What has been happening over the last four years in our area’s real estate markets? This article analyzes sales in the Town of Ancram, NY, since Main Street’s last coverage four years ago to get a market snapshot in just one Columbia County town. (This feature is data intensive. For background on the community you can read the 2018 Ancram story online at www.mainstreetmag.com).
Attacked by Covid, Ancram median home prices rise 70%
Everyone who has considered buying or selling knows that 2020 had a dramatic impact on real estate markets everywhere. Sales results in Ancram over the last four years reflect the effect of Covid, working remotely and low interest rates, proving that these national trends affected even small rural towns (see chart). In 2020 in Ancram, total population just 1,500 residents, 37 houses were sold, more than double the previous year. The $22.5 million in sales of single-family homes was four times greater than 2019. Even in 2021, the dollar volume of home sales, although not as high as 2020, was still more than triple that of 2019. And million-dollar sales in Ancram have become more frequent. In the ten years between 2007 and 2017 only eight properties sold for over a million dollars, compared to nine in just two years in 2020 and 2021.
Most tellingly, in these same four years, Ancram’s median home price has risen 70% from $250,000 to $425,000. Compare this price change in the same period to homes in Salisbury, CT, barely 15 miles away. Starting with a higher median price of $502,200 in 2018, double that of Ancram, the median sale of a single-family home in Salisbury rose to $700,000 in 2021– an increase of 42%. Off a much lower base, in percentage terms, Ancram values are appreciating even faster.
Vacant land is selling
Sales of vacant land, always slow to find a buyer, are another barometer of the real estate market. Vacant residential lot sales have risen significantly in terms of sales dollar volumes and number of transactions with the price per acre around $9,200. The median acreage purchased in 2020 and 2021 was around ten acres, suggesting that new homes will be going up on sizable pieces of property. Sales of agricultural land, which is tracked separately, reached almost $3 million in 2020, another record.
Prices are heading higher in 2022
Although the sample is small, price levels appear to have remained strong in the first four months of this year with the median sold price for a home through May rising to $515,000 from $425,000 last year (see chart). Meanwhile the actual number of houses sold through May is roughly half that of 2021 during the same period. The average sold price of $843,800 was boosted by the sale of one trophy property on Wiltsie Bridge Road for over $3,000,000 for a six-bedroom house and over 350 acres of land – a record price for Ancram.
Median price levels in Ancram for 2022 will increase further when five homes, represented as pending or contingent, close in the next few months. The median listing price of these properties is $1,600,000! Land sales, only three so far this year, are always subject to big swings. Listing prices range from $31,000 an acre to less than $5,000 for 135 acres on Doodletown Road.
Not much left to buy
Like forsythia and daffodils, the real estate market usually blooms in April and May with new listings expanding inventory of houses for sale. But not this year. Not anywhere. In Ancram in early May there were a total of 16 listings of any type of residential property for sale, including only seven single family homes. Although the average listing price is $645,000, the median price of $425,000 is the same as 2021. A sure sign of a seller’s market is a home located on Route 82 currently listed at $1,200,000, which was purchased in 2019 for $600,000.
There’s more vacant land for sale than houses. Sellers don’t need to find a new place to live if they’re listing land. There are nine pieces of vacant land listed for sale, averaging $9,561 an acre. These are mostly large acreage parcels – seven of these properties are larger than 48 acres and only one is less than 5 acres – a 1.5-acre lot for $125,000 on Five Roses.
The usual suspects
A look at who’s buying what confirms what everyone senses – it is younger people from out of town. But Ancram compared to higher priced markets in Connecticut is still a bargain. Only three properties from 2018 to 2021 sold for over $2 million dollars. The highest priced in these four years was the sale of a single-family residence on 21 acres on 309 East Ancram Road for $2,150,000 in June of 2020. Priced between one and two million dollars, six properties were sold to buyers from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
What’s with Ancram?
Ancram is proud to be a “Historic Farming Community” and attracts buyers who are seeking an authentic country life, a farm not an estate. There is one gas station, many farm stands and no grocery, no antique stores or bakeries. Ancram boosts that it has been an agricultural community for centuries and intends to stay that way. Over 90% of resident who answered a 2010 survey indicated that it is very important “to support agriculture and conserve our open space, scenic views and water resources.”
62% of the town’s acreage is devoted to diversified agriculture including well-known Ronnybrook Farm; horse breeding and riding; alpaca sales; sausage and cheese makers; whiskey distilled from locally grown grains; pick-your-own vegetables and berries; pasture-raised meat and chickens; row crops and hay. Importantly, more of Ancram’s acreage is protected from development by conservation easements managed by the Columbia Land Conservancy than any other town in Columbia County – over 5,000 acres which will remain as open space limiting future development (see map).
Ancram is a small town that has been actively managed since 2010 by its supervisor, Democrat Art Bassin, a former senior banking executive. During the years of his leadership the town rebuilt the town garage, constructed a new firehouse, adopted an updated comprehensive plan, revalued assessments, preserved scenic views, professionalized town services and while maintaining agriculture as a way of life. An excellent website supplemented by emails from the Supervisor warning of storms or searching for lost dogs, expanded broadband service and impressive community newsletter have brought the community closer together. Residents have been recruited to serve on committees and councils from economic development and technology to conservation and zoning. The Ancram Opera House, a performing arts theater, has added culture to Ancram. Impossible to believe, Ancram town property tax rates have actually decreased 8.8% from 2018 to 2022.
Exactly four years ago in this magazine a local real estate investor was quoted as saying, “My opinion is that owners should try to sell now before interest rates rise more and this lengthy economic expansion ends. I can’t imagine it will get better.” In Ancram this may be truer today than ever before, but who knows what will happen next?
Christine Bates is a registered real estate agent in New York and Connecticut with William Pitt Sotheby’s. She has written about real estate and business since Main Street Magazine’s first issue in 2013.