Realtors See Sudden Boom In Housing Market

Amanda Miller sells and rents homes, especially Waterfront homes, in Cape Vincent. she said that at first the pandemic hurt the market, but now people are buying and renting again. LAUREN MILLER/NNY MAGAZINES

Whether it’s low interest rates or families leaving more populated areas, Realtors went from forecasting a slow season to getting a much needed boost in sales beginning Memorial Day.

    March and April were slow months for seasonal and waterfront homes in much of the north country. However, the housing market in late May and early June has made such a comeback that it could mark a jumping-off point to jolt a pandemic-ridden and flooded past economy. 

     “This past Memorial Day weekend everything just exploded,” said Melanie Curley, a real estate broker with Weichert Realtors, Thousand Islands Realty. “People are making offers, people are listing properties, so it’s really starting out I think to be a very good spring.” 

     Ms. Curley said a purchase offer was accepted for three homes along the St. Lawrence River during Memorial Day weekend alone, and all of the homes sold for between $350,000 and $400,000. She attributes the increase to low interest rates and to families rethinking their priorities during COVID-19 and deciding to relocate to a less populated area. Ms. Curley said her new clients are coming from places like Syracuse, Rochester, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan. 

     “There seems to be more of a sense of urgency,” she said. “I did not expect that.” 

     At the end of May, for the price range she’s seeing, the interest rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage could be just shy of 3 percent, but of course rates are volatile and subject to change daily. 

    “But 3 to 4 percent is almost like free money,” Ms. Curley said. “Honestly, since the meltdown in 2007 and 2008, interest rates have been low. I remember when they were over 15 percent. Anything under 5 is great.” 

    On the flip side, Ms. Curley said she has seen vacation homeowners who decided to take their houses off the market due to COVID-19. 

    “They’re very happy they have a safe haven to come to,” she said. “So we’ve kind of seen both. Some homeowners have said ‘Nope, I’m going to hold off on selling, and we’ve also seen a lot of vacation home buyers pull the trigger, so to speak, and actually write offers.” 

    Cathy F. Garlock, a realtor with Garlock Realty in Alexandria Bay, sells waterfront homes, village properties, residential and some rental. She’s also an island specialist. She, too, said business had been slow until recently. She said it’s due in large part because of what the area offers and low interest rates. 

    “We have natural social distancing,” Ms. Garlock said. “I have seen a real surge in people requesting island properties.” 

    She said she received two offers on island properties, one close to $1 million and the other over. One family was from Pennsylvania and the other New York City. She said families are also coming in part to keep their young and older relatives safe. And the demand for rentals is greater, Ms. Garlock said, perhaps because school is out. 

    As far as reopening the economy fully, Ms. Garlock and other realtors have recently had to follow strict guidelines from the state. Most of what they did was done virtually, from tours to signatures. That ended May 30 when Realtors were allowed to do their preferred in-person showings. 

    “Most of the people I’m showing houses to have already been in quarantine,” she said. “Everybody is just hoping we get back on track, but also realize it’s not something we can rush.” 

    Amanda J. Miller is the broker and owner at Lake Ontario Realty, which covers four counties. She also owns five Airbnb houses herself. When COVID-19 picked up in March, there were several cancellations of her Airbnb listings, but by late May there were only a few vacancies left. 

    As far as her realty business, she too is seeing a sudden hike in sales. She said it’s not every segment of the market, but overall most parts of residential and waterfront have increased significantly. With lake flooding last year, to military families leaving and COVID-19, 2020 had the potential of being another slower year.          “I would never downplay anything that’s going on in the world, but there are some positives that could potentially come out of it,” Ms. Miller said. “And one is it’s giving a boost we have needed for a while.” 

    Ms. Miller said her business has been a mix of single-family residential listings and vacation properties. She also noted the low interest rates, and people wanting to resume some kind of normalcy. 

    “We’re much busier than we have been because last year was a lot of flooding year,” she said. “We’re getting off to a good start.” 

    And she agrees that a sudden increase in houses selling could be the starting point to stimulate local restaurants, shops and hardware stores. 

    “It’s crazy,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be something that I think will start revitalizing the area and the economy and getting things back to normalcy and people spending money, for sure.”