Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh, What a Night!

Last night Syracuse University played Villanova in basketball before the largest crowd in college history. Not only did they play the number 7 team in the country, but they won in such convincing fashion that there was no doubt in any observer's mind that SU will be ranked number 1 come Monday. Wow!

I've been going to games since I was a little girl, walking to Manley Field House with my friends, sitting under the net for $1 general admission. When I came back to the area in 1990, the venue was the Carrier Dome and Alex and I would make a game or two a year. Once Carmelo came, Bob and I started getting season tickets and attending regularly, if not every game at least many games. Never ever have I stood through an entire game before. We did last night, way up in our wonderful 310 nosebleed seats. And so, it seemed, did everyone else in the Dome, each of us waving our orange towels.

I tried to get the t-shirts which announced that 34,616 people attended the sold out game to give to Alex and Rachel, plus a die-hard Kentucky fan/client who is moving to this area. I was sure he would appreciate one! Kentucky is as rabid as SU, regularly beating us in attendance. But he's in Orange country now!

The t-shirts were also sold out! Who knew!?

The oldsters came, the legends of SU sports. Floyd Little was introduced, on his way to the Football Hall of Fame this year. Another "44," Derrick Coleman, gave Onuaku the current center a huge hug. Bob and I believe that Coleman's presence at home and away games has been part of the reason "AO" is playing so very well lately.

It's so much fun to howl "Scooooooooooooooooop!"

We sit with people we've just met this year and others we've known. Next to us is a first year teacher who will be part of the Liverpool down-sizing. The man who sits in front told us of the imminent birth of his first child last year, and shows us pictures of her almost crawling this year. Next year he says she will be there. We sit on seats that Alex and Rachel got us for Christmas - but then, we hardly sat last night.

The night was magical. The Dunk 'n Bright furniture give-away recliner contest was actually won with a throw from the free-throw line. Mr. Tzivani who sits by the court as official greeter, general housekeeper wore his usual orange blazer but added natty orange pants, too. We sat after the game and watched the hugs, the joy that only moments in sports seem to inspire, that we all share. The moon was full as we walked across campus at midnight to retrieve the car from the road by Thorden's rose garden, snowflakes caught the light of the streetlamps.

Syracuse is known for sports and in this wintry season those sports - be it an historic outdoor hockey game at the Fairgrounds, or inside the Dome for basketball and lacrosse - give us so much pleasure.

"Let's go, Orange!"

Thursday, February 25, 2010


How wonderful is a Central New York blizzard!

We are expecting somewhere around a foot of snow today and tonight, with high winds and gusts this evening. There's a storm warning out there and schools all over the area are closed. The snow has been coming down steadily since before dawn, enough so we already have five inches or so of fluffy stuff.

Bob went out with Boo this morning on skiis (Bob, not Boo). Boo could have used some - he came trudging back right in the ski trail and perked up for two quick lopes when I called him, but then right back to trudging. He had another aspirin and is flat out in front of the fire where he'll remain most of the day.

I walked out to get the paper and since there was none, I kept walking down the hill. I didn't have my warming, battery-operated vest on or glasses or a scarf, but it was so pretty out there I couldn't resist. The road was plowed and it was actually easy walking - and so gorgeous!

Blizzards are part of the folklore of growing up and living in Central New York. I have pictures of me as a little girl with my dog, Penny, surrounded by mounds of snow on our front steps. I think that was the blizzard of '66. Schools were amazingly closed for a week - at least I remember it that way. Living on a side street with very little through traffic we rarely got plowed out, so we stayed and played and shoveled.

Alex and I missed the blizzard of '93 because we went to Saratoga ahead of it. That town looked like what I imagine an alpine village would look like - high banks of snow so that people and cars moved carefully as if through tunnels. We came home to Skaneateles to find waist-high snow in our driveway - I never had it plowed. We drove over to a friend's house on Austin and got her shovel, then started in making space for the car at least at the end of the driveway. I remember breaking a shovel in the process, but we made it inside. That was a March storm, probably what this blizzard will be like - so in two weeks all the snow was gone.

