Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Closed in Skaneateles! The Second Twenty

When I published the first twenty homes closed in Skaneateles on June 7th, I said we were "definitely picking up steam." And we were! It took 158 days to get to writing about the first 20, and it's only been 84 days since then. We are also well on our way to the next 20 with 4 having closed in the meantime.

So, in no particular order, but with seller concessions subtracted from the reported price because that gives you the net to the seller, here are the Second Twenty single family homes in Skaneateles:

4388 Chapman Road - $82,000

8 Lakeview Circle - $310,000

48 East Elizabeth Street - $197,000

3826 Highland Avenue - $155,000

1394 Coach Road - $415,000

674 Stump Road - $74,900

4362 Chapman Road - $116,900

3943 Highland Avenue - $230,000

4547 Jordan Road - $128,000

3374 East Lake Road - $315,000

1269 Oak Bluff - $1,150,000

3960 Jordan Road - $125,000

598 Stump Road - $80,000

3899 Highland Road - $500,000

3833 East Street - $204,000

1018 Butters Farm Lane - $657,500

870 Franklin Street - $146,000

2493 Nunnery Road - $119,900

1491 Stump Road - $44,000

40 East Elizabeth Street - $197,000

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

The weather is wonderful, warm but not too warm, a breeze blowing in, low humidity and plenty of sunshine. I am planning on taking pictures this afternoon if it holds. The Fair starts today - so summer is waning.

There are currently 148 (or so) active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Of these, 31 are in the village and 33 are lake waterfront. I say "or so" because two are listed twice - once for the village and another time for the town. Our service is new, and the village separation is part of the upgrade. However, once is enough - they appear both in the town and the village if cited as village. Of course, the opposite is true - one listing is not placed in the village, which it is, and so only appears in the town. Sigh.....better to be seen twice than not at all! It just messes up the statistics a bit.

So five listings are actually new, not simply re-submitted in a new category. Two are re-lists of homes previously on the market - one increased the price about $20,000 and the other decreased it. We'll see which sells first. Both of these are in the town and under $300,000. The other three new ones are also town listings in the same price range, but slightly lower.

There are 10 homes marked contingent, two of which are newly reported. One is a small home in the town like the new ones just cited. The other is glorious waterfront listed well over one million dollars. It's taken a few years for both properties, but they do have contracts. Congratulations!

As well as these 10, there are 17 marked under contract, do not show, or pending. The listing price range is $70,000 to $800,000. All of a sudden everything will start to close!

We now have 42 closed properties year-to-date. A waterfront estate, listed well over a million dollars but selling rapidly, closed 8% under the original listing price. A village home closed at 15% under the list price, but again was not listed for an extremely long time.

These 42 closings compare with 54 by this time last year, so we have a bit of catch-up to do. However, we are far ahead of the disastrous 2008 when only 30 properties had closed and the slow-down had seriously impacted Skaneateles. Compare that to 65 in 2009 and it is apparent we are on our way back, just not there yet.

To finish on a positive note - I hope you saw that Syracuse was cited by CNNMoney.com as the most affordable city in the United States! They made this claim because 97% of the population made enough money to afford the median home. It's a different market, to be sure, than Skaneateles - the median in the city is about $84,000. But it does bring attention to all the reasons to live, work and invest in Central New York.

Energy Savings?

(Okay, so I broke with my own "wisdom" of the past three years and added a photo to the last blog. It just seemed so right - and frankly, I like it!)

Last night Bob and I attended one of those free dinners - free, as long as you listen to what the presenter presents. I was assured it would be short and since it was on energy savings I thought I could possibly learn something. I knew we were going to be sold a product but it was at the Inn Between on Route 5 between, as it happens, Elbridge and Camillus and I knew the food would be good. Why not try it?

Bob was not so convinced. He reminded me of a time when his sister and brother-in-law went to a "party" and they were the only ones there. Bruce insisted on being polite and staying for the three hours; Mary Jo still can't believe they did this. But it must run in the family. Bob's niece just got married - being very young and very poor the honeymoon consisted of going to one of those "check out our time-shares in the Caribbean on us for two days!" We haven't heard how that turned out yet.

