By JOHN PURCELL
Recorder News Staff
Amsterdam is seeing a trend of homes selling faster and for higher prices as a seller’s market has taken hold, according to local realtors. While homes prices are a key factor, a growing list of community events has reportedly helped sweeten deals.
“The City of Amsterdam and the surrounding area has mirrored sales and sale prices in the rest of the Capital District,” Robert Purtell, of Century 21 Purtell Realty, said. “It has become a seller’s market — inventory is down, so there’s less product for the consumer. When there’s less product, prices tend to increase.”
Brent Phetteplace, associate broker at Judith-Ann Realty, Inc., said there has been an uptick in the local housing market.
“People are investing in this area, which is good to see,” Phetteplace said. “Good quality single-family units and clean two-family units if they’re priced right, we’re seeing buyers out there that are jumping on them. Good product will only last a week or two.”
Growing recreational opportunities, however, appear to be improving the city’s image and helping attract people from neighboring communities to purchase relatively affordable homes.
“The culture is being seen as changing,” Purtell said. “Primarily pricing is attracting people, but the entertainment venues, the culture changes in the community are interesting to the people coming in from out of town.”
Purtell said many homebuyers view the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook as an investment in the community and an attractive venue to host events. He said there’s still “work to do,” but the environment of Amsterdam has improved over the last 10 years.
Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa said the city has sought to bolster its appeal to through hosting more events, which helps attract people from outside the city.
“When you start bringing people in and they see what is actually here rather than listen to what was said five years, 10 years (ago), or even still to this day, I think they see a different picture,” Villa said.
A woman reportedly wrote a letter to Villa recently about how she had visited Amsterdam and saw the calendar of youth activities available, which spurred her decision to move to the city.
“She was excited about the path that the city was taking,” Villa said. “It’s in direct contrast to what a lot of people here say, ‘There’s nothing to do.’ If you look at surrounding communities, I think we do more for our youth and even for our adult population in terms of events.”
Deputy Mayor and 3rd Ward Alderman Chad Majewski commended the city Recreation Department for “bringing back life to Amsterdam” and attracting people from outside the community to local events.
Majewski said he keeps a watchful eye on the housing market, especially within Amsterdam, and he’s noticed an improvement. He owns a Guy Park Avenue home built in 1896 and has restored the building over the last five years, so he’s looking for his next project.
“When I look on a weekly basis I see what’s selling, moving and shaking, and I can’t believe how quickly things are selling in the market,” Majewski said about the city. “I’m seeing houses that are not only being sold in less than a week, but I’m seeing them being sold for $10,000, $15,000, sometimes $20,000 over the initial asking price, which is very rare to happen inside Amsterdam.”
Majewski said the quick turnaround of Amsterdam homes is in stark contrast to what he had observed not too long ago.
“Two or three years ago, I would look online and houses would be listed for 200, 300 days. To see something selling in less than 10 days is unbelievable. It seems like the market has been pretty fair, too,” Majewski said.
Phetteplace said prices locally are helping attract homebuyers who may find prices in other communities falling outside of their budget.
“People are moving out this way, because they can get more home for their money,” Phetteplace said. “They’re getting priced out of other areas like Saratoga County and Albany County. Younger couples are getting priced out of those areas, so they’re looking over this way.”
Purtell said there has been a trend of people coming from outside communities to Amsterdam.
“You’re getting people who are buying that are local but you’re also getting people from adjacent areas, because even though our prices are increasing they’re still below the threshold of the outlying areas,” Purtell said.
Phetteplace said the Amsterdam area is within a close commuting range to larger cities in Capital Region and residents are able to avoid congestion on the Northway. Majewski said the city markets itself as a bedroom community.
The combined area of the city and town of Amsterdam has seen market trends indicate an increase of $12,250, or 11 percent, in median home sales over the past year, according to data from Trulia, a fully owned subsidiary of the Zillow Group. Trulia data shows the average price per square foot for within this Amsterdam area during the same time period rose to $86, up from $80.
Nationwide, homebuyers have seen increasing prices as less properties have become available, which caused the pace of sales to fall in June.
Sales of existing homes slipped 1.8 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.52 million, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors.
Despite solid demand in a relatively healthy economy for houses, sales listings have been steadily declining for 25 months in the U.S. There were 1.96 million homes for sale in June, which is a 7.1 percent decline from last year.
The home shortage has caused prices to consistently rise faster than wage gains. The median sales price nationwide has climbed 6.5 percent over the past year to $263,800.
Adjusted for inflation, the median is about 9 percent below its 2006 peak during the housing bubble when sub-prime mortgages pushed prices to unsustainable highs.
Americans, however, signed more contracts to buy homes in June, breaking a three-month decline in pending sales.
The National Association of Realtors recently said its pending home sales index rose 1.5 percent in June to 110.2. The index has increased just 0.5 percent over the past 12 months.
Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases. A sale is typically completed a month or two after a contract is signed. This should signal a slight increase in home sales reported in the next few months.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.