Real Estate Presence

MJ Peterson Real Estate has been around since 1930, but their presence in the City of Buffalo has grown tremendously in the last two years. “We’re firing on all cylinders,” Realtor Joe Suppa said. We opened this office because we saw what was happening in the city, and we wanted to be part of it—on the ground floor.” The New Buffalo City office has is already out preformed some of the other suburban branches, with sales in the first qutarter of this year topping $12 million.
Sales Associate Kelly Barbus added, “We all live and work in the city.” Barbus herself went from living in the Elmwood Village area to Parkside, and says that there was a period of adjustment. “Parkside is almost like a suburb within the city, and suburbanites want in. Go to any open house, and they’re mostly people from the suburbs.”
Susie Lenahan, a top listing and selling broker for the last 11 years, who has a CBR, or Certified Buyers Realtor designation said, “I’m still getting multiple offers of sales in the city. It’s no wonder,” she said, “go hang out on Elmwood Avenue on any decent day at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There’s a wonderful, eclectic mix of people—kids skateboarding, mothers with strollers, shoppers. There’s the co-op and all kinds of retail. It’s a great slice of what’s going on in the area. But I’m preaching to the choir.”
That’s all well and good for Elmwood, but what about the surrounding areas? The really good news from MJ Peterson is the fact that neighborhoods in the city that weren’t selling a while back are suddenly desirable. “12 years ago,” Barbus said, “No one wanted to go west of Richmond Avenue.” Not so now.
“The homes three blocks west of Richmond have come up to par in the last 3 to 5 years,” Suppa said. “There’s a huge demand for $100,000 houses, so we’ve gone west of the traditional hot spots. Now when someone comes to me and says, ‘I want to be near Elmwood,’ I have something for them.” To put a face on things, Suppa said, “I had a student from Germany who wanted just that. I placed her on York, west of Richmond, and she’s happy as can be. She’ll be a great homeowner, who’ll help that neighborhood go up in value, and then there’ll be a lot more of that.”
“And North Pearl! A house on North Pearl sold of the open house for $245,000 to a young couple with small children,” Lenahan said.
“Right,” Barbus added. “I have a listing at 120 Parkside that seriously needs about $50,000 work, and I’ve had 10 offers in 2 weeks.
Suppa interjected, “People who want to buy a home and live in it are not afraid to buy foreclosures and sink dollars into them. Whether they’re downsizing or upsizing, we’re helping people move back into the city, and the numbers are loud and clear. And while the selling price around the village starts at about $200,000, North Buffalo is the next option between $125,000 to $150,000.”
Suppa said the prices are climbing fast though. “I just did a 12-month comparison, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I came up with,” he said, “but in January of 2002, our average selling price was $144,500. In January of this year, it was $173,500. That’s substantial…and it has nothing to do with national numbers. The national numbers are disjointed with local numbers.” Suppa went on to say that Buffalo has a very strong market while other parts of the country are suffering difficulties in a housing market that is struggling with high interest loans, foreclosures and a shortage of buyers.
Lenahan pointed out that she’s able to offer a special rate through M&T Bank. She and Barbus are working together to place a total of 29 graduates from Ivy League institutions by August 1st who want to get into lofts at around $1,400 to $1,600 per apartment. M&T also has a special lending package for teachers, firefighters and policeman, who all have residency requirements, if they buy in a certain area.
“[The University at Buffalo] is also proactive through M&T,” Barbus said, “giving special incentives to UB workers who want to relocate in the city.”
Barbus added, “If you work for UB, they want you to buy in the district. Our relocation department did a study when Spitzer announced his 20/20 plan, and if you work for UB and you want to buy in the district, they offer 110 percent financing and closing on a standard rate loan. Those streets [around UB's Main Street campus] need more owner occupied homes to keep the area strong.”
And the area around Canisius is on the rise also. “It’s been a sleeper, but Coe Street is on the rise. A lot depends on people fixing up their homes. North Hampton, Edna–they should all come around in the next three to five years.” Suppa was not quite as optimistic for the area east of mid-town, saying that more big money would have to come in first. Savarino Construction’s [ArtSpace] building and UB’s proposed medical campus in the Trico Products Corporation building complex, as well as their purchase of the M. Wile Co. building, stand to figure in as a prime boost to the downtown area.
“Out of town investors came here looking for a deal, and yes, it all looked good until they tried it. Some may have thought they could run a non-owner occupy from afar and found out they were getting ripped off by so called property managers,” Suppa said of homes that were bought, abandoned and subsequently foreclosed on. “On paper, those houses might have looked good—close to downtown, the thruway, everything. [Mayor] Brown’s anti-flipping task force is not a joke. The community is stepping up to the plate,” Suppa said. He says it angers him when he sees boarded up houses in areas with potential. He believes that redevelopment of the Fruitbelt is years away, but concedes that he also thought that about the area west of Richmond, initially.
“Urban living is making a national comeback,” Suppa explained. “It offers an easy lifestyle coming from the burbs. The big guys do their homework before they put up big buildings. And big money coming into the heart of downtown leaches out.”
“And people want anything on the water,” Suppa said. “In the last four years, I’ve seen a tremendous upswing, and it’s made a true believer of me.”

About the author  ⁄ Sarah Rose Stone

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