Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

We went out yesterday to see a horse Bob had considered buying. I drove out separately, taking Route 20 to Cazenovia. It was one of those days when, if I had been going to Albany, I would have taken Route 20 and then of course regretted my decision when the trip's length increased. But the sky was blue, the hills were fluid, the countryside a Lang calendar photo. I passed "Seabury" and thought of our old theater professor Seabury Quinn, Jr., at Ohio University, and his cat also named "Seabury." How lovely those autumns had been in Appalachia years ago. And how lovely Central New York is now.

While Bob and his friends from the stables where he rides observed the horse, my friend Deb and I caught up on our lives. She was feeling the same exuberance I was, and had just driven out to Bouckville because the day was so inviting. "It's one of those days," she exclaimed, "when you know why you live here and wouldn't live anywhere else!"

Currently there are 143 active listings, a number that seems to have held very steady over the past year, in the Skaneateles area as defined by this multiple listing service. The change comes November 17th, and village will be separated from town then. We've also been told that we MUST enter listings in the correct area, but can search for them in a multitude of ways. We'll see - change is never easy!

There are two new listings, one a re-list with a reduction in the town. The other is a village with lake rights listing that should - famous last words - go rapidly.

The big news is that three properties have sold in the past week. Not closed, but are marked contingent. One is new construction, another is in the village, and the third is a definite fixer-upper just outside the village. They should close by the end of the year - but again, you never know what the contingencies are - to add to our total of 64. The new property that closed was a village fixer-upper that came in about 15% under the asking price.

I took a look at all the categories. One multi-family closed this year so far as well as a commercial property (think Cam's). There were no condos or apartment houses that closed. Five lots/land closed. One property that was under 3 acres but in the village closed for $600,000, while 48 acres in the town sold for $300,000. Location, location, anyone?

Stay healthy and dry, but if another day comes like yesterday, get the bike out or the convertible, and ride Route 20 between Skaneateles and Caz. It's worth it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

After a long day showing amazing houses in the Skaneateles area I can relax here and write this blog. We do have incredible views, fastidious owners, brilliant interiors that you would never suspect from the road. I love this job!

There are currently 145 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing system. Four "new" ones have come on the market, all of which are re-lists. Two have changed real estate brokerages, two are simply being refreshed. That does seem to work unless you are dealing with a buyer's agent. The listing appears to be new, even if it's been listed many times before for several years even. A buyer's agent would point out the discrepancy, the seller's agent would stay mum. The least expensive new listing is $500,000 and the most just under three million.

There are no new sales or pending listings.

However, there are two new closed properties - hooray! Our number year-to-date is now 63. A gorgeous village home closed for around $600,000, well under its original list price of $850,000. At the other end of the spectrum a small home under $100,000 closed for the asking price. We have it all in this area!

Because of all the million dollar re-lists, I looked at what the chances are for them to sell this year. So far there have been four homes that listed at over one million that have sold. Last year by this time there were only two, but last year was a difficult time for everyone. In 2007, at the height of the bubble, 12 homes had closed. In 2006, only five. We do seem to be returning to "normal," both at the high end and all points down the scale.

There are a lot of beautiful homes on the market - may I suggest their purchase please? While rates are great (4.5% for a fifteen year fixed loan!) and sellers are motivated. You never know when they will turn around and decide it is better to stay rather than sell.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

The world has turned to autumn around here. I went to the Sherwood for lunch today and the fire was roaring in the front hall. The piers are down, the Judge is out of the water, the water reflects the grayness of the sky. But the colors on the sumac and maple and oak trees are brilliant. They won't last, just like that Diana Whiting photo of the leaves in the swamp, they will swirl and roll away.

BUT! There are 148 active listings in the current Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Five are new-ish: one is a re-listed lake rights house. The other four range from a re-list and re-imagined waterfront home which prefers to retain some of its waterfront and thus has dropped its price to under 2 million. Another is a former FSBO in the village that has now been listed (happens a lot). A farmhouse not too far out of town is back on the market after a few years of ownership - can't wait to see what they've done to it! The last is one of those grand homes by the water down at the south end of the lake that always remind me of Lake George.