Bob and I missed one a few years back. We were going to Florida for the SU-South Florida game in Tampa when a blizzard knocked out most flights on the east coast. We had the option of staying and flying another time, but we went. It was cold in Florida - I bought gloves and a scarf - and I know I wish we'd stayed for the blizzard.

Preparing has always left me shaking my head. I see grocery stores with staples depleted, people walking out with 2 twelve-packs of toilet paper, carts piled high with meat and sodas and milk and bread. At the most we will be unable to travel for a couple days - at the most! I know very few refrigerators - and I see a lot - that aren't already stocked. But still, there's something about preparing for an "Event" that makes it more exciting.

I'm going to get in wood now and make sure the candle holders are stocked with candles just in case the power goes out. I might try to round up some batteries, too, so we can read. I'll shovel the base of the driveway and get to the Big M, buy some veggies for ratatouille and look forward to an afternoon of cooking and storm-watching.

I've been looking forward to this blizzard all season and I aim to enjoy it! I hope you are safe and can enjoy it, too!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

What a gorgeous snowy morning it was! I got up early because we had to be out and about and went to get the paper. None there. I heard a car sliding up the hill and realized it must be the paper deliverer. I waited in the driveway - he was careening all over the place in his old red van with bald tires - and appreciated our red and blue lights on the lamp playing with the snow-covered branches. The van finally came close, but not near our mailbox. I stepped back a bit - he was revving the car - and a paper was thrown out the window at me as he continued his climb. As he rode out of sight, I yelled a heart-felt "Thank you!"

There are currently 1,959 active listings in the multiple listing service under Onondaga County. Skaneateles, the town, shows 99 listings while Skaneateles, the village, shows 24 listings. There are 7 listings in the town designated as village, and some are repeated in the village listings. Just to confuse things even more, some are condos, others are multi-families. Some are even in Cayuga County! There are others that don't exist, but are "to be built" homes. The one new listing that came on is actually a years-old re-list of a two family house in the village now being attempted as a single family. And yes, in the multi-family listings a single family appeared!

There are no new contingent or pending sales - 11 are waiting to close. There are still only 2 closed properties in the Skaneateles area this year so far.

I was asked in a comment to speak more about the condo situation, specifically the Seitz Building at the corner of Jordan and Genesee Street above the new Moro Bistro that is going in where Morris's was for so many years. There are still several condos for sale, ranging in price from $450,000 to $590,000. One is marked contingent, but "continue to show" suggesting that a house has to sell or something else has to happen for it to be a done deal. This was listed at almost $600,000.

In Skaneateles according to the multiple listing service, only 13 condos are found in history to have sold. These are divided between the old Bush funeral home on Genesee, the smaller condos on the corner of State Street and Elizabeth, and the multi-levels on Jordan Street just past Byrne Dairy. Onondaga County shows 243 active condos, and over the past 6 months 162 have sold - from a low of $23,200 in Van Buren to a high of $700,000 down in Franklin Square in Syracuse.

I would think condos would be quite popular in Skaneateles - and I love the Seitz Building for its views and center village atmosphere. Sign of the times! But just wait until it turns around!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Best and the Worst - continued

Now the Worst of the Cost vs. Value remodeling ideas, at least according to U.S. News and World Report.

1 - Home office remodel - must agree, unless of course you are taking a semi-unused room and making it worthwhile with some shelving perhaps - maybe extra outlets. Watch out for built-ins because they limit the room's uses!

2 - Sun room addition - maybe not so good, especially if you are doing one of those all glass and windows additions. But adding a room, and thus square footage, plus sending in light - there's a reason Ryan Homes has sold so many houses by offering "morning rooms."

