Thursday, October 28, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I've been spending the last week or so in the company of people from outside the U.S. Our fall weather has been perfect - 60s and sunny, that wonderful wind that stirs up the leaves, warm nights and a full moon. Our area is so rich with colors now and everyone remarked on them. We are different here - and until you have experienced the Finger Lakes region in the fall I don't think it can be fully imagined. I remember being in Seattle and traveling out into the mountains in a long, long line of other foliage seekers, only to see yellow and more yellow - where were the reds and oranges I had grown up with? There's no place like home!

Currently in the Skaneateles area as designated by the multiple listing service there are 131 active listings, of which 34 are in the village. This may not be totally accurate - some agents place listings in both the village and the town so they won't be overlooked. Of these 131, 31 are noted as "waterfront." I would think lake, but this also encompasses anything on any type of water - the creek, a pond, like the listing out on Mandy Rue - but I believe there are only 2 like this currently.

Four new listings came on this past week - all brand-new. The number of homes being re-listed has dropped considerably in the past couple months, as has the number of listings, possibly due to people just waiting for spring. A large Village Victorian came on listed under $500,000. Another large home with lake rights was also listed, but well over $500,000. A third house - Village and just built out of the old foundation - is selling now for over $500,000. The last new listing is a tiny little house on a pretty lot in the Marcellus school district marketed for - wait for it - under $50,000.

There are no new contingent homes, leaving three in this category. Five are listed as
"under contract, do not show," which generally means that the owner is satisfied and doesn't want to be bothered, but they do not have a mortgage commitment as yet. The ones with mortgage commitments are tagged "P" for pending - and there are 11 of them at this time.

The good news is that we now have 55 closed single family homes for the Skaneateles area, and three of these are new. As a matter of fact, all three have waterfront! All of them came on in the past 12 months, they all sold in the $400,000 range, and all dropped their original prices considerably from the $500,000 level to make the sales. It's interesting that the quicker the house closed, the more the price was dropped...but the others still paid taxes and presumably mortgage payments while they waited for offers closer to their list prices. Interesting to see all three at the same time.

Of the 55 closed properties this year, 13 are waterfront. This is over 25% of all the sales in the area. Last year, the number was 16% and the year before 30%. I think the lesson here is that waterfront will always sell, even in a recession - and possibly for less - but it will still sell.

So take a trip around the lake this weekend. Choose one of those remaining 31 lakefront properties. Think about spring and next summer - and put in an offer. There is nothing like being on the lake in July or August - or seeing it crystal clear and glass-still come the fall, reflecting all those colors!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

I know at least one Realtor out there who always comments on my blog to me when I speak with him. He's amazed I can keep it going with the pace of our deals and dealings. I wish I could do better - write more often, pithier perhaps. I enjoy writing, and would love to work it in to a daily schedule. The New Year is coming up - but I welcome ideas!

Until then - there are currently 132 listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service, 32 of which are in the village. Three new ones came on, all totally new not re-listings. One each for village, town and waterfront. The town home is a very small one in the the mid-$100,000 just over the village line. The village listing is one of those quite stately mansions - no waterfront, just an extraordinary view and under one million dollars. The waterfront is under two million and gorgeous, not that far from the village.

There are no new contingent properties, and only 18 marked U or P - that means.....

Yes! Three properties were posted as closed this week! Two are village and one is lake rights. One of the village homes came on in July and sold for about 5% under the original list price. The other village home was first on the market in late spring, 2008, right before the crash. It was on and off the market for a while, and now has finally sold for 75% of the original asking price. The lake rights property sold in less than 6 months for 15% or so under the original list price.

We now have 52 closed single family home sales this year, as compared with 65 at this time last year and 44 the year before. Our listings are lower, so we can move more inventory with fewer choices. People are looking, too. Rates are phenomenal. Prices continue to come down. No excuses! It is time to buy into Skaneateles!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Creative Financing - or - Getting it Done!

