Plenty of real estate to look at... (Photo by Dion Ogust)

What’s happening with real estate in the Woodstock area these days? There are regular releases of figures which suggest things getting better.

Three leading brokers spoke of what they’ve been seeing.

“The average sale price went up 3 percent in Ulster County,” said Joan Lonergan of Village Green Realty, getting ready to fly to Florida. “That’s good news because we’d been going down, and before that we were pretty much flat.”

Lonergan added that there was movement in the high end market, over $400,000. But also more affordable homes available in Woodstock for the first time in years.

“We started seeing more people looking at homes in the $250,000 range,” she noted. “What that says to me is that people are not in the market for a home but being more cautious about where they spend their money. They still want a second house, but not looking at a home as an investment. The numbers in that area have also gone up in the last year.”

Harris Safier of Westwood Metes & Bounds, just back from Florida, noted that, “I don’t normally narrow my outlook down to the 28 corridor, but Ulster County in general is looking much more encouraging than last year. What seems to have happened is similar to what’s been going on in retail, where people who have been sitting on their money are starting to come off the fence again for the first time in three years.”

Safier talked about how last year’s harsh winter didn’t help things, then pulled out some numbers. In Olive, the number of residential house sales went from 46 in 2010 to 23 last year; in Shandaken, the number of sales slipped from 32 in 2010 to 25 in 2011. But in both towns, he added, interest seems to be coming back, especially in what he terms “local homes” not going to the “dual resident” market.

Furthermore, he points that in Shandaken, a half dozen commercial properties now seem poised to sell in the coming term, including the Cobblestone Inn, the Cold Spring Lodge, the Phoenicia Diner, the Shandaken Inn and the Weyside Inn.

In Woodstock, meanwhile, Safier noted that house sales went from a total of 86 in 2010 to 93 in 2011.

Mitch Rapoport of Freestyle Realty, who once upon a time was Westwoods’ first seller, points out how he’s been selling “a large number” of homes lately, “and it’s because of the way I’ve been pricing them. The longest that was on the market was 28 days.”

“We’re in a very price-sensitive market,” Rapoport explained. “The reason why has to do with the enormous number of Internet sites people can use now to check the values of what they’re looking at, making today’s buyers very savvy. No one in this market will overpay for a house.”

He noticed movement was better in the local market’s low and very highest ranges, with the middle — between $400,000 and $1 million in price — and pointed out an example wherein a newer 1300 square foot home on Striebel Road in Bearsville went on the market for $255,000 and sold for considerably higher five days later, after three offers came in. The irony, he added, was that the final price wasn’t that far off from the $329,000 amount that had been asked before Rapoport changed things.

In terms of regional market specifics, Rapoport said it was clear that Phoenicia and Olive were selling for less, and moving slower in home sales than Woodstock.

“This town is a very extraordinary market,” he added. “It’s always solid, it’s always strong. Saugerties has issues with taxes and Marbletown/Stone Ridge, while not far behind Woodstock, aren’t the same thing.”

 

Trends still down, but rising

Safier said that his one worry is that while the dual residency market has remained active through the past three years, a lot of the better homes there just haven’t found their way to market yet…because their owners can afford to wait things out.

“The trends look good to me, overall, but that foreclosure shadow’s still there,” he said. “We have a lot of people roaming around with cash, even though our interest rates are still at record lows. There’s a sense that things may have bottomed out, in prices and interest rates…and yet I feel more’s going to sell in the $400,000 to $800,000 range this year, albeit many on short sales, from banks.”

Lonergan pointed out how at its worst, two years ago, things in the county had slipped, price-wise, nearly 30 percent. Now, she added, they’re still at 22 percent of what they once were…but the trends are rising.

“What I hear from my agents that thrills me is that consumer confidence is back,” she went on. “The panic is disappearing. I think we’re beyond the downturns now.”

Rapoport, who laments that it may still take time for all buyers to realize that pricing has changed, closed with a memory of something he heard when starting out in the business some 40 years ago.

“This old agent, he told me, ‘Kid,’” Rapoport said. “It’s better to be a first love, a second spouse, and a third realtor.”++