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2011 Ulster County Real Estate Statistics

by Team Ulster





The final numbers are in for 2011 home sales in Ulster County.   Here are some highlights from the charts shown below:


• The number of homes sold in 2011 was 914, down from the high of 1,711 homes sold in 2005 – a 45% decline.

• Home sales in the $400,000 to $900,000 range declined by 61% from 2005 to 2011.

• In 2011, home sales were most active below $400,000, with sales under $100,000 being at their highest level in the last eight years.

• There was a 22% drop in the median price of homes from their high in 2007 of $250,750 to $199,000 in 2011.

• The number of days a house was on the market from listing to closing was 188 days in 2011, up from 126 days in 2004.

• It is a great time to buy a home, as interest rates are at their all-time low, and prices have dropped to there lowest level in 10 years.

 

The following charts were compiled based on information taken from the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service.

 

 

 

 


 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Your Windows More Efficient

by Terri Bennett, Charlotte Observer


With all the money we spend this time of year on presents, parties, and everything else — who really can afford to let money fly right out the window? Do Your Part during these chilly months to make your windows more efficient to cut down on your utility bills.

In the winter, drafty windows can account for up to 25 percent of our heating bill.

However, there are some fixes that will make all the difference. Common choices include insulating drapes, interior storm windows, and plastic window insulation kit. Each of these solutions has its own pros and cons, but they all insulate the same way. They create an insulated air buffer between your home and the window surface.

Insulated drapes are considered the most attractive option, but experts stress the importance of proper insulation. Drapes must be flush with the wall to effectively create an air space between the window surface and the curtains. Improperly installed curtains that let air pass through the sides of the drapes can actually pull heat away from the room.

Drapes, of course, can be reused and will help reduce utilities costs in every season.

Interior storm windows can be fitted to your windows and are effective at reducing air infiltration. These units use a fitted pane that often clips into a frame. Pane materials range from the more expensive glass to polycarbonate plastic. The advantage to interior storm windows is that they can be reused for several years. Many favor interior storm windows over exterior varieties because they are easier to install will require less maintenance. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, interior storm windows can reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent.

Plastic insulation kits are a very economical choice. Kits include a plastic sheet that is attached to a window frame with adhesive tape and then stretched tight by applying heat with a hair dryer. The plastic film is made of vinyl, polyester or polyethylene and can technically be removed and stored for next winter's use. Most homeowners, however, find these kits to be single season items due to tears in the plastic and the milky appearance created by the aging plastic.

So which is your best choice? Go with a reusable option like interior storm windows or insulating drapes. Homeowners that want to realize long term savings should consider upgrading to Energy Star qualified windows. Energy Star-rated windows will have a substantial upfront cost but are the most efficient way to reduce home heat loss around windows.

Whether you go big or small, do your part to keep the warm air inside your home and more money in your wallet.
 

By Terri Bennett (c) 2010, The Charlotte Observer


 

Williamsburg on the Hudson

by Peter Applebome
google map to real pro systems

Call it the Brooklynization of the Hudson Valley, the steady hipness creep with its locavore cuisine, its Williamsburgian bars, its Gyrotonic exercise, feng shui consultants and deep clay art therapy and, most of all, its recent arrivals from New York City.

Jenifer Constantine and Trippy Thompson, bartenders in Williamsburg, found the adventurous loft life there a bit too precarious after the birth of their first child in 2007, and moved to New Paltz to open their own minimalist, Brooklynesque bar and restaurant in Rosendale, Market Market, with a locavore menu and weekly spoken-word slams.

Dave Lerner, a musician, found the Brooklyn life getting claustrophobic and moved to West Saugerties, a placed that seemed different but part of a familiar universe, where there was music and culture but you could bike, hike and breathe.
John Friedman, a lawyer who lived in Greenwich Village, fell in love with Hudson and went from making mostly telecom deals in Manhattan to making mostly agriculture deals in the Hudson Valley.

Kate Doris left her hometown of Kingston as it skidded downward after I.B.M. left in the ’90s. Now she’s back, plugged into the local art scene, amused at the number of her Brooklyn friends who have also moved up.

The greening of the Hudson Valley did not begin yesterday. It’s as revealing for what it’s not as for what it is. And given the comatose national economy, many grains of salt should be added to any rosy projections.

