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Uptick on the ground

Olive real estate is solid thanks to second homers

by Violet Snow
December 30, 2010 01:24 PM | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo by Violet Snow.
Photo by Violet Snow.
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“I’ve sold a lot of second homes in Olive,” says Barbara O’Hare of Westwood Metes and Bounds Realty in Woodstock. “Dual residents in Olive aren’t necessarily married to being part of a community. People who want to be part of the action tend to buy in Phoenicia and Woodstock, where they can have more of a village experience. The Ashokan Reservoir gives Olive a more rural atmosphere because so much land was purchased by New York City to protect their watershed.”

Heather Martin of Heather Martin Realty in Boiceville says, like O’Hare, that 2010 was a good year for Olive real estate. “We had an awesome year,” Martin reports. “We’ve been selling more houses than last year, and it’s stayed steady as far as price goes. Buyers are looking for that awesome deal.”

Despite tax increases due to the large-parcel legislation and the town-wide property revaluation in 2005, taxes are still lower in Olive than in other parts of Ulster County, says O’Hare, due to the presence of the New York City-owned reservoir. While many locals chafe at restrictions imposed by the city, the reservoir makes the area more desirable for homebuyers who are looking to save money and want to get away from it all.

“A lot of people buying second homes want to be off the road, kind of hidden from neighbors,” says Martin, “but where they still feel secure that there’s a store in Boiceville or Shokan. We have a lot of those properties in Olive.”

Privacy may be a priority for many buyers, but those who reside full-time find there’s a strong local community. O’Hare notes that Olive doesn’t have an old-fashioned town center because the creation of the reservoir left several villages underwater. But the spirit of the old towns remains, perhaps intensified by the loss. “The sense I get is that once you live in Olive, you don’t want to leave,” she remarks. “Taxes are better, and there’s an unspoken feeling that people are going to stick together.”

All of local real estate took a dive when the recession hit, says O’Hare, with prices dropping almost 17 percent in 2008. “My income went down by half in 2009,” she recalls. “We’re still feeling the impact, with values way down, but they’re stabilizing, and buyers have come out of the woodwork after the first shock. At the beginning, everything came to a halt — people panicked. It took us a while to realize the world was not coming to an end. I didn’t dare do anything — I was making tuna fish sandwiches every day.”

O’Hare says the second-home market was more affected than the local market, due to the first-time homebuyer tax credit that kicked in soon after the recession hit. “Primary residences in the lower price range were selling a lot,” she says. “When the tax incentive was over, the primary residence market slowed down. But it’s a psychological thing.

Town in demand

Later on, interest rates went down, and with the lower house prices, you could get the same deal, but people haven’t been buying. In the last month, interest rates were up slightly, but it’s still phenomenally attractive.”

She compared interest rates of the late 70s, when they reached 18 percent, to today’s rates, which have been hovering around 4 and 5 percent. In some cases, says O’Hare, “a two-income family can afford to buy a nice little starter home in Olive for cheaper than renting.” A three-bedroom colonial on a cul-de-sac might go for $200,000, she says. With 20 percent down, a 4.5 percent mortgage would run $810 a month, plus about $400 a month in taxes, for a property that would rent for $1500.

Martin says she has also had a number of first-time buyers, as well as local clients selling and moving within the area.

Meanwhile, the dual-residence buyers, after “holding back to see how the market would settle out,” are returning, O’Hare observes, adding, “Now my business is back on track. This year Olive had approximately the same number of houses sold as we have houses on the market. That shows the town is in demand.”

Martin is finding clients interested in house hunting even in winter over the past year, with a number of closings in January, February, and March. “Normally it slows right down this time of year,” she says, “but I even had a closing last Christmas Eve.”

There’s also a market for undeveloped property in Olive. One resident was looking to sell 10 acres of his land located in a sensitive area along the Esopus Creek. “I contacted the city,” O’Hare says, “and they made a very nice offer. It took over two years to close, because the city moves slowly, but the seller was happy at the thought that nothing could be built next door to his house.”

Reports Martin, “I am currently negotiating two parcels of vacant land.  I have not seen too much activity with undeveloped land, but they are starting to come back to take a peek, new construction being an option for clients now that prices have dropped.” ++

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