The food was excellent: salmon, risotto, summer squash, a lovely salad, coffee and strawberry ice cream. There were probably 24 people there, the presentation was indeed short, and we went away talking about it and the possibilities. We did not schedule an appointment to have the material installed free of charge only today, however. The material was mylar, like in the balloons or emergency blankets that you keep in the car that are so lightweight. Used by the space program, too!

The contention is that the material wrapped around the hot water heater will keep the temperature more constant. Installation over the attic insulation - what they were selling - would reflect heat downwards in the winter and out in the summer. The result would be a 25% to 60% savings in energy and thus money. Ta-dah!

If anyone knows more about this, please write in - I'd love to hear from builders who use this, because I don't know of any. I checked with one who had no idea what I was talking about. in the meantime, I think I'll go buy one of those blankets and wrap it around the water heater...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2220 Glencove Road

I don't generally do this - highlight a listing, that is - but this one is special. Not because of the price $500,000, but because of the house. The home. The camp. The memories.

I grew up on this private road on the west side of Otisco Lake. We bought our little camp many years ago for $10,000 one snowy January day. Getting the camp triggered getting a dog, Penny, and many friends who became my family. They are still with me.

In the summers there were about 20 of us kids within about 10 years, with my age being the median. We had one of those idyllic childhood experiences on the road. It was safe and secure, both from people and traffic. Mr. Funck put speed bumps on the dirt road and yelled at everyone who went by going over 5 miles per hour. Everyone knew everyone. Need to get a drink of water? Walk in to a camp and get one! You never knew who was in the bathroom - the door would slam going in and going out with a loud thank you from some kid.

Idyllic, like I said.

We swam almost every day, and laughed and listened to the radio while tanning ourselves on the docks. We had paddleboats - long things we stood on and yes, paddled. The boys hunted carp in the swamp, the girls watched them and giggled. The little ones ran around naked.

We skied, too. Long slalom ski adventures down the lake or just around in the cove. We sailed on sunfish, tacking back and forth for hours.

Several times a summer we went to the glen, an incredible natural playground of waterfalls and natural gas wells, slate and crumbling hillsides. We walked back along the road, a ragtag bunch of kids with an assortment of dogs. "First one in the lake!" we'd yell, running down the long hill, exhausted from hours of hiking.


Ah, you say - that was then. But it was also true for my son and his friends, the four boys who were born the same year and became fast friends. That exact life was still there for them.

It's still there now, but the camps are bigger and we don't currently have a crop of kids growing up together. It's an in-between time.

One of the things we did on hot summer nights was a challenge to "ring Gehring's bell." This was a brass bell that hung on the back door of the Gehring camp, farther down the road than most of us lived. The challenge was to sneak up and ring it loudly, then run like hell before Mr. Gehring caught you. I never had the nerve to do it. I'm glad I didn't - years later, when I was the mother of a little boy, Mr. Gehring brought around dahlias for everyone on the road.

It's Mr. Gehring's house that I have listed. The old farmhouse/camp that they owned evolved into a beautiful year-round lakehouse with a two car garage, a playhouse, and just lovely landscaping and flowers. His "everything yellow" home is now three stories with windows everywhere, three bathrooms, and four baths. The property was purchased in 1922, the first of the lots on Glen Cove (as I always wrote it).

The bell was there when I took the listing, but the owners have taken it down - it won't convey. The home is open Sunday, 1:00 to 3:00 - it's time for them to move on.

Can that idyllic summer be replicated for future generations? I hope so, I think it can. I know there are young ones on the road, and my son's best friend came and asked if I had anything to go to the dump on Saturday - just like his grandfather used to do. The glen is still there and pristine, the cove protects from the storms, the sun still shines. Many of the same families live there, although we'll say good-bye to the Gehring clan soon. But the memories will always remain, theirs and ours.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I want to correct one possible misconception in my last blog post. I spoke about Realtors being the facilitators after the purchase has been made but before closing. This does not mean that we set the closing date and time. That is left to the three attorneys - buyer's, seller's and the bank's (if there is one). Only they know when all the paperwork has been filed and the numbers are ready. And those numbers change - the tax amount to be paid back or ahead, for example, is computed on a daily basis. I do wish at times we had more control over closings, but we don't - we can listen to sellersand buyers, make sure the paperwork does come to the appropriate places, and speak with attorneys - but they set the date.

