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.