Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Great Time to Sell and Buy

While inventory has been coming to the market slowly we are still at lower levels than we've seen in the past several years.  There have already been signs of movement in some of the new listings that have come to the market since the beginning of the year, an indication of the pent up demand and buyers that have already started to look at homes.

In the meantime, in the past month or so, there has been a shift in the mortgage market as already low rates have come down to truly historic lows. 30 year fixed loans, even Jumbo loans up to $2 million are now well below 4%-I've seen rates of 3.625% today from Skip Wasserman at Atlantic Residential for these fixed rates, and rates as low as 2.625% for 5/1 fixed Adjustable Rate Mortgages.

So what does this mean to the buyer and seller?   For the buyer this is a market where prices have recently been holding steady or even declining slightly in some markets.  Prices, therefore, are at reasonable levels.  There has been talk about the Fed raising the interest rates on mortgages at some point this year.  It's hard to say how much this increase will be, but let's just imagine what that would
mean for someone looking to purchase a home with a $800,000 mortgage (putting 20% down for a purchase of a home selling at $1 million).  At current rates the monthly cost would be $3648 per
month for a 30 year mortgage.  If the rates go back to the levels that we saw only one month ago, at 4.125%, the cost differential would be $229 per month, or $2,748 a year. Looked at in a slightly
different way, this type of change would represent a 12% increase.  Seen in a different way,
if home prices were to go up 12%, a home now selling for $800,000 would be the equivalent of a home selling for $896,000 if the rate was at 4.125%.

For the seller, the fact that rates are so low means that buyers can now afford more than they could even one month ago (see above).  This will increase the buyer pool in different price points, and should therefore may it easier to sell their homes (especially if inventory levels remain low). 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Westport Adult Continuing

Education presents…

How to Avoid Costly Pitfalls When Selling Your Home

How can you best prepare for selling your home and avoid common mistakes in the process (and fetch the maximum return for your investment)?  Join Rob Grodman, a local Realtor for almost 20 years, and a variety of speakers, including professional stagers and a professional organizer, who will discuss what you should start doing
to prepare for selling your home.  There will be a panel discusion which will also include a building inspector, real estate attorney,
accountant, financial planner, mortgage broker, appraiser, and family attorney to  answer various questions about the process.

2 Sessions: February 4th & 11th.  Staples High School Room 1036         Wednesday 7:00-9:00 p.m. $35

Registration Online at:,   or

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Monday, January 05, 2015

Still Playing Catch Up
2014 started off quite well in the spring and slowed down for much of the year with some bump ups along the way.  While there was activity in the last month of the year it was at levels that lagged behind 2013 levels in all of the towns that I report on.
One area of mixed results was in high end sales (Over $2,000,000).  In Westport the 91 sales were just slightly less than the 95 sales recorded in 2013, though there are currently an additional 19 properties which are under contract which should help to boost 2015 sales. This type of activity has not yet occurred in Weston. Fairfield for its part has 4 such homes under contract and Wilton 1.  Suffice it to say that Westport continues to dominate the high end market in the Mid-Fairfield area.  Based on Consolidated Multiple Listing Service figures Greenwich had the most activity in the high end with 105 sales and 16 pending sales.  On a relative basis compared to its total population, Westport’s high end, along with New Canaan’s had the most volume. New Cannan’s 85 sales and 12 pending sales are fairly similar to Westport’s given their relative populations.  Darien lagged slightly with 64 sales and 8 pending sales.  Greenwich median high end price of $3.1 million remained the highest in the state, followed by Westport, New Canaan and Darien.
New construction inventory in Westport continues to lead all of the towns in lower Fairfield County, with nearly 80 homes currently being built or scheduled to be built in 2015.  The popularity of new construction has raised the median high end price in Westport.  Westport’s median price of all properties sold in 2014 was $1,318,204, representing a modest 5.4% increase.   Total sales of single family homes numbered 386 compared to 465 in 2013, representing a 17% decrease.  The number of new properties that came to market in 2014 was 832, a 2.5% decrease, though the actual supply of homes for sale rose 10.4%  to 12.7 months due in part to the number of homes that were either taken off the market without selling or which were relisted and did not sell.  The number of days on the market  stayed steady at 164 days.

After a nice bounce back year in 2013 agents were looking for good numbers in Weston in 2014 and early activity seemed to be heading in that direction.  The late spring market also slowed in Weston, following the pattern that was previously noted in Westport.  The median sales price of $810,000 was a 6.2% increase over 2013 levels, but the 154 sales were 21 less than the previous year, lagging by 12 percent.  The 10.2 month inventory level was down 2.8% but still above levels seen in more  vibrant markets, where supply lags demand. Marketing time held steady at about 180 days. 
Wilton’s results were similar to Weston’s with closed sales off 11.9% to 229 single family homes compared to 260 in 2013.  The median price of $815,000 is just $5000 more than Weston’s median price.  One of the bright spots in Wilton was marketing time which decreased by 10% to approximately 157 days. The supply of inventory was also down over 20% which brought inventory levels to 8.2 months. 
 Fairfield’s 644 sales were 81 behind 2013 levels, a drop of almost 12%.  However, inventory levels dropped over 30% to 8.8 months, a positive sign.  With a median price of $570,000 Fairfield offers quite a bit of affordable inventory.  The high end has been showing some strength though closed sales were down from the previous year. Marketing time in Fairfield remained the lowest in mid-Fairfield with an average  of 141 days on the market.