Phfew! That could have easily provoked a discussion!

Now! There are currently 151 active listings for single family homes in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Of these, 32 are in the village - a relatively high percentage. Six new listings came on between the 11th and the 18th - four are around $200,000, while the other two are well over a million dollars each. One is basically a lot on the lake and the other is a gorgeous home on acreage but not on the lake.

There are 9 properties listed in the "C" category - continue to show but under contract. Four new ones joined the other 5. One of those very sweet village homes found its selling price. Two waterfront properties also were placed in this column. Another one in Marcellus Schools was also marked contingent.

Sorry - no new pendings!

There is another closed village house, purchased well under it's original list price. That brings to 39 the number of homes sold in Skaneateles so far this year.

The past week I've kept a record of my hotsheet because I saw that several times the number of new listings was less or equal to the number of reductions. During other times the ratio shows usually a good deal more new listings than reduced ones. For example, one day there were 10 new single family homes, and 7 (in the areas I check) were reduced. Another day the number was the same: 20. Still another day 10 were newly listed but 16 were reduced. I then went back and checked the Skaneateles area. Rather than go through all 151 homes, I looked at the 27 properties under $200,000. Fifteen of them had been reduced (one went up!). It's hard to make absolute statements because some were taken off the market and then re-entered into the system, but reduced at that time.

Overall conclusion - prices are coming down, the rates are still very, very low, and now is the time to buy!

Closing Arguments

I couldn't resist the play on words once I'd thought it. I am going a different way with this, but in some ways it is true.

Buying a home should be a wonderful experience, and I try mightily to make it so. Hassle-free, everyone thrilled - both buyers and sellers - and a Mercedes in every garage..... Like the Mercedes, it doesn't always work out that way.

This summer I have been consumed by closings, which, as Bob says, is a good thing, considering the alternative. There are still more to go, but I have a moment to breathe and reflect and express some frustrations here.

I've always said that closing is like birth - there's a due date, but nothing prevents the baby from coming early or late, and it always seems like a surprise when the little one actually arrives. There's a lot of running around, a bit of chaos, but in the end a child is born and the pangs are forgotten.

Closings this summer seem to have been especially painful, not just for my clients, but with most other Realtors with whom I've spoken recently. We lamented all spring that it's not like the old days in selling - see five houses, choose one, go to closing (with or without the buyer's house selling). Between the mortgage issues and title issues, nothing seems smooth. (Just got interrupted by a mortgage broker to tell me about issues.....honest, I did!)

So take a very hot summer, add three attorneys, two buyers, two sellers, two agents, and spice it up with the reasons everyone is moving - death, divorce, new job, addition to the family, loss of job - and the pot is stirred. Risk-taking is minimal - everyone wants assurance that all will be well, no one wants the responsibility of things not being 100% accurate - and the pot is boiling over. Add to this the uncertainty of when the actual closing will be - when will that soup be done and we can eat? - and phone calls and e-mails abound.

Everyone I firmly believe does the best he or she can, but between the corporations and the government it is more difficult than it used to be.

Solutions. I've read in our Realtor journal that assuming that the closing will take longer is the first step. The sale probably took more time than expected ("My house will sell in the first week!" - those days are gone) so will the closing. I've quoted "60 days to closing" since starting in this business - but I am going to start saying "90 days to closing." I will ask sellers and buyers to accept that time-frame. If both sides want to make accommodations because of this - pre-possession, for example - then let's look into it earlier, not when everyone is frazzled.

The second step is to begin title searches as soon as the attorney feels comfortable doing it. If there are issues, then they can be dealt with before there's a ready, willing and able buyer needing to close ASAP.

Interrupted again - but that's okay! The caller and I discussed a sale that will close soon, but first we need to deal with potential problems with the house, so we set a time to walk-through together prior to the actual walk-through. These days everyone is counting every penny, so taking all precautions is necessary.

