Friday, February 08, 2019

Electronic Repair-Resource

I recently had a problem with my laptop screen and went to the  Fairfield County uBreakIFix location in Westport (1761 Post Road East-there are also locations in Darien and Norwalk).  What I love about this place is that they do a free diagnostic while you wait to give you an idea of what the issue may be and what it can cost.  It made sense for me to get it repaired rather than replacing the laptop. I had it back in a couple of days and it has been working great.  There is a 90 day warranty for repairs.

uBreakIFix can basically repair anything that has a button-smartphones, tablets, televisions and computers are the basics, but they have fixed drones, hoverboards, and even a light-up Christmas tree sweater. They are a local family owned business that is part of a much larger network of stores which allows them to source the best quality parts at the lowest prices.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Don't Fret about moving-There is Help

I've noticed that many people don't realize the diversity of services that are on our doorstep, and I will be writing about some of these local companies in future blogs.

One of these companies, Coastal Town Moves, provides all the services involved with moving including organizing & home staging.  It's rare to find a one stop shopping for movers.  They offer to help clients declutter/store/dispose of household items and then pack what remains so they can move more easily. The next step is to coordinate the moving company to load, transport & unload. They offer unpacking services as well.  So if it's all feeling a little overwhelming this may just be what the doctor ordered.  

They offer a free consultation and provide an estimate of what it will cost. According to the owner,
Laurie Maggio,  "Moving is truly a stressful time for most people, we try to keep the mood light and treat the move like a special event .... we really get to know our clients well and sometimes continue our relationships well into their new homes."  They can be reached at  (203) 216-1376.

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Monday, February 04, 2019

Musings about Beautiful Connecticut

I grew up on the South Shore of Long Island, a flat expanse of land that was an outwash plain from glaciers, leaving hilly areas with their rock carried by the glaciers further north.  These flat plains  lent themselves to suburban development after World War II.  Unfortunately in the process of quickly developing what had been farm land, there was very little of the old 'farm' feel by the 1950s.  The jewel of the South Shore, was (and remains) the beaches and in particular Jones Beach-still one of the largest and purest example of sandy beach to be found anywhere in the Northeast, and for that matter still ranks among the best beaches in the United States.

It seemed that each town or village had a small park with a pond that served as an inspiration for those looking for a little bit of nature.  There was a patch of woods that I remember playing in with my buddies. Probably less than an acre.

Now, as I travel throughout this area, I marvel at the beautiful rolling countryside, with many protected nature reserves.  When the weather gets a little warmer I'll hike in Trout Brook,  Brett Woods, or Devil's den.  Here are a few images that I've taken in Easton and Fairfield recently.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2019

2018 Mid-Fairfield Yearly Real Estate Totals

The 4th quarter saw a slowdown in activity.  Sales did not keep pace with the first 3 quarters of the year.  Values of higher end sales continued to be more impacted than those in lower end homes.  Thisfollows the previous thesis that I previously put forward regarding the impact of the new tax laws affecting the limits in deductions of real estate taxes and mortgages.

In Westport, there were 433 single family home sales in 2018 compared with 410 in the previous year representing a decrease of approximately 5.5 %. More significantly, the median price decreased from $1,314,000 in 2017 to $1,220,000 in 2018, a 9.2% drop.  There were 72 properties that sold for over $2 million. There were 143 sales of  single family homes for under $1 million. 

Weston values decreased slightly more than those in Westport, dropping 10 per cent to a median price of $702,000 compared to $780,000 in 2017.  Sales numbers were less impacted with a differential of only 6 homes, from 173 in 2017 to 167 this past year, only a 3.4% difference. The total of sales under $800,000 was 101. There were 9 properties that sold for over $1.5 million in 2018.  Two of these were over $2 million.

Wilton’s median price actually increased in 2018 to $780,000, from $727,000 in 2017.  However, the sales volume decreased from 229 to 206 single family homes sales, a 7.2% decrease. The total of sales under $800,000 was 109.  There were ten sales of properties over $1.5 million.  4 of these were over $2 million.

Fairfield also had positive results in terms of its median price, increasing from $599,000 in 2017 to $630.000 in 2018.  Single family home sales were down in 2018 to 730 from 781 in 2017, a 6.5% decrease.  There were 585 sales under $1 million.  Sales of homes sold for over $2 million totaled 29.

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Friday, December 07, 2018

Updated Sales Figures through December 7, 2018 -A Reflection of the Stock Market?

At the end of  January 1, 2018 the Dow Jones stood at $24,824, a phenomenal standard at the time.  It went at high as 26,773 just two months ago, on October 3rd.  That is a nearly 9 per cent difference between the high and low point.

As of today, the median price of single family homes in Westport  is down 8.6% for the year, a remarkably similar figure to the figure just cited. Clearly the new tax laws which limit mortgage and real estate taxes deductions has impacted the Northeast, especially in towns with many high end homes . The 2017 median price in Westport was $1,320,000 compared to $1,220,000 this year.  The volume of sales in Westport has declined approximately 5% since the beginning of the year.  Year to date totals of 2018 are currently at 391 versus 411 at the same time last year. Active listings stand at 292 single family homes, and there are 36 properties under contract (or binder). End of the year statistics will be impacted by the number of closings that take place before the year's end.  Stay tuned in early January for those figures.

Westport's sister town of Weston has had a slightly more challenging year in terms of pricing.  The median price at this time in 2017 was $771,000 versus $699,000 through today in 2018.  That is a 9.4% difference.  In terms of volume, though, there have actually been 2 more sales year to date compared with last year, 156 versus 154.  The actives currently stand at 137, with an additional 24 properties that are under contract/binder. 