2015 should be a strong market for sellers with updated homes that price their homes within 5% of the likely selling price.  New listings started to come to the market this week.  The general impression amongst real estate colleagues and those that we work closely with (mortgage brokers, attorneys, etc.) is that the spring market of 2015 will come sooner than that of 2014 which had been hampered in part by bad weather

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Slight uptick for November

November temperatures were a bit above normal and warmer temperatures seem to have brought out some buyers looking to purchase before the end of the year.  All of the towns that I primarily cover saw an increase in properties going to contract in November 2014 compared to the previous year, though all towns continue to lag behind the sales numbers of 2013.  Political unrest and unexpected drops in energy (i.e.,oil) prices may become the norm, and sales volume seen in 2014 resemble levels seen at the beginning of the last real estate cycle that began in 1995. Some loosening in mortgage standards may help to boost sales in 2015.  Inventory levels, while declining, are still above historic levels.

November escrow sales in Westport increased to 31 compared to 26 over the previous November.  Escrow volume year to date is down 14.6% year to date.  Inventory levels were at 13.3 months, down 15.8% over 2013, but still not at 5-6 month levels seen in more balanced markets.  The median price is up 4.3% to $1,323,204, boosted by New Construction sales and other high end properties (over $2 million) represent approximately 25% of this year's sales.

The market in Wilton has been steady. It's median sales price of $815,000 is up .9% over the previous year.  Escrowed properties year to date are down a modest 8.4%, from 239 in 2013 to 219 this year. Inventory at 11.8 months represents a 13.9% decrease.  November escrows increased one, to 17 compared to 16 in November 2013. 

Weston started the year off showing increased strength but has softened . Escrows for the year are down 24 units to 142, a drop of 14.5%.  Despite those numbers the median price did rise 3.9% to $805,000.  Inventory, though very high at 17.9 months is actually down 10.5%.  These numbers reflect the higher part of the market which still lags considerably behind levels seen at the end of the last cycle. 

Fairfield sales continued to be driven by the lower end of the market.  The current median price of $569,000 is off 1% from levels at this time last year.  Sales activity increase 3 units in November, though year to date escrow levels are off 9.2% from 697 to 633 single family homes.  The inventory of 12.2 months, is similar to Westport and Wilton levels, though it has increased 3.4%.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How To Avoid Costly Pitfalls when Selling Your home

How can you best prepare your home for sale and avoid common mistakes in the process (and fetch the maximum return for your investment)? 

I will be leading a panel of experts in two Adult Continuing Education classes to discuss all elements of the preparation process.  These classes will take place at Staples High School in room 1036 on Wednesday, February 4 and the following week on February 11th, from 7-9 p.m. Registration online is at, or by calling 203-341-1209.

Included among the panel will be a Real Estate Attorney, Professional stager, Building inspector,
Organizer, Appraiser, Mortgage Broker, Appraiser, Surveyor and Family attorney. 

This information should be applicable for those looking at the short or longer term.  Hope to see you there.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

October-Prices Holding Steady/Late autumn activity

There was increased monthly activity in all towns compared to October of 2013. Westport saw the biggest jump with 45 homes going to escrow in October vs 32 in the previous year, a 40.6% increase.

Yearly sales figures are still behind 2013 levels though.  Westport is nearly 15% behind last year's levels, followed by Weston which is a little over 10% behind 2013 levels, Wilton -5.8%, Fairfield -5.7%. 

Though volume has decreased, median home prices have increased at a rate slightly above the cost of living in Westport & Weston, with median prices of $1,325,000 and $807,000 respectively.  Wilton and Fairfield have seen almost no movement, with median prices of $800,000 and $573,000.

Going outside the Mid-Fairfield towns that I usually discuss, there has been something interesting happening in Easton.  There have been 105 homes that have gone to contract in this small rural-feeling town, which represents a 40% increase over last year.  The median sales price in Easton progressed by 6.4% with a median sales price year to date of $592,000.  Easton had at one point been a part of Fairfield. 

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Current State of New Construction in Mid-Fairfield

I usually speak about Westport as the locomotive that drives Mid-Fairfield.  This is particularly true of the new construction segment of the market.  There were 53 new homes that have sold in the past 12 months in Westport at a median price of approximately $2,600,000.  In addition, there are currently 22 additional properties which are under contract and under construction (in various phases of completion).  These figures are based on Multiple Listing Service figures.  There is also a smaller number of homes either being built from scratch from the aftereffects of Sandy, or simply custom built homes that do not enter into those figures. 
There are now 69 active single family homes proposed as new construction in Westport. If we take the homes sold and those under contract and consider that figure, 75, to represent a year's worth of new homes sold, then we currently have close to a year's supply of inventory.  There is clearly an affinity by many buyers for new construction, and based on the median price, is attracting many well-heeled buyers.
 Based on the CMLS figures, there were only 14 new spec homes built in Greenwich in the past 12 months. While not privy to Greenwich MLS figures, I would not be surprised if these are fairly accurate figures for spec homes, as the once 'closed' Greenwich market
has opened up considerably to the Consolidated Multiple Listing Service for its homes, including
new construction.  Also worth noting is that there are currently 20 new spec homes listing for sale
in Greenwich, so it appears that the builders are returning to that market. The median asking price of
those homes is $4.5 million.
Fairfield has also had an active market with 45 new homes sold in the past 12 months and an additional 12 homes under contract.  The median price for those sold homes was approximately $999,000.There are currently 62 new homes being offered, which would be approximately equal to a year's worth of inventory, but with a median asking price of about $1,170,000 is less likely that this
market would be affected by economic downturns than say the Westport or Greenwich markets, since
there is a much larger buyer pool for these homes.
Weston & Wilton had a very modest number of new construction offerings, with only 3 having sold in Weston and 6 in Wilton.  The median prices of those homes was similar, $1,399,000 in Weston and $1,350,000 in Wilton.  The builders who work in these towns also seem to be optimistic with
10 new homes being offered in Wilton and 8 in Weston.

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