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Real Estate Graph

By Michael Ardolino

Michael Ardolino

Great news is trending for 2022. The real estate market is still favoring sellers, and buyers can take advantage of mortgage rates that remain historically low.

Timing is everything. The best tip anyone can give a homebuyer is: Take advantage of rates on the low side now.

Let’s look at the data. According to Keeping Current Matters, mortgage rates are still below the average for each of the last five decades. Back in the 1980s, some people were paying rates as high as 12.7%! (See graph above)

For each single percentage point a mortgage rate is raised, it may only translate into a small increase in your monthly payment; however, over a few decades that will add up to a significant amount. Even half a point can make a difference.

The first few weeks of 2022 have been a prime example of how quickly mortgage rates can change. Freddie Mac reported 3.55% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on Jan. 27. Just three weeks before the company was reporting the same rate at 3.22%. Fortunately, the week before the 27th stayed flat despite the month-long rise, but these numbers are the highest in nearly two years.

Experts, such as Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist Sam Khater, expect the increase to be gradual, with rates possibly reaching 3.7% by the fourth quarter. We’ll stay on top of this closely.

Lock it in. People starting the home buying process will benefit from visiting various banks to find the best rate and locking it in. Rates fluctuate daily, sometimes even hourly.

How does a rate lock work? The lock will protect you against rate increases while in the home buying process. Of course, there is always a chance rates can go down, and that’s when it’s wise to ask your lending institution if they offer a “float down” option. Considering how things are trending, it’s most likely not needed now.

Make sure to ask about fees before locking in a mortgage rate. Depending on the lender, locks tend to last 30 to 60 days. Also, ask about extension costs past 60 days.

Make the move. The housing demand will continue to be high due to more buyers than sellers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac predict trends that will see a strong increase in home prices in 2022.

Many homeowners wait until later in the year to put their homes on the market as many people in the past searched for homes in the warmer weather to prepare to move after the school year ended. Buyers will look earlier now that they see mortgage rates increasing. Get their attention by putting your house on market earlier than the rest.

Takeaway. Be the first to secure the best price for your home, and if you need to take out a mortgage on your new place, enjoy 16-year low rates. So … let’s talk.

Michael Ardolino is the Founder/Owner-Broker of Realty Connect USA.

The Briarcliff building at 18 Tower Hill Road in Shoreham, was formerly the Briarcliff Elementary School until it closed in 2014. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Some residents see it as a magical place full of rich history and memories that deserves preservation, others consider it a tax burden that should be sold and disposed of. The future of Briarcliff Elementary School, a shuttered, early-20th century building on Tower Hill Road in Shoreham, is currently up in the air as the school district looks to community members to weigh in on potential options.

A dozen voices were heard Jan. 9 during a public forum held by Shoreham-Wading River’s board of education to decide the fate of the beloved historic school, which has sat vacant for the last three years. The nearly 27,000-square-foot manor was built in 1907, expanded on through 2007 and closed permanently in 2014 as part of the district’s restructuring plan.

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member and a former Briarcliff student, pleads his case to the board as to why it should preserve the school building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Administrators made it clear during the meeting that the board has no plans for the property at this time and, due to declining enrollment throughout the district, does not foresee it will be used for instructional use anytime soon — be it a pre-K or BOCES program. Board members said it will determine the best course of action for the building based on input from the community in the coming months.

“The board will not be making any decisions tonight on the future of the Briarcliff elementary school building, we’re only listening to residential statements,” said board president Robert Rose. “We recognize the importance of input from the entire community.”

This year, the annual operating costs for the property are estimated to total $95,000, which are expensed through the district’s general fund and includes building and equipment maintenance; insurance; and utilities, according to Glen Arcuri, assistant superintendent for finances and operations.

A presentation of the pricey upkeep didn’t dissuade several residents from speaking passionately about the school’s place in the history of Shoreham, pleading with the board to neither sell nor redevelop it for condominiums, as one speaker suggested.

“It was such a wonderful place — the children loved the building,” said Bob Korchma, who taught at Briarcliff for a number of years. “To lose such a great part of our community for housing and any other endeavors would be crazy. It has such history and working there was one of the best parts of my life.”

Debbie Lutjen, a physical education teacher at the school for 10 years, echoed the sentiments, calling the building “special,” and encouraged the board to move the two-floor North Shore Public Library that is currently attached to the high school to Briarcliff.

“If we sell, it’s a one-time influx of cash and we’re never going to get it back again. I think we should work together to keep it as an asset for Shoreham-Wading River.”

—Colette Grosso

“The majority of my teaching career in the district was at the high school, and when they put the public library there, I believe it created several security problems where the general public was on school grounds during the school day,” Lutjen said, suggesting that the freed up space at the high school could be used for classrooms, a larger cafeteria, a fitness center and testing rooms.

Residents also pushed the idea to designate the building a historic landmark and pursue grants, potentially from U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), to restore it. David Kuck, whose son went to Briarcliff, said on top of making it a historic site, the district should turn it into a STEM center for students across Suffolk County, as it stands in the shadow of inventor Nikola Tesla’s famous Wardenclyffe Tower.

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member and a former Briarcliff student, outlined the building’s history for the board — three generations of the prominent Upham family, including a veteran of the Civil War, built and owned the school in three different phases — and urged that covenants be filed on the property that says the building could never be taken down.

“The exterior must be kept in its historic state,” Madigan said. “It’s a very valuable and historical asset for our village. And it’s the most important thing to preserve as a resident.”

Joan Jacobs, a Shoreham resident for 40 years and former teacher, explained to the board how the building was the model for the mansion in the “Madeline” children’s books by Ludwig Bemelmans, who worked at a tavern on Woodville Road.

Joan Jacobs gets emotional talking about her connection and history with Shoreham’s Briarcliff Elementary School. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s so rich and having taught there for 14 years, having a daughter go through there, there’s an awful lot there,” an emotional Jacobs said. “It’s a shame to throw away our history.”

Both Bob Sweet and Barbara Cohen, members of Shoreham Village, advocated that the school be redeveloped as a residence for seniors in the area.

“I care about this building and sorely miss when the school buses coming up the road to drop the grade schoolers off,” Sweet said. “I admonish you don’t sell the property and explore the notion of turning this into condos for retired village members.”

But Colette Grosso, a special education aide at Miller Avenue School, said she hopes the community works toward a solution where the building remains an asset within the district for educational purposes as opposed to housing.

“All-day daycare and aftercare services could be done there, and there are other organizations besides BOCES that would love to use the facility to serve special education, which is an underserved population,” Grosso said. “If we sell, it’s a one-time influx of cash and we’re never going to get it back again. I think we should work together to keep it as an asset for Shoreham-Wading River.”

Further discussions with community members on Briarcliff will occur at the next board of education meeting Feb. 13 in the high school auditorium at 7 p.m.