Tomorrow I host an open house at 6070 East Lake Road in the Town of Owasco. This is a gorgeous home - very well built in 1992 and maintained since then. It has four bedrooms and three full baths. The first floor master is large enough for a sitting area with lake views; the bath has a jetted tub and huge walk-in closet. Upstairs there are the other three bedrooms - but wait! One has its own bathroom as well! Another master, that in another home would be the master. Add in 1.84 very flat acres, hardwoods throughout, dining room, living room, family room with fireplace, no maintenance decking on the front porch, close enough to Skaneateles (15 minutes), Syracuse (35 minutes), Ithaca (40 minutes) and Auburn (7 minutes) to make living in the country easy!

All well and good, but what about the price? We just reduced it to $310,000 - that's about $100 per square foot! The lot next door, about half the size, is on the market for $70,000.

So what we've got here is a great home, on a great piece of land, in a great location and the owners recopgnize that they need a buyer to take advantage of this great deal!

What is stopping people today? Money, of course. Other homes aren't selling, banks are being very judicious with their loans and not giving bridge loans really at all, and some people just aren't certain enough of their job situations.

The owners, being the brilliant people they are, therefore have devised several ways to make the house accessible. They will hold the mortgage for 15 years. Now when I heard that at first I was skeptical, having just completed a sale in which the mortgage was held by the owner. At 7%, that is. Who would take that rate unless it was commercial or there were credit issues?

"Oh no," the owners said. "We will beat the bank!"

They are offering 3.5%.

Not only that, they will take that mortgage even with a house to sell on the new buyer's side. Circumstances have to be right, but this is a possibility.

What about those job uncertainty issues? Rent-to-own! Go ahead! Rent this lovely home for two years and then buy it - maybe with owner financing again.

Creative - yes! I love it when sellers see the challenges of the market clearly and take steps to help themselves.

If you want to see this remarkable home, it will be open tomorrow, Sunday the 17th, from 1:00 until 3:00. The ML# is S241297. Come say hello - and tell me that you read about it on my blog!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

Since nothing much happened this past week according to the statistics for Skaneateles, I thought I would take a moment to write about my mother. This would have been her 90th birthday today. She passed away in 2006, having lived the last 4 years with us in a most marvelous in-law suite.

She was born in 1920, in Syracuse, a city where she always resided until moving out to Elbridge. She was raised during the Depression by a single woman with two older children, having lost one to polio. They were poor - very, very poor. She tells a story about giving away her one true possession, a string of fake pearls, to a girl who had invited her to her birthday party. Unable to come up with a gift, she gave her the pearls. The girl looked at them and threw them away in front my mother - "They're fake!" she scorned.

My grandmother tended a florist's shop. I always liked that detail - my grandmother was tiny, barely five feet tall, and still spoke a bit of German. She had been charmed away from her New York home by a man who brought her to Syracuse and then abandoned her after the birth of the four children. (My biological grandmother also loved flowers and had a shop.)

My mother eventually went on to be the Valedictorian of her high school, a vocational school. She was timid - she told me she used one ribbon for the typewriter all the way through school because she was too afraid to ask anyone how to change it.

She met my father, already an executive at Carrier Corporation, at a dance at the "Y" when she was 23 and he was 36 (but he told her he was only 34). They married and bought a house for $5,000 on the east side of Syracuse. Their mortgage payments were something like $5.65/month - I found the receipts from the checkbook when she moved out.

I was adopted when she was 32, and she became the ultimate homemaker. My costumes for Halloween were always handmade and elaborate - I was a black cat one year and scared our cat terribly. My last year at Sumner Elementary I was Santa Claus, with the costume donated afterwards to the school. I never learned how to cook because she was an excellent cook. I did learn to bake because sitting around that tiny kitchen was a wonderful experience.

After I left for college she and my father settled in to a life of dog-walking, reading by the fire, and going out occasionally to the symphony. He took her to England, finally, in 1973. They were planning a trip to Seattle for Alex's birth when he fell ill with prostate cancer and died that fall.

My mother then became almost a recluse, although the dogs (first Missy, then Dulcie) always got two walks a day in Thornden Park, rain, shine or snow. She read through the winters with a cat or two close by, gardened some in the summers, and enjoyed her music and books.

