2008-01-17 / Front Page

Island real estate market is strong

By Sam Bari

Compared to the rest of the country, statistics show that the Jamestown real estate market is doing well. When compared to the surrounding area, it is more than holding its own. According to the experts, the high end of the Jamestown market is flourishing, but making sales is not as easy as it once was.

Brokers, agents, and the Jamestown tax assessor's office all agree that Jamestown is an unusual real estate market. If there is a countrywide slump in sales, it has had little affect on Conanicut Island.

According to Gloria Kurz of Mansions and Manors, sales are down by 50 percent in the under $700,000 category. However, sales of $700,000 to $1,000,000 are up by 40 percent. And sales upwards of $1.5 million are up 38 percent. Kurz said that overall revenues from land and single-family home sales of 1.5 million and up more than doubled from 2006 to 2007.

She also said, "We broke the $5,000,000 mark for a single sale for the first time in Jamestown. That's something we're proud of. And that sale was made in 2007." She continued to say that she expects more sales above $5,000,000 in the near future.

Win Reed, a long time agent at Stearns Farms Realty concurred with Kurz and said that the high end of the market is booming, but the sales are not always easy. He also said, "Business is there in the lower end of the market, but we have to work a little harder."

Reed said that the sub-prime mortgage market is experiencing difficulty and banks are more stringent in their lending policies. Consequently, the lower end of the market is affected because borrowers are not always as qualified as those purchasing property for more than $1,000,000.

He continued to say, "It is a buyer's market, but not in the traditional sense. Price is not always the controlling factor. Location and condition of the property are playing major roles in the decision making process. If the price is good, but the home is in need of let's say, new windows, or has an old furnace, buyers are not as willing to be forgiving. They'll look for something else," Reed said.

Kaylan Mcaleer of Lila Delman Realty said, "A lot of buyers looking at Jamestown property are seeking second homes for vacation or investment properties. Consequently, they are usually more qualified for an upscale home or an additional property to what they already own.

"First time buyers are sometimes difficult to qualify, that's why the mid-to-high end of the market is doing better at this time," Mcaleer said. She went on to say that the island has many properties that fall into that category. She also said that homes at the lower end of the market are selling, but sometimes the sale takes a little longer. Mcaleer said that business overall was a little off, but only slightly, and that was mostly at the lower end of the market. "But every sale seems to take a little more work than usual," she said.

Ginny Prichett, a broker at Island Realty, said that Jamestown has a diverse market of both buyers and sellers. She agreed that selling homes at the lower end of the market takes "a little more work," and sellers must be willing to wait longer to get their price. But patience and persistence when matching the right buyers and sellers always pays off.

Prichett indicated that the mean average of homes and property priced under $600,000 might be slightly deflated, but the rest of the market was more than holding its own, although, even selling at the high end is not a walk in the park. "I think the market is so diversified on the island, and the amount of available property is so limited in such a pristine location, that we are not subject to the fluctuations of the market as a whole both regionally and nationally," Prichett said.

"However, both buyers and sellers must understand that location, even across the street, can mean a significant difference in price and the length of time a home is on the market. I encourage people to listen to their advisors, and believe what they have to say. They deal in the business every day and understand the pulse of the market. The economy is not good right now, so everyone is being cautious, especially in the real estate market," Prichett said.

The Warren Group, an organization that publishes real estate statistics in the New England area, said that approximately 77 transactions occurred on the island in 2007, which was the same number as in 2006. However, they also said the median sale price on the island was $535,000, approximately 1.65 percent lower than the previous year. This does not agree with Jamestown tax assessor's office, which reflects the median sale in the mid $700,000 area. The tax assessor did, however, agree on the number of transactions.

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