David Doorga and his family were looking for a new vacation home outside of their place in New York City. They planned to stay there on the weekends and breaks, and give their kids some additional space to go-kart outside.
The 50-acre property they are eyeing in Johnstown may just be the antidote, not far from Interstate 90, about three hours north of their primary home.
“Most people would look outside of the city, probably an hour, two hours max,” said Doorga, a Bronx school teacher. “It had trees, it had some tranquility. It had peace and quiet. That’s really what I was looking for. My qualification is it has to be on a main highway. It wasn’t far off the Amsterdam exit, so that was good for me.”
While COVID didn’t impact Doorga’s decision to invest in his soon-to-be vacation home in the eastern Mohawk Valley Region, his move mirrors that of many other downstaters, who in recent months have been looking for some upstate quiet. Local real estate professionals are noticing a number of New York City and Long Island residents packing their bags and heading to the Montgomery County region, while inventory remains relatively low.
This time of year usually marks a “seasonal lull” in terms of homes sold, according to Brent Phetteplace, a real estate agent at Judith-Ann Realty in Tribes Hill. But not this year.
“Each home is different, two family, single family,” Phetteplace said. “If they’re in good condition and priced competitively, they’re not sticking around long.”
In Montgomery County, the median sale price of homes closed on in 2020 was $135,000, a 14 percent increase from 2019, according to the Greater Capital Association of Realtors. GCAR-member realtors sold 337 homes in the county last year, according to the data, which comes from the Global Multiple Listing Service, although the data doesn’t account for all sales in the area. Compared to Albany, Fulton, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie counties, Montgomery had the lowest median sale price of homes closed by GCAR-member realtors. Phetteplace said 2020 was one of the most successful years he’s had in his career, second only to 2006.
“We’ve seen a big shift of people looking to purchase weekend homes,” Phetteplace said. “It’s a telecommuters’ world now, where people can work from home and people are moving up the Hudson Valley and the Mohawk Valley. It’s definitely tightened up inventory. Saratoga’s gotten expensive so people have come over our way, because homes are cheaper than Saratoga County.”
A lot of these new home owners are flocking from southern New York, he said.
“Last week I had a gentleman here from Long Island looking at camps along the reservoir,” Phetteplace said. “It’s a large percentage [of potential buyers] if I was to break it down. There’s been quite a few.”
Real estate inventory in the Montgomery County region is at its lowest in 20 years, said Robert Purtell of Century 21 Purtell Realty.
“The combination of low inventory, weather and COVID has slowed down the market after a vigorous second half of 2020,” Purtell said. “There’s usually a lull this time of year. Not as many people like to buy real estate when they can’t see the backyard.”
Statewide, the number of houses listed for sale was down 9 percent in 2020 from 2019, and was down 6 percent in 2019 from 2018. In December 2020, the average time for a house on the market was 46 days, down from the 62-day average in 2019. Sellers in 2020 landed 96.5 percent of their original list price, compared with 95.1 percent in 2019, according to GCAR.
“Low inventory and high demand have driven real estate sales and home values into double-digit gains,” said GCAR President Jeffrey Decatur.
“What I’ve seen is an influx of people coming in from several metropolitan areas,” Purtell said. “Whether it’s for a secondary home or if it’s because they have the ability to work from home and they’re looking to get out of the metropolitan markets.”