There’s good news in the real estate market and everyone is cautiously optimistic that it will continue. The reasons for the increased activity are the spring market, historically low interest rates, home price reductions, tax relief incentives for first time home buyers, and the tangible presence of confidence in the market.
Bernice Gottlieb, Principal Broker and owner of Hudson Shores Realtors in Irvington, said with a smile, "The phones are ringing again and our agents are out showing properties." Those properties are in the form of single and multi-family homes, condominiums and cooperatives. In contrast to a year ago Ms. Gottlieb reported that there are 25-30% fewer buyers currently in the market. As a result properties are taking longer to sell which eventually causes a lower asking price. "We are advising our clients to list their properties realistically because at the end of the day it is not the realtor or seller who determines what a home is worth – it is the buyer who makes that decision," she said. Another key recommendation which Gottlieb made was the importance of "staging a home" and by that she meant keeping it in pristine condition and well-maintained. She noted that her company was the first to offer a free service that helped sellers present a clutter-free home which offered great appeal to would-be buyers. Her office in Irvington and another in Dobbs Ferry (by appointment only) employ twelve agents, and on the Monday we spoke with her, four agents were out showing homes. "After twenty-five years in real estate, I know when to be optimistic and the time is now," she said.
Janet Nold, who owns Reno Rivertown Reality in Irvington, believes that the next nine months to a year will be the best time for buyers to get into the market.
Top to Bottom: Bernice Gottlieb, Janet Nold, Patti Neuwirth, Louise Colonna, Marcene Hedayati
She has twenty-five years of real estate experience and recently said, "We have already seen prices rise a little over 4 % from March to April of this year. Even if there is another dip in home prices this fall, I think we have finally reached the bottom." According to her, the media has stopped the doom and gloom scenario about the economy. "I realize that job loss and reductions in investment values and savings have occurred, and yet there are people who are financially secure and they are starting to reinvest in our economy. Her office employs ten agents and they have seen a marked increase in sales ranging from $500,000 to $700,000 properties, from cooperatives to entry-level homes. "Last year was very strong for us in the rental of luxury apartments. We saw a large increase in empty nesters and single parents seeking these rentals temporarily," she said. In addition Ms. Nold has seen an increase in short sales where the seller receives an offer on their property which is lower than the amount owed on their mortgage. In that case the seller and the bank must come to an agreement on accepting the lesser amount before the sale of the home can be approved. She said, "Real Estate is and has always been cyclical. It is the last thing to go down and yet it always comes back up. People need to remember that there is always a need to sell homes, buy them or relocate to another area. If a home is priced right it will sell. The buyers are there."
In Tarrytown, Patti Neuwirth’s Hudson Homes office and its eleven agents are feeling the return of confidence in both sellers and buyers. "We’ve been fortunate in the river towns to not feel the real estate crisis as acutely as other parts of the country. I think you can attribute that to the affluence of our residents and to the close proximity of New York. These are coupled with the fact that Tarrytown has truly become a destination for people seeking an urban feel. The Village has quaint shops, a variety of restaurants, and the surroundings are beautiful," Neuwirth said. She also stressed that her office was open seven days a week and staffed by agents who live in the community and are familiar with all facets of village life. "We’re a team and everybody pitches in. For instance, buyers may be educated but not necessarily aware of Village codes, laws, taxes and tax exemptions. We are, and we even obtain "field cards" on each home we are involved with. We know if the home is in accordance with the records at Village Hall. Does it have the CO for a new porch and has each room within the home been recorded?" Neuwirth added, "This is the attention to detail we routinely provide and it can mean a fairly quick sale of a home or point out problems that hinder its sale." She also added that being an eternal optimist has helped her through the past few years. "Our people are tops and the river towns are beautiful places to live. Real Estate is cyclical and it’s on the upswing."
Louise Colonna manages a Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate/Rand Realty office in Tarrytown, and one in Briarcliff Manor. She presented some interesting facts from Rand’s own Market Report. The Report was for the 1st Quarter of 2009. It went on to say that the real estate market in Westchester and the Hudson Valley "experienced a shock to the system in the first quarter of 2009." The total number of homes sold in that quarter was the lowest in a decade.
Average sale prices dropped by as much as 25%. Once again, the cyclical nature of real estate and Ms. Colonna’s twenty three years of experience in the industry has tempered her outlook. "The buyers are out there. We had three homes go into contract in May and we closed on a two million dollar property in Sleepy Hollow in early June. The higher end real estate properties are coming alive again," she said.
According to her, the buyers that held off last year are coming back again due to a feeling of confidence in the economy and the stock market. "It is definitely a time for buyers to get off the fence. Sellers are much more approachable and interest rates are at good levels. Should they rise too high it will affect people’s purchasing power," she added. When asked about her company’s recent shift away from Prudential to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, her reply was succinct. "We’ve moved from Wall Street to Main Street, and by that I mean our focus now is on the more tangible aspects of a home — the comfort features that people want. Approaching real estate not so much as an investment but rather an environment that makes the buyer happy. Better Homes and Gardens gives us that opportunity."
In Sleepy Hollow, Marcene Hedayati, Broker, owner and managing partner of Legends Realty has a dozen years of experience in the real estate industry. Defining the relatively new agency she said, "Legends came about at the right place and the right time. The five partners knew each other and knew the community inside and out." The philosophy that runs through Legends, according to Ms. Hedayati, is that the business of real estate is about the agents and not the company. According to her, small independent companies have a great deal to offer in terms of personalized service. At present there are 15 agents that work out of the principal office in Sleepy Hollow and a smaller office in Tarrytown. "Everybody I have spoken with says there has been an upswing in this spring market. There is a mind-set of growing confidence in people. Prior to the presidential election the entire industry was in the stop mode. The spring market is usually active and I believe it will continue through the summer as well," she said. That optimistic projection of an upward trend in real estate sales has been reinforced by the increased activity in her offices. "We are close to New York City and we have beautiful residential areas. All the pieces are in place for the market to continue upward," she noted.