5 or 6 years ago, when I started selling real estate here, mid-market houses in the country often came with 10 or 20 acres or even more. As land has become more valuable, that number has shrunk. Today, in what I consider to be the mid-market second home space ($250,000 to $325,000), a house will typically come with about 5 acres. To get more acres, buyers have to move up to a higher price point.
What happened? Did parcels magically shrink, like Dannon reducing the size of its yogurt containers from 8 ounces to 6 ounces? Not exactly. Some owners have been splitting their property before selling to increase their return. For example, someone with a house on 15 acres may subdivide the property into the house on 5 acres and a 10 acre parcel of vacant land. Some investors have bought large parcels, say 50 or 100 acres, to develop and subdivided off the existing house on a few acres to sell separately. And then there’s simply the phenomenon of more people looking for houses with more acreage, which has pushed those properties into higher price ranges.
Land, at least within a few hours of NYC, is becoming the new luxury item. Sullivan County is no longer the great frontier of cheap land, which has come as something of a surprise to some buyers. Sullivan is still a great value, though, compared to adjacent counties or anywhere within a couple of hours of NYC.
As Sullivan County continues to grow in popularity, houses with larger acreage will likely become scarcer … and more valuable relative to other properties. Today, the "Wow" factor comes into play when someone has 50 or more acres, as in "Wow, you have 50 acres!" That "Wow" threshold level is likely to drop, so that in a few years people will likely say "Wow, you have 20 acres!"
As a buyer, you may be faced with the choice between a perfect house on 5 acres, or a not-so-perfect but workable house on 20 acres. In most cases you can increase the size of the house, but usually can’t increase the size of the land. Over the long term, I think people who own more land are going to be very happy that they do.