REGION — To the delight of local realtors, rural life—real or perceived—has captured the American imagination. Rope swings, front porches, farmers’ markets and picturesque …
REGION — To the delight of local realtors, rural life—real or perceived—has captured the American imagination. Rope swings, front porches, farmers’ markets and picturesque little towns are so “in” right now that realtors can’t match inventory to demand. Three local realtors did their best to explain the phenomenon. Here is what they said:
Dawn Curreri of Eagle Valley Realty in Narrowsburg said, “People from the New York metro area are shopping for properties in or near ‘charming small towns.’” What does a charm-ing small town look like? “Narrowsburg, Callicoon, Roscoe and Livingston Manor are all the rage right now. They have old-fashioned Main Streets with quaint shops, architecture dating back to early railroad days and breathtaking scenery close at hand. Even Barryville, which doesn’t really have a Main Street, is hot.” Starting two years ago, Curreri noticed an uptick in business, following the real estate crash associated with the Great Recession. “But in the six months preceding the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, business was way up.”
Lynne Freda of Matthew J. Freda Real Estate in Callicoon says 98 percent of her business is second-home buyers from the New York metro area. “A few years ago, they wanted to buy a home in a small town. Now, they want to be within five or ten minutes of one, but they also want enough land to plant a vegetable garden, surround themselves with trees and flowers, and have some privacy. Of course, that’s only until they hear coyotes howling on their doorstep or screech owls flying by their windows. And when they see their first bear strolling in the back-yard, they usually flock into town.”
Tim Meagher of RE/MAX Wayne in Honesdale said, “Second-home buyers from New York and Philadelphia metro areas fuel our local market, along with those hoping to commute from Wayne, Pike and Susquehanna counties to the Scranton Wilkes-Barre area.” He saw recovery from the recession crash begin as early as five years ago, but says the mild winter this year made for easy travel from the metro areas, so the pace of sales continued right through the winter. Asked if he would characterize those sales as a “boom,” he hesitated. “We don’t like to use that word. Booms tend to be followed by crashes.” (The last word was whispered, and he was probably throwing salt over his shoulder as he said it.)
Okay, we know why people are buying, but why are they selling? “For all the ‘usual turn’ reasons,” said Meagher. “People need or want to downsize or upsize. They want to be closer to family, or to move to a warmer climate. After a harsh winter, sellers come out in droves. And there are always ‘sad sales,’ those resulting from death, divorce, job loss and advanced age or chronic illness that necessitates a move into assisted living.”
Didn’t the pandemic shutdown, with all the constraints of “virtual showings and virtual meetings,” cause the real estate market to crash? All three realtors answered emphatically with one word: “No.”
Said Meagher, “We were better prepared for the shutdown than many other industries because we were already using virtual technologies. We use matterport video cameras that permit three-dimensional, 360-degree viewing of properties and structures, making virtual walking tours as close to reality as is currently possible.”
But did people actually buy properties and houses sight unseen? “Among our three offices, 10 properties went into contract after virtual tours only. There were also 40 closings during the shutdown, although those contracts had been in the works since before the shutdown. Mortgage applications and approvals and the closings themselves were all done virtually, with no face-to-face meetings.”
Freda noted that, in addition to virtual technology, buyers with deep pockets got creative during the shutdown. One such buyer, interested in a large tract of land, viewed it from the air via helicopter. “He flew over it, liked what he saw and landed on it to celebrate closing the deal,” said Freda.
But what will happen now, in the wake of the pandemic shutdown and in the midst of economic catastrophe on a par with the Great Depression? Again, the realtors were agreed: The market will pick up where it left off before the shutdown.
Curreri says, “People still want to be in the country, and not just city people looking for a second home. Contrary to popular opinion, more and more locals are opting to stay here, or return after college and early career experience elsewhere. And some people who left for warmer climates or greener pastures are coming back because they didn’t find what they were seeking. This is a sellers’ market. Buyers should expect to pay full list price, if not more. Bidding wars are not uncommon.”
Freda concurs. Although the shutdown continues in NY, both Curreri and Freda are licensed in PA as well as NY, so both had to dash off for their first live showings since the shut-down began. The PA shutdown ended for realtors on May 20; the date was May 21, and pent-up demand was overwhelming.
Meagher likewise apologized for terminating the interview early, as he also needed to respond to client demand. All agents in his offices are fully booked this Memorial Day Weekend. So does he, too, think it’s a sellers’ market? “I think it’s an equally good time for buyers and sellers,” said Meagher. “With interest rates at historic lows (2 percent on 30-year fixed mortgages, and 2.5 percent on 15-year fixed mortgages) buyers have a rare opportunity to make a lifetime investment with minimal financing costs.”
Eagle Valley Realty: 6569 State Rte. 97, Narrowsburg, NY 12764 | 845/252-3085 | firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew J. Freda Real Estate, Inc.: 21 Lower Main St., Callicoon, NY 12723 | 845/887-5640 | email@example.com.
RE/MAX Wayne: 416 Main St. Ste. A, Honesdale, PA 18431 | 570/647-5045, 570/253-95667.