2015 is now in the rear view mirror. Overall, it was a pretty good year for Sullivan County real estate. It will be another week or so before all of the year end closings post to the two MLSs. But looking at the preliminary data, sales volume for the full year will likely be up between 21% and 23% over 2014. While volume was up, prices weren’t. When all of the data is in, the average and median sales prices will likely show a slide of 10-15%. While sellers probably aren’t all that happy with how the year shaped up, sharp pricing was a big contributor to the market pick up.
Something that was very apparent to me in 2015 was how happy my clients were. They liked Sullivan County, and liked what they found here. Sure, you get more for your money here than in the Hudson Valley, which is a big part of our appeal. I didn’t have the sense that buyers were “settling” for Sullivan, but that they actually wanted to be here. I also picked up that we’ve moved back to being a ‘cool’ place, particularly among the 30-something set, which is a backbone of the second home market here. We got a lot of good ink this year, featured in a number of articles about affordable country getaways, as well as travel articles featuring places like the Arnold House near Livingston Manor and the ongoing love affair with Narrowsburg. We even got our own glam mag this year, DV8. Zach Klein’s book, Cabin Porn, which had it’s genesis here, became an Amazon best seller.
In terms of real estate, the clients I worked with in 2015 weren’t as budget focused as the past few years. In 2013 and 2014, I found that a lot of shoppers had very fixed caps on what they were willing to spend, and these caps were often unrealistic for what they wanted. It made it very tough, and also led to a lot of disappointment. A buyer might only want to spend $250,000 on a farmhouse with acreage and privacy, but what they could find at that price point didn’t match their expectations. In 2015, I found buyers to be more flexible with their budget, and willing to look at somewhat higher price points to get more of what they wanted. Don’t get me wrong — buyers were still very value focussed, but the priority seemed to have tipped from just getting a great deal to getting a great house. That resulted in an almost “perfect storm” during the last few months of the year, when buyers who had been looking over the summer without finding what they want moved their range up a bit, and sellers who had failed to find a buyer over the summer cut prices going into winter. The number of deals struck during the 4th quarter was through the roof.
Looking ahead to 2016, I’m very optimistic. The weather forecast is for a mild winter, which will likely mean we’ll have a good second shopping season from mid January to mid March (with buyers looking to be in to a house for summer.) I expect we’ll get some good press in 2016, with the possible opening of the Veria Lifestyle Resort (which broke ground this past summer), Sims Foster’s rooms and restaurant duopoly (with the North Branch Inn joining the Arnold House), and the opening of the Narrowsburg Union, which will offer yet another reason to do a “We Love Narrowsburg” article. Sullivan County is also gaining cred as a ‘brand’ in the city, with locally made beers and spirits making incursions into Brooklyn bars and restaurants, Catskill maple syrup featured on brunch menus, and local cheese finding wider distribution.
So what’s my wish list for 2016? #1 is that sellers who have been on the fence about selling decide to list their property. Limited inventory, particularly in the moderate price range for lakefront houses or country charmers, has been a drag on the market. We could use twice as many lake houses priced between $250,000 and $400,000, for example, than we had in 2015. I’d also love to see the Olympia Hotel in Callicoon completed and reopened. We need a good little hotel in one of the Delaware River hamlets. I’m also hoping that Cuomo’s stalled rural broadband initiative gets off the ground, so high speed internet can be more universally available here (and maybe put up a half dozen more cell towers to fill in the shadow areas in the county.) I want the Brandenburg Bakery to come back to the Callicoon Farmers Market, because I love their bread. On second thought, maybe my midsection is better off if they don’t. I’d also like to see the Pig Mountain pig and veggie fest in Narrowsburg return in 2016 (it took a hiatus last year.)
So a very happy New Year to everyone, and to a very good 2016.