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‘They’re buying everything’

Adirondack real estate boom hasn’t let up a year after pandemic prompted people to seek getaways

Housing in the Adirondacks is still in high demand more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic triggered a rush of homebuyers in metropolitan areas to search for a rural respite.

As of April, the latest month for which there is local market data, there were fewer homes on the market than there had ever been in the past 15 years. More properties were sold in the first three months of this year than were sold during the same period last year, or even the year before that. Properties are lingering on the market for less and less time, and many local Realtors continue to field multiple offers on properties that are at or above listing price.

Because of the high demand and low supply, prices are skyrocketing, leaving lower-income buyers who can’t bid competitively priced out of many properties.

“We are clearly in a seller’s market, and have been for well over a year,” said Rob Gillis, owner of Gillis Realty, based in Tupper Lake and Long Lake.

Margie Philo, owner of Berkshire Hathaway Adirondack Premier Properties in Lake Placid, said she’s heard a variety of reasons for why so many people are choosing to buy homes in the Adirondacks right now.

“It’s almost like the perfect storm,” she said.

Interest rates remain low — 3% and under, Philo said. Many companies are continuing to have employees work remotely, giving people the option to work from wherever they’d like.

“There have been people who have been stuck inside for a year or more, they’ve thought about how they’ve always wanted to buy real estate, and they’ve had some time to look,” she added.

Inventory — the number of homes on the market — is very low in the Adirondacks, but that’s a nationwide trend, according to Philo.

“The only place where inventory is still readily available is in inner cities, where people are leaving,” she said.

An April report from the National Association of Realtors, based on input from 3,541 Realtors across the country, showed that with so few homes on the market across the country, homes typically sold within 17 days of being listed — that’s down from 27 days in April 2020. The bulk of home buyers, 85%, were looking for homes in a small town, rural area or resort area.

The number of homes on the market across New York state has declined rapidly. In April 2020, there were 49,195 residential units on the market. This past April, that number had dwindled by more than 21%, to 38,751 properties, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. On average, compared to April 2020, the number of days residential properties were on the market this April declined by six days, or 7.8%, to 71 days.

Within the Adirondack counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton and Warren, the market trends are similar. The number of homes on the market in these counties, collectively, has shrunk from 907 in April 2020 to 378 this past April, according to a report from the Northern Adirondack Board of Realtors. The number of days homes have stayed on the market has declined, and the price of homes continues to skyrocket. The median sales price for residential properties was $225,000, an increase of more than 32% over April 2020.

Michael Coughlin, association executive for the Clinton County Board of Realtors and the Northern Adirondack Board of Realtors, told the News last year that inventory had been low nationally for more than a year before the coronavirus pandemic. He attributed the lack of inventory to the 2008 recession. At that time, buying a home was very difficult, so Coughlin said people turned to remodel the homes they already owned instead, putting their money into improving and expanding their houses.

It’s not just residential real estate selling. Gillis spoke about a variety of factors in play in Tupper Lake, such as the construction of the rail trail, which he believes bodes well for the future of businesses in Tupper Lake and by extension, the commercial market.

Philo ticked off a list of commercial properties listed by her agency that have either recently been sold or are currently under contract.

“They’re buying vacant land, commercial, residential,” she said. “They’re buying everything.”

Philo cautioned buyers to work with a Realtor who is experienced and knows the market.

“It’s very competitive now,” she said. “It didn’t used to be competitive like this.”

Gillis, who has been a real estate broker for 35 years, said he’s never seen a real estate market like this. He expects it to continue this way through 2021 — for 2022, he’s crossing his fingers.

“I’ve never seen the market this robust,” he said. “If you want to sell, now is the time.”