Most importantly in any transaction is communication. The calls I took were important - but communication is difficult with so many people involved. I see my job as the facilitator after the sale is made. In one deal I had the attorneys just couldn't make contact, so issues were left uncommunicated to their sellers and buyers. Once the agents were informed of the problems, we got them resolved rapidly. We have more time - and yes, we are ready, willing and able to take and make phone calls. We just need to know there are issues!

To close this blog - the long hot summer may be waning, but there is still that magnificent fall selling season to come that will produce many more closings. The rates are at historic lows, sellers are anxious to move on, and buyers need to buy. I plan to say "90 days to closing" from here on out and look for problems, tell buyers and sellers to prepare for hold-ups ("Where will you live if it doesn't close by September?"), and keep the lines of communication open as best I can.

Then when properties do close and the process that got them there fades, I plan to celebrate with them!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

My vacation has been such a busy time and I so wanted to write more - but no, getting home at 8:30 seems to prevent the creative juices from flowing. It's all I can do to eat Bob's wonderful meals - on paper plates, because it's still vacation! - and then read half a page...

Currently there are 154 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. A total of 34 are in the village, and 42 are listed as "waterfront" - more on this later! The lowest priced home is $74,500 and the highest 2.9M. There are 18 single family properties listed at one million or over, and 29 are under $200,000. In the actual Skaneateles School District there are 149 active listings.

Here's where it gets tricky. The Central New York listing service is trying to get agents to list in the actual towns and counties where the properties are located. There are three counties and several towns that touch the lake, but many people put properties in the Skaneateles area to gain attention. If it's the school district it might actually be Cayuga County - but better seen in Skaneateles. If it's on the lake on the south end in Cortland County, better to make it Skaneateles.

Back to the stats first:

Six new listings came on the market. Three are re-lists - properties that either lost a deal or want to be noticed with a new price. Two of the really new listings are waterfront over one million, and the other is a home in the town for under $200,000.

There are no new sales - either marked contingent or pending, and nothing closed. The number for the year is still 38 sold single family homes.

Using "Skaneateles Lake" to search I found a total of 69 properties. Seven were in Niles and 1 in Sempronius (Cayuga County) and 4 more were in Spafford. There was also a lone one out there for Elbridge which frankly has nothing to do with Skaneateles - but it's either a mistake (most likely) or a way to get noticed. Adding the criteria of "waterfront" the number drops to 48 from 69. I must only presume that the 21 listings that make up the difference list the lake because of views - or something. The moral being - check the lake not the town, and then read carefully. Better yet - enlist a Realtor to help sort it out.

But whatever you do, if you are thinking about buying, please do so - it's a great time to do it!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Since I am on vacation - see the last blog - I have all the time to write freely. I thought I would, but the vacation in my mind does not equal the vacation on the clock. I have had a wonderful time in the last couple days getting a listing and putting it online. I am pleased with it, for many reasons. And I also am learning - did you know that if you make your listing price an even number then it will be caught by people going up and going down in price. For example, if the property you have listed is $299,900 then it will be missed by people looking at $300,000 and up. But at $300,000 (this isn't WalMart!) you catch the people at 300K to 400K as well as 200K to 300K....Such a small point - but it's about how people search.

And as long as I am having this lovely conversation with myself I must inject a word about what people search for. I remember our esteemed broker-emeritus, Mary McNeill, wondering why her fabulous 4 bedroom, 1.5 bath home wasn't being shown regularly. Turns out people needed to see 2 bathrooms or they wouldn't "see" the house on the computer. So she added a bathroom - at least the plans for one - and it sold. The new owners never put in the bath, she said, but they saw it.

I know someone else who is looking at square footage. The price per square foot must be a certain number. The quality of the home doesn't matter, but the price per square foot does. An interesting concept - the idea being that the interior can always be changed, but to add size to a property means an additional cost and therefore the price per foot would be too much.

When we bought our house we looked for an in-law apartment. We never actually looked - I remembered this one from a serendipitous brokers' open day. I literally just happened down the road, saw the sign, and decided to check it out. Not at all looking for us - just because it was there and I had time. But when my mother called and said she was moving in, it came to mind.

