Sunday, May 31, 2009

Faith Restored!

Every once in a while, my faith in humanity and my own abilities falters. Between the e-mail problems and the rain, a sudden lull in activity, a friend's serious illness, by last Friday afternoon I wanted to go home and put my head under the covers. Maybe if I slept a week things would work out better....

Bob would have none of it. We had planned to go to Burritt's Cafe that evening and we were going to go. I had looked forward to it and I knew that once there I would be fine. The rain let up and we traveled the few miles over to Weedsport. It was well worth it!

Israel Hagan was playing and that's what drew Bob. I didn't know the man, but he's been around Syracuse music for years with the band Stroke. That night it was just him and his guitar, great songs (oldies, as befit the audience) and a winning, friendly demeanor. He played for two hours - mostly covers, some invitations to sing and clap - and he dragged me from my doldrums to feeling fine. Sherry and Darryl also provided help with a decaf latte and then for dessert a chai latte. They were busy, the carrot cake was touted, and the atmosphere was marvelous. Mr. Hagan will return July 10th - mark it on your calendars.

The next day I went off to show a multi-family to a friend. I hadn't seen him in a while and he was flying high with the Friday birth of a fifth grandchild, another little girl. We roamed around the house for an hour or so, finding wells and septic systems, then waved good-bye. Always a pleasure.

Back to the office - our owner, Dave Cramer, was setting up the upstairs which we've now taken over to accommodate new agents and create more room downstairs as well. He was in a fine mood, having closed the Camillus office and bought a beautiful building in Fayetteville to house the east agents and some of the west who won't join us here in the village.

I heard about two properties about to be listed by one of our agents, and lo and behold I have two people who will be very happy (I hope) to know about them. More investigation is needed, but it's rare when there's a natural fit. Then a rental appeared out of thin air (and a phone call) andI was off and running.

The good thing about those sorts of opportunities is that it gives me a chance to call people with whom I haven't spoken in a while. Good conversations ensued, how grand! The world was turning around for me!

After lunch at Creekside with Bob (curry chicken salad - I highly recommend it) I went shopping in the bookstore and then on to the Creamery. I purchased 5 books for the silent auction for the Lions' Club's golf tournament - two were Mike Quigley's memoirs about growing up in Skaneateles. I still love the title of the second: Childhood without a Helmet.

A bit of shopping over in Auburn - gas prices are cheaper there, did you know? - and I even found a new bag at Marshall's! I was exhausted - sleep has been hard to come by lately - so I napped when I got home, with that fine spring breeze floating in while I floated out.

We went to the Chiefs baseball game with my in-laws - Chiefs lost in the 10th - and I ate a hot dog and had a beer. Saranac. Pure contentment. Topped off by an ice cream sundae at the bottom of the 7th.

Today it was too rainy for Koko and me to walk, so I'm just enjoying blogging here in the village while Koko watches the world go by out the screen door. We'll head home in a minute for breakfast (spinach, parmesan omelette with ham on the side), coffee and the paper. I'll be back this afternoon for my open house (1:00 to 2:30) at 3862 Highland Avenue - come visit! The world is rightsideup again!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Nothing but good news! I've sworn off anything bad. It's been a rough few days dealing with the nasty e-mail that drove so many people to concern for me or feelings that somehow it was all a scam. Always positive, always moving forward. It's the only way!

Currently there are 139 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Seven new ones came on this week - 3 are re-lists with slight reductions, and therefore 4 are new. There is the beautiful waterfront for 1.1 million, the 2 bedroom priced well under $100,000 and sure to go quickly, and a lovely B&B opportunity for half a million. Of course 175 acres at a price tag of 4.25 million scoops them all - two houses, no waterfront.

There is very little new, if any, in the pending or contingent department. These generally show up past the date they actually are sold so it's always difficult to discover what is news.

