A rising tide for Ulster County real estate?

It was John F. Kennedy who was best known for his use of the reassuring words that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Kennedy, who attributed the origin of the phrase to the people of Cape Cod, applied the principle to economic circumstances. It’s been known in American politics, intended at some times reassuringly and at other times dismissively, ever since.

Does a rising real-estate tide lift the value of all residential properties? As noted here about a month ago, 2019 was a good year for residential property sales in Ulster County, with the median sold price of the 1665 transactions reported by the local Multiple Listing Service at $250,000, up 9.2 percent from the median price of such properties in 2018. Sales activity was reported to have been particularly strong in the last quarter of 2019.

The rising tide lifted some Ulster County property prices more the others, and in some localities more than others. In Kingston, the median sold price of residential properties in 2019 was $191,750, up almost 20 percent over the previous year’s median price. In Woodstock, the median sold price was $420,000 in 2019, a hefty sum by most Ulster County standards but a gain of only four percent over the previous year.


This week we add data about three more Ulster County communities to the picture.

Based on 202 transactions in both 2019 and 2018, the median selling price of a residential property in Saugerties increased 9.9 percent to $223,000 in 2019, a slightly higher hike than for properties in the county as a whole. The number of residential properties selling for under $200,000 decreased from 100 to 81, while those selling for between $200,000 and $500,000 increased from 90 to 111.

Sold prices in New Paltz, which had 88 transactions in 2018 and two more last year, increased more than the county average, too. Median sold prices increased from $284,000 to $316,250, a gain of 11.4 percent. Less expensive starter homes are becoming harder to find in New Paltz. There were 20 sales below $200,000 in 2018, and only seven in 2019.

The rising-tide theory didn’t apply to Gardiner this past year, with the median residential sold price dipping substantially from $407,000 in 2018 to $358,750 in 2019. The number of Gardiner residences sold in the $300,000-to-$500,000 bracket increased from 17 in 2018 to 32 in 2019, while those sold for more than $500,000 decreased from 21 to eleven.

The small number of transactions (55 to 60 a year) in Gardiner is one possible explanation for the dip; the lower number is less statistically reliable. But a changing marketplace may also be at work here. Certain localities may attract more activity from the home-buying population than others.

A longitudinal study (repeated observations over a longer period) might more accurately pinpoint the forces at work. We might find that observed local differences in tides examined over a longer time turn out to be – excuse the pun – a wash.

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