Real estate market still strong; prices rising in some areas

ADDISON COUNTY — According to data provided by local real estate experts, this summer’s home sales overall in Addison County have remained on par with the solid performance of 2017, while prices have begun to rise and properties are selling faster.
A major factor in the higher prices and quicker sales is tighter supply, experts said: There are fewer homes on the market in 2018 than in 2017, and competition for desirable properties appears to be having an effect.
At the same time, some segments of the market are lagging compared to others. Addison County’s northern half continues to see stronger sales numbers and prices than the southern half, and there might be softening in the market for lakefront properties, particularly second homes.
Vergennes appraiser Bill Benton, until earlier this year also Middlebury’s longtime town assessor, said Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service data is clear: Sales are virtually identical year-to-year through the MLS, 182 through the end of July 2017, compared to 177 in the first seven months of 2018.
Meanwhile in the first seven months of this year homes lasted on the market an average of 125 days, compared to 147 days in 2017, and the median sales price rose from $247,950 to $265,000 year-to-year in the same time period.
Why? The data show 80 fewer homes for sale countywide on July 31 of this year than on the same date in 2017.
Benton, who sees home prices up by 3 or 4 percent from a year ago, cited the law of supply and demand.
“Last year there were 300 listings. This year there are 220,” Benton said. “So you’ve got a 20, 25 percent reduction in active listings. So that squeezes the market.”
The market is not equal across the board. Values and sales have historically lagged in the county’s southern half, which is further away from Chittenden County jobs and amenities, and 2018 is no exception.
“Middlebury north, including Cornwall and Weybridge, is still pretty strong,” Benton said. “But it is amazing if you go down (southward). There are substantially fewer sales in Bridport, Shoreham, Leicester.”
The county towns with the largest villages appear to be sellers’ markets, even though prices have not risen in all of them:
•  In Middlebury MLS homes that have sold have been on the market so far this year for only 55 days, compared to 90 days in 2018.
Meanwhile, this year’s median sale price of Middlebury homes has risen to $280,000 from $265,000 this past year.
•  In Bristol marketing times have changed even more dramatically, dropping this year to 73 days compared to 201 days a year ago.
Bristol’s median price, however, saw only a slight increase, from $227,950 to $232,000.
•  Vergennes saw 20 percent more sales, according to the data, although marketing times increased from 70 to 120 days.
Benton said the median price is down slightly in Vergennes, to just a little more than $200,000, with slightly different numbers depending on whether properties not sold through the MLS system are included. But he was hesitant to draw conclusions from those numbers.
“There really isn’t enough data to give an accurate picture,” Benton said.
Lynn Jackson Donnelly, a veteran Vergennes Realtor and the broker-owner of the city’s Century 21 Jack Associates branch, agreed the numbers do not reflect activity in the Vergennes-area market. There are plenty of people looking to buy, she said, but not enough available in the market to match buyers and sellers.
“Probably that’s the story, the lack of inventory and the demand by buyers. There are more buyers than there are homes available, and that’s keeping the prices up,” Donnelly said.
Benton and Donnelly offered slightly different takes on lakefront property. Benton is seeing fewer sales this year after a stronger 2017, and wonders if the state’s non-residential school taxes and the preferences for younger buyers for travel rather than second homes might be beginning to undermine the second-home market in Vermont.
“The lakefront market was good last year. There have been a few sales this year, but it’s still been pretty quiet,” Benton said.
He offered a few examples of specific properties that sold for less than their original purchase price.
“Some houses that were on the market for a long time have finally sold, but they’ve come down from $1.2 million to around $900,000,” Benton said.
But Donnelly has at least anecdotal evidence there are still out-of-state buyers looking for homes on Lake Champlain.
“We have one under deposit from New Jersey, one from New York state. So they’re coming from out of town,” she said.
Donnelly and broker Sarah Peluso, who is affiliated with Middlebury agency IPJ Real Estate, also offered different takes on single-family homebuyers in their primary markets.
Donnelly sees some out-of-town buyers, such as incoming United Technologies Corp. employees, but said her firm’s bread and butter in that segment are locals seeking to move within the market.
“The single-home buyers in the towns around us are coming locally, within, people moving from one house to another house,” she said.
Peluso said she sees more buyers from out-of-state, including retirees and telecommuters, as part of a mix that includes people trading up or down within the Middlebury market.
“Our buyers come from all different sources. There are people who come here for jobs at the college. There are also people who are retiring here. I just worked with a family who moved here because he’s the new manager at the Hannaford’s in Middlebury. People move here for all different kinds of reasons,” Peluso said.
One trend Peluso sees might help explain the demand for homes in all three major county villages.
“There are also people who … live in a big house outside of town and want to move into town and walk to stuff. That’s definitely a trend, walkability, being more in a downtown or closer to a downtown so they can walk to things,” she said. “That’s definitely been a trend in both young and old.”
Another trend Benton has noticed is more new construction this year and 2017. Most of the new homes are at the lower end, modular homes, or at $300,000 and up, he said.
“I’ve done more construction this year than I’ve done in a long time, and that’s everything from modular ranches to custom building at $300 a square foot,” Benton said. “It’s the best it’s been in probably 10 years.”
Whether than trend will be enough to produce homes in the volume and in the price ranges the demand is a question.
If it does, local brokers would be happy to sell them. At the end of a phone interview Donnelly paused and asked her associates if they had anything to add. One spoke up in the background.
Donnelly relayed the message: “She just said, ‘We need housing.’”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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