But the best news is that we have reached 33 closed properties so far this year. Think of it! There were 66 altogether last year, and we're not even through May! This compares with 31 in 2007 which resulted in 103 closings for the year, and 41 in 2006 which gave us 107. I have to say we are back to normal. Really! I think so!

The newly closed properties are odd. One is a waterfront that closed at 65% or so of the original list price. The other was a spectacular property that appears to have closed at 20% over the original list price. There must be a story there - I'll see what I can find out.

It feels good to be selling and closing. I would suggest that if you are thinking about listing your home, now would be a very good time!

Friday, May 22, 2009

I've Been Phished!

Send no money - I am doing fine in Skaneateles, selling and listing homes!

Thanks to all of you who have expressed concern!

6:30 pm
After a very long day of showing homes, answering the phone, and replying to e-mail concerns, I am actually thrilled that everyone called me or checked with Linda here at the office.

We are calling the attorney general, as requested, to report international internet fraud. I am sorry for any inconvenience or discomfort this caused you.

There is a website - thank you Karen - that purports to "protect me" from this particular fraud. All I have to do is pay them some $$$. I did not click on the "click here" for a multitude of reasons. I feel like the small storeowner who is being threatened by thugs!

It's been interesting to hear reactions. Several people brought up the lack of grammar in the letter, the misspelling of my e-mail address, and the surprise that I would ask poverty-stricken people to send money. One lovely recipient of the e-mail said she believed I would find a different way out of my predicament and she wasn't worried.

My favorite was the person who said this was a great scam on my part, calculated to ensure that I heard from people I haven't spoken with in a long time. I did have wonderful conversations and caught up on what was happening in others lives, but I promise you I did not initiate the original e-mail.

For those of you somehow missed it, or deleted it immediately as I did, the e-mail stated that I was stuck in London and could not get out of a hotel unless I paid $2,250. I was allowed only one e-mail, so.....please send the money or I would be stuck forever.

I am not stuck - I am so happy to be here in Skaneateles with the new knowledge of how concerned people in my life are for my welfare.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

We drove out tonight in Bob's Honda Del Sol to Sylvan Beach on Oneida Lake for food and just to drive in the warmth. On the way home we stopped at Gannon's for ice cream in the Valley. It was teeming. just like on a hot summer night. I had a 'Cuse Trax single scoop with peanut butter, nuts and whipped cream. We leaned against the car and watched the world go by. So the blog is late, but the breeze is warm and I don't mind writing with the peepers out there and the windows open.

I spoke with a friend today who stated that "maybe this year isn't the best year to sell waterfront." I told him I'd check it out and see if the facts agree with his assertion. So please consider this the special Waterfront Edition of The Weekly Update.

Currently there are 138 single family residences listed in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Of these, 41 are considered waterfront. Whether they are actually on the water, shared lake frontage or lake rights they all have a "Yes" next to waterfront. Prices for the waterfront range from $279,000 to 3.2 million dollars.

This week there were 3 new listings - one was a re-list and reduced price of what I consider a very nice ranch, another a home in Niles, and the third waterfront with shared lake frontage.

Three properties also were marked contingent: a ranch, a house that has been reduced systematically to prompt a sale, and waterfront in the $700,000 range. Altogether there are 9 properties marked "K" of which 2 are waterfront.

Of the 6 homes pended, waiting to close, 3 are waterfront.

So far this year we now have 31 closed properties, of which only two are waterfront. This compares to last year's paltry 17 at this point with 3 of them waterfront. In 2007 by this date there were 29 properties that had closed, with 5 waterfront within that total.

So maybe it's not the BEST year for waterfront...? A few weeks more will tell. But the closed properties are surpassing the year when all was well with the economy and we were supposedly bubbling. That's good news!

The new closings came within 7% to 20% of their original list prices. The two village homes surprisingly were the hardest hit, while the town properties closed within the smaller percentage. Can you extrapolate from this - I doubt it! Each was priced by a different brokerage. Pricing waterfront is even more difficult - each home is unique.

