Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Mid-summer, dog days and mosquitoes, and I can't quite get excited about the Fair coming up or the opening day for SU football. I still want summer - those hot days and so warm evenings, looking at the stars and watching the moon rise without a sweatshirt in sight!

There are currently 144 active listings in the Skaneateles area as defined by the multiple listing service. Three new ones came on this past week. One is a re-list of a home with a different agency, but remaining at the same price. Another is one of those smaller homes with smaller prices that have popped up recently, a very pretty little thing for $75,000 not far outside of the village. The third is a gorgeous home - well over 1 million - with a few feet of lakefront to boot.

Sorry - no new pendings and no new contingent sales. In fact, the contingent sale from last week returned to the market. Sigh.

We do have three - hooray! - closings and a very mixed bag at that. In the village a fixer-upper closed well under $300,000 which put it at about 85% of its original list price. A little one in the town, under $100,000, closed within the 10% of its list price. The third was waterfront, again within the 10% under list price. Two of these were listed this summer and now have closed this summer.

I received a comment this week about new construction, so I thought I'd give a cursory look at it. We have generally four main developments being sold as "to be built" homes. There are other ones out there, most notably Parkside off West Elizabeth in the village, that have now gone for sale as lots. Single lots are also for sale, dotting the town and in older subdivisions.

Primarily Parcell Woods, Butters Farm, Whitegate and The Enclave are within the Skaneateles Schools and advertised as Skaneateles, even if the first one is actually in Cayuga County. I've been playing a lot of Monopoly lately in the evenings at the lake, so if I may be so bold.....

Parcell Woods - aka Calemad, the name of the road running through it - could be likened to the red cards (Illionois, Indiana and Kentucky). These are mid-range new homes, under $500,000, built for families who like a bit of privacy and acreage to roam. Not too far out of the village, but not walkable.

Butters Farm is very close in (think the green cards) with views and an easy walk to the village. Once completed, this community will be lovely with its emphasis on landscaping. It did not realize its original concept of million dollar homes, but proximity to the village will drive its sales in the $500,000 range.

Whitegate is in the village but off West Lake Road. You can cut down through Prentiss (across the street) on the path to get to West Lake Street and the village. These are smaller, mostly ranch homes with fantastic interiors and larger than they look from the outside. Probably the orange cards...? New York, Tennessee...?

The Enclave was/is a marvelous concept off Rickard Road to the east of Skaneateles. You can see the primary home from Route 20 - you really can't miss it, actually. These homes were designed originally to be like castles with a price tag that reflected the architecture. Thanks to the economy and whatever other factors, it has not become the private showplace that it easily, in better times, could have been and may yet be. Currently there's a semi-completed home that could be finished for upwards of a million dollars. Broadway and Park Place!

Only a few years ago Skaneateles had very few choices for new homes. You, buyers of property, generally bought what was there, fixed it up, or not, and enjoyed the village and town lifestyle. Developments were fought, especially Parkside, and costs went up waiting for approvals. In 2009, we have many options to build in the Skaneateles School district, and I would imagine many builders eager to accommodate buyers. Now would be a very good time to look over one of the 13 listings and roll the dice!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

There is so much to talk about! So much exciting news!

We'll start at the very beginning....a very good place to start. There are currently 143 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Four are new, well, sort of new. A village condo is being listed as single family, which in essence it is, with a reduced price. A home in the town has also come down so it's been re-listed and re-photographed - same house, but a new presentation never hurts! A house that had been under construction is now nearing the trim stage, so instead of a "lot" it is now a real house with a price in the mid-$400,000s. I toured it Saturday - lovely! A large village home has also been listed for the first time - asking price in the low $600,000s.

There's one new property marked contingent, a great ranch that just came on and was priced under $200,000 to sell quickly - and by golly it did!

Another property went straight to "pending" - gorgeous waterfront, well over one million.

