to a deck which would hang out over the acreage.
No, not for everyone. But quiet and privacy and oh, those views! Offered for $189,900.
Monday, June 23, 2008
There are currently 157 listings in the Skaneateles area in the multiple listing service. There were 9 new ones this week - 2 were really new and 7 were re-lists or reconfigurations. For example, a lot can be sold as a lot or as a "to be built" with pictures of what the home would look like. Several of these new listings are waterfront (across East Lake Road really) luxury mansions.
Two homes sold this week - one in the village and one in the country. It felt good to speak with people who pulled up the listing and say, "Oh, I'm sorry! That one was just marked contingent." It takes only one pebble to start a landslide!
One property also closed - true waterfront, sold over the winter. I went back and looked - the last village closing was March 5th. The mantra is "we can do this, we can sell, we can do this, we can sell....."
Sitting at my open house yesterday on South Street in Elbridge (and what a pretty porch it is to sit on!) I was struck by the number of towns that are selling fewer, much fewer properties than last year. I knew Skaneateles' numbers were lower, but so were other towns. So if the overall effect was only a 5-10% reduction in sales, which town had the sales?
Answer: Camillus, Geddes and Van Buren. Each of these far exceeded the number of sales year-to-date compared with last year. By far I mean, for example, Camillus had 88 sales last year and this year the number is 124! Yow! And yes, the price of the homes went up, too, which makes sense.
Which towns had the greatest increase in price? Pompey and Lafayette's prices each rose about 20%. Onondaga came in a little under 10%. Elbridge has done very well, too - from $110,800 to $131,400. And frankly, Skaneateles is still above last year's sales dollar amount.
I mentioned today that Syracuse is one of the best overall markets in the United States. People still don't know this. While so many parts of the country are floundering under foreclosures, we are still moving homes quite briskly.
Let's start that pebble rolling down the hill here in the village - who will be the one to cast the first stone?
Sunday, June 22, 2008
After saying good-bye to them I greeted an older woman who was signing in. She said she had lived in the house as a little girl, her mother had been born in it, and her great-grandfather (I think) had built it and lived across the street. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to return to the house. Magic!
Her mother was born in 1901, so that took care of the correctness of the tax information. She said very little structurally had changed. What people identified as possible additions actually weren't. Still the rear of the house was utilitarian and the front for the family.
The little room off the current office was the "safe" room because it housed a huge safe. The kitchen was where it is now, and her room was above it to take advantage of the rising heat - no heat upstairs except for what rose through a hole in the flooring. The summer kitchen was outside, to minimize the chance of fire.
An indoor bathroom - one of the first in the village my previous resident told me - divided the front from the rear of the home on the second floor. Instead of a hallway, you had to go through the bathroom.
I asked about the carriage house. She said she remembers both cars and horses in it with no apartment, of course.
She told me she had a picture of herself as a little girl standing by the bay windows in the parlor. She remembered having chicken pox and being sequestered upstairs. She gave a picture of the home as it looked when it was orginally built to the historical society - I'll try to get a copy in the following weeks.
I wish I had known she planned to come because I would have been more prepared with questions. But I guess her visit was for herself, and a cousin in New England with whom she'll share the pictures. I am just so happy she came!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Hypermiling means driving your car to get the absolute best gas mileage possible. A few simple changes - and awareness - can increase gas mileage tremendously. The first report I heard talked about figures above 100 miles per gallon! I heard later that the driver had a hybrid to begin with, but I knew this was a challenge I wanted.
My Scion was getting about 30 miles to the gallon, an increase of 2 miles because I was more aware and driving slower. Someone else suggested that it had over 8,000 miles on it and that was improving the gas mileage.
Enter hypermiling. The following are the changes I made:
- Take the car out of gear and roll in neutral
- Try never to go over 2000 rpms
- Get to 5th gear ASAP
- Roll up to stop signs or red lights
- Roll through stop signs (I do this rarely!)
- Put the seat belt on before starting the car (tough to change old habits!)