But along with the warmth let's bring on the sales! Don't miss out!

Early Morning in the Village

I decided to become more pro-active towards my sleep patterns. That's a long way around to say that when Koko wakes up with the sun, I have been getting up with her, too. Bob and Boo sleep on for another hour, but Koko and I get in the car and drive to the Village for an early morning walk.

We've only gone three times so far, but it's becoming addicting already. I wake up on the way - farm equipment beware! - and by the time I park behind Doug's I am ready to go. With Koko on a leash and plastic bags in my pocket, we move as quickly as her need to smell everything will allow.

Yesterday we walked up West Lake Street to inspect the new slate roof being installed on that grand old home under re-construction. People were out and about, despite the cold - I wore a jacket, turtleneck and Cuddle-duds. I could only find one glove in the car, so I put that on and pocketed the other hand. By the time we turned around at the top of the rise Koko was ready to go back lickety-split towards the promise of food.

Sam was at the Bakery making the doughnuts and waved. The bus for Syracuse had made its stop at 6:10 and was lumbering down East Genesee Street. Birds were calling, the water was lapping at the pier - all was right with the world. Even through the busy, busy day I had after that the moment of peace stayed with me.

It's a good world at that time of day. Fewer trucks, less people, storefronts polished with the beginnings of the red, white and blue celebrations. Everyone says hello - joggers, dogwalkers, people just out getting the morning newspaper. We're all privileged to have this shared experience, their smiles say.

We spent the weekend (actually 29 hours by the time we got there at 80 mph because of course two houses sold Saturday morning since we were going away) at Rachel's parents' home in Mahopac. They have lakes, too. The shower happened wonderfully on Saturday night (yes, Rachel Alexandra the filly did win the Preakness - how could she not?) and everyone had dispersed by the time the thunderclouds rolled in and the lightning came. The party-goers were mostly City people who had not been to Skaneateles or even the Finger Lakes, tending more towards Italy and the Cape and Florida for vacations. Rachel and Alex chose it as a "destination wedding" for them, and we were very surprised and pleased with their collective reactions. They love the idea and can't wait to come mid-July, many of them using the week as a vacation.

So as I walk Koko in the morning I am mindful of what they will see from their rooms at the Sherwood Inn and Packwood House. They will look out on a pristine lake, at the Judge and the pier, see the walkers and runners, saunter over to Sam's for a coffee, look in the windows at Cate & Sally, read the real estate storefront flyers. I know they'll be back - maybe to buy the condos over 2 Jordan Street, or rent a camp for a month in the summer. Or simply to visit our lovely little village by the lake.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Bit of This and That

Congratulations to Greg Paulus for coming home! For those of you not from around here, Greg was a star quarterback and point guard for Christian Brothers Academy. He had his choice of sports, and decided that his education meant a great deal and the best education for him would be found at Duke. He was their point guard for years - and the guy everyone loved to hate. Senior year he faced the ignominy of sitting out a great deal, but he was the first one giving encouragement when the players returned to the bench.

Today he announced that he would use his last year of eligibility (I guess this comes from a change of sport) to come home, attend Syracuse University, and take on the huge challenge of quarterbacking the team. Fun times!

Speaking of weird sports stories.....there will be a filly as the favorite in the Preakness on Saturday. Her name is Rachel Alexandra. We will be attending the wedding shower of - Rachel and Alexander (!) at that time. Do you think we'll manage a bet on her, too?

I've won my credit issue with Verizon, but it's a warning to everyone. Last summer we signed up for Verizon FIOS only to find there were no FIOS cables on our street. Oh well! I received a bill for installation which I spent a few hours explaining we hadn't installed anything, and the bill went away. Then this winter I started seeing money leaving my checking account to go to Verizon. The bank couldn't stop it and every month they simply refunded the money. The withdrawals ended after four months. In April I wanted to refinance and....Verizon had noted on my credit report that I had not paid my bills! My score was suddenly below 700 and I couldn't get the best rate. I complained to Verizon (who always asked for my account number when I called) and finally won! I was able to prove a negative! Hooray! But check your credit - who knows what's on there!?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Second Anniversary Blog

It's been two years since I started blogging - apparently the 14th of May, 2007. I had no idea I would enjoy it so much.