AND!!!! There are now 50 closed properties, year-to date. That's an increase of four in the past week - a lot of active attorneys and mortgage people and agents! A village home closed in the mid-$600,000 - could be why the new one came on at that price! It was reduced over time from almost $800,000. Another village home that original boasted 10 feet of waterfront sold the strip, reduced the price, and then sold the house. Original price about a million, sales price (no water!) that pesky mid-$600,000 range. A third village home sold on the low $400,000 having started in the low $500,000, a reduction of about 20%. A home in the town also closed in the high $200,000, down from its original list price of about $330,000.

Two other properties closed that are of interest. One was actually in the Town of Niles although listed in Skaneateles also. When it closed, after a couple years on the market, it had to be counted in Niles - but that sold also close to its asking price in the mid-$500,000.

The second fascinating closing was a lot in the village that contained 2.87 acres. It closed for $600,000. Remember the old "location, location, location" axiom? Truer words were never spoken. Congratulations to the the new buyer and the agent who made it happen! (Not me, unfortunately!)

Last year we had only closed 29 (yikes!) single family homes by this time. You can really tell the difference in the market, and what we went through last year, by referencing 2007 with 63 closings, and 2006 with 66 closings. I am glad the market is turning around - HAS turned around!

There's a new program out there some of you might be interested in checking out. Not much is known about it, and true to form New York State has rolled it out without much information and no forms and no place to apply for it. One of my clients alerted me to it - oh, yes, and no fanfare either! You can access what information there is through and go to the Quick Links on the right of their home page. It's a program for first time homebuyers that I've seen credited with saving up to $15,000 over the course of 10 years. This is on top of the $8,000 (possible) Federal tax credit.

Not only will this impact my client who qualifies and is buying his first home, but also my sellers who have homes that first-time homebuyers might buy. I also had a call from a friend who asked if his daughter, college-aged, could buy a home with funds from the family to make it happen earlier than she had anticipated. I strongly suggest anyone in this position, or with questions, to call a mortgage person. Today. The Federal program demands that the property must have closed by December 1, 2009. There is such a small window of opportunity here to grab both programs that time is truly of the essence. Remember - 60 days to closing is average, from the time the contract is accepted and the documents are signed. You and everyone else will be signing papers on Thanksgiving - if you can find an attorney to work that day!

It's great to see movement!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dreams and Dreamers

I went to a garden party yesterday - really, I did! - and heard the most fantastic story that I want to share. So as the sun streams in with the fresh air, the crowds thin out, and Bob makes dinner at the lake (I hope) I'll tell you.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had just returned from a weekend on the St Lawrence Seaway. Bruce is a great storyteller, and I'll try to do him justice. Mary Jo disagrees with some of the dates, but I like his version the best.

Back in 1948 a young man paid $5 for a small, small island. It was no bigger than the 8' x 10' deck we were sitting on. Over the years he visited there, and every time he went out to it he brought rocks. After many, many years, he had a real island.

As it was then large enough to support a house, he built - stone by stone - a small cottage where he could stay with his family in the summer. He added a dock for the boats, got a flat raft-like thing he called the "rock boat" and was able to bring more rocks from the mainland. He then erected a shed with a sleeping loft where guests stayed in dormitory fashion.

All this from his dream and $5. I was mesmerized by the tale! The true tale!

I thought of all the people I know who dream large. I've written about them before - the people who wanted waterfront so they could fish, and land to play on. The family is now increasing in size, the fish are jumping in the creek, and he's put in a four hole golf course on his ten acres! They weren't willing to settle, and they are glad they didn't. Of course, I get kidded about the fact that I never thought they'd find what they wanted. (It took 18 months or more - and how many houses...?)

Then there are the log cabin people. They've found their dream home, perhaps a bit earlier than they expected (they are the balance to the previous clients), and are going forward. From a subdivision to the wilds of upstate New York. It's going to be a HUGE learning curve, but then dreams usually are.

