Friday, February 25, 2011


This is kind of an odd topic and I will keyboard my thoughts as I go, but there seemed to me a theme today as I drove back from Carlo's in Syracuse in the snow.

I was listening to the international weekly round-up on Diane Rehm's show ( and of course hearing about the Middle East. Pressure there, all right. Who would believe that the people could rise up after all these years and throw out ruthless dictators. It continues to amaze me.

Then the story from Rolling Stone ( about the general who ordered his men to use psychological weapons (!) on Senators (!) to get them to approve funding. Now supposedly this was a balanced man who had come up through the ranks, and as they said on the show, was seen as a great candidate for future promotion. But here's where the pressure comes in. He was expected to perform, and he could not allow Senators to cut funding after seeing his troops. So he went around the law - until he was stopped.

The school unions in Wisconsin are another example. Teachers staying home and leaving classrooms untended, schools closing...all to apply pressure to their legislators. And then in the middle of the night, the legislators, feeling the pressure, took a very strange up or down vote to cut them off. It won't work in the Senate there....12 state senators are "in hiding" so they won't have to vote! Pressure.

So then we come at least to real estate. My seller and I lost a deal this week because the buyer (not my client) felt the pressure of buying too soon, in his/her opinion. No one put the pressure on the buyer, but when the offer went in the reality bells started to toll, and the offer was withdrawn. Too much pressure - to buy a house, to sell a house, to finalize life-style decisions. So much of real estate, when you come down to it, is a leap of faith. Of course grounded on sound reasons, but major changes nonetheless.

So from the Middle East to Skaneateles - just thoughts....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Skaneateles Real Estate - The Bi-Monthly Update

It was exciting today to realize that it was indeed Blog Update Day! I certainly feel less knowledgeable about the houses coming on and off the market even though I check my "hotsheet" every day. Writing it all out is very helpful - I am certain that's how I learn, by assimilating the information and then re-forming it.

Currently there are 108 active listings in the Skaneateles area of the multiple listing service. Of these, 30 are in the village. Eight properties came on the market since my last report on January 30th, but only three were new listings. The others ranged from two in the mid-$100,000 to two waterfronts in the 1 million plus category and a large estate valued just under three million dollars. The three new ones were a ranch listed around $200,000, a small home for just over $100,000 and a lovely village colonial in the mid-$600,000.

Four properties are marked contingent with one new one joining the other three. This is a lake rights home in need of some work and priced accordingly. There are no new "under contract, do not show" properties. One very lovely new construction home, marketed in the mid-$400,000 and actually outside of Skaneateles but in the school district was sent to the pending list. I know of at least two families who tried to buy it, but their homes did not sell in time.

Three - hooray! - homes closed in the past couple weeks. A waterfront property sold at a "let's get it done" price came in at 60% of its original list price. Another waterfront home closed in the mid-$700,000 after being listed in the $800,000 range. A small house outside Skaneateles sold close to its list price in the mid-$100,000.

We are off and running towards a good year! Last year by this time only two homes had sold. There are some wonderful homes out there somewhere beneath the snow just waiting for spring and the traffic that will once again come to Skaneateles!

Monday, February 14, 2011

FHA Appraisals

Last week I took a course in the process from contract to closing on homes. It was taught by an attorney, Rob Carter ( who gave it a different perspective. I wanted to share one of his handouts....

This is entitled "Most Common FHA Repairs." I will paraphrase in some places, but for the most part it will be the sheet we received. It comes from Forsythe Appraisals' website:(

An FHA appraisal seeks to determine if the house is able to be mortgaged by the Federal Housing Authority. As agents, we sometimes dread theses appraisals in older homes because they are super-critical it seems, at times. Reading this list, any mortgage appraiser would be looking at the same things, I think. The suggestion from Forsythe is that by using this list you will be forewarned, and therefore can make the repairs prior to even marketing the house, much less getting as far as an appraisal.

  • If the home was built prior to 1978, chipping peeling paint must be scraped and painted.
  • The roof should have 2-3 years of useful life and no more than 2 layers of shingles.
  • The cause of wet basements should be cured.
  • Abandoned inoperable wells must be capped and sealed.
  • Infestation of any kind should be exterminated.
  • Damaged or inoperable plumbing, electric and heating systems should be repaired.
  • Structural or foundation problems must be repaired.
  • Flammable storage tanks must be removed and the filler cap sealed from the inside (e.g. buried oil tank).
  • If there is a crawl space or attic, it will be the homeowner's responsibility to make this area accessible so that it can be thoroughly inspected.

A lot to do here - and I would wager that for many older homes some of these items are not completed and the appraisal still goes through. The one thing - besides the lead paint issue - that FHA appraisals are known for are railings on steps as safety issues, but it wasn't included here. Food for thought!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Just to bring everyone up to date on some changes that have occurred in the real estate market in Skaneateles. Some things I absolutely know, others are rumor and I will tag them as such.

To start, Aaron Moss has teamed up with Nothnagle out of Rochester and will become part of their company once the state gives its okay. This has been in the works for months; in the meantime Aaron and Steve Ansteth and their agents are open next to Sweetwater on Genesee Street.