3 - Bath addition - only 60% of cost is recovered. However, a 4 bedroom house these days almost requires 2 full baths. I certainly know it is hard to find space in these old Victorians in the village, but if you can use that extra room somewhere to create a bathroom do it! The house will sell so much faster and for a higher price. The difficulty is integrating it into the whole of the house - if it looks weird it won't work.

4 - Generator - I agree, unnecessary, better left to the new buyer.

5 - Garage - I can tell the writers are not in tune with either the upstate winters or the storage needs of upstate buyers! Pricing out garages recently I found that one can be built for about $20,000. Again - the house will sell faster for more money. The cost, I believe, will be recovered in the quicker sale resulting in fewer carrying costs.

My opinions all - you are most welcome to disagree!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Best and the Worst

I retrieved the following from a report by U.S. News and World Report on remodeling costs vs. value.

First the best things to do, at least according to the report and my comments.

1 - Install a steel door at your entry. Really? There isn't one already? I think I'll notice as I go through houses this week. Maybe it's because we're cold up here.

2 - Create a bedroom in the attic. Make sure you don't call it a bedroom and try to take credit for it. The Village is never thrilled with adding a bedroom where there is no true two egresses. Maybe you remember my friend's experience with a third floor master bedroom that wasn't, and was discovered the day before closing - that then wasn't.

3 - Add a wood deck. Why wood? We need something a mite stronger here. But yes, decks do count for something but then don't forget to add the doors leading out to the deck.

4 - Re-side the house with vinyl siding. Just make sure that the neighbors in your subdivision who all have cedar clapboard and who bought into the community because it demands clapboard are in agreement. And don't make it a horrible color, please!

5 - Replace windows. At last - agreement!

Tomorrow - or the next day - the report's "worst" remodeling decisions, cost vs. value.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snowy Day

Odd day, very odd. I went in to Syracuse for an early morning appointment and found bands of snow creating almost white-out conditions. That's okay - it happens here, just thankfully not as often this winter.

I came home for a quick lunch and turned on CNN as always. There was the burning building and reporters trying to make sense of it. Austin, Texas. I have a former client and his son living there, two new clients moving up from there, Alex's half-brother and stepmother and a former husband somewhere in Austin. The plane turns out to have been purposefully crashed - the local news people get their reports from CNN. E-mails go out - all is well, but people are too close to the tragedy geographically.

Bob comes home, but our afternoon appointment is postponed, so I spend some time on the computer. As I sit here looking out a HUGE thump hits the window. I look up to see a hawk of some kind just outside the window. I run out through the sliding doors of my studio - he's gone by then. I turn to the other doors to the deck where Bob was reading in the kitchen. He's standing, pointing. I see two pieces of birds in the snow about 10 feet apart. We agree that the hawk must have attacked the bird - was it the jay we'd just seen? - and split him in two.

The building is still burning on the TV - I stand outside, to keep the hawk away. One of the cats, Oscar, stares from the apartment window at the closest bird, his eyes wide.

I see the hawk circling over the neighbor's yard. Bob has gone to get the shovel but when I yell he comes running. The hawk is gone, but as we turn back to the two halves of bird he says, "Look!"

The bird raises his head and eyes us. Then the other half - a whole other bird - raises his head and shakes it. I do the same. Within minutes they are walking around and attempting brief flights. "Stupid mourning doves," we think.

Bob suggests that the thump we heard was the birds trying to get away and hitting the glass doors. There's an imprint when we look closely.

Oscar is thrilled to watch them roam the deck. He's not going out for a while.

We go back to watching the building burn, hear Rick Sanchez read the man's suicide note. One of the birds makes a short flight out to where the tulip garden will be come spring. We talk about the afternoon, how we can salvage it.

Suddenly the hawk swoops down and flies away with something. The dove out by the tulips is no longer there, what appear to be feathers glide on the surface of the snow.