I also know of a gentleman who quietly told me that he's always seen himself going out to tend flowers at a pond. Since he was a little boy, it's been his vision. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Today I had lunch with Intrepid Janet who reminded me that to move on and pursue their dream of living in Skaneateles they had to be aggressive sellers. They moved up here on a prayer, and have never looked back. Horses, music, friends and family - they're dining on the lake as I write - and their dreams have come true.

It sounds unoriginal, sort of South Pacific-y, but in order to have a dream come true you first have to have a dream. These people did, from the man who saw an island with stone cottages to the woods and a log cabin, to Janet in the village she loves. Not such bad images on a hot summer night in Skaneateles.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

These are the "dog days" of summer. I have one dog under my feet as I write, another stretched out on the cooler flooring of the kitchen. Neither one has moved in a while. Outside nothing else seems to move, either. Except maybe the waterfall in the pond. It's artificial, but everything else where water could flow is running. Such rains! But the humidity, lack of a breeze, and warmth have put everything to sleep.

Even the listings. Well, actually the sales.

There are currently 143 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Seven "new" ones have come on the market in the past week. Actually, the phrasing should be "have returned to the market." Some have come with a reduction in price, others with a change of agency. Three waterfront, three town properties, and a village one thrown in.

There are no new sales - or pending sales - or closed properties. "Dog days."

I opened my yahoo home page this morning to find an article from SmartMoney written by Anna Maria Andriotis about the red flags you would find in your neighborhood that indicate property values will plunge.

The first was that properties are falling into disrepair because people can't afford to keep them up. Not in Skaneateles!

The second was a substantial increase in foreclosures. While we've seen a few, there is nothing like some subdivisions around the country in which the crows and cougars camp out, so not in Skaneateles!

Unemployment increases - the major company in the area moves or closes its doors - is another indicator of hard times in the housing market. Although WelchAllyn says it won't hire as much, it is in no way near to closing and actually is quite a healthy company. And the waterfront isn't going anywhere, so.....not in Skaneateles!

The last part suggests that homes linger longer on the market than they did in the past. That's certainly true. But the suggestion that the most vulnerable homes are those purchased between 2003 and 2008 is definitely not (always) true in Skaneateles! I've sold them - and profits were made.

What is certain is that prices are coming down. Today when I opened my hotsheet, the list of changes in the multiple listing system that occurred since the last time I checked, 17 homes had been listed while 23 had a reduction in price. Usually the ratio is the other way around. But I sell everywhere, and check many towns, so it's not all Skaneateles.

And besides, these are the "dog days" of summer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

It's been an odd day. I've been working on the computer or around it most of the day. I don't usually sit this still, but Boo is on prednisone and needs to be walked a lot, so I decided to stay around the house and take care of him. I sent off listings and explored ideas. I checked my Facebook page which I don't usually do on a regular basis. Good news there - I re-connected after many, many years with my best friend's first husband with whom I shared travels in Ireland. Also, Rachel has the honeymoon pictures up on her page - they look so happy!

Tonight I'm showing houses to a friend of a friend of the son-in-law of one of my most prolific clients. I love referrals like that - it lets me know I'm doing a good job.

Until then -

Currently there are 139 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Three new ones came on this week, all higher end. One is a waterfront re-list in the 2.5M range. Another is also waterfront, but new at under $800,000. The third is a town listing for mid-$500,000.

One of the areas I explored was the reduction in price. I check my hotsheet frequently for all the changes that have occurred in the areas I watch on a regular basis. I took a phone call and clicked wrong - always a positive thing, it seems - and seemed to be getting reduction after reduction. They were - I had hit that category! So I checked to see the listings in the Skaneateles area that had been reduced. An impossible task, what with the sheer number of active listings and all the re-lists. But in a global sense, of the houses listed in the past 60 days only 1 (1!) has dropped the price. I went back to homes listed in the first 3 months of the year and half of them had lowered the list price, but two have actually raised it.

In the system there are only 2 properties marked contigent at the present time. There are, by contrast, 10 pending homes. Two of these are new sales, going straight to pending, and both are village properties.