I was interested to see how the new MLS rules may affect us - of the 148 active listings, only 130 are actually in the Skaneateles School District. As far as zip codes are concerned, 135 report the 13152 of Skaneateles - but even the Falls has a different one (13153). November 17th the changeover comes for the mls.

The good news is that there are currently 8 homes marked as contingent. Two are new - a sweet little cottage with a great deal of potential in Mottville, and a ranch on the west side with lake rights. Pending shows 7 homes, so with luck there will at least be 15 more closed homes by the end of the year.

We stay at 61 closed, year-to date. I'll take that over last year's 41 closed sales by this time. Other areas - Camillus, Marcellus, and Elbridge - are all well under last year's sales by 10% to 20%. But then, Camillus and Elbridge both had stellar years last year compared to previous times. As my mother used to say "It all comes out in the wash."

Mortgage Credit Certificate - Please Read This!

I was about the write the update and thought I'd throw in a mention about the Mortgage Credit Certificate now being offered in New York State. As I researched it, I realized how very important it is to get the news out quickly. The savings for first time homebuyers is huge!

The Certificate issued through SONYMA, as I understand it, pays 20% of the interest for the life of the loan. The example they give, which works well with the home I have open this Sunday, means that payments each month would be reduced by $182. The house is on the market for $214,900 - 117 Victory Lane in Country Creek, Town of Camillus. It was built in 2008, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, high ceilings, hardwoods, TV over the gas fireplace included, lovely upgraded kitchen......

So, a first time homebuyer could receive the Federal tax credit of $8,000 if he/she/they close by November 30th (like 47 days from now). On top of that comes the MCC. Take out your calculator - $182 x 12 = $2,184 for the first year. Multiply that by 10 years and he/she/they have reduced their payments by over $20,000! Dang! (Since interest decreases, the $182 would be the high point...) And they say the life of the loan...but I'm not going out 30 years!

Now is the time to buy. If you are sitting on the fence or know anyone else, please bring this to his/her/their attention! It has not been at all well-publicized.

My client closed on a place on Friday. The house wasn't as expensive - think $130,000 - but he is getting the $8,000 tax credit and $100/month MCC. He came in just as this was beginning and may have been one of the first in the state to close.

Go to for more information and to see where I got my numbers. They have a calculator for you to use to find out how much you could save. Remember, only 47 days....and come to the open house on Sunday, too, now that you see what the savings could be!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Closed in Skaneateles! The Third Twenty!

Numbers are fascinating as always. I won't comment on the sales, but I have to comment on something! The time elapsed between the beginning of the year and the first twenty was 120 days. The time between the first and second group (July 15th) was only 76 days. Although it feels as if things have slowed a bit, this next reporting will be a scant 90 days since the last. And there's one in the pot to start the final group.

This time they are arranged by chronological order - the first to close to the most recent.

28 East Street $515,000

1584 Tracy Drive $194,000

10 Highland Street $195,000

1787 Russells Landing $825,000

6821 Glen Haven Road $550,000

111 Jordan Street $250,000

9 Whitegate Drive $415,000

4338 Vinegar Hill Road $153,000

12 Prentiss Drive $665,000

2524 Lake Front Lane $650,000

24 East Austin $267,500

3244 East Lake Road $280,000

52 West Lake Road $650,000

5907 Broadway Road $75,000

38 Onondaga Street $243,000

1889 West Lake Road $209,000

16 Academy Street $370,000

8c Gayle Road $1,990,000

1566 Tracy Drive $228,250

1275 Oak Bluff $1,200,000

This may be the end of reporting the numbers, unfortunately. The multiple listing service is switching to a new system on November 17th. Homes will be divided into village and town, we are instructed to list only in the area in which the house resides, and I am sure there will be other changes that will skew the research. I promise I will try to find a way to complete this year's reporting! So buy houses and close houses before December 31st please! That's 79 days away - let's finish with a bang!

