This past week, a beautifully renovated large farmhouse (5,200 sq. ft.) came on the market near Jeffersonville at $1.2 million. The house has a nice view and high end detailing, but sits on just 4.5 acres. A few days later, another renovated farmhouse, this time on 96 acres, was listed at $1.5M. These houses join about 2 dozen others on the market here above $1 million, including another stunningly renovated farmhouse on 60 acres with a large artist studio across the river in Damascus, PA listed at $1.65M. The owners of these homes have spent a lot of time and money creating beautiful, magazine-quality showplaces. But the question is, "Is there a market yet for $1M+ homes in Sullivan County?"
In the past 12 months, there was only one single family sale here through the MLS priced above $1 million — a 7,000 sq. ft. cedar and stone contemporary on 70 acres with killer views and an indoor pool that sold for $1.65M. There were also a couple of other non-MLS sales at Chapin and Lew Beach in the $1M+ category, or 3 out of about 750 total sales. There were only 6 sales in the next category down, from $750K to $1M, or a total of about 10 in the $750K+ upper end range. True, that’s probably 8 or 9 more than we had 5 years ago and interest in upper end trophy property here is increasing. But it is not a broad, deep or rapidly growing segment of the market. Yes, a slick marketer could legitimately claim that "The $1M+ market here has grown 300% in the last 5 years", but when you’re talking going from 1 to 3 sales, that’s just spin-meistering. Arguably, you could add new construction at Chapin into the mix, where some houses have cost upwards of $3M, including land — but Chapin is still too new to populate resale market statistics.
One of the problems with some upper end properties is that they’re personal statements of their owners and may have been overbuilt or overdetailed for what the market supports. I probably handle more upper end business as a proportion of my overall mix than almost any other Realtor in Sullivan County, and yet only talk to a handful of people a year looking for property at the very upper end. They’re all very selective, and they’re universally looking for estate quality, which is a level above a great house in a great setting. At $1M+, they either want large acreage (100+) to ensure ultimate privacy, or dramatic riverfront or lakefront that also ensures privacy.
The amazing thing here in Sullivan is actually how much an upper end, trophy property buyer can get for their money. But buyers even at the upper end (apart from Chapin and Lew Beach, which are kind of their own exclusive enclaves within Sullivan) look to Sullivan for value and expect property here to sell at a "discount" to the more established Hudson Valley or Berkshires. Some owners of upper end properties here, though, are a little ahead of the curve, and asking prices that are more in line with the Hudson Valley or Berkshires. A "short drive to Jeffersonville and Bethel Woods" just doesn’t carry the same weight — yet — as a short drive to Woodstock, Tanglewood or Hyde Park.