- Keep the air-conditioning off
- Turn off the car if I am going to stand longer than 10 seconds (I did this only once, when I was stuck at the bottom of Kingston trying to get onto Route 5 - by Marty's Barn Cellar - and there was a line of cars in both directions)
- Use cruise on the highway
I have always loved numbers and figures and math mental calculations. I've charted gas mileage for years and years. My Corollas each got 39 miles per gallon; the Cabrio gets 32-33; the Forester (my one automatic) got 24 and is now someone else's car. I actually kept a notebook throughout the 6 years I drove my Escort - price of gas, number of miles, mileage. Then I got a Life as a Realtor.
So the results. After 400 miles - 9 days - my mileage is averaging 34.
This doesn't seem like a huge change, but....I drive somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,000 miles per year. At 30 mpg I use 800 gallons of gas. At 34 mpg I would use 706 gallons, a difference of 94 gallons. Mulitply that by $4 - a savings of $376! And I haven't paid $4/gallon in over 2 weeks....
I'll get better at hypermiling, and probably get back to driving the Cabrio and seeing what I can do there. (It's going on the market - sigh - and will need to look good all the time so I won't drive it as much - kind of like showing a house on the market...)
The larger implications - what if everyone did this? What if everyone decreased gas usage by 7-8%? Gas prices would go down, drilling would not need to be threatened, we might buy some time to get the hydrogen and electric cars on the road, and our national security would not be based on oil.
So roll on down the road...and if you see me going slowly (I have the RE/MAX balloon on the back) don't honk. Join the long line of cars behind me and say, "I know that person...she's hypermiling!"
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The house I saw was out past Borodino on Nunnery Road. I fell in love with the pictures - but I was also wary when I saw the word "project" and the price.
I knew the house - I'd passed it many many times and always thought it needed a bit of attention. I suppose now that I've been inside, I realize that was an understatement. It needs so much more.
The six open boxes of baking soda in one of the bedrooms was a clue. So was the straw in the room beyond the kitchen. I looked into the basement and the agent kindly suggested "You don't need to go down there." I agreed.
But so much potential! Almost 3000 square feet, possible 5 bedrooms, 2 full baths one up and one down, huge kitchen with a fireplace, hardwoods on most floors, and windows with lovely wooden trim and carvings. What it must have been in 1889 when it was built!
Outside was overgrown, but there was a pond in the front yard, views of the lake, over 3 acres and beautiful mature trees everywhere. I could picture a swing on the front porch, gardens and water pumped from the well to water them, fireflies in the meadows and jack-o-lanterns on the porch in the fall. Anne of Green Gables came to mind.
The owners, according to the agent, hope someone will fall in love with it - and have enough money to make it beautiful again. I hope so, too! Offered at $229,000.
Post script: I've had a request to include pictures of these homes. I've thought it over and at this time I won't. I blog because I enjoy it - adding pictures adds a whole other level of difficulty that would diminish my enjoyment; what is easy for some, alas, is not easy for me.
But there's another reason, too. When I worked at a Waldorf School in Saratoga, Spring Hill School, the teachers read books without illustrations or didn't share them. The belief was that imagination is stimulated by description, each child therefore allowed to create his/her own vision.
If you want to see pictures of these homes they are available on REMAX.com. But take a moment first, and imagine what they look like.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Times like these are difficult for agents who "do real estate" as a side business or just part-time to stay in the business. Monthly fees, yearly dues all must be put in perspective of what is actually being earned.
Syracuse is still a vital market, and our multiple listing service covers all of central New York. Prices are staying up there - probably because they never were inflated - and we are listed in the "Top 10 Real Estate Markets" of the U.S. However, fewer homes are being sold - about 5% to 10% down from last year.
Skaneateles is a different market. Currently there are 18 closings on the record, down from 39 last year by this date. We also have 152 active listings under single family residential and another 15 condos. Amazingly, there are 80 "lots and vacant land" listings, too. Presumably you could build on these - but in many cases they are listed twice, as single family "to be built" and vacant land.
There were 6 new listings brought on the market this week - of these, 5 were re-lists, homes that hadn't sold or were rented and now are in need of buyers. Three of these are waterfront properties.
Yesterday a friend called and remarked on the number of RE/MAX listings he noticed going down East Lake Road. He was duly impressed, and called to tell me so but also to talk about the number of listings in general.
