Vermont Market News:
|The following report on current trends and prices first appeared the Vermont Market News section in the June - July 2013 edition (Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 14-15) of Vermont Property Owners Report.|
Stronger Sales, Higher Median Price Trends
|Sales volume has continued to improve in 2013, with MLS figures showing that the number of existing primary and vacation homes sold in Vermont this year through April was up nearly 17% from the same time last year.
Bankers confirm the higher activity, which is being helped by low interest rates and is occurring nationally. Kathy Simanskas, VP of mortgage origination for the VSECU credit union, told VPOR that, in addition to continued refinancing, she is seeing more purchase mortgage activity statewide. “The market is really improving,” she said.
Meanwhile, median prices of most categories of property are up (see charts at right), with larger land parcels leading the way, up 15% on a per-acre basis. The median vacation condo sale price continues to lag significantly behind last year, however.
Median prices for homes sold through MLS this year are up almost 8% through April compared to the same time period last year, although that does not necessarily mean home values are rising that much. A higher median can simply reflect greater sales activity at higher price ranges.
Indeed, there appears to be more activity in the higher price ranges. In the last few months, there have been four house sales in Vermont at or above $2 million, in Manchester, Ludlow, and Stowe.
In the Stratton area, broker Betsy Cetron of Winhall Real Estate said she was aware of two high-end properties under contract that had not yet closed, one listed at $1.9 million and another at $1.65 million. In both cases, the buyers were “upgrading” from Stratton condos to country homes, she said.
“We had a great ski season,” Cetron said. “Between that and Wall Street doing well, we have been impacted in a very positive way.” The lower end of the market near Stratton has also been active, she said, but she noted that the $500,000 to $900,000 market “is still floundering a bit.”
In the Woodstock area, which is 75% a second-home market, the increased sales activity is happening at all price levels, including as high as $3 million, according to broker Geoff Eckler of Woodstock Properties. But he cautioned that only properties that are priced right are moving.
“I have seen some new listings where the sellers are hearing about the great national market improvement and want to list high and fool a buyer,” he said. “But buyers are way too astute for that, and buyers are patient.”
Nationally, resales of existing homes in April were up 9.7% from a year ago, while the median price was up 11%, according to the National Association of Realtors. The increases in the Northeast lagged behind the rest of the country: sales rose 4.9% and the median price was up 5.1%.
While Vermont’s figures appear to be topping the rest of the Northeast, the market is not active in all parts of the state. In Brandon, located halfway between Rutland and Middlebury, the residential and commercial markets have been “pretty quiet,” according to broker Tom Whittaker of Whittaker Real Estate. The market on nearby Fern Lake and Lake Dunmore “was fine last year, with good interest, but this year we don’t have as much lake inventory,” he added.
In Middlebury, the market was sluggish to start the year but has picked up recently, according to broker Tom Walsh of Bill Beck Real Estate. Although MLS statistics suggest that sales and the median price are up fairly strongly in Addison County, Walsh noted there are only a small number of sales in the county in winter and early spring.
Walsh prefers to monitor the local market by looking at year-long median and average prices, and he said those have not changed much. According to his statistics, over the past eight years the Addison County median house sale price has stayed in a band between $215,000 and $235,000. Last year, the median county price was $220,000.
Meanwhile, owner/broker David Rowell at the Peter Watson Agency, serving Greensboro, Craftsbury and surrounding towns in the Northeast Kingdom, is a happy man. He said he loves living where he does and that business is good.
In dollar terms, Rowell reported, his firm sold more real estate last year with one office and three brokers than in the history of the firm, including when it had three offices and 12 brokers. “This year is shaping up to be a good year, too,” he said.
“We sold all types of property: high end, low end, everything from $100,000 to $900,000,” he said. “There weren’t many land sales last year, but we are seeing more large tracts sell this year.”
Rowell said it is true some properties in the area are still sitting on the market for a long time, sometimes because the owner can’t afford to sell for less than they have invested in the property. And, he noted, “there are only so many buyers who will come to this area in a given year,” he said.
Staige Davis, an owner of Lang McLaughry with offices around the state, has a good overview of the Vermont market. He said the beginning of the year was great, and that his firm is still ahead of last year, but that pending sales as of early May were not as strong as he would like to see.
“Some areas of the state are better than others,” he noted. “Statewide, sales will be strong one week but not the next. But our brokers are really busy, so there is buyer interest.”
In Chittenden County, the state’s largest, MLS figures showed sales are up, but not as strongly as in the rest of the state. That may stem from declining inventory; broker Nancy Jenkins reported the the number of single-family homes for sale in the county earlier this spring was at a five-year low.
In the Barre-Montpelier area, sales are up, but median prices are flat after dropping last year. In one new trend there, appraiser Guy Andrews, SRA, reported he is seeing more new construction loans. “It looks like people who bought land in the past now want to build,” he said.
[Graphs are also included in each full issue of VPOR.]
|This report on current trends and prices first appeared in the
June - July 2013 edition (Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 14-15)
of Vermont Property Owners Report.
|More sample articles from Vermont Property Owners Report