By Rachel Phillips
Winter is finally on its way out, and the real estate market in Saratoga County is starting to pick up steam again. As the market for 2018 comes into full swing, real estate agents have been taking note of emerging trends.
Karen E. Charbonneau of Miranda Real Estate Group Inc. in Clifton Park said while Saratoga County is seeing an increase in new home listings, there isn’t enough housing to meet the demand. She said the lack of housing is in part due to the increased buyer interest in the market.
“In my opinion, people are active in the real estate world, as far as purchasing, because of the increasing interest rates, and the predictions that there will be more increases on mortgage rates in 2018,” said Charbonneau.
She said there’s been a large increase in condominiums in the area, especially in Saratoga Springs, Wilton, Ballston Spa and Clifton Park. While first-time buyers tend to seek out detached homes, she has found that retiring Baby Boomers are often drawn toward the simpler, low-maintenance lifestyle that comes with buying a condominium.
Along with condos, it appears renovating homes is more appealing to buyers.
“It’s becoming more popular to take out a loan to help pay for renovations,” said Charbonneau. She believes rehab loans are becoming more popular not only because banks are marketing them more, but also because buyers are dealing with the limited inventory.
While buyers may not be able to find a home with everything they’re looking for, bundling a renovation loan with a mortgage can mitigate those concerns, as they can alter what they find unappealing.
As far as sellers go, they seem to have the upper hand.
“If a house is priced accurately and is in good condition, it won’t stay on the market long. In previous years, that wasn’t always the case,” said Charbonneau. Despite this, she still urges sellers not to be negligent when putting their homes on the market. Fresh coats of paint in neutral colors, as well as de-cluttering and thoroughly cleaning the space, can go a long way toward helping sellers get top dollar for their homes.
“This year we are starting out with low inventory along with an increase in mortgage rates,” said Lisa McTygue of Julie & Co. Realty LLC in Saratoga Springs. “As typical to Saratoga Springs real estate, the homes listed below $300,000 are flying off the shelves and ending up in multiple offers.”
While buyer demand usually requires a six-month supply of inventory, McTygue noted that Saratoga County only had a 4.5-month supply, and that housing inventory saw a 34 percent decrease since 2016.
Aesthetically, McTygue has also noted a few trends. Carpets are out and buyers tend to want hardwood floors on both the first and second stories of homes. Natural surfaces, such as granite, marble and restored wood beams are trending. She said single-story homes are increasing in popularity among older buyers, which perhaps corresponds to the increase in new construction condos in the area.
“The allure of Saratoga with all it has to offer—history, charm, beautiful architecture, fine dining and lots of culture—are why people want to be a part of our community. The increase in condos and townhomes are a big part of this due to maintenance-free living. Lock your door and leave with no worries.”
Tom Roohan of Roohan Realty in Saratoga Springs said buyers are attracted to downtown and the properties within walking distance of it. “People like things that are walkable to downtown Saratoga, or near the Northway, or near the college, if they work there.”
As far as the high number of second-home buyers in the county, Roohan sees them as an advantage.
“We’re lucky that we have a lot of second-home buyers who are buying condos, because those people spend money in our community, and they don’t put any financial burden on the community,” he said.
Roohan said the residential real estate market is “roughly the same as it’s been the past two years, even though there are more apartments.”
He said the increase in renters in the area is mostly due to the increase in renting opportunities. Even so, he hasn’t noticed that the increase in apartments has had much effect on the home sales, thanks to the tremendous amount of growth in the area.
“We’re the fastest growing county out of the 62 counties in New York,” said Roohan.
Amidst political changes and new tax plans, he advised people to be cautious of increasing interest rates.
“Buyers watch a lot of HGTV and are more particular than they might have been years ago, and they’re sitting on the sidelines” said Roohan. “People should be aware that there are changes happening out of their control.”
Just as buyers of residential properties are being picky, Roohan has also noticed commercial buyers being pickier than they used to be. However, he said there are plenty of opportunities in commercial real estate.
Dean Taylor of Continuum Commercial Realty in Clifton Park, who specializes in commercial real estate, said there is enough inventory to meet demand, but warns that it might not last. “
It is going quick. I expect the inventory to be thin by the end of this year,” he said.
He described the commercial real estate market for Saratoga County as “red hot … this is as good a climate as I’ve seen since I got my real estate license in 1986.”
Taylor has seen a strong desire for leasing warehouse space. He said there are more buyers for this product than there are sellers.
Hal Schultz of H. R. Schultz Real Estate said that there is a shortage of smaller properties for sale. He noted that the market for mixed-use commercial properties is strong, and he expects that growth to continue.
“Saratoga County is a special place, with a world-class standard of living,” said Schultz.