By Christine Graf
Local builder and real estate broker Cecil Provost has relocated his company’s headquarters to 570 Maple Ave. on Route 9.
Provost is the owner of Saratoga Construction, Saratoga Modular Homes, Saratoga Log Homes, and ProRealty New York Inc. He specializes in building energy-efficient custom and modular homes at affordable prices.
Before making the move to the new headquarters, the company spent 10 years in a leased space on Lake Avenue. Prior to that, they were located on Putnam Street.
According to Provost, the decision to relocate occurred after the perfect property became available. It was purchased in May for $610,000.
“This opportunity came along, and it’s a great location. The building needed some renovations, but we think it will be a nice investment.”
As part of the renovations, Provost transformed the four-bedroom residential home into an office. A 45×50 foot metal garage is now being used as a warehouse.
“We did all an all new mechanical system and all new floors. We created ADA bathrooms and put in a wheelchair lift for handicap accessibility,” said Provost. “On the exterior, we did windows, roof, siding, parking lot, and new lawn.”
Despite rising interest rates, Provost said that the local real estate market continues to boom.
“The market is as strong or stronger than ever. We anticipated that it would slow down with prices and interest rates going up, but we haven’t seen that at all. I think it’s because of a combination of factors. The local economy is very strong, and there is a real shortage of existing homes on the market for sale. Anything that comes on the market is selling quickly with multiple offers.”
Although homes are no longer selling in just a day or two, most are selling in a matter of weeks. Homes that remain on the market for months at a time are most likely overpriced.
“It’s still a very strong seller’s market,” said Provost. “Typically, in our region it’s 90 to 100 days between listing and contract. Earlier this year, it was less than a week. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’m sure it’s less than 30 days right now. We’re nowhere near the historical average.”
Demand is being fueled in part by continued relocations to the area. In addition to those moving to the Capital Region for employment opportunities, Provost said that many people are choosing the area for their retirement homes.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who are selling their homes in downstate, Connecticut, Jersey or wherever and moving here in retirement.”
During Provost’s 37 years in the real estate business, he has noticed that the local economy tends to weather recessions better than many other regions of the country.
“When the rest of the country is going up, we go up also. But when the rest of the country crashes, we seem to see a plateau,” he said. “I’m not even sure if we are going to see a plateau this time. I think we are going to continue to see steady growth—just not as crazy as it has been. I don’t see a real slowdown because I don’t anticipate the number of homes on the market rising any time soon.”
Nationally, he expects regions that are more investor focused to see price reductions. Because the Capital Region is primarily owner occupied, he expects prices to remain fairly stable.
“Between that and the growth coming with GlobalFoundries and everything else going on around here, I don’t see demand declining, and I don’t see inventory rising,” he said. “Therefore, I think prices are going to stay stable and maybe even continue to grow.”
On the construction end of his business, demand remains especially high for his company’s vacation and second homes.
“One of our specialties is lake homes and vacation homes. A lot of people are moving to one of the lakes around here or Lake Placid or North Creek. We have several jobs going on in North Creek right now,” he said.
Provost estimates that the cost of building a new home has risen as much as 40 percent or more when compared to pre-COVID prices. Despite the skyrocketing prices, his construction business is stronger than ever.
“In the niche that we are in, more than half of our customers are paying cash,” he said. “What has been really impacted negatively is the entry level homebuyer–especially someone trying to build a home for less than $300,000.”
Pre-COVID, Provost was building 12 to 14 homes a year. That number has increased to over 30. Currently, he is almost “sold out” for new construction in 2023.
“It’s hard to imagine that happening in November. I never dreamed of being this busy as a builder,” he said.
Provost is on the board of directors for the National Modular Home Builder’s Association. At their annual conference that took place in October, an economist from the National Association of Home Builders presented an economic forecast.
“They are projecting that mortgage rates will come back to somewhere in the mid-5’s. Lumber seems to have stabilized, and that will probably hold into next year,” he said.