Ski country doesn’t offer respite from home buyer competition

Matt Bloomer dreamed of owning a ski home since working in a snowboard shop while in college – a job that allowed him to ski for free at ski resorts across New England. And after a family vacation to Mount Snow in southern Vermont several years ago, he and his family were sold in the area.

“I like the restaurants, I like the access to VAST [Vermont Association of Snow Travelers] Snowmobile trails, and the ride is just short enough to grab a kid’s attention without being too long, ”he said. “And my kids loved it most of all.”

After this trip, Bloomer turned to the nearby second home market – and this fall, his long-standing dream of having his own ski home came true. “This is the year we decided to get a place – which unfortunately was also the year everyone else decided to get a place,” he said with an ironic laugh. Over the past few years, he has seen properties linger for months before they sell; This year houses were blown off the market in a matter of days.

Bloomers broker Adam Palmiter advises his buyers to be patient. Because although there are always new offers on the market, this is still not enough to keep up with demand. “Every day I get an email from at least five to ten people who are brand new to the market,” said Palmiter of Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country Realtors. “We haven’t gotten to a point where inventory has caught up with buyers.”

At the same time, buyers are concerned. It now takes about eight weeks to close a property, Palmiter said, because appraisers and lawyers are so busy; Skiers want to get to a place before the snow flies. And with so many homeowners using their properties more for themselves – for example, working remotely from their Vermont home instead of renting it out to skiers – “there is negligible rental inventory for seasonal rentals,” said Palmiter, “which means that people who want a place for the season almost have to buy to have something locked up. ”

From the Berkshires to the Green and White Mountains to western Maine, it’s the same story. The ski area offers a refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life, but not from the fast-moving real estate market.

While Bloomer didn’t like wading in a mountain vendor’s market, the Natick resident was no stranger to bidding wars. “I said, OK, I think we have to use the old ‘Boston strategy’ here and be pretty aggressive about our offer,” he said, “which ultimately got us to the place we wanted. ” The family bought a four-bedroom post and and beam house on an acre, complete with a toboggan hill, which Bloomers kids love. “You are overjoyed.”

“It’s a very tight market,” said Cassie Mason, a broker at Cassie Mason Real Estate in Bethel, Maine, near Sunday River. “Before-COVID, our average days were 180 days in the market,” Mason said. But from June 1 to September 30, homes in Bethel, Newry, and Greenwood sold on average in just 22 days, she said.

It’s not just a COVID-inspired, nature-based restlessness that is driving prices high near ski resorts. The popularity of short term rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO has attracted a new group of second home buyers to ski resorts. “Even before the pandemic, I would say, for the past three to five years, buyers have faced investors who historically would not have thought of owning a home this far in western Maine,” said Mason. But the fact that a holiday home that is rented out every night or weekly not only pays for itself, but also represents a worthwhile investment, “has really changed our buyer profiles.”

With more people able to work remotely and with many ski resorts developing into four-season destinations, the pressure on these housing markets has only increased. In Stowe, Vt., Inventory was already low before the pandemic, but COVID has pushed competition to new heights. “I’m getting buyers from across the country more than ever,” said Craig Santenello, property broker at Vermont Life Realtors. “Historically, most of the buyers came from Boston, New York, and Montreal. Now people are competing with … a lot of Californians, Texans, a lot of Chicago people, from the south, ”he said.

“Stowe was very quiet in the fall and the restaurants closed in the spring, it was just kind of quiet. And now those off-seasons are almost gone, ”added Santenello.

The same thing happened on the Sunday River, Mason said, with the popularity of mountain bike and trail networks created by the Mahosuc Land Trust. “The mountain bike community has exploded since Mount Abram set up their mountain bike park,” she said. “I would be surprised if your turnover isn’t pretty much in line with what you do in winter.”

Competition for Sunday River isn’t quite as dramatic as it was a year ago, Mason said, when buyers made fierce offers that couldn’t be seen without some contingency. “We no longer have this chaos. And I think we’ve hit our cap at the moment where we can push pricing forward, ” Mason said. “But there are still enough buyers and there is still enough interest that we have multiple deals on most deals at fair prices – and ‘fair’ means the new show is $ 800,000, she said.

“Historically, most of the buyers came from Boston, New York, and Montreal. Now people are competing with … lots of Californians, Texans, lots of people from Chicago, from the South. ‘ – CRAIG SANTENELLO, broker

Across the state line, in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley, prices have also climbed a high-speed four-chair in a traditionally more affordable second home market. “Year-over-year, prices in the valley are up 30 percent – which is, I believe, 30 percent more than the year before,” said Josh Brustin, owner / principal broker at Pinkham Real Estate in North Conway. “Buyers two years ago who would have been in the under $ 300,000 price range, for example, which would have been a kind of standard second home purchase … that price point is now between $ 100,000 and $ 150,000 more.”

Soaring prices near Cranmore and Attitash have put more distant destinations on the map for home buyers in White Mountain, Brustin said. “Even places like Gorham, New Hampshire, which are 40 minutes away [from North Conway], you have to go through a notch to get there – while a year ago it looked like it was from here to Mars, it now seems very much on the radar, ”said Brustin. “It’s cheaper, you’re still very close to some ski areas. It feels like North Conway could have looked 20 years ago. ”

Palmiter observes a similar phenomenon around Mount Snow. “If you do a circle around the capitals of Dover and Wilmington, basically everything on the outskirts gets a bit bumpy,” he said. And outside of Stowe Village, Santenello said, sales in nearby Waterbury have skyrocketed, with average prices soaring nearly 60 percent. Meanwhile, shoppers discouraged by low inventory are thinking even further outside the box. “Land sales are like I’ve never seen them before,” he said.

With most homes in Stowe selling in about 10 days, buyers need to be “flexible and fluid” if they want to win an offer, Santenello said. Generally, when a new listing comes out, they will view it and send a video to their buyers. If interested, he recommends driving up the next day. “It’s important to be here in person,” he said. While invisible offers were common in the early days of the pandemic, enough sales have been scuttled by backward buyers that sellers are now wary of such offers, he said.

And don’t forget to bring cash. “One of the biggest things I find right now is the abundance of cash, more than I’ve ever seen in the market here,” said Santenello. “Almost every property is a multiple offer situation. And within these diverse offerings, in most cases some of them are cash. So buyers have to be very creative with their contracts with eventualities, what they want to do without, what they feel comfortable with. “

Santenello said that while a home inspection clause can be a deal killer in such a hot market, it can also be risky in Green Mountain State. “Vermont is like the Wild West of real estate,” he said. “You don’t even have to have a license here to be a builder … there are many pitfalls.” Santenello therefore often adds a language, the “quasi-inspections” of at least large objects such as the boiler, heating and chimneys.

And the septic system. Unlike Massachusetts, where a home’s sewage system has been required to undergo a Title V inspection prior to sale since 1995, Vermont had no government oversight of waste systems until 2007. That is why Santenello always has a septic tank carried out to uncover potential problems – such as “septic tank” Santenello once encountered, that was actually an old Volkswagen bug. “It was buried with a pipe in it,” he said. “That was the dry well.”

Nevertheless, said Santenello, the mountains’ reputation cannot be denied. “I tell all my buyers, when they close, I say, ‘I’ll give you about four years before you come here full-time,'” he said. “And mostly I’m right.”

Jon Gorey blogs about houses at HouseandHammer.com. Send comments to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jongorey. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter @globehomes.

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