2017-08-10 / News

Real estate sales revert to norms

After red-hot 2016, numbers down but prices way higher

The home at 1088 East Shore Road is Northpoint, a 1.6-acre stone and shingle cottage overlooking the East Passage, which sold for $5.75 million in April. The home at 1088 East Shore Road is Northpoint, a 1.6-acre stone and shingle cottage overlooking the East Passage, which sold for $5.75 million in April. In the battle between quantity and quality, local real estate firms have seen less of the former but more of the latter so far in 2017 compared to this time last year.

According to the Rhode Island Association of Realtors’ multiple listing service, 68 properties have been sold on the island from Jan. 1 through Aug. 7. Of those, 56 were single-family homes, a decrease of 27 percent when compared to the 77 homes sold during that same time frame last year. By the end of 2016, 114 homes had been sold, which was a 41 percent increase from 2015.

So far, 106 single-family homes have gone on the market since January.

According to local Realtors, the decrease in sales this year is not a result of a poor housing market on the island, but simply a fall from atypically high numbers from 2016.

Bob Bailey, of Lila Delman Real Estate, attributed last year’s high numbers to it being a presidential election year, which usually brings with it uncertainty about the housing market for the coming year.

“I feel that a little bit of the buying spree that occurred in 2016 was in an election year, where both buyers and sellers were fearful of what might transpire after the election, whether it be increased interest rates or change in tax codes,” he said. “Whenever there’s an election year, many times we see stronger sales volume for people to go ahead and know what they’re dealing with tax codes that are currently on the books.”

Mean, median prices up

The average sales price for a home so far this year has been about $950,000, a 37 percent increase from this time last year, when the mean was about $693,000. The median sales price was about $651,000 so far this year, a 12 percent increase from 2016’s median price of approximately $581,000.

Bailey said that for homebuyers, the median prices were a better indicator of the typical going rate for a home in Jamestown. The average price, he said, could be skewed by unusually high or low sales.

“The median constitutes a better average of what community values are,” he said.

Carol Hopkins, of Island Realty, noted the busiest months for house sales seems to change each year, and 2017 may not have reached its peak yet.

“It’s hard to say,” she said. “It might be a more active month in September this year.”

She said one of the possibilities could be that there are more properties for sale in the higher end of the market than the low end. This would result in a decrease in the number of prospective home owners who are able to afford one of the houses currently for sale on the island.

“You have more buyers in a lower price range than you do in a high price range,” she said. “In town has gotten really expensive, and you see a lot of houses in the $8 million or $9 million range in the village. If something is priced around $500,000 or $600,000, it goes right away.”

Both Bailey and Hopkins said the the luxury high-end market for homes priced at more than $1 million has been relatively slow this year.

“I’ve seen some stuff go for in the $2 million range on East Shore Road, but the high end? It’s been sitting,” she said. “It’s a small pool of buyers with the wherewithal to purchase properties in that price range.”

Despite the lack of interest in the high-end market, at least one multi-million dollar deal was closed this spring when a waterfront home on East Shore Road sold by Lila Delman Real Estate for $5.75 million in April, the highest price a single-family home has gone for on the island since 2015. The least expensive house on the island was one on Hall Street that sold for $275,000.

Village still most popular

For the past several years, the village has been the section of the island that has seen the highest demand from people who are looking to buy a home in town. However, there can be a long wait for a village property to come onto the market in a buy- er’s price range, and some decide to look elsewhere in Jamestown instead, the Realtors said.

“Sometimes, when people don’t find what they want in the village, they go north or south and they discover a new portion of the island,” Hopkins said. “We sold a house recently to a couple that looked for a couple years just in the village and they couldn’t find what they wanted, so they ended up buying on the north end and they love it.”

Out-of-staters prevalent

Gloria Kurz, of Mansions and Manors, said properties typically average about 130 days on the market, although she noted this number may not be accurate because some properties might have been taken off the market and re-listed.

Both Hopkins and Bailey said most of their recent showings have been to prospective homebuyers who are planning to move to Jamestown from another state. Hopkins said the island remains attractive to these buyers because of the small-town lifestyle and taxes that are lower than nearby communities.

“You can buy the same type of house in another community than Jamestown for less money, but you don’t get the lifestyle,” she said. “Our taxes are super low compared to Aquidneck Island and North Kingstown. They’re about half for the same priced house.”

Other buyers purchasing homes are doing so as second homes or as an option for the future.

“It seems to be people that see the potential of buying a property here, renting it out and visiting part of the year, and then the house being their retirement home,” she said. “I’ve heard that probably 10 times this weekend.”

Bailey said buyers who are moving into Jamestown from elsewhere in the state also are attracted to the low taxes, but families also take the town’s high-performing school system into account. The proximity to Newport and the train stations in Kingston and Wickford also were factors, he said.

Despite the decreased number of sales, Hopkins still considers the housing market in Jamestown to be healthy, and she and other Realtors have had multiple showings every week this summer.

“I think it’s a good year,” she said. “We’ll see at the end of the year if it’s an outstanding year.”

Kurz said she expected the housing market on the island to be strong until year’s end due to low unemployment rates, the record highs on the stock market and the decrease in housing inventory. However, she also said anyone looking to buy a home on the island should not wait because the market is currently in good shape.

“Don’t sit on the fence,” she said. “If you wait too long, you may find the housing environment has changed and you may be locked out of the market due to a lack of inventory, increased pricing or increased mortgage rates.”

The state housing market has also put up solid numbers. According to the Rhode Island Realtors Association, 1,236 homes were sold in Rhode Island in July, a 10.2 percent increase from the same month last year.

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