2020 property sales to out of state buyers

In 2020, the state of Vermont saw a 38 percent increase in property sales to out-of-state buyers over the previous three years.

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BRATTLEBORO — Real estate agents across the state have noticed an uptick in land purchases by out-of-state buyers since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States.

But until now, most of that talk has only been anecdotal stories between agents and agencies.

“We don’t collect data on where the buyers come from,” said John Hatton, sales manager at Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country Realtors and the president of the Southern Vermont Association of Realtors. “But the Vermont Department of Taxes does keep track.”

Late last week, the agents received hard data crunched by Peter Tucker, using the state’s database. Tucker is the director of advocacy and public affairs for the Vermont Association of Realtors.

Tucker’s data shows from 2017 through July 2019, purchases by out-of-state buyers averaged about 25 percent of all sales. In late 2019, the peak hit 33 percent and in October of 2020 it hit an astounding 60 percent of sales.

That’s an average of 38 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

“That’s pretty hefty,” said Hatton.

This might seem like good news for real estate agents, said Hatton, and it might have been in previous years, but this year there is no inventory to sell.

“On this day in 2018 and 2019, we had between 70 and 80 single-family homes for sale in Brattleboro,” said Hatton. “Last night, Monday, we had 15 and the week before we had 10.”

He said the asking price for those properties ranges between the low hundred thousands and $600,000.

“It’s hard for real estate agents to make a living because there is so little to sell,” said Hatton, adding that’s true across the state and nationally.

According to data compiled by the Vermont Association of Realtors, the average purchase price for a single-family home has increased more than 45 percent from May 2019 to May 2020, from $271,236 to $393,521. However, by July of this year, the average price had dropped slightly, to $380,586.

In Windham County, the average listing price in July 2020 was $485,670; In July 2021, the average was $651,317. The median listing price for 2020 was $296,141 and year-to-date in 2021 it has been $319,329.

In Brattleboro, the median listing price in 2020 was $231,657; in 2021 year-to-date, it’s been $249,519.

The sales are pricing out many first-time homeowners, said Chris Campany, the executive director of the Windham Regional Commission, one of 11 regional planning commissions in Vermont that help municipalities cope with the challenges of growth and serving their residents.

“We’re in a crisis mode,” Campany said about housing in Vermont. “Housing issues used to be other people’s problems. I think everybody is realizing it’s everybody’s problem. Businesses that are trying to hire people or bring them in can’t because there’s nowhere to live. There are jobs here and people want to move here, but they can’t, because they can’t find housing.”

Campany said many towns are looking at revamping their zoning ordinances to allow for more affordable housing and denser housing, but until the state rewrites Act 250, which was enacted in 1970 to regulate land use in Vermont, there’s only so much towns can do.

The increase in sales prices means some people might be tempted to sell their homes, but there’s a Catch-22 to that proposition, he said.

“You can sell your house for a lot more money now,” he said. “But where are you going to go?”

“It’s a challenge,” said Hatton. “Where can you build in Brattleboro? We’ve run out of room.”

For more detailed sales prices corresponding to your town, visit https://www.vermontrealtors.com/vermont-real-estate-market-reports-july-2021.

When it comes to the increase of sales to out-of-state buyers, most of that has been in towns characterized as “resort towns,” such as Stowe, which had 176 sales for a total of $132 million in 2020. That compares to 120 sales in 2019 at $67 million, 144 in 2018 at $104 million and 156 in 2917 at $85 million.

But the town with the biggest number of sales to out-state buyers was Dover, with 230 sales in 2020 for a total of $73 million. That compares to 144 in 2019 at $33 million, 159 in 2018 at $37 million, and 126 in 2017 at $38 million.

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Ludlow came in second in 2020 with 219 sales at $98 million, 191 in 2019 at $75 million, 187 in 2018 at $65 million, and 142 in 2017 at $45 million.