Monday, October 12, 2009


This past weekend my high school class had its second reunion since graduation. We'll get this part of it over quickly - our 40th. Seeing it again in print makes me think how unbelievable that number is - but it is what it is.

As part of the organizing committee I arrived at Saratoga Steaks early to set up. Karen, recently the receptionist-do everything person from our office, now "retired," had sent postcards and produced name tags for us. Simply the picture from the yearbook, the bulldog (Nottingham High School on the east side of Syracuse), and the name. I asked for a larger font, because our eyes aren't what they were. So there I stood, ready to match name tages to faces, and people started to flow in.

I hadn't seen too many people since high school, even the ones still in town. I'd been gone for 20 years and the ties had severed. I knew my small group of women friends from all over the country, but that was it. The first arrivals were hard - who were these people? But then the years literally melted away on faces, the old smiles and eyes emerged, the laughter and I knew them.

I stood there as official greeter for a couple hours until Dean, our principle organizer, pulled me away so I could mingle. I went through the crowd, now able to recognize people easily under the grey hair and a few wrinkles. Some of course hadn't aged. One woman looked the same as she had back in first grade, I swear!

Just as with the 20th reunion, the people who I felt closest to came from my elementary school (Sumner) and junior high school (Levy) days. There was Sammy who had kissed me in kindergarten, Kevin with whom I shared a birthdate, Gail who remembered my Steiff collection, Phyllis who said I had let her borrow my Laura Ingalls Wilder books in 3rd grade and she wanted to thank me. I saw Nick who had been my partner for our 8th grade project on Kenya for Captain Borsky, Jan who reminded me that he sat behind me in 3rd grade, Jeff who was always there and got spanked harder on his birthday than my friend Annie because he was a boy. Or she just had more petticoats!

Everyone talked about the teachers who had changed our lives. Sarah ran for office because Mr. Borsky terrorized her into doing it. We wished Sr. Roraback were still alive so we could thank him. And the Queen (Latin). M. Macko didn't come, but Miss Crouch came with Nicki who kept up with her over the years, taking her down to Florida and including her in her own family.

Food was put out, but I don't think anyone ate. They just talked and talked. We left at 11:30 - surprised at the time. Gloria had lost her voice.

The next night was the dinner at Drumlins where we used to skate and ski. Packed again - over 100 people from a class of 250 with very few spouses or partners. The invocation was given by a man who was always playing pranks in high school and rarely studied, but is now an ordained minister. And again, the talking. Business cards were exchanged - I now have a real estate contact in Colorado, and surprisingly a commercial one here in Syracuse. Joe came over towards the end of the evening, and quite forcefully said how important these two nights were to him and to so many others. I felt it in the air, a sense of relief, and sense of completion.

There were our "stars," Jeff from the entertainment world, Kevin with the 100 million dollar yacht design, Pete who could buy one. A politician here and there, both Democrat and Republican. The woman with the 16 year old daughter and the man with 13 great-grandchildren. The woman who looks so much like my daughter-in-law Rachel that I couldn't take my eyes off her. The two sisters whom I didn't remember very well from high school but who will join my small group of women friends in the future.

There were people missing as well. People who just didn't want to come for so many reasons. People who were too sick to come. People who had died.

At the last reunion I received a hug I will cherish always from my old friend Billy. He was one of the men who died. But that hug meant so much.

The people in our lives are precious. We need to remember them daily, go out of our way to say hello. I say that now, knowing that the feeling will dissipate with the snow and the new listings and sales. But I want to hold on to it, that sense of wonder. "The formative years...." so important in so many, many ways.

And no, I didn't win the prize for having changed the least. That went to Gloria. But I told her I'd beat her at our 60th.

So, dear Readers, call an old friend today or this week. It's good for the soul.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Welcome to the wild and wooly fall weather! I toured some people last week to show them what gorgeous Central New York offers in the fall. They saw rain, and more rain. Eventually my 70 degrees and sunny predictions showed up. I thought that when they left it would turn lovely again, and in a way it has. The wind is amazing out there! If you see a plastic recycling bin and a steel mesh wastebasket flying by, please grab them for us.

