Low NH Lakefront inventory will drive vacation home sales in the NH Lakes Region
Low-interest rates, desire for vacation option after rough winter are other motivating factors.
Great Waterfront on 13 Acre Winnipesaukee Luxury Home
By BARBARA LEECH
Special to the Union Leader
With fewer vacation homes on the market than last year, and a resurgence of buyers motivated by low-interest rates and a difficult winter, Realtors in the Granite State are poised for several fast paced months of sales.
Market conditions generally vary from the Seacoast to the Lakes Region of the state, but overall agents say they expect it to be a hectic sellers' market this spring and summer. That occurs whenever inventory is less than the number of buyers who are out there searching. And even though there is still a little snow left on the ground, buyers have already started their search. Realtors say that vacation homes will be in high demand in New Hampshire unless there is a sudden boost to new listings.
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Lakes Region buyer rebound
According to Frank Roche, president of Roche Realty Group, Inc., with offices in Meredith and Laconia, the months of January,
February and the first two weeks of March were slower than last year due to the extremely cold and snowy winter.
Roche said he see this as the calm before the storm when it comes to buyers.
"The Lakes Region market is poised for increased activity during 2015, in the vacation home market. Boston and surrounding areas experienced a record annual snowfall of 110 inches, making it difficult for buyers to embark on house hunting in the Lakes Region," he said. "But, we have seen a surge of recent activity. Our office has 61 pending sales, and that's a good headwind, heading into spring."
Roche noted strong interest in water-access communities, condominiums, and reasonably priced waterfront homes. He said the aging population and demographics of the baby boomers continue the demand for semi-retirement properties scattered throughout the Lakes Region. He also feels buyers today feel more comfortable about the economy and making that move.
"I think that today's consumer is benefitting from the lower rate mortgage environment and dramatic drops in prices at the gas pump, and home heating oil," Roche said. "Additionally the stock market has produced healthy gains during the past several years."
The harsh winter might be to blame, but prices and sales so far in the Lakes Region look lukewarm, even though they might be poised to boil this spring. Roche said the first three months of 2014, there were 20 waterfront home sales on Winnipesaukee, at an average selling price of $974,658. The average listing price was $1,047,820. For the first three months of 2015, there were 19 Lake Winnipesaukee waterfront home sales, at an average sales price of $843,789. The average listing price was $898,878. Comparing the above figures, it is easy to see that the average prices have trended downward for the first quarter, but Roche said that simply means today's buyers are picking up some good values.
Nicole Watkins, Lakes Region Realtor for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Verani Realty, said it has become more difficult in the past three years to find Winnipesaukee lake homes with the more desirable list of amenities. This year inventory may make finding just the right home more difficult and when a buyer does they may have some competition from other buyers.
"In the price range of say, approximately $1.3 million or less, for example, I might have been confident that I could find a Winnipesaukee lakefront home in Meredith that had a certain level of fit and finish for $1.2 million last year," Watkins says, "But, I might be more dubious that I could do so this year."
Watkins said there is also a shortage of new or fairly new construction when it comes to vacation homes near Lake Winnipesaukee, and that goes for all price ranges. She said spec building, where a home is built on the speculation that a buyer will eventually purchase it, either during construction or shortly thereafter, has been fairly limited in the past three years or so in the Lakes Region, mostly due to the economy.
But the economy and the region real estate market has stabilized according to Watkins.
"In my opinion, sellers have had increasing confidence in the value of their properties in the past six months-to a year," she said. "Lake homes are as distinctive and idiosyncratic as individual people are, so it can take time to find the right person for a property. But, sellers are comfortable with that fact."
According to Watkins, the number of days on market do not necessarily translate into lower selling prices when it comes to Winnipesaukee waterfront properties.
What are buyers looking for?: Roche said when it comes to vacation home water access is still a huge draw. At South Down Shore and Long Bay on Winnipesaukee, he has seen very strong sales momentum.
"In these two communities, you see a wide variety of price ranges ranging from a low of $120,000 for a two bedroom, meadows condominium home with attached garage, to a high of $757,200 for a gorgeous home overlooking the water. Homes at the Grouse Point Club on Winnipesaukee in Meredith, likewise have been selling well. This high-end gated community offers views on the lake, sandy beaches, and a yacht club."
Mountain Region seeing demand
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Steve Loynd, managing broker of Alpine Lakes Real Estate in Lincoln, says that with 31 years in the business of rental and sales of vacation homes, he has witnessed the market in just about every possible condition. Right now, he said things are looking up in the White Mountain region and demand for vacation homes may be rising faster than new listings are coming in.
"In my immediate market near the Loon Mountain ski resort, I'm seeing more demand, earlier than usual this year," he said. "When winter leases start to come to an end, there is always a push to buy. Families have had a great winter and after renting, ownership is the next step. This spring shows strong attributes of sales volume."
But those sales will need to be supported by new listings coming on the market.
"There is a limited amount of inventory in many of the area White Mountain towns. The national and State Forest areas make for less growth and fewer developments, so scarcity and seller expectations will be a factor in negotiating price."
But some sellers can expect to get a little more than they would have in recent years depending on their type of property. Loynd said many of the homes and condos he deals with have risen in value over the past year, while land has remained somewhat stagnant. Like in all markets, he says, the best properties go first and the overpriced ones lag behind wishing for a greater market recovery than what is realistic.
What are buyers looking for?: According to Loynd, the typical buyer of mountain region vacation property is hoping to get the children away from electronic devices for new outdoor activities and more time with the family.
"Most of my buyers are from the suburban Boston area, southern New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Some have a connection to the state, because they attended college here, and we offer a comfortable safe place to come and play," Loynd said. "The lack of income and sales tax is a true New Hampshire advantage over other states "¦ and the hundreds of thousands of acres of Forest Service land is a big draw."
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