Still, in the best case, it adds up to more than refugees from the city, fair-trade coffeehouses in every far-flung town and unexpectedly cool places and culture — the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, the Last Bite in High Falls, the Wassaic Project arts organization in a refurbished mill and animal auction house.

Instead, you could argue, it’s a new chapter in an old story — Henry Hudson’s voyage of discovery, the Hudson Valley School’s attempt to capture an American Eden, updated for the Twitter era and based around sustainable, human-scale agriculture; manageable towns that are neither giant cities nor cookie-cutter suburbs; a $4.7 billion tourism industry; and the mountains, valleys and rivers of one of America’s unspoiled places.

“We’re in the early stages of a green economic revitalization of the Hudson Valley,” said Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, which half a century ago was at the heart of a battle to save Storm King Mountain, spurring on modern environmentalism.

“The land is being preserved,” he said. “Waterfront parks are being created. Water supplies are being protected. There’s a green economy that’s being born.”

IN the beginning was the river, which the Indians called Muhheakantuck — “river that flows two ways” — because for about half its 315 miles it is also a tidal estuary, where salty water meets fresh.

Life on the shore has flowed two ways, too, through culture and commerce. For almost a century, beginning around 1825, the Hudson Valley was the nation’s first industrial heartland, an incessant bustle of shipbuilding, ironworks, railroad lines, shipping docks, cement, stone, iron, lumber, weaponry and even whaling industries.

The valley was also a seminal creator of American culture, from Washington Irving, who became America’s first international literary celebrity, to the Hudson Valley School and later to artist colonies and the Woodstock Festival. The factories are almost all gone. The cultural buzz remains.

You can pick your favorite current image of industrial past and creative present. The stunning Dia: Beacon collection of massive modernism in an old factory on the Hudson? The exhilarating Walkway Over the Hudson that turned an abandoned railroad bridge into the world’s longest pedestrian bridge? The industrial spaces turned into artists’ studios in uptown Kingston?

But the Basilica Hudson seems as good a snapshot as any. Built in 1884 as a foundry and forge for manufacturing steel railway wheels, it finally shut down as a glue factory using rabbit hide in the ’90s. Almost a decade ago, its 18,000 square feet were reimagined as a local gathering and performance space for ska concerts, avant-garde movies, art exhibits, filming and recording.
Like almost everything in the Hudson Valley, it’s still a work in progress. But its owners, Melissa Auf der Maur, a seriously glamorous Montreal native who has played bass for bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, and Tony Stone, a filmmaker, come from central casting as exemplars of the new, hip Hudson Valley.

The Basilica is the kind of space and scene that the artist and musician Patti Smith (no stranger to Hudson) had in mind a few months ago when she advised young artists that “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling” and that they should find their futures someplace else, like Poughkeepsie.

“A bunch of my friends from Montreal came to visit and they said, ‘You told us you moved to a small town, but you didn’t tell us you moved to a magic David Lynch town. What is this place?’ ” Ms. Auf der Maur said.

Hudson, she added, has the feel of SoHo decades ago. “There’s the sense that it’s manageable, it’s beautiful, it has infrastructure that can inspire you and facilitate your needs and get you to feel like you’re part of a moment of discovery.”

Not long ago, Hudson was notorious for drugs, prostitution and post-industrial torpor. Now, Warren Street, with its antique stores, galleries and hip restaurants, is a vision of the Hudson Valley reborn. And it was the scene of perhaps the last great battle between the old industrial Hudson Valley and the new one, when a coalition of interest groups came together to defeat a proposed coal-fired cement plant with a 40-story smokestack capable of producing two million tons of cement a year. Opponents said it would be an environmental disaster that would cut off access to the river and go against everything Hudson was becoming. They made an overwhelming case. But in the housing projects and poor neighborhoods just off Warren Street, strangers in the new landscape, it doesn’t seem so clear.

Sitting in a downtown park, Calvin Wilson Sr., 63, said it was nice to see the revival on Warren Street, but it didn’t offer much for him or for young people growing up in a town whose population is almost a third black and Latino, and in which one in five residents is living below the poverty level. “All those old factory jobs, they’ve all dried up,” Mr. Wilson said. “So, where those people going to work? Me, I wished they’d built that cement plant.”

