Leadership upheaval of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres may or may not be great for the teams, but it's been fabulous for the high-end housing market.
Four of the largest single-family real estate deals in the last 30 days were generated by Bills and Sabres executives, as the city's two major sports teams continue to drive some of the region's biggest home sales.
The four transactions in mid-July account for nearly $3.7 million in value, according to deeds filed with the Erie County Clerk's office. All three Bills purchases were in Orchard Park's Birdsong development, while the Sabres sale was in Buffalo. They are:
- Bills General Manager Brandon W. Beane paid $1.15 million for a home on Birdsong Parkway in Orchard Park.
- Bills Assistant General Manager Joseph Schoen paid $870,000 for a Rock Dove Lane home in Orchard Park.
- Bills Vice President of Player Personnel Brian W. Gaine paid $655,000 for a home on Sandpiper Court in Orchard Park.
- Former Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma sold a Hallam Road house in Buffalo for $999,999.
That doesn't include other recent sales or pending deals. Former Bills' coach Rex Ryan sold his house in April to Leo's Pizzeria owner Keith Leo, for $945,000.
"It just helps drive the prices. It helps the higher-end clients who wouldn't otherwise be able to sell their house for three years," said Amy Pfister, a real estate agent at Howard Hanna Real Estate who specializes in luxury homes. "If we didn't have the Bills and the Sabres in the high-end luxury market, you might get one person a year."
She also noted the spinoff effect that sports figures have when they renovate homes or need new furniture, equipment or services for their houses. Ryan spent about $300,000 on renovations.
"They're just constantly stimulating the economy. They need help. They need people," Pfister said. "I can't imagine what we would do without them."
Beane, the former Carolina Panthers deputy who was named Bills general manager in May, bought an 11,000-square-foot mansion with his wife, Hayley.
The May 17 purchase from John P. and Dorothy J. Gocella gives the Beanes a home in Birdsong, one of the most exclusive developments in the Southtowns, sharing two lakes, a pond and hiking trails on 165 acres. The house was listed for $1.25 million.
"We had the house on the market for a year and a half, and we needed someone like a Sabre or a Bill or someone in that category to buy it," said John Gocella, founder and chairman of the Gocella Agency in Cheektowaga. "That's typical of homes in that category."
Gocella, who still lives in Orchard Park with his wife, said they had potential buyers vetted, to weed out those who weren't serious, before they were even allowed to come to the house. A couple were interested, but "things didn't quite work out," he said.
Built in 2005 on 1.5 acres, the four-bedroom brick home has six bathrooms, a master suite and spa on each floor, and an enclosed lanai with an in-ground pool, hot tub and view of the surrounding woods, according to the real estate listing. The kitchen and butler's pantry have granite counters, cherry cabinets and two ovens. There's also a cinema, a workout gym, a recreation room and a basketball court.
Schoen, Beane's new No. 2, also bought his new home – a 4,933-square-foot, two-story Colonial – in the same neighborhood this month. Schoen and his wife, Eva Marie, purchased the brick, stone and wood house from Dennis Penman, executive vice president of Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. Schoen, former director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins, was also named to his post in May.
The four-bedroom home was built in 2007, on 0.72 acres backing up to the woods, with Brazilian teak hardwood floors. The first floor has 10-foot ceilings, while the second floor is 9 feet tall. There's also a finished 1,100-square-foot walk-out basement with a "glamour bathroom" and a three-car side garage, according to the property listing.
The house features a great room with fireplace, a morning room, a breakfast bar, a formal dining room and office, a sun room, a 600-square-foot two-tiered stone patio outdoor entertainment area, and a gourmet kitchen with cherry cabinets and a butler's pantry. The master suite has a high-volume ceiling and fireplace, with a walk-in closet and a large master bathroom that includes a heated floor. There are also two more bedrooms and a guest suites with a private full bathroom.
"At the higher end of the market, the executive salaries and player salaries are in a place where higher-priced homes, not only are they going to be desired but it broadens the market a little bit at the top," said Penman, a real estate executive who moved to Williamsville after he sold. "In the case of Orchard Park, because of the proximity to the stadium, the Buffalo Bills have a great impact on those homes."
That's especially the case when training camp approaches, because the players and managers need to act and close quickly. Penman's home was on the market for less than a month.
That doesn't mean the Bills are the only option for someone looking to sell their home.
"There's always a market at the higher end. My neighbors out there were not all from the Buffalo Bills," added Penman, citing doctors, lawyers and business owners. "It does add to the market. It doesn't totally drive the market."
Gaine and his wife, Patricia, bought their new Orchard Park residence from Richard F. and Patricia L. Kapelewski. Gaine was director of player personnel for the Houston Texans before the Bills hired him.
Also a brick home in Birdsong, the 3,722-square-foot Colonial has four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, with an open floor plan, a large deck, vaulted ceilings, and an 8-foot-tall walk-out basement equipped for a bathroom. It was built in 2006, on 0.6 acres, according to the listing.
The house features cherry hardwood floors, a kitchen with a center island and granite countertops, custom molding, a mudroom and first-floor laundry, an office with wainscoting and built-in features, a second-floor landing and a catwalk balcony. It also includes a 3.5-car insulated and heated garage, custom landscaping with an irrigation system, a gas backup generator system and customized lighting.
On the other side of the home sales ledger, Bylsma – who was fired by the Sabres in April – sold his four-bedroom Buffalo house to Drs. Steven D. Schwaitzberg and Lisa Jane Jacobsen, according to property records.
The 4,208-square-foot English Tudor was built in 1929 and sits on 0.34 acres near the Middlesex Road area. It has a master suite and fireplace, a new custom close with laundry, a glamour bathroom with a marble steam shower, a great room, a den, a breakfast bar, and a gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. It also includes two staircases, a walk-up attic, three fireplaces, a finished lower level, a library, a patio with French doors, and newly renovated bathrooms, according to the listing.
Schwaitzberg, a colorectal surgeon, is chairman of University at Buffalo's Department of Surgery. He was named to his post in 2015, after nearly 30 years in Boston in medical school posts at Harvard, Northeastern and Tufts universities.
Jacobsen, a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology, is clinical associate professor and associate dean of medical curriculum for UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She had been at Tufts since 2007, and was previously at Caritas Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts and at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, R.I.
Other prominent recent transactions include Washington developer Douglas Jemal's purchase of a home on Nottingham Terrace in Buffalo for $949,000 and former First Niagara Financial Group Chief Financial Officer Gregory Norwood's sale of a home on Tipperary Manor in Clarence for $900,000, according to property records.