Signaling continued staying power in the real estate market, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank had another strong year in 2019, with revenues increasing by 13 per cent over 2018, and fiscal year projections already far exceeding expectations. The land bank brought in a total of $14.45 million during the 2019 calendar year, boosted by a number of large home and land sales throughout the Island. The 2019 numbers are up by about $700,000 from 2018, when revenues totaled $13.8 million. Revenues as of Jan. 1, 2020 have the land bank beating its fiscal year projections by 137 per cent, which were set conservatively at $12 million.

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

Established by an act of the legislature in 1986, the unique conservation agency charges a two per cent transfer fee on most arm’s length real estate transactions on the Island. Family transactions and first-time home buyers can receive exemptions.

Revenues are used to buy conservation land, beaches, farmland, aquifer protection and scenic views, among other things.

The past year was bookended by two historic real estate sales. In January 2019, the majority of the late Katharine Graham’s 186-acre estate, Mohu, sold for a record $32.5 million, sending $650,000 to the land bank from a single transaction. Then in December, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle purchased an $11.75 million home in Edgartown — one of many $10 million-plus sales that took place late in the year.

Often considered a barometer for the health of the real estate market, land bank revenues generally proceed through eight-year cycles of growth and recession, according to executive director James Lengyel. But over the last four fiscal years, revenues have stayed remarkably steady, hovering at just above $13 million and representing the four largest fiscal year revenues since the land bank was enacted more than four decades earlier.

“The eight-year cycle, it’s not really working,” Mr. Lengyel said. “Since 2015, land bank revenues have essentially been flat. They have not dipped. That means either the eight-year cycle paradigm doesn’t fit, or that a dip is coming.”

The land bank also breaks its revenue numbers into thirds based on the size of transactions. Approximately one third of the land bank’s transactions are below $500,000, one third are between $500,000 and $1 million, and one third are above $1 million. Although the percentage of transactions in each bracket remained steady in 2019, revenue from the $1 million-plus tier increased five per cent, from 70 to 75, while revenue from the other tiers went down.

Mr. Lengyel said the five per cent change was not large enough to indicate a broader market trend.

“Personally, I would not draw much meaning from that,” he said. “I think it just means that prices went up.”

Revenues by town also stayed fairly flat with Edgartown accounting for about half of the land bank’s earnings in both 2018 and 2019. Oak Bluffs accounted for 14 per cent, West Tisbury was at 13 per cent and Tisbury and Chilmark were at 12 per cent. Aquinnah accounted for two per cent of revenues.

The land bank now owns 3,476 acres, comprising six per cent of the Island’s total land area.

Last year, it added about seven acres to its Christiantown Woods Preserve in West Tisbury. The Old Whale Jaw Farm on Chappaquiddick was conserved through a cooperative acquisition with the owner of the farmhouse. Two beach lots were donated on Chilmark Pond and at the Aquinnah Headlands.

Near the end of the year the land bank bought 4.5 acres adjacent to its Pecoy Point Preserve in Oak Bluffs from the family of Jerome Kenney.

The agency’s land management practices include ecological studies, historic landscape restoration and preservation, and trail maintenance.

The land bank sponsors an annual cross-Island hike every year in June on National Trails Day.

An elected commission includes members from every Island town and one appointed by the commonwealth. There are also appointed town advisory boards in every town.

Land bank maps are available at town halls and libraries, online and at the land bank office in Edgartown.