In search of a crystal ball | News, Sports, Jobs

Someone told me that Celoronis was destined to one day become the new Bemus Point. The like-minded gentleman is a long-time local, so I was interested in his thoughts on the future of our lakeside neighborhoods.

I can imagine its Celoron – another pedestrian village with a hotel anchored in the neighborhood, a few shops and restaurants and the gentrification of certain streets. It is accessible to Lakewood shopping and convenience center. They have a beach front and a nice park and a great view of the sunset.

I’m certainly not trying to oust Bemus as a primary tourist attraction, or displace any of Celoron’s residents in my thoughts, but as Chautauqua Lake tourism evolves, so will the neighborhoods. Summit Avenue in Lakewood has seen more than a few waterfront properties gentrified in recent years to become more modern, updated, and eco-friendly homes. It feels more like a suburban enclave in some places than the kitschy, cozy, rustic place we all know and love.

As much as I selfishly lament the change in my column, I am all for a healthy revival in Chautauqua County. We have seen Westfield undergo a metamorphosis over the years and I believe we will see change and progress in many other counties over time.

We can all come on board with good changes.

But buying a home around our lake zip codes seems like a case of who you know these days or have a dozen real estate agents on the speed dial. Homes that stay on the market too long seem to need a lot of work or they are asking too much or both. People in the real estate industry say things have slowed down a bit, but try buying a house in Celeron. There isn’t much on the market, and when there is, it disappears in a flash. What do the people of Celoron know that we don’t?

Chautauqua County ranks in the top 10 real estate markets statewide. Between investors, eager locals, and foreigners discovering our corner of paradise, I do not see this great slowdown in the engines. And I pay attention.

My parents bought our Chautauqua Lake cabin in the late 1960s for $3,000 from a relative. If that doesn’t make you wish you had a crystal ball, I don’t know what would. It was also a large waterfront property.

What is it about people that makes them think that everything will always stay the same? I don’t remember my dad rubbing his hands thinking what a windfall he’d get if he kept this place for fifty years. He took it for granted. He just didn’t have that crystal ball.

And neither did the rest of us – at least most of us. My grandmother’s family had a waterfront home in Lakewood while she was growing up. When I pass by, I try to look away from the desire for family inheritance. It is a beautiful house. It makes me want to keep our own little place for our kids, and maybe their kids, but because they won’t know better, they probably won’t understand the long-term possibilities. And it’s not always convenient or easy for a family to hold on to real estate.

As people are displaced from the rental and buyer market in Florida and most major US cities, they are looking for an easier and cheaper way of life. There’s consensus that these economic and demographic trends can help small towns and cities come back this decade, but it doesn’t look like places like Lakewood need any help.

Realtors are seeing this trend. The National Association of Realtors reports that nearly twice as many millennials bought homes in small towns or rural areas than in denser urban areas last year.

Another guy I met today was telling me that his grandma was paying for her exorbitant retirement home fees in New York by slowly selling off a bunch of seven houses she owns in the city, all worth lots and lots more than when she bought them.

She had a crystal ball.

Most of us (looking at you, Dad!) missed those boats to lakeside real estate fortunes. But as far as we know, a house here will be worth a lot more in ten or twenty, even fifty years. But that just sounds ridiculous, right? Surely this has never happened before.

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