I decided to take a look this week at the actual 18 closings and see how the companies stood in reference to them. RE/MAX as an office is new to Skaneateles - just opening two years ago while at least two of the companies have been there for as long as I can remember. Our numbers are small - currently 8 of us - but we seem to have established our brand well.
Of the 18 homes that closed this year, 3 were RE/MAX listings and 12 were shared by the two older companies. The other 3 were from smaller companies or without a Skaneateles office. However, RE/MAX had the most closings - 5 - and the remaining 13 were split between the older companies and out-of-towners.
These are not huge numbers or differences, but I was glad to see that if RE/MAX does have a lot of listings then there is the potential of many sales.
And again, I must say things are looking up. I've had more calls and more showings in the past week of my properties than in the past month. At some point the ball will start to roll - since it's 60 days to closing in central New York it's time to buy if you want to get moved in before the school year begins!
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I had only come to watch Meet the Press this year during the primary season. I knew of Tim Russert because I was a news junkie, but hadn't really appreciated his insight, character and abilities until recently. I knew also that he was a huge sports fan and from Buffalo - how could I avoid knowing that! - and that he'd written about his father, Big Russ.
We spent the weekend doing quiet, small town things. Friday night we watched NBC until we couldn't take it any more and then ate dinner on the deck until it got dark and then beyond. We had the first strawberries of the season - and actually, they were the dinner.
Saturday I worked in the office, then went out to the lake and chose to read on the deck and talk to neighbors. I took phone calls about my listings - "if you list, you last" - and rather enjoyed that. In the evening we went to the Elbridge Strawberry Festival at the firehouse on Route 5, ate more strawberries and listened to the community band play patriotic and Americana songs for an hour. "America the Beautiful" always brings a tear. We came home to eat popcorn and watch "The Sting."
I saw Meet the Press this morning before my open house and thought more about what Tim Russert's life meant, why it so resonated with me. Someone told a story about how when Russert went to work for Senator Moynihan he was a bit overwhelmed by the resumes of the other staffers. He was from South Buffalo and went to John Carroll in Cleveland, not Hotchkiss, Harvard and Yale. Senator Moynihan told him he could learn what the others knew, but "they will never be able to learn what you know."
Tim Russert made me proud of growing up in Syracuse. And oh yes, being born in Buffalo, too.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
But it's one of those moments that stops me. I called a local friend who I knew would know the details, and he filled me in. It helps some. I was able to fill in some blanks for the other old friends.
Memories pushed me back to junior high school in Syracuse - Levy, on the east side. Since then I've realized that those three years were really the beginnings of lifelong friendships. Those were the crucial years of learning to belong.
We had so much fun, it seemed, in those days. We traveled as a group, something new to me, raised as an only child. It was neighborhood fun - playing kickball in the field at Levy in the evenings, ice skating in Thornden park after dark, watching the boys skateboard down Berkeley or watching the boys play football in front of the dorm on Euclid.
I saw the old friend at our reunion twenty years ago. I hadn't seen him since graduation, and we had drifted into different spheres of influence prior to that. But somehow there was a connection still, maybe from elementary school even, that wasn't there with others. We said good-bye.
Life. I planted more flowers today, spent the afternoon catching calls and writing to friends. I'll spend the evening watching my twelve-year-old nephew play his last baseball game of the season in his neighborhood. Life.
The house was invitingly cool and I sat in the eat-in kitchen at the table watching the skies and listening to public radio through the whole-house speaker system. The skies showed at first rumbling dark clouds and I heard about extreme lightning storms threatening the area. The rain came in buckets and then stopped. The tornado warning followed with a list of afternoon school closings and cancellations across the region. Never a dull moment!
It felt right to be in that house. The owners had purchsed it as an investment and leased it back to Ryan Homes for use as a model. In exchange they received many upgrades and the interior decoration to make the model gorgeous. And it is.
I can't remember the first time I saw it, or with whom, but it made an indelible impression. "This is a ranch?" I thought. Cathedral ceilings, luxury bath, morning room, fireplace, upgraded kitchen. The layout is the best - master bed and bath on the left side, family room in the middle, two bedrooms on the right side with the laundry and another full bath. Simple - makes all the sense in the world!
