As 2018 comes to a close, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank is on pace to outperform its revenue projections for the current fiscal year by 23 per cent and has reported an approximately $1 million calendar year increase in revenue from 2017.

Since July 1, 2018, the start of the fiscal year, the land bank has brought in $6.62 million in revenue. If current numbers hold, land bank revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, will surpass the $12 million projection by nearly $3 million.

The land bank tracks its revenues on both a calendar and fiscal year basis.

For the calendar year, the land bank has already surpassed totals from this date in 2017. While the organization brought in $12,096,951 as of Dec. 7, 2017, it brought in $13,091,058 by the same date this year.

A land conservation agency begun in 1986 with the task of preserving the Island’s natural beauty amidst increased land development, the land bank collects a two per cent transfer fee on most arm’s length real estate transactions. The funds are used to buy to scenic properties and vistas and protect aquifers and farmland. Since the 1980s, the land bank has conserved more than 3,000 acres of beaches, trails, ponds, forest lands and more on the Island.

Historically, land bank revenues have followed an eight-year cycle of growth and decline that often mirrors current real estate trends and can serve as a barometer for the market.

“What we do is we go on the assumption . . . that real estate operates on this roughly eight-year cycle, and that has always borne out with the land bank,” executive director James Lengyel said.

While there have been a few precipitous declines in the land bank’s revenue history, particularly in the early 1990s and then again around the 2008 housing crisis, it has generally followed a pattern of steady growth. Even though the most recent eight-year cycle was set to peak around 2017, the market has stayed strong, reflected in land bank revenues outperforming their projected numbers in 2017 and set to outperform them again in 2018.

Mr. Lengyel noted the land bank generally makes conservative revenue assessments.

“The eight-year cycle was supposed to have peaked around 2017, and it has continued, so we go on the assumption that it has declined when projecting revenue,” he said. “We do that for two reasons. One, it makes sense on the cycle. And two, when you project a lower amount you’re not going to be disappointed.”

The land bank divides the housing market into three different strata based sale price: from $0 to $500,000, $500,000 to $1 million, and $1 million plus. Over the course of the last seven years, 31 per cent of all housing sales came from sales in the lower third, 39 per cent came in the middle third, and 30 per cent came in the upper third.

But according to Mr. Lengyel, those trends have recently shifted. In the past six months, 25 per cent of sales have occurred in the lower third, 37 per cent in the middle third, and 38 per cent in the upper third.

“What it’s currently showing is that there is a demonstrable rise in prices that are moving out of the $500,000 and lower range,” Mr. Lengyel said. “The lower third dropped a lot, and the upper third rose a lot, and the middle third sort of stayed steady. Maybe the story is that there is a lot of growth in the $1 million plus range.”

For the land bank, increased revenues have given the organization freedom to pursue desirable properties across the Island. Although Mr. Lengyel describes land bank purchases as “clumpy,” meaning that they come in waves, he said 2018 was a good year for acquisition.

Recent purchases include five acres the land bank bought at Tashmoo beach for $1.9 million, 14 acres of land bought from the University of North Carolina in Aquinnah for $800,000, coupled with an adjacent purchase of 24 acres for approximately $600,000.

“The land bank bought almost 40 acres, and the price in the aggregate was less than $1.5 million,” Mr. Lengyel said. “That’s not bad. And $1.9 million for that land in Tisbury was also a very good price.”

The land bank also bought 22.4 acres just down-Island from Nip and Tuck Farm in West Tisbury for $3 million. Recent prospective sales have made Mr. Lengyel optimistic about the future.

“Every land bank agenda there is always a pile of properties,” he said. “And we are always looking for new opportunities.”