Wake Up and Smell the Bargains!
“Back in the early 90s, there were properties that went as bargains,” says Pat Best principal broker at Best & Cavallaro in Salisbury, CT, “and a lot of people, including myself, missed some buying opportunities. This feels a lot like that.” Chuck Bartolo of Beach and Bartolo in Columbia County echoes the sentiment: “This may be the best opportunity I’ve ever seen. The investment value of everything else is in question. What could be safer than good solid earth and clean air, two hours from mid-town Manhattan? If I had more liquid assets….” His voice trails off wistfully. Timothy Lovett of Berkshire Property Agents in Great Barrington says, “It’s a good time to buy because prices have adjusted, sellers are much more willing to negotiate, interest rates are very low, and banks are eager to work with good, qualified buyers.”
With prices down, inventory up and interest rates low, even real estate brokers, with their (usually) decades-long perspective on the market, are wishing they could buy. Caveat: (and this is spoken like a mantra), “But you have to be prepared to hang onto the property for at least five years.” So we posed a question: If you were in a position to go bargain hunting yourself right now, which properties would you buy? Understandably, some preferred to keep that information to themselves (and their customers). But for those who saw the challenge as interesting, we set some ground rules: pick any three from your Multiple Listing Service, but, in the interests of fairness, only one can be your own listing. [For those unfamiliar with how the Multiple Listing Services works, any broker or agent within a county can show any property listed on that county’s MLS, regardless of who the listing broker is.]
246 Silvernail Road, Chatham; 19th-century house; 3 bedrooms, 2 baths; $399,999
Chuck Bartolo: “This property (exterior, top) is extremely private and has nice views. It’s been completely updated and beautifully landscaped. There are two barns and a built-in fieldstone barbeque. Two years ago, it would have been in the $500,000 range.” Listing broker: The Kinderhook Group
1 Walden Road, Canaan; 5,000 square feet; 4 bedrooms, 4 baths; $895,000
Chuck Bartolo: It’s new construction on nine acres with fabulous Berkshire views. A house of this quality costs $250-a-square-foot to build. If you were to try to duplicate it—5,000 square feet, high quality appliances and finishing touches—it would cost $1,000,000 just for the house, and you haven’t bought the land, or put in the road, the well, the septic, or built a garage. The numbers work.” Listing broker: Beach and Bartolo
49 Glenwood Boulevard, Hudson; creatively restored 1850-square-foot 3 bedroom, 2 bath; $189,000.
Chuck Bartolo:“This nice little property is in move-in condition—completely redone and restored. Inside, the rooms are bright, and there’s a brand new kitchen with granite countertops. The yard backs up to a woods.” Listing broker: Coldwell Banker Bartolotta
264 Main St., Great Barrington; 2610 sq. ft loft condo over Rubiner’s Cheese Mongers; 1 bedroom, 1 bath; $935,000
Tim Lovett: “It’s the best of both world’s—Tribeca in the Berkshires in the most beautiful and coveted building in Great Barrington. Margaret Brownell [the owner/renovator] did a spectacular job with this building from the ground up. Although you are in the middle of everything, it’s an incredibly private, airy, beautiful space. A lot of us move up here to live in the country but we continue to do business. This loft is either a beautiful place to live, or live/work, or just work.” Listing broker: Berkshire Property Agents
111 Chestnut Hill Road, Monterey; Secluded, 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths on 72 acres; $599.000
Tim Lovett: “You’re in your own private world here—at the end of a dirt road, in its own magical hidden hollow, there’s this very private, very cool rugged rustic house. It’s not terribly old but it feels like an old New England farmstead that needs a little freshening up. It sits on huge acreage in an expensive town.” Listing broker: Gabel Real Estate
43 Pine Crest Hill, South Egremont; Rustic 2 bedrooms, 1 bath on less than 1/2 acre; $297,500
Tim Lovett: “This log cabin, with a big stone fireplace, is in an amazing place—the Adirondacks in the Berkshires. It’s a unique neighborhood—an old cabin resort on a private, gravel road right behind the shops and restaurants in downtown South Egremont; very cool. This cabin is in original condition, so there’s no damage to be undone.” Listing broker: Isgood Realty