The Hudson Valley in general, and recently Ulster County in particular, have gotten national attention for the precipitous rise of the cost of housing. But the mass exodus of buyers from the New York City area to upstate covers a lot more ground than that.
Delaware County, the forgotten, sleepy area the size of Rhode Island, has been white-hot, too.
The shocking inflation in prices upstate is driving buyers further into the Catskills. Buyers have been introduced to new areas by Airbnb or friends who fled into the hills and invited them to follow. The old reluctance to travel outside convenient mass-transit routes or beyond a two- and-a-half-hour travel time from the city has evaporated. Delaware County is very much on their radar.
Franklin, the little town where I live, is particularly in demand. Every buyer I’ve worked with this year has known about Franklin, and many of them say it is their community of choice. Just as I saw happen in Kingston, they know people who live here, or they know people who want to live here, and they’re spreading the word.
But it’s not just Franklin. Meredith, Davenport, Kortright, Hobart — all beautiful areas that buyers used to argue were “too far.” Not any more.
Despite that, and despite a strong demand for rural properties, what’s interesting is that the urban expat clients I’ve encountered have a strong sense of the market, or at least what Zillow has told them the market is. They know it’s a seller’s market, but they’re not jumping to pay what they believe are inflated prices.
Good houses with prices that are higher than similar houses in the same community are not selling fast. They sell eventually, because there just isn’t enough inventory to meet the demand this year. But they’re sitting on the market longer.
Finding that dream property
Good houses with prices that seem in line with other properties get snapped up. And if they look like a bargain? Gone. Very quickly.
Properties with commercial potential aren’t moving yet. That’s how it happened in Kingston, too. First, the people moved in. Then the investors and businesses moved in to capitalize on the new customer base.
My phone had been ringing throughout the shutdown. People stuck at home had plenty of time to surf the Internet, looking for their dream property in the country. Once the restrictions were relaxed, the floodgates opened and the buyers poured in. I collected Covid disclosure forms, handed out masks and gloves, and followed buyers around houses, wiping down doorknobs with disinfectant cloths as we went.
According to the Otsego Delaware MLS statistics for late September, 17 properties sold in the Town of Franklin since March. Two more are pending, and several more have an accepted offer. There are six homes for sale for more than half-a-million dollars now. That’s all unusual. It’s a small town.
Expanding the view, 549 properties listed on the Otsego-Delaware Multiple Listing Service have sold since March 1. The average sale price was $193,227. Average days on the market was 170.
Delaware County accounts for 313 of those sales. Average sale price was $212,000. Otsego County, the far more affluent neighbor to the north, is a trickier proposition to analyze – Cooperstown, which is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Otsego Lake and the Dreams Park, skews the stats to the high side. In addition, few Cooperstown real-estate agents list their properties on the local MLS. But anecdotally, the talk in the market is that the Otsego County expat influx is not as lively as the one in Delaware County. And the fact that SUNY Oneonta created a newsworthy spike in Covid-19 cases when it reopened likely didn’t help matters.
What’s eye-popping in the overall statistics is sales price. The average sales price was 97 percent of asking. That’s the definition of a sellers’ market. And that’s something this area hasn’t seen since 2001.
Stronger market, higher prices
That kind of frenzy is common in the Hudson Valley now. I have a former colleague who was stunned to sell one of his luxury listings in a community near the Hudson for a full $100,000 over asking.
Downstate buyers looking in Delaware County expect to find bargains, and they do. But the market here isn’t what it was even two years ago. It’s much stronger. And prices reflect that.
Once the contract is signed, the secondary effect of the shutdown becomes clear. Buyers and sellers both need to be prepared for the frustratingly slow experience that follows the excitement of an accepted offer. The spring shutdown has impacted everything, and closings that once took six to eight weeks are taking three months or more. Lawyers are swamped, title search companies are drowning. Some banks are moving forward fairly smoothly, others are crawling. Sellers are angry and buyers are, too, but there’s nothing anyone can do. There’s a backlog after the shutdown, and it was compounded by a flood of new deals. It’s just slow.
How long will the sellers’ market hold? No one knows. But many of our buyers are working from home now. All they need is a good Internet connection. And a place to unwind. With DelhiTel and OE Connects stringing fiber optic through the area, the western Catskills aren’t looking like a step too far any more.