The past couple of days I’ve been making arrangements to go out a new client this Saturday. What they’re looking for in a second home getaway is fairly ‘typical’ — a house with some charm or unique character, nice quiet country setting with some privacy, 3 bedrooms, under $300,000, willing to do some updating or reconfiguration. A no-brainer, right? There will be dozens of houses on the market to choose from. After all, the market has collapsed and everyone, just everyone, has put their house on the market, and at fire sale prices to move them.
Wrong. Big time wrong. From the MLS I only found about 15 possibles. After looking the listings over and talking about the various houses, the client and I shrunk the list down to about 8. Then I started calling to make appointments to show the houses, and found that 3 of the 8 had deals on them.
I’m finding a similar situation in a number of other property categories. I have someone looking for a nice lakefront house on a non-motorboat lake, something with a little acreage and privacy. Good budget, not bargain hunting, but there’s very little available. And then there’s someone looking for a non-lakefront house at Black, York, Timber or Wolf — and again, nothing apart from one house at Wolf that needs significant updating. There hasn’t been a non-lakefront house at Black, York or Timber on the market in six months. I’ve worked with a couple of folks who have been looking for good fly fishing property on one of the Big 3 rivers for over 6 months, and there’s been almost nothing available.
If the market is so bad, where’s all the inventory? A year ago there were a number of cabin or chalet-style houses at modest prices on the market in Black Forest Colony and Pine Ayre. Now, nothing. (Well, there is a larger house in Black Forest at $399K, and a new construction cape in Pine Ayre, but neither hit the target for the moderate getaway buyer.) There isn’t even a lakefront house on Loch Ada, and as long as I can remember there’s always been one lakefront house on the market there.
The inventory of available houses in Sullivan County is actually dropping. Today, there are 1,129 single family houses listed for sale in the Sullivan MLS, down from 1,160 at the beginning of November. Market pessimists will surely say, "Just wait until the world as we know it collapses. The market will be flooded by second home owners trying to get out." But the fact is that most second home owners are quietly enjoying their houses, and not looking at them as just pieces of an investment portfolio to shift to another category.
I do think, though, we’ll see something different with raw land. I don’t track land inventory historically, so don’t have the figures on how much there was on the market a month or year ago versus today. But I would venture that most owners don’t have the same "enjoyment attachment" to land, even if they bought it with plans to build rather than hold for investment.