Wilton experienced a flip performance compared to its neighbor, Weston.  The median price went from $747,000 in 2017 to $797,000 currently, a 6.7% increase.  Other the other hand, Wilton saw a decrease in sales volume of 10%, from 217 single family sales at this time last year to 195  as of today.  There are 23 properties under contract and 169 active listings.

The town of Fairfield also experienced mixed signals.  The median price jumped from $508,000 at this time last year, to $630,000 currently, a gain of 24 percentage points.  The sales volume, however, went from 747 single family homes last year to 699 as of today, a drop of 6.4%.  Fairfield currently has 368 active listings and 91 properties under contract. 

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Thoughts on the Case-Schiller Index and the Upcoming Spring Market

EffectiveDateIndex Level1 MTH3 MTH12 MTH
Index Levels
S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller New York Home Price NSA IndexSep-2018199.650.23 %0.78 %2.62 %

As lower Fairfield County is directly impacted by real estate trends in New York City, I keep an eye on these figures both for looking ahead to get a sense of where we may be heading, and to have a look back at the past to have a sense of perspective.

In August 2008, (just after the stock market crisis)  for example, the New York index level was at 161.94 compared to 199.65 today.

To get some additional perspective, the levels we are seeing today are quite similar to the July 2005 level of 199.86.  Case-Schiller saw its highest levels in New York in June 2006, at 215.25.

After the crisis of 2008 the levels went through a roller coaster of dips and rises through April 2012 when the nadir of 157.95 was reached.  Since that time we have continued to see periodic small swings in the market with a general move upwards.

The Fed raised interest rates in September and most of my colleagues in the mortgage business expect them to rise further. What is the likely impact going to be on our real estate market?

30 Year Fixed mortgages (for those with good credit) are still below 5%.  When I entered the real estate business rates were above 8% and we were thrilled when they went down to 7%. Mortgage rates are still historically low, as is unemployment, and inflation.

We live in a world where we are bombarded each day with information. So much so, that it can be difficult to see the larger picture.

There are some analysts who feel that the real estate market will further correct itself.  Some home sales in our area have been motivated  by sellers who are of that opinion.

As mortgage rates are likely to rise slightly, that will make make home prices somewhat more expensive, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a slight adjustment if that happens in the spring.  On the other hand, pricing is also linked with inventory.  If inventory is low and demand is high we should see stable pricing.

Inventory levels in the high end of our markets remains high, and pricing for homes over $1.5 million in some markets and higher in others, has been directly impacted by that. Each market is different,
but in general, homes in excellent condition under $900,000 have been selling well. Inventory levels are still above the levels that we saw in the period of 2003-2006, though, including on the lower end of the market.

In our area, towns that are not directly on the New Haven train line
have seen their prices more negatively impacted during the past three
or so years.  Rising taxes in those towns have also impacted selling prices.

Our values still appear to be relatively reasonable when compared with the cost of New York apartments.  Our great schools, diverse housing stock, great amenities, and beautiful countryside should soon be attracting those millennials reaching their 30s who will soon be having children, and will be reconsidering the costs of living in the city and private schools versus commuting from the suburbs.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Mid Fairfield Update Through October, 2018

It should be interesting to see how the results of tomorrow's
elections will affect the real estate market.  

Results in the area have been mixed. Volume has been
down slightly over the past 12 months, but it appears that prices
have held steady, and listing inventory has been tightening.

In Westport,  sales were down less than 1% through October, 
with 354 single family sales compared to 359 through the same
time period in 2017, while the median price has increased 
16.67% to $1,370,000. 

Weston had the same number of sales, 138, in the first 10 
months of 2017 and 2018, but the median price decreased
 by 22% to $661,000. 

Wilton saw the reverse effect of its neighbor to the east, with
179 sales in 2018 compared to 193 in 2017, but the median
price increasing by 26.56% to $965,000.  The latter number
is somewhat skewed by one sale of $8,000,000-the highest sales
price ever recorded in Wilton.

Fairfield, the most affordable of the towns, also saw a slight
decrease in sales volume (5%) from 672 single family sales to
641, but the median sales price increased 13.88% to  $640,000.

For additional data points please see the links below:





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Mid Year Sluggishness

Early indications of sales volume increases in Westport were not realized as the season reached the midway mark.  Total closed single family home sales were down 2%, from a total of 205 in 2017 through June 30, to 201 in 2018.  The 2017 median sales price through June stood at $1,436,000.  It is currently at $1,236,000. The decrease is likely being influenced by a greater number of sales under $1 million, 68 this year compared to 60 at the same time last year. There are currently 96 single family homes listed under $1 million.  My suspicion is that the limits imposed by the new tax laws in terms of allowable mortgage deductions and real estate taxes is playing a role in the lower median sales values.

The sales break down for some popular areas of town were as follows for 2018:

18 sales at Compo Beach compared to 25 in 2017.  Paradoxically, the median sales price increased from $1,737,000 in 2017 to $2,200,000 in 2018.

28 Sales in Greens Farms compared to 17 in 2017, a healthy increase, though the median price decreased from $1,867,500 to $1,512,500 through June.

Lastly, Saugatuck Shores sales are down from 11 in 2017 to 8 in 2018. The median sales price has been $1,025,000 compared to $925,000 in 2017, though these figures are not representative because summer sales are common in this part of town, and these numbers are likely to change significantly by year's end.

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