Pleasant Rowland, the founder of doll company American Girl who spent six years and millions of dollars restoring much of Aurora, N.Y., has put both of her houses there on the market.
From 2001 to 2006, Ms. Rowland renovated town buildings owned by Wells College, her alma mater. Some townspeople criticized the renovations as too extensive. “I just simply saved a town that was crumbling,” Ms. Rowland says now. “My work there is completed.” She says the dispute isn’t her reason for leaving town.
One of the houses in Aurora, which is 46 miles southwest of Syracuse, is a 10,000-square-foot Queen Anne lakefront mansion built about 1902 with six bedrooms. It could use some interior renovation, Ms. Rowland says, and comes with 200 feet of frontage on Cayuga Lake, a dock and a boathouse. The two-acre property is listed for $2.2 million. The other house, an 1830 Federal-style home of 4,000 square feet with three bedrooms, is restored, Ms. Rowland says. The four-acre property is listed for $2 million.
In 1985, Ms. Rowland founded American Girl, which Mattel bought for $700 million in 1998. These homes represent the last of Ms. Rowland’s recent ties to Aurora. Last week, she sold Aurora-based MacKenzie-Childs, a decorative-tableware and home-furnishings company. She’s based in Madison, Wis. Paddington Zwigard of Brown Harris Stevens has both home listings.
It must be noted that former Mattel CEO Jill Barad signed the $700M check.
Dave Stark: [432K PDF]
My, my, this was certainly an interesting quarter of activity in the South Central Wisconsin real estate market! For a while there, it was looking like we might start to see an uptick in activity compared with the 3rd quarter of 2006. In fact, note that single family home sales for the third quarter in the combined Dane, Sauk, and Columbia markets are off only 1% from the same quarter of 2006. For the year, they’re off only 3%. Condo sales are off a little more, falling 14% for the quarter and 11% for the year. As we said in our last edition, the market appeared to have settled into a groove, down roughly 10-12% from the unrealisticallyfrantic 2005 pace.
And then, in mid August, the Great Sub-Prime Fiasco hit the national media like a nuclear bomb, and things changed dramatically. Within the third quarter numbers, reported closings in September are off nearly 24% from last September (as of this writing*). That shows you just how drastically things changed in mid-stream. The sensational reports speculating that Countrywide might go bankrupt seemed to throw the market into a kind of paralysis, and buyers scuttled to the side lines again just when they seemed to be finding the courage to come back onto the field.
Unfortunately, as has been the case throughout this period, the perceptions the public is being left with range from overstated to just plain wrong. While the events of August were real, our experience is that most local home buyers and sellers don’t understand what it means for us. The media has done a very poor job of distinguishing between what’s going on nationally and what’s going on here locally. The impression many people have is that foreclosures are skyrocketing, foreclosed homes are flooding the market, driving up inventories, lenders are going out of business so that home loans are no longer available, interest rates on the few loans that are available are rising, and home prices are plummeting. None of these things are remotely true in our local market. But as the September closing numbers suggest, these perceptions do have an influence on people’s behavior in the short run. Yes, something is going on, but what is it, really?
Dave Stark is a longtime friend and client. www.starkhomes.com
Dave Stark [480K PDF]:
So far, 2007 seems to be unfolding pretty much to form. In our last newsletter (4th Quarter 2006), we predicted that closings reported in the first quarter of 2007 would run slightly behind closings for the first quarter of 2006. As of mid April 2007, sales reported to the South Central Wisconsin MLS for the first quarter trail last year by 8%. This probably overstates the drop, since stragglers will continue to report closings for the next few months. It wouldn’t surprise us if another 100 or so sales will be on the books when we look back next year. Nonetheless, there are a number of very positive, and underreported, trends at work behind those numbers that bear analyzing.
Inventories: In the chart below, you see that inventories have risen slightly from the same period a year ago, although not nearly as much as they did the year before that. However, if you compare both inventories and the pace of sales to 3 months ago, you’ll see that the number of days of inventory on the market have actually fallen for both single family homes and condos (see chart, p.2). Condo inventory on the MLS hasn’t grown at all since the 4th quarter, although it remains stubbornly high. Building permits are down even further this year than they were last year, which will continue to hasten the fall in inventories.
New Construction vs. Resale Housing:For all of 2006, single family sales fell 7.8% for the entire South Central Wisconsin market, and 11.1% for Dane County. However, if you break those sales up into new and used, you see a different picture. Single family resales were down only 5.5% for the entire market, and 6.2% in Dane County. New construction, by contrast, was down 20.1% for the entire market, and 27.2% for Dane County. For the first quarter of 2007, resales are down only 1.4% for the entire market, and are actually up 1.5% in Dane County. New construction sales, however, were down 30% in Dane County for the first quarter of 2007 compared to a year ago.
There is always a 30 to 60 day lag between offers and closings, so the numbers you’re seeing for the first quarter reflect activity from the holidays and January/February, always the slowest time of the year for offers. So far, offers have tracked pretty closely with a year ago, which is good news, because the first half of last year wasn’t that bad. If we have a “normal” second half of 2007, we should have a much better year than last.
The report includes a useful look at Sub-Prime Lending. Dave Stark is a friend and long time customer.
Dave Stark [450K PDF]:
Regular readers of this newsletter will know that 2006 was, to put it mildly, a strange year in real estate. Despite continued record low interest rates and a relatively strong economic and employment picture, it’s well known that housing sales in South Central Wisconsin took a breather in the second half of the year.
What was particularly startling was how sudden and pronounced the change was from the first half of the year to the second. The good news is that, at least as of this writing, it appears that the recovery could be equally as sudden, and perhaps as dramatic.
For the year, sales of single family homes and condos were down roughly 8% in the area covered by the full South Central Multiple Listing Service. However, for the first 6 months of the year, sales were basically flat, down about 1%. For the second 6 months, sales were down 14.5%. In Dane County, the slowdown was even more dramatic; sales were down 4.7% in the first half of the year, but down 19.2% in the second half. For the year, Dane County was off roughly 12%. In Sauk and Columbia Counties, sales were actually up almost 4% in the first half of the year, but down almost 10% in the second half, and off about 3% for the year overall.
The question this all begs is: Why did this happen? And, perhaps more important: When will things turn back up?
Dave Stark is a friend and long time customer.