Jerry Morrissey and agents Sara Collins and Betsy Barrett are opening an office at 44 East Genesee Street in the old Quinzi and Quinzi Jewelry Store. The name of their new company is Finger Lakes Realty Partners. The office is not open as yet, but signs are going up around the village and town. Michael Falcone is also involved as a partner although I do not have much more information than that. I have been told - rumor alert! - that they are working out of his Pioneer Company offices.

Mike DeRosa has become part of Sotheby's (Select Sotheby's International Realty) whose offices are listed as my old stomping grounds on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. Rumor has it that Sotheby's is coming to Skaneateles and will open an office, but where precisely that will be is undisclosed as yet - or when. In the meantime, another rumor has it that Sotheby's will only allow their signs to be placed on properties listed at $500,000 or above. Again, I stress this is rumor...

Change is good - keeps everyone on their toes. We will see how this all plays out - we currently have five open offices in the village with approximately 40-some agents. Six years ago we had the same number of offices and about 60 agents. Two brokerages combined, two new ones opened, and one dropped out of the area. Change. Houses still were listed and sold - as they are and will continue to be even if the cast and settings change. Skaneateles will always be - I predict! -a highly sought-after area in which to live and vacation.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What's Happening

It's been a while since I entered a post, and please forgive me. I will try to make up for that. I do miss my weekly updates - they seem to keep me honest and I also know better myself what's happening. I may reconsider - but for now....

The photo at the side of this post is of the Sherwood Inn when it "burned" last week. I was in the office, enjoying my late afternoon social hour with Lisa which we seem to have more and more since her return from North Carolina. We were constantly interrupted by sirens and we knew something major had occurred somewhere, just not where. Chris Evans, one of our RE/MAX agents, called in and said that the Sherwood was on fire!

Of course then we smelled the smoke. Opening the door we saw the smoke rising over the Old Stone Mill. I took my camera and walked the short block (past Doug's and Bijou and the newsstand) to the corner of Jordan and Genesee. The block going west was closed off and sure enough, there were firemen on the roof. A woman went by me as I stood on the corner taking it all in - she said she worked there, and this was the second fire in a week.

It was easy to go up and take pictures - even the firemen were doing it. It was "only" a chimney fire and soon under control. But I was reminded of comments old friends told me before I moved in years ago. They were informed (unofficially of course) that if their lovely home was on fire and the Sherwood caught on fire at the same time, that the firemen would leave their home and go to the Sherwood. They understood.

The next day all was as usual, at least outwardly, by my evening walk. The dining room was filled, the tavern where the fire had occurred was open and filled as well.

The Inn is old and contains so many memories for so many people. It's where Alex and Rachel were married and held their reception. My old professor from Mount Holyoke College who taught James Joyce came every summer for a week to Skaneateles and stayed - always - at the Sherwood. As a kid my friends and I would come over from Otisco Lake and sit on the porch (when there was a true porch) on summer nights.

So let's honor the Inn (, and eat their wonderful salmon, and think just for a minute what Skaneateles would be like without it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Yesterday, as I was driving over to Cayuga Lake to show a property, I heard on NPR that the snowstorm due to arrive Wednesday would be "atrocious." What a word, I thought...then went to "the weather outside is frightful" almost immediately. If the storm came as promised, dumping 12 to 18 inches of snow overnight, then it might indeed be "atrocious."

As I may have already said before, I had clients who bought a house and closed in early December. As they were packing up to leave their home in Rochester the morning of their closing, they heard on the news that Rochester would be spared the new snowstorm swirling up the coast, "but if you want snow, move to Syracuse." They thought it was a great sign - of what, I'm still not sure. But certainly a marvelous story!

I saw in the paper today that Syracuse has three feet more snow than Rochester this season, four feet more than even Buffalo and a whopping six feet more than Albany. That's a lot! Yet everywhere I turn I run into people who grew up here who, like us, are thrilled with our old-fashioned winter.

I walked through the village last night, up Genesee past St. James and then back again, realizing that while my vest kept my core warm, my legs were frozen. But it was so beautiful and easy to walk. It wasn't icy at all, the snow compacted by many feet from the Winterfest on Saturday. I could walk - almost - as easily as I do in the summer.

Tomorrow we will awaken to snow, probably as much as predicted. Hopefully, perhaps I should say. About four years ago we went off to Florida in February, in part to see SU play the University of South Florida in Tampa. A blizzard was coming in, and we had a choice of cancelling or getting the last flight out. We went, and I loved going to the game wearing sandals, I must admit. But part of me wanted to be here for the blizzard. And maybe our choice to go was predicated on the certain knowledge that there would be other blizzards, other years.

We've made our preparations - Bob got a lot of wood in, I went to the store with an eye for not getting out the next day (half and half plus kitty litter were the must-haves). We are due a load of pellets tomorrow, but we talked about what we would do if it didn't come because of the snow. It's all exciting - just like when I was a little kid waiting for a snow day. I look forward to a day of snow-shoeing and reading (Juliet, by Anne Fortier) by the fire.

I know that there are many who don't share my excitement, but the snow will come anyway. I hope people can let it come, enjoy it, and take time to reflect on snowy days when they were young. Stay warm - eat oatmeal - make chocolate chip cookies and drink hot chocolate - fall asleep in your favorite chair, covered by a red plaid blanket. You're allowed - it's an atrocious snow day!