Since last May the world has changed. An election was run and won by Barack Obama, and I am still in awe that he is our President. I am impressed by what he wants to do, the decisions based on "right" rather than "might," and I wish him well at least once a day. A year from now I still want to be in awe of his Presidency as a turning point in our country.

It was a very tough year. Real estate in Skaneateles hit a low, but didn't crash as it did in other places. Our beautiful homes still sold, though not at the rate we all had become accustomed. I was able to chronicle it 52 times, never missing a week (an occasional day, yes) all year for the Skaneateles Real Estate Weekly Update.

I said good-bye to Hermes and Jose, hello to Rachel and Alex's wedding plans. And also hello to all those wonderful people who came into my life through real estate.

Today I am saying good-bye to a couple who believed in me from the beginning, almost. They (we) sold their home and will close tomorrow, a day ahead of my prediction back in February. I have never done that before, and I am as amazed as they that it happened. (I do recognize that it hasn't closed, and until it actually does, etc. etc.)

I concentrated some this year on a balance between work and relationships. I made time for friends, listed more, spent more hours at Creekside and other favorite places like Panera Bread. It's important.

I saw some of my early homes that my friends/clients had bought sell through me. It made me realize that there's a history here and not just faces and property. I made new friends, too, friends who stop in and wave and send their friends to me, too.

It's a grand life, in a lovely lakeside village, in warm and welcoming Upstate New York. And I plan to continue to blog about it all.

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

The sun is out, there is no humidity or a cloud in the sky, I spent 2 hours in the dentist's chair this morning and I want to get a tan. So let's swing right into it!

There are currently 141 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Six new ones came on in the past week, something for almost everyone. There's the gorgeous home overlooking the lake for one million dollars, a small home in J-E school district for under 100K, a pretty waterfront village home, two others under $200,000 and down the lake in Cayuga County a house with 10 acres. What is your preference?

Two new homes were marked contingent, both of them remarkably around the list price of $200,000. I think that's good news - people are beginning to take a chance again. And I forgot! A waterfront home, also!

We now have 25 officially closed homes in the Skaneateles area, as compared with 16 last year at this time. The new one that sold is a village fixer-upper that has been on the market for a while. I wish the new owners well!

Since we have that marvelous 25 number to work with, I thought I'd take a look at the breakdown in closed homes. Twenty per cent were in some way waterfront, whether right on the water or lake rights. Nine (almost 40%) were village. Three others were in the Jordan-Elbridge school district and two were new construction. That leaves about 7 for the town designation. Now that summer's almost here, my guess is that the waterfront sold but not closed will suddenly, miraculously close and others will sell.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The In-law Dilemma - or not!

I read somewhere - can't find it now - that nearly 40% of households contain a member of an older generation. The in-laws, for example. Since I read this I've become even more aware of my families' (and by that I mean, client/friends) situations.

I have one group who is looking for a place outside of Syracuse so the parents and children and grandchildren can share upbringing, downsizing, and aging issues together. They started out that way with an extra apartment, but as the younger family grew and the older parents aged, they needed more. And they still do. We've looked at houses close by and huge houses, ranches and capes, existing homes and "tobebuilts." While they are willing to pay a "pretty penny" they are not willing to wait, so modifications of homes seem the best solution. And where they want to be, it hardly exists.

Other friends of ours are looking for a home that will give them the capability of extending a warm welcome to the woman's father after it becomes necessary for him to join them. He's not interested now - and therefore can't contribute to their home - but he won't have a choice in a few years. They want to be ready. So instead of finding that home that will attract the grandchildren, they are looking for one that will attract the grandfather.