The model is the Williamson, and while Ryan offered other plans everyone fell in love with the model and opted for it. As you drive through the community of Westshire, you see all but a couple Williamsons.
Everything about the community works. It's close enough to 695 to allow for quick access into Syracuse, the landscaping comes as part of the package for the homes, common areas will also be landscaped and everything will be maintained under a homeowners association. Very little work, but the joy of being independent and with single floor living. I think it will be one of the premier neighborhoods in the coming years as it matures.
I've sold a couple homes in there and shown it to others, so when I was asked to list it I was thrilled. I knew the house well, and as I put together the list of features that are unique to it because it was the model I was even more impressed. A Trex deck, epoxied basement floor (it shines!), the appliances including the washer and dryer, and all that professional interior decorating can do to make it stand out.
The furniture won't be there long because it goes back to Ryan Homes for auction, I understand. I've got an open house this Sunday, 1:00 to 3:00, to take advantage of the furnishings. But somehow I believe that even cleared of all the pomp and circumstance, it will still be remarkable.
Offered at $279,000.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Just the facts.
Skaneateles has currently 149 active single family listings. According to the MLS, 18 have closed this year, 5 of which are in the village. In the past 90 days none in the village have closed and only 7 outside the village. There are 3 properties that were marked contingent in the past 30 days.
Camillus has 161 properties listed as active. According to the MLS, 98 have closed this year. In the past 90 days 59 of these have closed. There are 26 properties that have gone to "K" status in the past 30 days.
Marcellus has 66 active single family homes for sale. There have been 21 closings this year so far and 12 within the past 90 days. In the last month another 5 have gone to "K" status.
Now, Skaneateles is the higher priced market and Camillus and Marcellus average about $350,000 less per property. Admittedly the pool of buyers is much greater for the latter two communities. But still, I think, as one Realtor told me yesterday, people are "holding back on pulling the trigger" from buying.
Now is the time! The rates are low - still low - and while the price of gas continues to rise ($4.11 last I saw at the Hess at Bennett's Corner) Skaneateles has the unique ability to provide all services within one park of the car. Grocery, pharmacies, banks, bookstore, coffee shops, attorneys, fast food and gourmet dining - just park and walk. And of course, real estate companies - we're right next to Doug's on Jordan Street. Stop in and write an offer!
Sunday, June 8, 2008
My rationale is this: the listing agent has undertaken the responsibility of working for the sellers of a property. He or she has fiduciary duties to the seller: obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accountability and reasonable care. The goal is to sell the house at the price agreed upon by the seller and the listing agent.
I think buyers believe that part of that duty is for the listing agent to give inside information to the buyer about the property and "what the seller would take." This is precisely what confidentiality means. Should the seller say, "Let's list it at $150,000 but I only really need to get $140,000," this is not information the listing agent gives out.
If there are any material defects the agent is bound by law to disclose them, whether he/she is a listing agent or a buyer's agent. The sellers can't say "We buried the oil tank in the basement because it was leaking, but don't tell anyone." Or they can say it, but the listing agent must disclose it.
And that disclosure is part of the fiduciary duties and means that if a buyer walks into an open house and announces "We can pay $175,000 and expect to for a home," then the agent must disclose this tidy little tidbit of information.
The world moves too swiftly today for people to rely on their own resources. They need an agent advocating for them, and just for them. If they buy one of his/her listings, so be it. There's nothing wrong in my opinion with dual agency, if it is done openly and everyone understands the process. But going it alone without someone checking for homes, talking to other agents, knowing particular markets and the homes themselves can lead to frustration and paying too much for a home. The feeling then is frustration and anger - "She took advantage of me!"
Who sets the price for the home? Often agents - not this one - state with absolute certainty that the home is worth x number of dollars. Go ahead, fall in love with that number, roll it around on your tongue, see how it feels. I'll get you that price - watch me! And the game's afoot. I pity the poor lowly buyer who walks into a situation in which pride takes over the negotiations! "You can't offer that - it's worth so much more - it's worth x number of dollars, like I said!" ("And if it takes me three years to sell it at this price while the owner pays the taxes and insurance and mortgage, then it does - but I will get them that price!")