"Hawks need to eat," Bob says. "The falcons who raise their young in nests on the State Tower Building (in Syracuse) each year eat pigeons. They dive at them going 70 miles an hour and take them out of the air."

Pigeons aren't that far removed from mourning doves.

As I type this I realize I haven't seen a bird by our feeders in a while. My showings didn't result in sales, either. My e-mails relate to future events.

It's time for tea. Bob built a fire, Koko needs to go out, and I think I'll read for a while before pizza and the SU-Georgetown game.

A snowy day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I have been inspired! I have a very good friend who has started a blog of her own: She is originally from Vancouver, which is in the spotlight this month, and has traveled and lived throughout the world. I plan on following her blog because we don't see each other much, and I urge you to try it out. But on a snowy day I realize that the pleasure she is having writing her blog, I can also have while writing mine. The quiche is in the oven (spinach-ricotta from the original Moosewood cookbook), the dogs are asleep (it's Boo's fifth birthday today!) and my appointment to sell a little house isn't until this evening. Time to blog!

Currently there are 99 listings in the Skaneateles town and village areas of the multiple listing service. There is one new house, but with an interesting history that speaks volumes as they say about our volatile economy plus expectations plus difficulty of pricing. It originally started well over $300,000 on almost 8 acres, was eventually reduced to close to $200,000 on 4 acres, and now has 5 acres under $200,000. Still the same view! You just don't know until a unique property hits the market what buyers will tell you with their checkbooks. Mortgage companies, too, but that's another story for another snowy day.

There's nothing new in the contingent categories (continue to show, do not show) but there is one newly pended property, a gorgeous waterfront that just came on a few weeks ago.

But the big news is that two - count them! - two homes have been sold and closed in the past week. Hooray! One is a village property that came in under $400,000 despite a prime location and four bedrooms. The lack of a second full bathroom is always a difficult sale - trust me, I know! (My new listing in Owasco has three full baths....just Sunday...)

The second closed property made two of my clients very sad because they each had been eying the house for a couple years, but neither was ready to purchase. It sold originally 6 years ago for $80,000, was placed on the market for just under $200,000 about 2 years ago, and closed for almost double the original price. A great paint job seems to have done the trick - it turned an old farmhouse (the original '04 pictures are of the incredible scenery, none of the interior) into an adorable cottage. Well done!

So we have our first two closings of the year. I can only hope - and work hard - to make this a fantastic next ten months!


So there we are, at the Syracuse-Louisville game on Sunday. The national anthem is about to be sung, over 31,000 screaming fans are in attendance, and my phone vibrates. My first thought is that my mother has somehow managed to call me - she always did at the most inappropriate times, during the final seconds of a tied game, or when I was diapering Alex, or just about to go out for the run I'd been gearing up for all day - but I knew from where she is out there in the cosmos that it couldn't be her. It wasn't, of course, only an agent who was possibly bringing in an offer and trying to beat another agent's offer.

I tried answering when there was a momentary lull, but I couldn't make myself heard. I thought the chants of "Let's go, Orange" emanating from section 311 would clue her in that I was at the game, but all I could hear was "Where are you!?" I gave up, and texted her, hoping she had texting and she knew what to do with it.

It worked beautifully. I texted the other agent and she responded that she would have an offer, too. Perfect! I watched the rest of the game knowing I had communicated and was well on my way to getting two competing offers. (SU lost, but that's another matter....)

Earlier in the week I had been in a closing. The agent on the seller's side did real estate on the side, and his primary job as a teacher did not allow for mid-afternoon phone calls. We needed to know where the meter was for the gas in the house that was closing. He texted us "in the basement" and I texted back "where in the basement." He must have texted the owners and then got back to us. Semi-crisis averted. Quietly, easily, with very little fuss and bother.

So now I text much more - and love it! It's one of those tools that need a reason to be used - and also must be utilized on all sides. As always - communication is key!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

A few points to clear up, then we're on our way....