THERE is a parlor game people sometimes play, comparing Hudson Valley towns with New York neighborhoods, said Sari Botton, a freelance writer in Rosendale.

For instance, Rhinebeck might be the Upper East Side, Woodstock the West Village, New Paltz the Upper West Side, Beacon the East Village, Rosendale and High Falls different parts of Williamsburg. Tivoli could be compared to Greenpoint, Hudson to Chelsea, Catskill to Bushwick, Kingston to a mix of Fort Greene and Carroll Gardens.

The migration north began with the weekender incursions in the ’80s and ’90s, gained a more urgent and permanent tone after 9/11, stumbled during the real estate bust and is now finding its way again. But, for all the images of upstate decay, the population of the Hudson Valley is growing more than twice as fast as that of the rest of the state — 5.8 percent over the past decade, compared with 2.1 percent for New York State and New York City. (While there are no universally accepted boundaries to the Hudson Valley, this reference includes the counties north of suburban Rockland and Westchester and south of the capital region: Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene.)

Add in disparate institutions with some shared sensibilities — Bard, Vassar and SUNY New Paltz; the Culinary Institute of America and the sustainable agriculture Glynwood Institute; the New Age Omega Institute, Dia:Beacon, the Storm King Art Center, the green, hip and upscale Chronogram Magazine — you can posit a synergy that is gaining critical mass.

Some of the growth is an extension of suburban New York into Putnam and Orange Counties. The rest is an exurban phenomenon facilitated at least in part by new technology, the limitations of space and cost in the five boroughs and the natural search for something new.

For some it’s generational. The Hudson Valley seems a cooler and more affordable alternative to the suburbs. David Clark moved to Beacon seeking space for his ceramic tile business, ModCraft, in a place that felt familiar and creative. At 43, he also felt he had outgrown Williamsburg. “At some point you look around and find yourself surrounded by club kids and feel, well, maybe I’ve done this already,” he said.

For others, the Hudson Valley just seemed a natural fit. Amber Rubarth, 28, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who used to carve wood sculptures with chainsaws, figured she could make music and live a creative life just as easily in Rosendale as in Brooklyn, and more sanely. “I go into the city once or twice a week,” she said, “but there’s nothing I can’t do living here, and it’s nice to fall asleep and wake up to birds singing rather than trash trucks rolling down the street.”
Still, as with everywhere else in America, the question remains: All right, but where are the jobs? Mr. Sullivan of Scenic Hudson said one answer could be the abandoned I.B.M. complex now called Tech City in Kingston. Its 258 acres, 28 buildings and 2.5 million square feet of industrial and office space are envisioned as a state-of-the-art locale for solar, green energy and sustainable agricultural businesses, like bakeries and fish hatcheries. Across the street is the ambitious nonprofit Solar Energy Consortium, formed in 2007 to assist and incubate solar and green companies. It’s an alluring vision.

Whether it becomes reality is another matter. Todd Roberts, chief executive of one of the firms there already, Solartech Renewables, is enthusiastic about the site and the industrial solar panels his company makes, but realistic about the obstacles ahead.

“We know it’s going to take root somewhere, but if the market doesn’t grow here, and the subsidies don’t change in China, that’s where it’s going to be,” he said.

If you were an investor wagering on any Hudson Valley city, it might be Beacon, with a world-class attraction in Dia:Beacon, its walkable downtown, and an emerging art scene a 90-minute train ride from Grand Central Terminal.

But you would still be hoping for the best, as you would with almost every place in the area. Maybe the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, a proposed 58-room hotel and spa, with a fancy restaurant and living and work space for artists, will succeed, and revitalize an area of shuttered factories and warehouses. Maybe the historic downtown theater will reopen, and the old incline railroad will be rebuilt. But maybe not.

On a summer Tuesday afternoon, it’s still a ghost town.

Tim Davis, 48, in Chicago Bulls cap and colors, has lived in Beacon almost all his life, but he is moving to Atlanta. “There’s no work here,” he said. “Basically they’ve turned this place into Antiqueworld. When we had the factories, this was a money-making town. Now it’s not. Everyone I know is moving to the South.”

At the Morphicism gallery, the proprietor, Jay Palefsky, offered a cheerful greeting: “A customer! In Beacon!”

