The real estate market in the Lakes Region may be poised for its best year ever in 2016.
“In the first quarter of 2016, our sales volume is up 118 percent over last year,” said Frank Roche, Realtor and owner of Roche Realty Group in Meredith and Laconia. “Unit sales are up 52.4 percent over that same time period, too.”
In 2015, Roche Realty Group had its second best year in its 40-year history, as its nearly 50 agents sold properties in excess of $126 million. “The market is rebounding very nicely from the big financial collapse of 2008,” said Roche. “We’re very pleased at what we are seeing so far this year and do not anticipate any letdown.”As for what explains the real estate boom in the region, he cited the old adage, “Location, location, location.”
“We are close to all kinds of recreational opportunities, such as snowmobiling, skiing in all forms and, of course, you have the lakes themselves,” he said. “You cannot beat the natural resources of the area, its proximity to the North Country and relative closeness to Boston — you are close to everything here.”
He also noted an increase in shops, restaurants and other cultural amenities, including the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, as another important factor in the growth of the real estate market in the Lakes Region.
“Commercially, the area has evolved, which has been essential for our vitality,” said Roche, adding that the region also features numerous special events that have helped enhance its overall attractiveness to potential buyers. “Gunstock Mountain Resort has also shown considerable expansion with a new mountain coaster under construction in addition to zip lines.”
He said waterfront properties in the form of second homes and vacation properties are especially desirable, as he noted 175 properties were sold on Lake Winnipesaukee alone in 2015. He said some of the smaller lakes — Winnisquam, Waukewan, Opechee and others — also attracted buyers.
Various accolades bestowed upon New Hampshire are another selling point, according to Roche. “New Hampshire has been ranked No. 1 in the country for the best quality of life for years by many groups,” said Roche, who said Morgan Quitno has ranked the Granite State as “the most livable state for eight years running.”
“It’s the No. 1 state for retirement in the country, according to moneyrates.com,” he added. “New Hampshire has the lowest crime rate and poverty in the country, and it’s the best place to raise kids — a lot of people see these accolades and it attracts them.”
Citing total sales on Lake Winnipesaukee — the region’s largest and most popular Lake — at nearly $210 million in 2015, Roche said the figure represents a 50 percent increase in sales from the previous year. To a great extent, he attributes these increases to the proliferation of various associations that feature “great amenities, pools and deeded rights to community beaches, including boat docks, boat berths and moorings.
“You have the social aspect, too,” he said. “Even those who are retired or semi-retired want to take advantage of our four seasons.”
According to Roche, what may surprise many people, however, is the general affordability of available real estate in the Lakes Region.
“You of course have properties that go for millions of dollars, but the median price in Meredith last year was $283,500 and $228,000 in Gilford, for instance,” he said. “Compare that with Chatham, Mass., and a median price of $612,000, and you can see the kind of value New Hampshire can provide … Even island properties here are affordable and start at $230,000.”
In looking ahead, he sees no downturn in commercial or residential real estate activity for the foreseeable future.
“The Lakes Region is a wonderful area to either retire or start a family,” he said. “There is a lot of value for investors, too.”