Down to business. There are currently 147 active single family homes listed in the multiple listing service of Central New York under Skaneateles. Thirty-three of these are in the village. I think that's actually a record of some sorts. Six are new - three in the village and three in the surrounding town. None, surprisingly, are waterfront. Square footage price - I wouldn't go there in Skaneateles!

Five properties have a "C" label and one is new - waterfront listed under $500,000. There are no new "U" homes (under contract do not show), but there are 4 in this category altogether. Twelve are pended, just itching to get closed, I am sure!

We are up to 38 closed properties in the Skaneateles area. The latest is a HUD home, a house that fell on hard times and was virtually stripped and left to critters and rain. A very adventurous man who happens to be my client, bought it and is looking forward to fixing it up.

Last year there were 46 homes closed by this time - I had written two 20-properties synopses. But the year before when it all fell apart there were only 27 sold. This compares with 2007 when there were 59 homes closed by this time. Sigh...those were the good old days! Still - the rates are great - go buy a house!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vacation as a Concept

It's August already. The brilliance that was July is fading. The Fair will soon be here, and I've been working and working. So has Bob. Saturdays have found us putting in 10 hour days - he takes Sundays off, and I haven't been able to. The last couple Sunday evenings have found me totally depleted and in bed by 8:30. I saw the full moon come up last week over the hills at the lake, then crashed.

It's time we took a vacation. But then, we can't really go anywhere because of work. It's still there - maybe not as intense, but I wouldn't give it up for anything. I called an agent this past week to request a showing of a house and the message was that she was out of town and another capable agent would take her place - please call her instead. I can't seem to do that - and besides, I want to be here in the summer.

So we are taking a vacation conceptually. It's all about wrapping your head (as they used to say) around the thought of what a vacation really is. What do we do differently than we usually do when we're on vacation.

In general terms, it's just different actions and choices. We see new places or re-visit familiar ones we enjoy, eat out more, see friends and make the effort to do so. I walk more, taking the time for exercise as pleasure, not for sanity's sake. We leave it behind - the chores, the worries (although I have real difficulty doing that!), the constant computer checking. We do things we don't generally have the time for in our 80 hour work weeks.

Yesterday was the first day of our conceptual vacation. We had stayed at the lake, so even though the dogs got me up early I took the time to walk them - both of them, a rarity for me. Bob left for home and I snoozed on the couch instead of fighting through the morning with coffee. I woke up refreshed.

In the afternoon we went to the arts and crafts show in downtown Syracuse. We hadn't gone in years - what a marvelous show! It had grown into truly a premier event. We wandered around and ran into friends we hadn't seen, Bob bought a book on Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone, and rated the sidewalk art. One of my favorite exhibits that will stay with me was the paintings of Elginia McCrary - www.mccraryculturalart.com. I was fascinated with her work.

We wandered back in the sunshine, of course having taken Bob's new red Mazda Miata to the show. We had found $3 parking in a garage, too, for it, and felt like we didn't want the afternoon to end. I had been curious about Green Planet, the new healthy foods grocery in Fairmount that Bob had raved about, so he took me there. Just wonderful! Aisles and aisles of great food - healthy food. He had found his vegetarian hot dogs there a couple weeks ago. I loved the many types of flour in bulk, the beans and rice. Also all those great traditional medicine teas that help me get through the winter. It's just across from Fairmount Fair on West Genesee Street and definitely worth a look.

Bob took a nap after finishing a couple samples for a church, so I decided to take Koko and be a tourist in Skaneateles. We had a great walk, looked in store windows, walked out on the pier, pretended we were new to the village. I hadn't taken her into town for a very long time, but the concept of vacation pushed me to do it. I would have walked before dinner on the Cape or in North Carolina, where we'd taken the dogs previously - why not in gorgeous Skaneateles?

We ate dinner outside and I even cooked! I made garbanzo delight using the zucchini from Bob's garden and very few plates so washing up was easy. Instead of getting ice cream later, I "made" cottage cheese with fresh blueberries and topped it with whipped cream and nuts. A healthy sundae!

Our vacation will last two weeks, I've decided. It's a state of mind - so yes, the closings will all happen, my buyers and builders and sellers will be served, but I will have a vacation state of mind - kind of a Margaritaville in Elbridge. It's definitely worth a try!