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A Shopper’s-Eye View of the Second-Home Slowdown

Where weekend houses have become affordable (and where they haven’t).

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The Catskills
The Catskills market has been buoyed as the city buys land to preserve its watershed, explains Eric Wedemeyer of Coldwell Banker Timberland. But village homes in Delhi, Stamford, and Walton are still underpriced for the region, as many lack the views and privacy weekenders crave. Also, consider Fleischmanns (pop. 335), an old resort town that will likely get more desirable after the nearby Bellayre ski center gets redone. In Sullivan County, says broker David Knudsen, the bargain properties are the ones that lack quaintness: ranch houses, say, or those with vinyl siding.

Connecticut
Fairfield County, home to New Canaan and Westport, is the place to look. Year-to-date sales are off 41 percent over 2008, according to the Warren Group. But there and in Litchfield County, most of what’s going on is nothing: Buyers and sellers aren’t meeting in the middle. “There’s a stalemate,” says Klemm Real Estate’s Rebecca Ward. She suggests making almost any offer—“No one else is”—to jump-start negotiations.

The Jersey Shore
Go a bit inland, and you’ll find areas where demand has fallen most. Neptune City, for example, is two miles from Bradley Beach, and a three-bedroom there is $319,000, about half what it would cost in Bradley. If you do want to be on the water, condos are a better deal than houses now—“in a bad market, they’re always the toughest to sell,” says Avon Realty’s Bob McDevitt.

The Berkshires
According to real-estate lawyer Edward McCormick, spec houses outside Great Barrington, in Alford and Egremont, are going unsold at $1 million to $3 million, and their builders may take offers. If you’re looking for something more modest, consider building your own house. Land prices have sunk, and tradesmen here are begging for work.

The North Fork
Here, it’s $1 million–plus houses that are seeing deep price cuts. Corcoran’s Sheri Winter Clarry has a client, a builder, whose price has gradually fallen from $2.85 million to $1.52 million. (He cuts the price by $5,000 every Wednesday.) The market for smaller houses here isn’t so bargain-friendly, because the area draws budget-minded folks who are still competing over these properties. Houses that are “more turnkey” go faster, so look for a fixer-upper.

The Hamptons
It’s never cheap, but it sure is cheaper. The biggest drop has been in Bridgehampton (median prices down 30 percent in 2008, per Corcoran’s market report). That’s because spec building in the $3 million–plus range, especially north of Route 27, has glutted the market. In Bridgehampton, Southampton, and Water Mill, there are 48 such listings now, and nothing’s closed at this price point since January, which could decrease prices as summer nears. Unfortunately for you dreamers, the really covetable houses aren’t being reduced—appraiser Jonathan Miller says many owners are just waiting things out. “Because we’ve never seen this before, they may think, Maybe next spring.


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