NEW YORK – Nationwide, statewide and here in the western part of the Mid-Hudson Valley there is a "lack of inventory" in the Real Estate market.
That said, the Ulster County Board of Realtors reported that home sales jumped in January 2018 to 127, compared with 109 last year. Homes also sold a bit more quickly, days on the market fell 2.4 % to 122 on average from the previous 125. And prices rose, from $236,510 to $248,329, a nice five percent gain.
How that inventory issue is playing out takes different forms depending on who you talk to in the local Real Estate business.
"Ellenville still has some issues," says Jim Allred, a broker at Mary Collins, "But, I see changes in the situation there. The growth of restaurants on Canal Street that are staying busy is an indicator of something. It’s certainly different from what it was ten years ago."
Part of that growth is down to the village having water and sewer, removing a major cost impediment to restaurant businesses, and part is also due to the success of the Shadowland Theatre, which draws people from up and down the valley. But there has been an uptick in interest in properties in Wawarsing and Ellenville, too.
Allred says, "People can get more house for their money in that part of the county." He cautions that in the village, "It’s not yet to the point that houses currently broken out to multi-family use will return to single family, but as prices get more firm in Rochester and Marbletown, the logical next step is to look at Wawarsing."
Gail Vesely, at Lucille Hand Real Estate in Ellenville, has some other ideas. "Inventory is low, that usually drives up prices, but it isn’t here, not yet. I don’t know for sure why other people aren’t selling, the low inventory issue is national. Still, it’s not keeping buyers out, it’s just that there isn’t that much to look at."
Vesely traces some of the inventory issue back to the crash in 2008. "Builders stopped building, it was much harder to get a mortgage, that cut down on new housing being added."
A bright area she feels is land, however. "Land prices here haven’t gone up that much, but building costs have. Add in the costs of septic and well and you can see it."
Deborah Hitz at Habitat Real Estate Group is also seeing low inventory numbers. "It’s across the board," she says. "There are a few different factors. One of them is the older population is happy in their homes — they’re not moving."
One result of the inventory crunch, says Hitz, is that "more people are interested in vacant land. Also, people are buying foreclosures, modernizing them, cleaning them up."
Hitz noted that the market is moving differently for different price sectors. "The higher price end is strong. And there are design elements that are growing in popularity. Open plan, the use of dark colors, we are seeing more of that. There’s an interesting Japanese technique, using flame-treated wood for exteriors. It’s dark, it repels insects and it has a good look."
Still with the open plan and general simplicity style, she references the Hudson Woods development in Samsonville. "Actually, the first one of those, there were 26 lots, the first one has come back onto the market from the original buyers. It’s beautiful, open floor plan, with huge windows, but also very private, it appeals to city people who are attracted to this aesthetic."
She recalls the elements that made this development special, and helped sell the very simple looking houses for $800,000 and up. "All had great features, besides the design, and the open floor plan. They had old growth trees carefully kept, great views of the Catskills in one direction and the Shawangunk Ridge in the other, all things that appeal
to the higher end buyers."
Ease of maintenance is also key to this trend. Hitz adds that the Nancy Copley designed houses in Ulster Heights that she lists were built to be easy to maintain. "Her designs are really interesting to people, how they sit in the landscape and harmonize with nature. Copley’s own house in Accord, on which she worked for decades, was sold after she died in 2013. It has incredible stonework." Copley was a noted architect whose work attracted global attention.
Hitz says that the relatively new phenomenon of "Weekers" — people who come up to the country for the work week and go back to the city for the weekends — is also bringing "co-working spaces" to the fore. This is where people share a space where they have broadband internet and good cell reception and they go there to work, away from their homes.
Jim Allred at Mary Collins has also noted the "weeker" trend, moved by those who don’t have to be at the office on Monday mornings. "What’s going to unfold now with that new-found autonomy for people who work via the internet and only have to go in for a meeting once or twice a week?" This is pushing some people out to country living.
"We’re no longer all in the 9 to 5 workday thing," says Hitz. "And if you don’t have broadband out where you live, then the co-working space thing is how you can have it for your work and still live here in the natural beauty of the area."
Which takes us back to Gail Vesely at Lucille Hand. "People are looking for ‘private.’ They don’t want visible neighbors. They want to leave that behind in the city and they want to be out in the country. They like to be around state land, for instance, because it will never be built on."
Country living, open plan design, privacy, but workspace with broadband, those are trends that can transform this area — we’ll see how it all works out.