“I’ve had a very good year,” said Rich Caplan, broker at The Hermitage Deerfield Valley Real Estate in Dover. “The office in general has had a good year. We’ve gotten a late season push this year, just with general real estate. Typically I don’t have deals in my hopper this time of year, we’re usually in between the fall and winter selling seasons.”
The numbers bear that optimism out, says Wilmington broker Meg Streeter.
“According to the MLS data I’m seeing,” said Streeter, “sales of single-family homes and condos are up 20% over 2016 for the county. Dover and Wilmington are lagging a little, only up around 10%. But the trend is up since 2012.”
“I’m way up,” said broker John Redd, of Ski Home Realty in Dover. “Part of that is because we’ve diversified. I used to play the trailside niche, but now we’re selling a lot of stuff. I have five agents working with me and everybody has their own specialty.”
While local sale prices range broadly, all brokers agreed the middle of the price range was where most sales seem to be falling.
“It’s still the middle market that sees the bulk of the sales,” said Streeter. “The median price for a single family home in Dover or Wilmington is still around $240,000. That price range should get a buyer a three-bedroom home or condo in good condition.”
“There’s plenty of stuff in the mid to low end of the price range,” said Redd. “I’ve seen sales of less than $150,000 for a house, or a three-bedroom condo at Deer Creek for $150,000. There’s a new listing of a Timber Creek condo at $209,000. That’s still a deal.”
All of the brokers noted that pricing has been relatively flat around the valley for a decade or more, and that little new inventory is being built by developers. That has made for a strong resale market.
“The interesting thing is with all of our inventory here, it’s very price sensitive,” said Caplan. “People need the value proposition. If they think ‘I’m getting a good deal,’ they’re pulling the trigger. That’s the value proposition, along with the price point.”
Redd echoed Caplan’s point. “There is a ton of inventory. More and more property keeps coming on the market. The biggest challenge is sorting though what is value and what’s properly priced.”
Caplan also noted that with so many resales, part of the value proposition includes renovation work on the purchased property. “There is so much renovation work in this valley, it will go on for the next umpteen years.”
But the market outlook is not completely rosy. High-priced properties, in particular, have a ceiling here in the valley that might be lower than other areas in Vermont. Streeter said about the same number of million-dollar homes have sold this year as last year. Caplan noted that uncertainty about the Hermitage Club’s financial situation had cooled the market for homes around Haystack. Redd had a listing for a house that was built for more than $6 million that didn’t sell. The slopeside mansion at Mount Snow eventually sold at auction for $1.9 million this summer.
“That tells me the top end of our market is about $2 million,” said Redd.
Compared to other resort areas, that’s a bit low for high-priced housing. According to vermontrealtors.com, a single-family home in Stratton sold for $2.4 million in November, higher than any property that has sold in the valley this year.
Affordable housing can also be an issue. While numerous properties are available on the market at the low end of the price scale, they may come with a hidden cost.
“Affordable housing is really, really tough,” said Streeter. “That’s the challenge here. Houses in this area are 1970s-era chalets that need everything renovated.”
Caplan was more optimistic. “For somebody who’s a fairly low wage earner, there are great deals here. This is a great place to live, there’s a lot of inventory, and there are good deals out there.”
But Caplan is concerned about some of the aging inventory as well, and he cited a condominium development built in the early 1980s.
“Timber Creek has a special assessment coming up for $25,000 per unit. They will be re-siding everything. It will be really interesting to see how that $25K will affect future sales. Their association dues are already $600 month. Some vacation-home owners may not be willing to pay that. It’s going to drive the prices down.”
Redd noted that vacant land sales are difficult. He described a sale by one of his office’s agents that closed for $5,000, netting a $250 commission, and said he has yet to sell a single lot at Sundance Village, a planned slopeside development at Mount Snow.
“Second-home owners aren’t interested in actually building a second home,” said Redd. “Selling high-priced lots takes a lot of work. The buyer has to find an architect, pick out furniture, cabinets, and paint, and make a lot of decisions. It’s too much for many.”
Streeter added she was concerned with the number of vacant commercial properties in Wilmington village.
But overall, the brokers are optimistic about the future of the local real estate market, and each of them has decades of experience in the valley to back that up.
“I think it will continue,” said Streeter. “Mount Snow is still the main draw, and everybody is hopeful the Hermitage Club will come along.”
“The real story,” said Redd, “is the tremendous sense of optimism because of Mount Snow and the hope that the Hermitage Club will get its act together.”
“I’m encouraged, overall, that we’re going to have a good year,” said Caplan.