By Nancy Arsenault
The spring real estate season is launching with one defining characteristic – lack of inventory. According to area realtors, buyers are anxious to locate in Stow, but lack of available homes for sale offers slim pickings and competition among buyers for the properties that really stand out.
Longtime realtor and Stow resident Katie Fisher of Fisher and Associates, said while 2013 also experienced low inventory, homes that year were still available from 2012, offering a larger list of possibilities for buyers looking in Stow. By the close of 2013 over 90 homes changed ownership here. Twelve properties sold in December alone, including three condo units.
Today, realtors are scrambling to gain any more than one third of that past inventory. Since December, less than two dozen properties were listed in Stow, with half of them coming on the market just within the last two months. The month of May sees 37 properties listed, including condos and single family homes and a few parcels of land, but realtors feel that is far from enough to meet spring demand.
Fisher said newcomers are attracted to Stow for its small town atmosphere, open space and great schools, along with proximity to major commuter routes. “ I am selling to people from everywhere,” said Fisher, adding that residents of nearby towns like Waltham and Sudbury continually look in Stow. “Most do not have kids yet and many do not have plans for kids. Others love the town for the schools and have families. It attracts people who are looking for a great place to call home,” Fisher said.
Houses for sale in Stow are on the market an average of a little more than 3 months, and those that are well maintained and with updated features sell even quicker, according to realtors. “Buyers are looking for updated homes. Appliances, bathrooms and kitchens always sell homes,” said Fisher. She mentioned a house recently listed that was ideally suited to buyers looking for something move-in ready. That home was on the market for only 10 days and sold after a bidding war among competing buyers.
Even though demand is far outweighing supply, Fisher said a home must still be priced right for what it offers. The average selling price for homes in Stow is around $450,000 – $520,000 but those homes that require repairs, renovations and updating may need a price reduction to eventually sell. Over the past twelve months, houses in Stow sold for about 5% less than original asking price, where price reductions were necessary, or about $25,000 less than originally listed, according to MLS reports.
Presently, of the 37 properties available in Stow this spring, the lowest priced single family home is a fixer upper on Red Acre Road for $259,900 along with a 986 sq. ft. condo for $170,000 at Meeting House at Stow, an active adult community. On the high end is a horse boarding and riding farm on Taylor Road and its 4-bedroom home for $1.75m, and a 3992 sq. ft. waterfront property on Lake Boon for $924.900. In addition, the historic Stow Away Inn is being offered for $780,000. A 1.7 acre buildable lot on North Shore Drive with 422’ of frontage on Lake Boon is being offered for $349,000.
While it’s a great time to sell, according to Fisher, that alone may not be enough to get more homes on the market. The anticipated number of Stow homes that may come onto the market any given year is still relatively low, said Fisher, who explained that while some people grouse loudly about taxes or other reasons to move, “only about 50 people move out of Stow in a year. But there are always many more wanting to move in,” she said.
Surrounding Stow, several towns are in the permitting process of construction and development of new subdivisions, which adds new and available homes to their real estate inventory. Villages at Stow was the last subdivision built in Stow and is now completed. Smaller single street developments are also finished. “We don’t have a lot of new homes to sell here right now,” Fisher said, though that will change very soon.
Hemmenway Farm is a 25-home Planned Conservation Development, already breaking ground off Walcott Street in the southwest corner of Stow. Built on former farm land, this development is conceived by Mark White of Bentley Building Corp., the same group that created Wildlife Woods, off Sudbury Road.
This subdivision will feature two long meandering streets with large 4-bedroom homes, fronting conservation property managed by the town. “There will actually be no houses visible for the first 300 feet of the entrance roadway,” said broker Robert Young of A Better Way Realty, who is marketing the lots and eventual homes. He said the development is planned to merge into the existing landscape and be as unobtrusive as possible. Construction crews are already laying out the roadway and work is expected to begin on individual lots this summer.