There are now 46 closed homes this year. The one new one is also village, but had been on the market for a couple years. It closed at 62% of its original list price. I would wonder, if I were a buyer, why other homes haven't reduced their prices. Not, perhaps, by that much, but certainly the old rule of after four weeks if there hasn't been an offer the price should drop; it is one of the few things in the seller's control.

We do seem to be slowing down. A while back the numbers from last year in closings were 50% of this year. Now we have closed 46 and last year there were 27 at this time. Contrast that with 59 in 2007 and 64 in 2006! But remember, in all of last year there were only 66 homes that closed. We will get there and beyond that mark in 2009.

For those of you who are circling properties, indecisive and wondering what else might be around the next corner, I suggest you buy something, preferably my listings, of course. I can see an autumn filled with multiple offer situations if you don't!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Mini-vacation

It's 83 degrees out with brilliant sunshine. The moon will be full tomorrow evening and rise over the lake. There's the feel of a thunderstorm or windstorm in the air. I went grocery shopping happily this afternoon. When I finish blogging, I'll go out and mow.

I took a mini-vacation yesterday and this morning. Last evening I had a lengthy listing appointment followed by a lengthy conference call. I took the latter at the lake, watching the moon rise and enjoying the darkness. Bob had kept the dogs in at the house in Elbridge with him, so I was free. I spent the evening reading one of my favorite authors, Dick Francis, eating ice cream and then falling asleep with the wind from the lake sweeping up to the camp.

In the morning I got up late - no living alarm clock Koko to get me up at dawn - and went kayaking. I took off well, proud that I could lift the kayak off the dock and get in it without tipping it. I went up the lake towards "Footprints" and the Narrows, hoping to make it into the bay. As I got away from the point the wind grabbed me. I could have surfed to the north end, but getting home would have been dicey. I hadn't had my coffee yet.

I stayed close to the shoreline and easily paddled home, actually going beyond the camp into our cove where I'd spotted a turtle over the weekend. What a difference the cove makes, especially when the wind is from the south! I docked, threw the paddle up onto the seawall, and shoved the kayak onto the dock then tied it on. The breeze had that chaotic feel of a late afternoon storm brewing.

I made breakfast - over easy egg with ham slices, a small OJ, peaches over cottage cheese and the necessary coffee - and ate it out on the deck. The poplar at the seawall filtered the sun, so I had the advantage of breezes without the heat. I made some phone calls - yes, we can get into the two family we've been trying to see for a week; no, relocation doesn't have the answers yet; yes, it looks like the owner will be amenable to some kind of radon mitigation; no, the offer we expected may take until the end of the week - and drank my second cup of coffee. I did the dishes languidly, then read some more. The Dick Francis was an old one, and a good one, that I had found at the Skaneateles Library sale a month earlier.

After a while it got too hot and I decided to take a swim. This is momentous, and rare. I am not a proficient swimmer. I do the breast stroke and push through the water and that's about it. Several of my neighbors swim for a long time every morning and/or evening. Not me. But today I enjoyed my brief lap around the neighbor's raft. Cool, refreshing, and then I could sit in the sun (with a hat on, of course).

I finished the book, checked e-mail and made a few more calls, and then packed up for home. Boo is on steroids and drinks a ton and needs to go out (handy euphemism) a lot more than usual. He needed me to be home by 1:00.

I was. Rested, relaxed, ready to do the work of keeping up two houses while working full time (and more). No "away" vacation, but one valued as much as two weeks in the Bahamas. Well, maybe.

The point is that that's what camp does, it allows you to go away while staying here, if that makes any sense. It's time used efficiently and well. As a young mother I took summers off from teaching, and now I realize how precious those years were. I never had any money to go away, just the camp I'd inherited. None of the other mothers did either, but none of our kids minded.

So now when I look at waterfront I see it differently, as a way for families to create homes that are special places for memories and offer more opportunity for making daily living a vacation. And a great getaway for hard-working Realtors, too!