She also loved her sister, Grace. Grace lived in Florida most of the time until Hurricane Andrew wiped out her home and life. She returned to Rochester to live near her husband's family and visited my mother on occasion. Their visits were always filled with laughter and memories - Gracie was always good to be around. When Grace passed away in May of 2005 we knew it wouldn't be too much longer before my mother joined her.

So this blog is meant to honor her quiet life, and remember her with some compassion.

And the update - for you who have been so patient - there are 140 single family homes of which 32 are in the village listed as active in the Skaneateles area. None were marked contingent, two were moved from contingent to pending, and none closed this past week. A quiet time - my mother would have enjoyed it!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Weekly Update

The Apple Fest is this weekend - so beware driving down Route 20 around Lafayette! The trees are magnificent this time of year - always are - and the sun feels so good after a day or two of rain.

This is really a slow week, as I look at the numbers. There are currently 142 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service, of which 32 are in the village. Not a single home came on the market this week - I have to believe this is a first since I started this blog well over two years ago! Nothing was marked contingent, but a very lovely home out in the town with acreage was listed as pending. There are altogether then 26 homes waiting to close, some of which have been waiting a very long time, according to my records.

Two properties closed this week - hooray! One was a lovely place - with acreage - that came down in price tremendously until it found its selling price in the mid-$300,000. Another property - also with acreage - found it right away and sold within a couple weeks of listing. In both these cases, the closed price was about 75% of the original list price.

I had a request from a loyal reader (let's call her LR) to examine the median price of homes sold in the area. This isn't the average, but the middle price. Same number below as above. I searched looking for the list price - but as you can see, the more accurate number would have been the sales price, but this will have to do.

In Skaneateles this year, the median list price of a sold property is $239,000. Last year at this time it was $325,000. In 2008 the number was $387,500. Obviously a great change - but then Skaneateles is different, as we all should know by now.

In Camillus which is having a difficult year (162 ytd) the median list price is $135,000. Last year it was $132,500 and the year before $139,900 on 227 closed sales. Remarkably similar!

So is Marcellus - 2010 $158,900 on 54 sales (more than Skaneateles!), 2009 $162,900 on 43 sales, 2008 $157,000 on 51 sales.

Elbridge is very interesting. This year is their off year - only 25 sales with a median list price of $88,000. The last two years the list price was $119,000 with sales of 37 homes and 47 homes respectively.

Skaneateles is a market unto itself. Certainly none of the other towns had sales of over a million dollars, so a mean price would be vastly different. It is still by far the highest priced area in Onondaga County - I would imagine all of Central New York. And on a brilliant fall day like this one is turning out to be it is clear why people spend the money to be here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Who knew? Right after we advertised my pretty and unique 1153 Old Seneca Turnpike for rent as well as for sale, the calls started coming in fast and furious. All but one person talked about renting to own. It was amazing.

We are leased now for two years, the signs are down and the lockbox is off the door, and yes, there is talk about buying it after the lease is up. I met a lot of wonderful people, and hopefully will get them settled elsewhere. The majority were simply not ready to buy, had bought and lost a home in the past, or were waiting for more confidence in their positions and life situations.

Was it the house? As sweet as it was, I don't think that was it. The price? $218,000 - not a lot by Skaneateles standards, but people came from all over.

I must conclude that there are a lot of people out there looking for rentals. We have some rentals in Skaneateles, but not a great number. However, I would say that we have more than most communities. There are always several that rent for the season - the school season that is. People want to keep a foothold in Skaneateles and not give it up in the summer, but they go south for the winter. Many return in the early spring, but renting for the school year is also done quite a lot.

When we were in Saratoga we rented a lovely cottage on a large estate. We left and lived in our camp on the lake for the summer while the owners of the "big house" lived in our cottage. They rented out the main house and grounds for enough to carry them through the year. Or at least that was the plan. For seven years we moved in and moved out (kept the clutter down!) but they used it only once as a summer home for them.

So investors - take note! There are plenty of small houses that people would like to rent that are already on the market. Lease them - with all the potential hazards that involves - but maybe make a sale at the same time.

And I want to thank the owners of Old Seneca for the opportunity to enjoy their home through an open house and a few showings. It was a treat!