After a steep decline in 2010, the Waterbury real-estate market appears poised for a comeback.
Residential real-estate sales dropped 34 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, with 21 units sold vs. 32.
Sale prices also fell. The median price — the price at which half of all sales are higher and half are lower — dropped 8 percent, from $264,500 in 2009 to $243,000 in 2010.
The average price fell further, 21 percent, from $303,248 in 2009 to $238,414 in 2010.
While the number of land-sale transactions was down from 2009, prices were higher.
There were just two land-sale transactions in 2010, down from five in 2009. However, the median price went from $89,000 in 2009 to $207,500 in 2010, and the average price went from $130,600 in 2009 to $207,500 in 2010.
The new year is showing strong signs of a turnaround, said McKee Macdonald, a broker with the Smith Macdonald Real Estate Group, Coldwell Banker Carlson Real Estate in Stowe.
“We see positive signs for the Waterbury market in 2011,” Macdonald said. “Already this year, we are seeing sales in several price points and we are seeing interest in land, which didn’t exist in 2010.”
Cindy Lyons at Landmark Realty in Waterbury also reports a busy start to this year.
“Things already seem to be turning around for 2011,” Lyons said. “Early on, we are very busy with buyers in all price ranges and it is turning into a phenomenal January. Buyers are not only looking, but ready to make offers.”
Many real-estate buyers in Waterbury are looking for mid-priced homes that don’t need a lot of work.
The majority of homes sold in Waterbury in 2010 were between $200,000 and $300,000. There were 10 in that category, compared to 15 in 2009.
There were eight sales of homes priced below $200,000, compared to six in 2009. Many of those buyers wanted to take advantage of the first-time homebuyer credit before it expired last summer.
There were two sales of homes priced between $300,000 and $400,000, five fewer than in 2009. There was only one sale above $400,000 in 2010.
Because of its central location, Waterbury also draws a number of second-home buyers.
“Since Waterbury is right on the highway, but close to Stowe, we do see people looking for the second homes,” Macdonald said. “Those buyers can have a large range when it comes to price and size, based on their personal financial situations. Some looked above $400,000 for larger homes and then several looked below $400,000 for the smaller, more traditional second home.”
Lyons saw a similar trend.
“We worked with many first-time home buyers in 2010, looking for small, energy-efficient homes under $300,000,” Lyons said. “They generally were not interested in homes that needed a lot of work. Updated features were important.
“There were a number of buyers looking above the $400,000 price point, but they were doing a lot of looking, and slower to make moves.”
Signs of a strong 2011
In real estate, strong sales often come down to location. Waterbury’s convenient location, coupled with the predicted economic recovery, could translate to an upturn in 2011.
“There are many positive aspects to the Waterbury market that lead us to believe the activity there will continue to move in a positive direction,” Macdonald said. “First, the inventory on a whole is lower than in Stowe and Lamoille County. This gives people less options and should drive more sales to happen.”
He also predicts prices will move higher.
“We don’t expect major gains in price, but do we expect them to be moving in an upward trend for the year,” Macdonald said. “Additionally, the strong commercial industry that Waterbury hosts helps to drive this market and we see those industries gaining more positive ground in 2011.”
He points to expansion at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters as reason to be optimistic about new people moving to the area.
“With this growth, we expect more employment opportunities in the area and thus a larger demand for properties,” Macdonald said. “Also, the fact that Waterbury sits almost equal distance to Burlington, Montpelier and Stowe adds to its market appeal.
“As with the rest of the area and country, if the economy continues to gain ground, we should see the local real-estate market move in that direction as well.”