Is it the commission that buyers want adjusted, and think that will happen if the agent gets both sides, the listing and the buying? A $200,000 home means that 1% of commission is $2,000. For that amount of money, the buyer is putting him or herself at risk. And speculating on commission is not something that is openly discussed. Negotiate the price of the house - that's a lot more expensive!
So here I am, Sunday afternoon in the village - the quiet village - knowing that I have a listing going into the computer tomorrow and an agent out there who has confided in me that she might have a buyer for this type of property. She's a buyer's agent, working for her people, and she will get the first call before it becomes generally known. It's what a list agent and a buyer's agent do.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
So forgive me if Tuesday's broker's open was not discussed!
I did my own broker's open anyway - and only one, thank goodness! It's my new old listing at 188 East Genesee Street here in Skaneateles.
I listed and sold it five years ago. The gentleman who owned it passed away while it was listed and the estate sold it at the end. My clients bought it from pictures they saw on the internet and walked into it the first time on the day of closing. (Needless to say, I'm using some of the same pictures for this listing.)
Because of the circumstances of the sale, I have a very tender place in my heart for the home. I really liked the old engineer. He reminded me of my father who passed away in 1979 - a lot of extraneous detail and some gruffness, but a good heart nonetheless. We sat and he taught me about chaos one day, and fractiles. I felt as if I were a little girl sitting at the kitchen table again, hearing my father discourse on something I sort of understood. He would have used the sale of the house to retire to Florida. An accident away from the house ended his life suddenly.
The house itself reminds me of the home I grew up in on the east side of Syracuse by Thornden Park. Both homes were built about the same time - World War One was raging. They are solid homes, well-engineered with very little extra space. Each had a formal dining room, living room, three bedrooms and smaller kitchens by today's standards. They also had an extension off the living room - ours was used as a small den and piano room, and the Skaneateles home was a computer room/sunroom. These sweet rooms have windows on three sides. Another feature they have in common are French doors. I blogged once about my mother's cat Hermes bursting through ours.
They have fireplaces, hardwood floors, good ceiling height, and archways. The chrystal doorknobs were polished by the gentleman. Our yard was larger, leading back to border on the park and seemingly miles and miles of lilacs. This one has pretty gardens but also extends to a common back yard - not owned, but presumably used by the neighborhood.
I walk in to the house and feel immediately at home here in Skaneateles. Our home was sold when my mother moved out (after 56 years!) to a young woman who also had a little girl and who appreciated the home. It sold in the low 60s. This one is offered for $244,500.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Active listings, listen up! We now have 149 residential listings in the Skaneateles area. I think it's like the price of gas - it just keeps going up with no end in sight.
There were 14 new residential listings this past week: 4 re-lists, 2 new construction possibilities, and 1 commercial building listed as a single family because it has an apartment in it.
There are now 18 closed properties for the year. Last week a waterfront property, pended in September of last year, closed. List price: $739,000. Closed price: $775,000. May I say "Go figure"? The answer is "location, location."
There was a lovely home marked contingent on the west side of the lake with lake rights - and in this case it was "condition, condition." Very beautifully remodeled home on incredible grounds - and under $500,000.
I checked out last year in the multiple listing service. I may be doing something wrong, but I get only 30 new listings for the entire year. It doesn't seem possible with 112 (!) new listings this year already. I know other Realtors read my blog - do you get the same response?
Speaking of reading, check the comment that came in under the blog "Everything that Rises..." It's a self-described "rant, " and worthy of a read.
But I must end on a good note. Yesterday about 200 Realtors gathered in Liverpool for a four hour ethics class, mandatory for continuing education. It's often fun to go to these things - good information, too - and I enjoy meeting people with whom I've only spoken. There was also a sizeable Skaneateles showing. One person spoke about offers coming in $200,000-$300,000 over previous offers and a hoot of derision went up from the audience. It's a different world out here; hyperbole is rampant.
The good note: at the breaks I was deluged with calls, but so apparently was everyone else. I heard exclamations of "Where have they been the last three weeks - now they call?" It just seemed as if things were beginning to pop again.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say - we'll see what next week holds!