ITHACA, N.Y. — While the conversation about Ithaca’s expensive housing is endless, it’s not everyday someone drops a cool million dollars on Ithaca real estate. It’s even rarer when someone pays a million while also buying multiple other properties within a month. But, a California-based buyer did just that during the month of July.

Operating under an LLC, the buyer dropped $485,000 on a pair of homes in the mostly student-oriented Birdseye View development near Ithaca College, and then picked up the entire Wiedmaier Court development, eight newer apartments plus undeveloped land, for $1.49 million in three sales filed on July 18th and July 28th. To make things more intriguing, the California-based LLC didn’t appear to be an established landlord or developer. Waxing poetic for a moment, it was clearly not one of the usual players in the local real estate game.

There’s always the question when a series of sales like this happens, as to just what exactly is the buyer planning. Some of the housing is close to Ithaca College, but Wiedmaier Court is on the semi-developed fringe of town. Some of it is suited for student rentals, some might appeal to a more general crowd. All of the units are fairly new, built from the 2000s on. So what could it be – redevelopment? New construction? Buy some land and buy out the neighbors for a private estate?

The truth is less juicy than the water cooler crowd would like. It’s the Occam’s razor of real estate buys – stable investment in a stable area. “Basically, there are no plans currently for developing the land on Wiedmaier, no deep pockets. It was purchased in conjunction with some other properties on Wiedmaier as part of an exchange,” said Suzanne Roberts, who lives just outside Berkeley but was visiting Ithaca when contacted.

Roberts, a certified public accountant by trade, explained that the real estate exchange was the sale of a late family member’s property in Los Angeles. Which leads to the next question – why would someone in California be shopping around in Ithaca, New York?

“Why Ithaca? I really liked Ithaca when my daughter attended Cornell as an undergraduate. I was sad to think I would not be back. Now both my daughter and son-in-law teach at Cornell. I have been back for numerous visits,” said Roberts.

“I was very fortunate when the opportunity came for the exchange for a property my family sold in Los Angeles. I chose Ithaca for my investments. I have a great team of people here in Ithaca who have helped make this happen, starting with my real estate agent, Ryan Mitchell, who kept in touch with me for over 6 months before we could act on anything.”

It’s not all that unusual, story-wise. Many readers may know a neighbor or acquaintance who became familiar with the city of gorges through their college education, or their children’s. For example, the original developer behind what’s now the Marriott downtown first became acquainted with the area when his daughter attended Ithaca College, and fell for Ithaca’s charms.  So, this story of summer intrigue has an unassuming resolution – a knowledgeable buyer with an influx of financial assets, for whom Ithaca had caught their eye, and perhaps a bit of their heart.

“I love these old homes, my daughter lives in an 1880s house,” Roberts said. “But for rental properties, it’s better to have the new ones. I like Ithaca a lot, and I’m really happy to feel like a little piece of me is here.”

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at