Buyers are pouring into Schenectady.
In just the past eight weeks, 53 offers have been accepted for Schenectady houses. With closings typically taking one to two months, most of those houses will be filled with new owners by spring.
Councilman Carl Erikson highlighted the numbers at Monday’s City Council meeting, at which bankers also gave a presentation on new mortgages that would allow buyers to wrap the cost of renovations into their loans.
Erikson said the sale tally for a frigid period of winter is proof that the city’s Key to the City program is working.
“We’re not talking about peak sale times. We’re talking about the middle of winter,” he said. “It was kind of shocking. I wasn’t expecting numbers so high.”
Mayor Gary McCarthy also trumpeted the sales figures.
“We will make this community again one where everyone wants to live,” he said.
It took 17 months to sell the first 100 houses; the city celebrated that milestone just a month ago.
But the program picked up speed steadily and houses are now turning over quickly enough that buyers are starting to consider distressed properties, including the vacant houses taken by the city last year through foreclosure. Most of those houses need work, and some need a lot of work. But typical mortgages won’t cover those costs, forcing homebuyers out of that market.
No longer. Prospect Lending branch manager Kurt Endres said his bank is now offering 203(k) mortgages, in which owners can borrow enough to buy the house and repair it, with the amount of the loan capped at the estimated post-repair value of the house.
The loans will fit Schenectady’s foreclosed houses perfectly, he said.
“That’s what it’s designed for — a distressed property,” he said, adding that it can also be used by homeowners who don’t have enough equity in their house for a home equity loan but need to make repairs.
“We see a lot of people using this to refinance their home to do improvements,” he said.
Key Bank officials also announced that they will give out federal grants of up to $5,000 to help buyers with closing costs and down payments.
Both loans require buyers to be owner-occupants with “average” credit.
In other business, the council again considered the possibility of revising city zoning to allow facilities similar to a Ronald McDonald House — a residence near a hospital where family members can stay while their loved one is a patient at the hospital.
The “medical hospitality house” zoning would be allowed in residential neighborhoods within 150 feet of overnight medical centers, but would not be allowed in historic districts.
The zoning change was denied last year because it included historic districts, and residents of the GE Realty Plot — next to Ellis Hospital — complained.
With the revision, only one person spoke at Monday’s public hearing.
Resident Tony Buonome urged the council to allow the zoning for families coming to visit critically ill patients.
“This is something that should be done,” he said. “Something like this has to be done in the city of Schenectady.”
Assistant Police Chief Jack Falvo and his family have been raising money for years for a medical hospitality house.
If the council approves the zoning, the house would be named Jack’s Place, in honor of Falvo’s son, who died in 2005 in a Jet Ski accident. He was 21.
The organizers want to buy a large house off Rosa Road, within walking distance of Ellis Hospital and Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital.
The council could vote on the zoning change as early as March 11.