So many people have moved to Beacon from Brooklyn that people now call it NoBro, he said. He would like to buy into the hype, but he doesn’t see it. The economy is dead. The Internet has killed downtown commerce. He has seen well over a dozen businesses come and go in the five years he has been in business. “People want the access to the city without the craziness of the city,” Mr. Palefsky said. “But this just needs a lot of variables to make it work. One is the economy, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry to be so negative. I just don’t grasp the optimism.”

But optimism is one thing you find in the Hudson Valley, to an extent not seen elsewhere. It is true that, even here, it takes more than art, farm stands and caffeine to make an economy work — especially for those who don’t make a living with a laptop or a paintbrush. But in a culture sometimes whipsawed between a desire to be in the middle of the storm and to be a million miles away, the Hudson Valley offers the promise of both, the upstate hills and quirky towns just 90 minutes from Manhattan, said Bradley Thomason, who moved his small technology and organizational development consultancy, Miraclelabb, from Manhattan to the mighty metropolis of Accord last year.

“This isn’t like the tech revolution,” he said. “I’d be worried if there were some big kaboom Hudson Valley moment. But I think what you’re seeing is a slow progression toward something that can sustain itself.”


 

By Peter Applebome, The New York Times

 

Shop Carefully to Find Deals on Home Upgrades

by Al Heavens

The situation: You want to make some improvements to your house, but don’t want to spend money you don’t have. Nor do you want to waste the money you do have by buying something inappropriate for your needs.

A tall order, for sure, and a situation many homeowners find themselves in as the economy totters toward a recovery that always seems just shy of a sure thing.

The Internet has made finding the best price for a product easier than it was 10 years ago, says developer Carl Dranoff, who has written the checks for more than a few renovations at his buildings over the years.

“The Internet has driven down the prices of just about everything,” he says, “so there is little variation” from, for example, one manufacturer’s refrigerator to the next.

Need replacement windows? A modest federal tax credit—up to $1,500—is available until Dec. 31.

Energy-efficient windows will cut utility bills 7 percent to 15 percent, government data shows. But the cost of complete window replacement for the average home is $7,500 to $10,000, according to the folks at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

They advise this: When you’re interviewing contractors, ask them to break down the price quote by labor and materials, keeping in mind that although energy-efficient windows cost more, the labor costs for installation should be the same for all kinds of windows.

In general, experienced buyers recommend that you shop carefully and know exactly what you want before you hand over your credit card or write a check to a supplier.

“A dozen years ago, you might have to go to specialty stores to find the really groovy items,” said Center City real estate agent Mark Wade, who also buys and renovates condos for resale. “Today, it is as simple as hitting Lowe’s, Target, or Home Depot.”

Stores don’t stock everything they offer, though. “Go online and see their entire product line,” he suggests.

Durability is what developer Liz Solms looks for when she shops for products.

Solms is using sustainable or “green” materials to renovate apartments at Touraine in Philadelphia, one of the buildings she co-owns around the country. She said she measured the value of these products by how long they would last.

“Time is money, right?” she says.

Jay Cipriani, president of Cipriani Builders, a Woodbury, N.J., remodeling contractor, thinks so.

“Features to consider other than price might include durability, as well as whether the product will result in a healthier or safer environment” in your home, he says.

Another question to consider, Cipriani says: “Does it add value to the home?” He suggested looking for lesser-known names to get a good product and warranty. Look into how to buy directly from the manufacturer “rather than through big-box store or distributor,” he says.

Sometimes, immediate need compels us to buy something without considering all the factors.

It’s hot, and you need a window air conditioner. You find a website that lets you calculate the size you need—say, a 7,500-Btu unit. Several retailers are selling them for about $300, so finding the lowest price isn’t the overwhelming issue. What else do you need to think about before you buy?

“Sales tax is one,” Dranoff says. “Can you pick it up yourself, or do you need to have it delivered? Can you install it yourself, or do you need someone to do it for you?”

Not to mention these pertinent details: Can it make it through the doorway? Is the window too small or too big? How can you adjust the window opening so it will fit?

How close is the outlet? Is the outlet grounded? Will you need an electrician to install the proper outlet? How will the unit drain?

What about the warranty? Who will repair it if the unit breaks down? How easy is it to obtain parts?

If you plan to install something yourself, Cipriani says, “think about the hidden risks of self-installation, such as technical obstacles—plumbing or electrical, for example—or whether or not you need a permit before installation.”