As the economy contracts I can see that more and more families will be co-mingling their housing assets. Why pay taxes and heat two homes when one large one will give them more options? Why send babies out to expensive day care or after school activities when Grandma is still capable of putting on the band-aids? When a family member is out of work, even temporarily, the single home can become a refuge and a relief. There are more streams of income, more helpful hands. More domestic jobs to do.

Our home, as I've said before, was designed to accomodate a parent. We have three bedrooms and 2.5 baths in the main house, then a ramp between the garage and the house that leads to the apartment. Tucked away behind the garage is another 1000 sf of living room, bedroom and handicapped accessible bathroom. The kitchen, such as it is, was installed in the hallway with the washer and dryer. The sliding glass door leads out to the deck and backyard, shared by both families.

Now that my mother has passed on, we use it for my real estate "office" and gym. When Alex and Rachel come to visit they have a separate space. When Rachel's mother came recently to plan for the wedding, she took the apartment and we all co-existed very well. Once we have grandchildren it will be an easy place for them to stay. Alex is already planning for the day when Bob and I move over there and he and Rachel take over the main house.

But the very sad part of it all is that our house does not exist out there. I've seen approximations of the design, and currently there's a great one in the town of Onondaga, but not this home. I've talked to my friendly builders about creating a community that would provide additional support and offer the same design in housing. They haven't jumped at the chance.

Most in-law quarters are downstairs, aka the basement. But this keeps the older people away from family dinners, ease of joining the family. My mother often wheeled her rollator over to watch SU games with us. She could never have done stairs. And if we had all been in one home, with her "room" or "suite" part of the first floor, we would not have thrived as long as we did.

Parents who move in with children generally come from their own homes. My mother was in hers for 56 years, 23 of those alone. To compress her stuff into one apartment was hard enough. But to ask her to live as an obvious guest would have been worse.

I think as the years go by we will see more designs like ours - I sincerely hope so at least! Accessible apartments that exist co-equally with homes, wide enough doorways to accommodate wheel chairs, and storage space, lots and lots of storage space.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

We have some good trends going here. Please read on!

Currently there are 139 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Eight new ones came on since the last update a week ago. Four are new construction, and actually re-lists with a price in the mid-$400,000 range. Another is a re-list of a beautifully executed remodel of an older home. Then there's a ranch under $200,000 in the village, a small ranch. There's also a ranch under $200,000 outside of the village with a choice of 10 acres or 17 (of course the price is a bit higher). This is a prime example of "Skaneateles area" listing - not in the county or the school district, just the area. Hey - but it will get more looks this way!

This week there are no new sales or pending properties, from what I can see. Certainly there must be some no one is talking about yet. This I believe!

But there are two new closings, bring the number of closed properties so far this year to a robust 24. Remember the trend I mentioned? Last year at this time there were only 16 closed properties. We now have a clear indicator that the worm, as they say, has turned.

But before we all get carried away, I want to introduce a term - absorption rate. At this rate of sales and with these current active listings, we have a supply of homes to last us 23 months. (The number of homes sold divided by 4 months, then the active listings divided by that number.) The ideal absorption rate is somewhere around 6 months of inventory - in our case, this would be about 36-40 homes. We had close to that when I first started, and yes, business was brisk. It was a sellers' market and today of course buyers rule. But the trend is certainly better - last year we would have been dividing active listings by 4 - children could be conceived, born and attend pre-school before the inventory was depleted!

The homes that closed, by the way, were both village homes. One came in at about 7% under the original list price and the other at about 60% of the original price. To test your acumen - which one do you think was on the market longer?

To address the comment of "Where is Calemad?" The development is actually called Parcell Woods and is in Cayuga County but Skaneateles Schools. Take Old Seneca west from the town. It will turn into Franklin Street Road. About two miles out Parcell Road is on the right - follow that out a brief half mile to Calemad. These are great homes with goodly amounts of land around them. If you get lost, call my cell! Or better yet - let me show you!