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Bucking the Trend

Area agents say local real estate market has mostly escaped national malaise

November 2, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

Neither real estate agents nor lenders see the local real estate market as weak as in national reports.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency in September seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the world's two largest mortgage buyers, after a surge of foreclosures threatened to topple them. But local markets aren't following the national trend.

Joyce Royal, of Joyce Royal Real Estate, said she has actually seen government foreclosures decrease in number recently.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen

Real estate broker Virginia Mackey looks over the paperwork on property that is in foreclosure at 6 Cherry St. in Gloversville on Wednesday.

"We usually see three or four a week," she said Wednesday. "Right now there are only two showing up in the county."

Royal said the Federal Housing Authority guarantees loans made on properties by banks and when in default, the properties go back on the market with the original owner/occupant given a 10-day first try at purchasing the property.

"The [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] homes are way down now," Royal said. "If you listen to the media you'd think there were a million homes in foreclosure. It's not true in our area."

Royal said when an owner goes into foreclosure, FHA pays off the loan so the original bank that loaned the money doesn't lose anything. FHA prices the real estate fairly or below value, she said, so purchasing the property can be a good deal for a prospective buyer.

"We haven't had a lot of overvalued homes locally," Royal said.

At Virginia M. Mackey Real Estate, Lana Ruggiero agreed.

"We've had a good summer," she said. "We've been swamped."

Ruggiero said the past couple of weeks have been quiet, but that could be for a combination of seasonal and economic reasons. Ruggiero said when she checked her sales last year and compared them to her sales this year, she found she is selling at the same rate.

However, both Ruggiero and Royal said they did see some national economic influence. Royal said for the first time she saw homes on the Great Sacandaga Lake and Peck Lake foreclosed upon.

"I never saw that before," Royal said. "But those were second homes."

Royal said it didn't really reflect local homeowners because the second homebuyers were from outside the area.

Ruggiero said it did seem more difficult for first-time buyers to get loans. But the average price of homes was increasing. Where an average of $85,000 for a home is the norm, she now says the median price is closer to $120,000.

Statewide, foreclosures fell 10 percent during the third quarter of this year, reversing a yearlong trend, according to an Associated Press report.

State officials and data trackers attribute the change in part to a new lending reform law giving New Yorkers an extra 90 days to work to save their homes. But they warn that the drop in foreclosures could be temporary, because other states showed a drop in foreclosures soon after they implemented similar laws that were followed by sharp increases when the grace periods expired.

Assistant Branch Manager Carole Gottung, at NBT on Fremont Street in Gloversville, said one reason there aren't more foreclosures locally is because local banks have been conservative in lending.

"NBT never got into the sub-prime lending market," Gottung said Wednesday. "They have strict rules for lending."

Royal said if the owner/occupant doesn't bid on the property, an investor may bid. But someone planning to occupy the residence will always be given priority.

Only one Fulton County property was listed this week on either the National Home Management Solution Web site or The homesteps site listed 81 homes statewide.

Virginia Mackey said she handles properties from both government-insured underwriters such as FHA and private bank underwriters. She said she has a foreclosed property on Cherry Street in Gloversville through a private bank underwriter that doesn't appear on any Web sites.

Mackey said private underwriters don't tend to have as many listings as government underwriters, but she sees more foreclosure listings from private sources locally.

As for sales of homes, Mackey said the Fulton County Board of Realtors sold 177 homes so far in 2008 and had 200 pending sales. Although these numbers were slightly behind last year's numbers, "they are very close," she said.

Mackey also said she often gets several bidders on a property, which brings the selling price up considerably from the low bid price on a Web site. She said the listing of $55,000 for the 1 Nare St. property in Johnstown recently sold for $78,000, and that wasn't unusual.

U.S. home prices tumbled the most in at least 17 years in August and foreclosures increased to the highest on record, reducing property values as the global credit crisis weakened the economy.

Home prices dropped 5.9 percent from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 1991, when the Federal Housing Finance Agency data starts. Foreclosure filings increased 71 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, a seller of foreclosure data.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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