Dranoff favors American-made products because of the availability of parts and people who know how to repair them if they break. He prefers established products to new ones.

“New is not necessarily better,” he says. “Consumer Reports suggests waiting a year on any product before you buy so that it will go through a cycle of consumer testing.”

Of course, the goal is to do it right the first time, and that requires planning and common sense. Measuring helps, too.

How many times have you heard of people buying mattresses that won’t fit up their stairs? Or granite countertops too heavy for their cabinets? Or refrigerators with ice-makers for spaces where there are no water lines? Or gas dryers where there is no gas connection?

“It is as easy,” Dranoff says, “as asking if that washer you want to buy can make it down the basement stairs.”

Ulster County Real Estate Statistics, First Half 2011

by Ben Shor

The following statistics were taken from the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service (MLS). These statistics include all single family homes sold in Ulster County that were listed on the Ulster County MLS. We will be comparing statistics for the first half of 2011 with the first half of 2010.

 

You will see that there were major changes in the Ulster County real estate market when you compare the first half of 2010 with the first half of 2011. After two years of stable prices, there has been a noticeable drop in the median price of single family homes during the first six months of 2011. In addition, the number of homes sold has decreased significantly, single family homes are on the market longer, and they are selling for a lower sale price to list price ratio.

The median sold price for single family homes decreased by about 9% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from $214,000 to $195,000.

The number of single family homes sold in the first half of 2011 decreased by about 28% when comparing the first half of 2010, from 509 to 369. You may remember that during the first half of 2010, there was an 8% tax credit for first-time home buyers, which expired at the end of May 2010. During the first half of this year, there was no tax credit, which reduced the urgency to buy.

The sale price to list price ratio decreased by about 2% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from 93.89 to 92.07%. That means that in 2011 the average single family home sold for about 8% less than the final listing price for that home.

The number of days a sold house was on the market from the time it was listed until the closing date, increased by 14 days (about 8%) when comparing the first half of the first half of 2010 to 2011, from 180 to 194.

The number of single family homes listed in the first half of 2011 decreased by about 5% when comparing the first half of 2010, from 1,656 to 1,579.

The average sold price for single family homes increased by about 12% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from $234,563 to $261,861. The main reason for the increase in average price is the greater number of homes sold for over $500,000. In the first half of 2010, ten homes sold for $500,000, and in the first half of 2011, 23 homes sold for over $500,000.

 

After falling sharply in the second half of 2010, mortgage rates climbed in the 1st quarter of 2011. Strength from a variety of economic indicators including consumer spending, confidence and even housing led the 10-year Treasury higher. This pattern dragged the rate on the average 30-year fixed upward with the Treasury. As a result the spread between the 10-year and the 30-year FRM shrank. This pattern is likely to reverse course in the 2nd quarter as fighting in Libya and uncertainty in Egypt have caused oil prices to spike. In addition, the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan impacted supply chains necessary for production by U.S. firms. The combined effect was a reduction in economic growth in the 1st quarter. This unexpected shock drew down expectation for economic growth and the 10-year Treasury. Mortgage rates have followed suit and were well below 5% as of May. Rates are likely to remain low in the near term, but are expected to reach 5.6% by the 4th quarter of 2011.

Homeowners Recoup More with Exterior Replacement Projects

by National Association of Realtors


As part of the 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS® recently rated exterior replacement projects among the most cost-effective home improvement projects, demonstrating that curb appeal remains one of the most important aspects of a home at resale time.

  

“This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of exterior projects, which not only provide the most value, but are also among the least expensive improvements for a home,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “Since resale value can vary by region, it’s smart for homeowners to work with a REALTOR® through the remodeling and improvement process; they can provide insight into projects in their neighborhoods that will recoup the most when the owners are ready to sell.” 

Nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement remained the project that returned the most money, with an estimated 102.1% of cost recouped upon resale; it is also the only project in this year’s report that is expected to return more than the cost. The midrange garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9% of costs. Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average. REALTORS® identified these two replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home’s curb appeal.

“Curb appeal remains king—it’s the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership,” said Phipps.

The 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 13th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine.

REALTORS® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall, REALTORS® estimated that homeowners would recoup an average of 60% of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 63.8% last year. Remodeling projects, particularly higher cost upscale projects, have been losing resale value in recent years because of weak economic conditions.