Hooray! We've now hit another 20 closings - but more on that later.....

Currently there are 145 active listings in the Skaneateles area as defined by the (current) multiple listing service we use. Four re-listed properties returned to the market. Three stayed basically the same, but the fourth dropped a good deal in price and left the FSBO market for a Realtor who gave sage advice about the possibility of its sale. We'll see what happens (well under $200,000 in the town.) Three brand new homes came on - two village listings, one of which dropped $15,000 the first week! The third is a sweet little cottage in the country for over $200,000.

Three (3!) single family homes were marked contingent. Two are waterfront, one of which has been on the market (and off the market) for three years. Gorgeous multi-million dollar custom-designed home with acreage! The other is under one million but closer to the village. The third to be sold is a doublewide in the Moravia School District.

Although there were no new pending properties, there are six waiting to close. Add that to the 8 marked contingent and we can look forward to a healthy fall season.

Two more homes have closed, bringing the total for the year to 61. This means that at some time before the next update I will publish the list of closings (40 to 60) and their closed prices. Both of these new ones actually closed a while back, but for whatever reason they only now were put in the computer. Both came in 10% under their original list price, and both were outside the village in the $200,000 range. First time homebuyers? Maybe.

I have a closing Friday for a first time homebuyer. Not only is he getting the $8,000 maximum tax credit, but he also has come in under the wire for a New York State mortgage program. I don't know exactly what the final figures are, but he's thrilled. If you'd like more information about that program, please e-mail me at

I did go back and take a look at homes in the past 60 days that have been withdrawn or expired and not reappeared in another form (as in "re-listed.") A small number, 6, have decided perhaps to wait until next year and withdrew their listing. A larger number, 13, waited out the listing period and then let it go. Both of these groups are people who do not have to sell and can wait for the market to pick up again. I can understand their frustration - and they need to know they are not alone.

But we do have 61 closings with more to follow. Let's celebrate that!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Bit of This and That

Here's an idea. You own, say, 20 acres of land, very well-forested, and along comes a company that will pay you for the rights to drill for natural gas on your property. Your neighbors are doing it, the company insists that there really may be a strong vein underneath, and the wells will be full. Their price for the rights: over $5,000 per acre. Once the gas starts flowing the sky's the limit. Would you do it?

Think about it. It's happening here in Central New York but not at those prices yet. In Pennsylvania owners are reaping incredible rewards for having land and giving the companies their chance. They actually write the checks in full. The Beverly Hillbillies are alive and well and living in PA.

I've been doing a lot of driving up north lately. Outdoor furnaces are the rage, burning up wood that owners get for the cost of felling and splitting from their own properties. Entire barns are given over to the wood. I heard that these furnaces contribute to pollution, but I am far from understanding that. So wood simple wood-burning stoves, I would think. But it's interesting to see a boiler sitting out several feet away from the houses.

The Home section of the Sunday Post-Standard contained a lengthy article on an "Art House." This is a home built for sale by Kathy Kotz. She will contribute $10,000 from the proceeds of the sale to Elmcrest Children's Center on Syracuse's east side for their new building. The house is furnished and decorated with art from local artists which will in turn be sold with a portion going to Elmcrest, also. Great idea!

During my driving up north I've listened to NPR a great deal. Somewhere along the way there was a show about peer-to-peer lending. People are eschewing banks and going directly to other people who bankroll their project. Apparently the idea hasbeen taking off in the present financial crisis. Repayment is close to perfect - much more compelling to pay back funds to someone who has helped you out in a bind. I've worked with this concept before when selling land. Banks hate to mortgage land and generally won't do it. They are also not so thrilled with outhouses, especially when a septic system can't be installed. This peer-to-peer lending may be the way for people to help others own property.

And lastly, hooray! Urban Outfitters is coming to Walton Street in Armory Square! Coming in the spring of 2010! Apparently this chain of stores can do for city life what Bass Pro has done for the Finger Lakes Mall. So buy your lofts and condos now - prices will go up once other stores follow. Could this actually be the real catalyst to a new downtown era?