Ithaca Builds

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Some Basic Data on Home Sales & Reported Costs in Ithaca

November 26, 2013 // by Jason Henderson

I generally don’t dig into single-family home development, but for the sake of sharing some basic information, here’s a series of charts I put together not long ago.

Most of this data is from the US Census Bureau, so the term “housing unit” can be confusing. Here’s the official definition:

A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied (or if vacant, is intended for occupancy) as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live and eat separately from any other persons in the building and which have direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall.

Home sales data from the Tompkins County Assessor’s Office:


And the obligatory comparison to the rest of the nation:


The following three charts are reported data from Building Permits, which can be imprecise due to the inherent incentive to “lowball” the projected build cost in order to decrease the permit fee, since it is based on a percentage of total cost, but I still found it interesting that the double-unit cost has been reported so much lower than single-unit. It’s probably due to a slew of complicated factors like intended market (finish quality), renovation versus new build, etc., but it’s not what I would have guessed.


MSA stands for Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is an area of Census blocks used to form combined statistics. The Ithaca MSA is the whole of Tompkins County.




The 2010 Census Data has scant information at the block level, however, it still has housing stock and population information per each block, so I took a selection of blocks within a 1.75 mile radius from the center of downtown. Although it’s not exactly apples-to-apples, the pricing above takes the 2010 weighted mean City & Town home sale price from the first chart divided by people per housing unit to get us a crude estimate of the cost of housing per person at the 2010 market. So, for a family of three in the City & Town, a $235,000 home price may be typical, which would be about a $2,200 monthly PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) payment on a 30-year mortgage at 5% with no down payment.


Sources: US Census Bureau, Tompkins County Department of Assessment, City-Data