According to the report, replacement projects usually outperform remodel and addition projects in resale value because they are among the least expensive and contribute to curb appeal. Various types of siding and window replacement projects were expected to return more than 70% of costs.

Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by REALTORS® as the most cost effective among siding projects, recouping 80% of costs. Among the window replacement projects covered, upscale vinyl window replacements were expected to recoup the most, 72.6% upon resale. Another exterior project, a wood deck addition, tied with a minor kitchen remodel for the fourth most profitable project recouping an estimated 72.8% of costs.

The top interior projects for resale value included an attic bedroom and a basement remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house. An attic bedroom addition costs more than $51,000 and recoups an estimated 72.2% nationally upon resale; a basement remodel costs more than $64,000 and recoups an estimated 70%. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a midrange home office remodel, recouping an estimated 45.8%; a backup power generator, recouping 48.5%; and a sunroom addition, recouping 48.6% of costs.

“It’s important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors,” said Phipps. “Things such as the home’s overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value. That’s why it is imperative to work with a REALTOR® who can provide insight and guidance into local market conditions whether you’re buying, selling or improving a home.”

Selling a home with a Well or Septic

by Above Grade Home Inspections

 

Listing and selling homes in a challenging market is hard enough, don't leave key inspection items open to interpretation. There are many "unknown" factors when dealing with wells and septic systems. The following items should eliminate many questions and pitfalls that occur during a home inspection.

 

#1 Certify the distance between the well and septic components - By far the most important item on this list! I can't count the number of times I have arrived on an inspection to find out the distance between the well and septic leaching field is less than 100 feet apart. This is an immediate disqualifier for several mortgage types. Above Grade Home Inspections uses high frequency technology and video equipment to locate and mark out all the system components. We can provide the homeowner and the prospective buyer with a distance certification and map. We also flag all the system components for easy location.

#2 Shock, aka, chlorinate the well - It is very important to periodically shock the well, especially after the recent winter and heavy rains. Large volumes of surface and ground water are entering our wells. In some cases carrying harmful bacteria that can be easily treated. One failed potability test typically results in 15 extra phone calls. Many times the prospective buyer wants a full water treatment system installed for a simple failed water test! In most cases, a simple well shocking and proper testing procedures results in a positive outcome with unnecessary aggravation.

#3 Pump the septic tank - Is there an inspection that goes by when the buyer doesn't ask the age old question..."when was the last septic pumping?" You guessed it NO. Why not have the answer before they ask? If the system hasn't been pumped and cleaned in over 3 years, chances are the buyer is going to ask the seller for it to be done. A recently pumped system will make the prospective buyer feel more confident.

#4 Locate and flag the well location - Ever try to find a 6" well cap in 2 feet of snow? Under leaves? Hidden in landscape? In can tell you first hand it’s not an easy task. In a perfect world the well head is sticking out of the ground and easily visible. In some cases older well heads and pressure tanks are located in well pits underneath the ground. These areas need to be uncovered and accessible for inspection. Don't wait for inspection day to inform the buyer you don't know where the well is located. Locate the well, mark it with a stake and flag, and leave a map on the table. Any information about the pump and well equipment should also be supplied.

#5 Perform a water test - Supplying a prospective buyer with a passing water test is a smart decision. After proper shocking procedures have been completed a water test should be performed. The average cost is $25 at a local water lab. This will allow the seller to deal with any water contamination issues ahead of time. It is always easier to deal with issues upfront then to involve attorneys, buyer’s agents, family members, etc.

#6 Conduct a full septic evaluation - In most cases homeowners don't evaluate septic systems until there is an issue. Big Mistake! If any type of septic issue arises on an inspection it’s almost always a kiss of death. Over the years the costs of septic repairs has been over- inflated by the internet and TV advertising. A simple fix can turn into a $10,000 credit by the prospective buyer. A recent septic evaluation and a clean bill of health will speak volumes.

#7 Maintain water treatment equipment- Got a water softener? Fill it with salt. Have a whole house filter on the water main? Change it. Does the home have a chlorine system to deal with sulfur? Fill in with chemicals. You get the picture! I fail to understand why the new buyer has to smell the foul smell of sulfur water throughout the house when there is a system. Or hard water deposits on the plumbing supply equipment when there is a softener. Simple maintenance is easy and inexpensive. Simply changing filters and wiping down the systems will give the treatment equipment the look of a properly maintained system.