Wilmington saw 137 sales in 2020 at $54 million dollars. For the previous three years (going backward from 2019) sales were 82 at $21 million, 74 at $19 million, and 96 at $38 million.

Stratton came in with 104 sales in 2020 at $65 million. The previous three years of sales were 79 at $31 million, 66 at $30 million and 63 at $31 million.

Winhall also saw robust out-of-state sales, with 110 in 2020 for $49 million. From 2019 to 2017, those sales were 64 at $25 million, 62 at $24 million, and 48 at $20 million.

In Manchester, the sales for 2020 were 92 at $46 million and then (again, going backward from 2019) 52 at $25 million, 50 at $23 million and 39 at $16 million.

Killington and Hartford also saw increased sales in 2020, at 158 for $54 million and 137 for $42 million, respectively.

Other towns also saw increases, including Wardsboro, with 36 sales at $8 million; Brattleboro, with 31 sales at $10 million (19 sales in 2019 for $5 million, 21 in 2018 for $4 million dollars, and 16 in 2017 for $2 million); Jamaica, with 31 sales for $12 million (which was a drop in sales from 2019 at 33 sales for $8 million); Newfane, with 22 sales for $6 million; and Whitingham, with 21 sales for $5 million.

In Bennington County, Arlington had 20 sales for $7 million, up from 13 in 2019 at $3 million, eight in 2018 for $2 million, and eight in 2017 for $2 million.

Bennington had 19 sales at $4 million, up from 14 in 2019 for $2 million, 10 in 2018 at $2 million, and 12 in 2017 at $2 million.

Other towns in Windham County also saw increases, with Guilford at nine for $2 million; Readsboro with 13 at $3 million; Halifax with 11 at $3 million; Townshend with 17 at $4 million; Londonderry with 48 at $15 million; and Grafton with 18 at $7 million.

Many of the sales seem to correspond with results from the 2020 census, which show an increase in population in Vermont since the 2010 census from 625,741 to 643,077 residents, a 2.8 percent increase. Windham County — the sixth most populous of the state’s 14 counties — grew higher than the state average, up by 3.1 percent, from 44,513 to 45,905.

But population increases don’t necessarily directly correspond to home sales, said Hatton, as many of those new residents might have owned a second home in Vermont and simply switched their primary residences.

Dover, home to Mount Snow resort, grew to nearly 2,000, with the addition of 674 residents, according to a breakdown prepared by the Vermont Center for Geographic Information.

Marlboro recorded a nearly similar increase with 644 people moving to town, bringing its total population to over 1,700; Wilmington saw an increase of 379 people, bringing its population up to 2,250; Brattleboro had an increase of 138, bringing it up to 12,184; Stratton had an increase of 103.7 percent, with 224 new residents, bringing its total to 440; and Winhall’s population, with 413 more residents, topped out at 1,182.

The Connecticut River towns of Putney, Westminster, Rockingham and Springfield all saw decreases in population, at 85 fewer residents, 162, 450 and 311, respectively.

Tucker’s data also shows where people are moving from to take up residence in the Green Mountain State, and they’re coming from all over the country, as far away as Alaska and even Hawaii.

Tucker is also compiling data on sales to out-of-country buyers, but that data was not yet available.

As might be expected, the largest share of people moving to Vermont comes from metropolitan areas in the Northeast, such as Boston and the counties surrounding it, with 968 buyers (415 from Middlesex County, 171 from Norfolk County and 168 from Suffolk County). In total, 1,192 of the buyers came from Massachusetts.

Another 252 came from Fairfield County in Connecticut, for a total of 614 buyers from the Nutmeg State.

There were 186 buyers from Manhattan, for a total of 368 from New York City and its boroughs. Another 127 came from Westchester County and another 223 from Long Island.

And while it’s been historically true that many New Englanders move to Florida to escape the winters, 244 out-of-state buyers came to Vermont from the Sunshine State in 2020.

For a more detailed look at where people are coming from, or how many out-of-staters purchased property in your town, visit https://ptt.mapvt.com.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.