Real Estate: Ours isn’t the only North Fork in the U.S.

04/15/2012 12:00 PM |

COURTESY PHOTO This six-bedroom, two bath home with three-car garage, on 4.58 acres, is located near North Fork, Calif. It’s listed at $599,000.

The North Fork is known as the heart of Long Island Wine Country. But more than 1,800 miles west, another North Fork has its own fledgling wine industry.

And the houses there, as well as in other North Forks around the country, are a bit more affordable than those here.

The North Fork Valley in Colorado, named for the nearby river, rests at the base of the West Elk mountain range about an hour and a half east of Grand Junction. Warm winds flowing off the Utah desert to the east make the valley an attractive place for farmers and growers, according to Colorado real estate broker Dave Mitchell.

“We’re not a winter wonderland, we’re an agricultural land,” Mr. Mitchell said. Farmers in the valley grow apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, plums, pears and five or six varieties of grapes, he said.

Merlot, cabernet sauvignon and rieslings do fairly well in the moderate valley climate, but the environment is not ideal for winemakers.

“We do have years where we totally lose the crop,” he said. While vineyards are growing in popularity, the base of the valley’s economy is mining. The three local coal mines are the largest employers in town and most workers, Mr. Mitchell said, still have “a good blue-collar job.”

Like Long Island’s North Fork, the Colorado valley is not a city but a trio of towns: Hotchkiss, Paonia and Crawford, where singer Joe Cocker lives. Most of the area’s 10,000 residents live in the hills and along the river.

Like so many other areas across the country, Colorado’s North Fork was not spared by the 2008 housing crisis. New home construction in the area has practically stopped.

“We did not dodge the bullet like we were hoping we were going to do,” Mr. Mitchell said. “We’re just now coming out of it.”

Older homes, built between the turn of the century and the 1950s, tend to list for $100,000 to $125,000. Newer houses average from $185,000 to $225,000.

About 650 miles west of the North Fork Valley lies the unincorporated town of North Fork, Calif., the geographic center of the state. The area is mountainous, at 3,600 feet above sea level, with many ponderosa pine forests.

The small town has only about 1,700 residents, said real estate agent Garry Woodward. Since the nearby lumber mill shut down in 1989 and tourism emerged as the area’s largest industry, North Fork is mostly a second-home market.

The average three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath property in North Fork lists for about $163,000, Mr. Woodward said. Not surprisingly, he adds, prices are way down after the housing crisis.

A four-acre property appraised for more than $800,000 in 2006 is now valued at $383,000, he said.

“It’s like everywhere else in the country,” Mr. Woodward said. “It’s not like it was in 2006.”

There are several other North Forks across the country, all relatively small towns. Northfork, W.Va., at the very south of the state, has a population of only 429 people, according to the 2010 U.S. census.

About 15 percent of those residents are renters and nearly 30 percent of the local housing stock is vacant, according to census data.

Listings in Northfork, W.Va., can range from nearly $70,000 to a mere $40,000 for a 3-bedroom 2-bath, 1,800-square-foot home.

North Fork is also the name of rural townships in Minnesota and Illinois. No real estate listings were found for those areas.

psquire@timesreview.com

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