#8 Locate and flag septic system components - Buyers want to know where the septic system components are located. This is an issue that doesn't go away. More specifically the location of the tank, the distribution boxes, and the leaching fields. Many deals have fallen through because the buyer thought they could add a pool or a garage only to find out the septic fields were located in the same exact area. A simple map won’t do. Mark out and flag the components for easy identification by the buyer, inspector, and appraiser.

#9 Create an information folder - Collect as much information about your systems as possible and create a folder for the inspection day. Items to include: Brochures on installed equipment, chemical and treatment specifications, recent upgrades or maintenance logs etc. Buyers will be very leery if the seller can’t provide maintenance information. Providing information will make the inspector’s job much easier and give the buyer a greater sense of confidence.

Builders Expect Home Sizes to Keep Shrinking

by Steve Brown, Dallas Morning News

Homebuilders are thinking smaller. They’ve cut the average size of new houses and expect it to shrink more over the next few years. “Most builders will build smaller and lower-priced homes in 2011,” said Rose Quint, a researcher with the National Association of Home Builders. “Our experts expect the average home size in 2015 to be around 2,150 square feet.”

That’s down from the 2,377-square-foot average size of single-family homes completed across the country in 2010. And it’s way below the more than 2,500-square-foot average size at the top of the market in 2007.

Nationwide, home sizes are still almost 50% ahead of where they were in the 1970s.

Almost 60% of builders surveyed said they are planning to cut the size of the houses they build during the next few years.

Housing researchers say the downsizing is due to the dour economy and changing consumer tastes.

“Part of it may be temporary (because of the recession), but there are factors behind the decline that are longer-term and will stay with us,” Quint said. Costs savings and demographics are also shrinking houses, she said. “There is an overwhelming desire in the population to keep energy costs down,” Quint said. “Twenty percent of our population will be over 65 in a few decades. They don’t want a big home.”

The recession and drop in home values have also tempered home buyers’ desires. “People don’t have a lot of equity in their homes to roll into a bigger home. Those times are over,” Quint said. “People have come to realize, ‘Let’s buy what we need, not what we don’t need.’”

To get the heft of houses down, builders are ditching living rooms and dining rooms in favor of multipurpose areas. More than 80% of builders say they expect to do away with formal living rooms, and the number of houses with three or more bathrooms and four or more bedrooms is dwindling.

But buyers say they won’t compromise when it comes to storage space. And green features are still growing in popularity with both builders and consumers. More than 80% of potential buyers list energy-efficient heating, air-conditioning and appliances as “must-haves” in their new home.

From the year 2000 to 2010, the Ulster County population, as determined by the US Census Bureau, increased from 177,749 to 182,493, a 2.7% increase.  That was a slightly larger increase than for all of New York State, where the increase was 2.1%.  From the year 2000 to 2010, 10 of the towns and the one city had an increase in population, and 10 of the towns had a decrease in population.

From the year 2000 to 2010, the number of housing units in Ulster County increased from 77,646 to 83,638, a 7.7% increase.  All of the 20 towns and the one city in Ulster County had an increase in the number of housing units.

If you look at the chart that accompanies this article, you will see that in 19 of the 20 towns and one city that make up Ulster County, the percentage increase in housing units was larger than the percentage increase in population.  Only in New Paltz and Shawangunk, did the population increase at a higher rate than did the number of housing units.  For New Paltz, the probable reason for this difference is that students are counted in the Census as Ulster County residents, and the number of students attending SUNY New Paltz has increased over the past 10 years.

You may be wondering why the number of housing units increased 5% more than the population increased, which resulted in the number of persons per housing unit in Ulster County decreasing from 2.29 to 2.18.

I suspect that one of the reasons the number of persons per housing unit has decreased is that the birth rate has been decreasing.  I think the main reason for the increase is that many more people are living in Ulster County on a part-time basis.  Ulster County has become a prime location for weekend homes, and the occupants of these homes are not counted in the population statistics, as their primary residence is out of county.  As the birth rate continues to decline, and the number of part-time residents increases, there will continue to be a higher increase in the number of housing units compared to the growth of the population. 

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Laurel Sweeney
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