My friend Cathy is truly a miracle. She left the ICU on Friday last week and went home on Monday. I spoke with her usual animated self right before the Super Bowl and we both cried. She will take a while to regain her strength, but she pulled through when the doctors didn't think she would.

And there are no closings in Skaneateles, year-to-date. That's out of the way.

There are, however, 100 single family homes listed as active in the Skaneateles areas - 6 in the village specifically. A new one came on, listed both as a multi-family and also as a single family with possibilities for an in-law situation. It is under $300,000. A waterfront home was also listed - the pictures look gorgeous! - for about $700,000. Spring and summer are coming!

Two homes, both listed for $325,000, have been marked contingent. Both are relatively new construction and while one started in the high $500,000 range, the other was also closer to $400,000. Both have detractions which lowered their prices - but both seem like great deals to me!

In Onondaga County there are 1,932 homes listed as active and there have been 204 sales. Last year at this time there were 219, not an appreciable difference. The same could be said for Cayuga County - 383 active listings and 25 closed properties, year-to-date, while 2009 had 34 sales.

Camillus has 12 closings as compared with 16 last year, Marcellus 4 this year while only one had closed in 2009. Elbridge joins Skaneateles in the zero category, but they had mega-7 last year.

We'll turn it around - certainly I plan to help! BTW - you can, too!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

This has been one of those weeks that pulls me up short and sends me out cross-country-skiing at night, pushing through the trails and trying to wear myself out, relieve the stress. Work is a pleasure - sales, closings, walk-throughs, attorneys, paperwork - important and mind-consuming.

One of my oldest friends, the woman who was my maid of honor at my first wedding, was suddenly felled, literally, by what now appears to be a severe pneumonia. She has been in the hospital since Sunday morning, hooked up to IVs, sedated so she can recuperate her strength (which thankfully had been considerable). She was unrecognizable on Monday when I first saw her, filled with fluids. By Tuesday she had color in her face, Wednesday she seemed more peaceful and they had ruled out swine flu, and today I am told by her daughter that her eyes open occasionally and she moves her limbs. A full recovery is expected, but she will be in the ICU for a while longer, probably into next week.

As things happen, her sadness and fear gave me an opportunity like no other. A friend texted me Tuesday night to say her baby was born, a sweet little girl. Yesterday I found she was in the same hospital, so between 1:00 and 2:00 I held this tiny, tiny newborn and chatted with her mother while she waited eagerly for discharge. Then I went upstairs to the ICU. But without my "little sister's" illness, I probably wouldn't have met baby Adie so early in her life.

So I ski at night.

I guess that is the weekly update, but for those of you willing to have read to this point I will return to the sane world of real estate in Skaneateles.

There are currently 100 active listings in the multiple listing service defining Skaneateles as both the town and the village. I realized this today - that the village is not a subset of the town, but a separate category. However, since not everyone places homes within that village code then there are homes in the village listed in Skaneateles. Got that? Confusing! But from here on I will check both areas. Currently only 5 single family homes appear under village, while 95 are listed simply as Skaneateles.

Listings between January 27th and February 3rd give you one of everything. In waterfront, there is a home for almost $800,000 about four miles outside of the village. If you want town, there's a re-list of a great renovated farmhouse for over $500,000. Too high? Try the mid-$100,000 starter home also in the town. The village representative comes in the mid-$200,000 range with few pictures.

There has been a very happy sale added to the contingent and pending categories. A house that has been listed for quite a while - records show well over a year, but I believe it's more like two years at least - went straight to pended. Hooray! Priced in the mid-$100,000 - we'll see what it closes for....

And yet again there are no recorded sales in Skaneateles or Skaneateles village, year-to-date. Last week the Post-Standard showed a grand total of 15 sales in the entire county - yikes! I will have closed two properties by this time next week, and I can't imagine that I'm alone. It will happen! Certainly as we close in on the end of the first time homebuyer's and the move-up incentives at the end of April others will appear.