Raising The Roof With County Home Sales

The Battery Point Villas in Dunkirk are proposed to bring high-end apartments to an area that is desperately needed. Photo by Natasha Matteliano

Chautauqua County’s declining population has been well documented in recent years by this newspaper. During the 1970s, the numbers peaked at 147,000.

Fifty years later, however, an exodus has been evident. According to the most recent U.S. Census projections, about 127,000 people reside here — about 13% less than during our heydays.

But an article last week by staff reporter Jay Young on the real-estate market provides some hope for today and the future. It appears that homes for sale are becoming harder to find. In addition, sellers are finding that buyers are willing to pay more than in recent years.

“Our market has definitely gotten stronger over the last three or four years, but we’re in a situation now with the low inventory where we are seeing multiple offers, we’re seeing people paying above the asking price. It has gotten to be a normal situation,” said Steve Holt, owner of Howard Hanna Holt Real Estate. “People are less afraid to pay a little bit more because interest rates are so low right now. I think part of the recent demand has been, people have spent three months in their homes, and found all of the shortcomings of their existing homes.”

Recent figures back this up. According to the article, an Upstate New York Real Estate Information Systems report for Chautauqua County noted a 31.7% decrease in inventory of homes for sale in June this year — a drop from 578 in 2019 to 395 this year. There also has been a 10% increase in the median sales price, up from $90,000 in 2019 to $99,750, and a 4% increase in average sales price.

New York state’s Department of Taxation and Finance annual statistics also show some growth in the real-estate numbers. In 2017, there were 1,357 county home sales with a median price of $82,000. In 2018, there were 1,441 sales at a median price of $88,510. The department reported 1,430 sales in 2019.

Our recent rebound is not much different than what Erie County has been experiencing. For years, residents were fleeing Buffalo. Today, however, there is a rebirth — and a run on residences. Some of it has to do with the Queen City’s medical corridor booming while downtown, especially before the coronavirus, was becoming a destination.

State figures for that location show median sales from 2017 to 2019 increasing from $152,000 to $166,000 — an 8.4% rise.

In the meantime, Chautauqua County had captured momentum before the COVID-19 crisis. Manufacturing in the north county is undergoing a major resurgence as the Athenex prepares to open its state-of-the-art facility and Fieldbrook Foods continues to build on its Dunkirk plant with an $87 million expansion. In Jamestown, improvements to the Northwest Savings Bank Ice Arena and the celebrated National Comedy Center are both reasons for optimism.

There is one other item right now playing in the favor of Western New York. Even though Buffalo is a top 60 city in terms of television markets, the remainder of the region is considered rural. In the aftermath of COVID-19, that matters to those who have lived in tight-knit quarters of major cities or hot spots in the south.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo listed the counties with the most virus infections in the state starting with the month of March. Of the 418,225 cases, nearly 350,000 of those were from the New York City and Long Island areas. That equates to about 16% of the cases being upstate.

In this era of uncertainty, that breakdown is significant.

Add in the national spotlight of the Comedy Center and Fredonia being featured on the “Small Business Revolution” series starting in the fall and you have loads of potential for even more people seeing this county as a place to live. Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas, in a recent presentation to the Dunkirk-Fredonia Rotary Club, talked about the possibilities of the Battery Point Villas, which are located directly across the street from the major pharmaceutical facility.

“They are already booked for the first phase,” Rosas said of a recent discussion with the developers. “They’re telling me that Athenex has reached out to them and Athenex is looking to reserve some of those apartment complexes they’re going to be building.”

While the project is moving slowly, it does bring something that is sorely needed to the north county region: high-end housing on Lake Erie. “This is very exciting for the city,” the mayor said. “This again is condo-type apartments on our waterfront.”

Updated figures show Chautauqua County with the fourth-lowest median sale price for houses in New York state, ahead of only Allegany, Cattaraugus and St. Lawrence counties. That ranking reflects the economic troubles this area has endured for five decades.

On a more positive note, those affordable home prices look good to those who are on the outside looking in at what our communities have to offer in terms of quality of life. In times like these, home sure is sweet.

John D’Agostino is the regional editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 253.


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