Receipts by the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank from property sales on the Island fell almost eight per cent in 2006, reflecting the general slowing of the real estate market.

The figures also point to a growing polarization of a market in which higher end properties continue to sell well, while sales at the less expensive end are stalling. The greater part of land bank revenues in 2006 came from sales worth more than $2 million.

Land bank income for 2006 was just under $11.7 million, compared with just under $12.6 million in 2005, a decrease of 7.7 per cent. The number of transactions on which fees were levied also fell, by 5.3 per cent, and the average revenue per transaction was down 2.2 per cent.

The surprise is that revenues held up so well. Real estate industry figures for the first three quarters of the year show sales down nearly 30 per cent, and a decline of almost six per cent in the median price paid, to around $690,000.

But land bank receipts were propped up by the sales of more expensive properties. Seventy per cent of the conservation organization's income came from sales of over $1 million.

This compares with about 59 per cent last year, and an average over the five years before that of 51 per cent.

And the comparisons were even more stark for properties which sold for $2 million plus. Fifty-five per cent of total revenue in 2006 came from sales in this price bracket, a 13 per cent jump on 2005 (42 per cent of revenues). The average revenue for the five years from 2000 to 2004 was 35 per cent.

Thanks to the higher-end sales, the land bank finished the year safely within its budget projections. Executive director James Lengyel said the organization had budgeted for a 15 per cent decline in revenues in 2006 after the record year of 2005.

The projections, he said, "were based on a general belief that the market was changing, and secondly just the land bank's internal constitution which says always to be more conservative than necessary, so you can only be happily surprised.

"Things are unpredictable; they happen in clumps. You have cash flow analyses that are very conservative so that when clumps arise, you can afford them. A decline of only about seven per cent means we can continue with our plans."

Land bank revenue comes from a two per cent fee charged on most Vineyard real estate transactions, making it a good indicator of the state of the property market on the Island. Revenues are used to buy and manage land for conservation, preservation and public use.