I’ve been selling real estate for almost 8 years here in Sullivan County. At times over those eight years I’ve seen tight inventory in popular property categories, but nothing like what I’m seeing now. Yes, the overall inventory in Sullivan County is up — to about 1,100 single family homes on the market, from a low of about 700 during the peak of the so-called "hot" market in 2005/2006. But while inventory overall may be up, the inventory of good houses, particularly for the second home market, is way way down. Or so it seems, every time I try to put together a tour of houses for buyers coming up from the city.
A reliable category for moderate range buyers looking for something with privacy or lake rights has been the 80’s era "vacation chalet" A-frame style house with cathedral ceilings and a loft in the $250 to $325K range. There were a number on the market this past winter and spring — one at York Lake, one at Edgewood Lakes, on on Mahogony Road in Liberty, one in Pine Ayre and one on Klinger Hill Road west of Roscoe. They’re all now sold or in contract, and there haven’t been new similar houses coming on the market to replace them. This is the first time I can remember – in 8 years – that I don’t have a good vacation chalet style house in the moderate price range to show. Its kind of like a Realtor in the city saying, "Sorry, I don’t have any one bedrooms available." This type of house has always been the reliable little black dress that marked the middle of the market — always available, with wide appeal, that could be accessorised up or down.
Most of the spec houses that Catskills Farms had in inventory all sold or went into contract in the last few months. (With the exception of one home in Chapin Estate, Catskills Farms is now selling from plans.) Two new construction spec houses by other builders in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, west of Roscoe, that lagged on the market for over a year, are now in contract as well.
As for farmhouses, this is also the first time I can recall that I don’t have a few nicely renovated, well-sized farmhouses on 10 to 20 acres in the $500,000 to $600,000 range to show. There are 3 or 4 beautifully renovated, larger showplaces in the $1M+ range, as well as some houses with compromises in the $400,000 range, but nothing great in that key $500,000 market segment.
The market is definitely very active. But the buyers that are active all seem to be looking for something similar. Setting is key — privacy, or nicely set houses with lake rights or lakefront. Above all, a house has to be charming, or have that ‘vacation feel’, like a cabin or vacation-chalet style. Ranches and anything with vinyl siding is out. And houses with those features are in very short supply.
I gotta say that this is one of the toughest markets that I’ve dealt with, in terms of matching buyers up with appealing houses. We’re already into July, which should be the peak of the annual inventory cycle. The demand is here, but the houses just aren’t.