Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Summer's End

The mild weather of August was much appreciated by my family and we are a little sorry to see it's end. August began quietly but there seemed to be some momentum build up during the month. All four towns that we regularly follow in Mid-Fairfield had activity (in terms of properties going to contract) that was equal to or greater than in 2013. This was fortunate since year to date activity continues to lag that of 2013. Median prices are showing some signs of improvement, but not of the order that we were hoping for. Westport saw 48 properties going to escrow, the exact same number as in August 2013. Total number of properties going to escrow this year is now at 300 compared to 346 in 2013, representing a 13.3% drop off. The 2.9% decrease in inventory does not explain this decline. It is more symbolic of the general fall off in sales as compared to 2013. It is important to note that 2013 was seen as a breakout year, with volume reaching numbers that were similar to what we had seen some of the busier years during the last real estate cycle. It may turn out that 2013 was the anomaly, and when we compare 2015 to these 2014 numbers that we will have more consistent yearly numbers. Westport did see an increase of 8% in its median price so far this year to $1,369,500. This is still below the median prices seen at the height of the last cycle. Weston also saw its median price increase by a more modest 4.9%. It also experienced a busy August with the same numbers as in 2013. Year to date Weston is still lagging 2013 escrow numbers by 8% in terms of volume. New inventory is down 5.4% current inventory at 11.7 months. This is a decrease of 14% but still above the 6 month number that we normally see in a more balanced real estate market. Closed sales are only off 5.7% compared to 2013, though Weston's median price is still lagging where it would like to be, currently standing at $810,000. Wilton had a month of August that was stronger than Weston's, with 28 properties going to escrow. Inventory has been down 3.7% for the year and monthly inventory of properties stands at 8.4 months. Closed sales are off 12.7%, though accounting for properties that are under contract the yearly totals are at 8.2% below 2013. Wilton was the only town where the median price decreased. It is now at $800,000, 3% less than the $825,000 seen last year. Fairfield's median price of $580,000 has made progress from the most difficult years of this cycle, but it remains the most affordable of the towns that we cover. August saw a large spike in activity, with 86 properties going to contract compared to only 69 in August '13. Escrow numbers are now only off 3.3% compared to 2013, though closed sales have declined 8.2% Monthly inventory numbers are at 8.4 months. The lower end continues to drive the market.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Playing Catch Up

We continued to see positive results in July, though we are still behind 2013 figures. Wilton, which in June had seen the largest increases, saw more modest improvement in July, with 37 properties that went to escrow versus 35 the previous July. Wilton's median price in 2014 now stands at $790,000 which represents a .6% decrease compared to 2014. For the year, Wilton has seen 162 properties go to contract compared to 172 through July in 2014, or a 5.8% decrease. There have been 295 homes that have come to the market vs. 306 through July 2013. In terms of closed sales, Wilton is down 18% compared to the first 7 months of 2013, with 136 closed sales vs. 166 sales through July 2013. Wilton's close neighbor, Weston, saw a big jump in July, with 32 properties going to contract compared to only 14 in July of 2013. This 128% increase was the largest in the area, and brought year to date escrow numbers to 112 compared to 119 properties through July 2013. Closed sales have followed a similar pattern with 94 vs. 102 through July 2013, a decrease of only 7.8%. Weston's median price has also seen gains of 6.8% to $825,000. Westport has also seen it's median price increase to $1,323,204, and also saw a marked spike in escrow activity in July. 54 single family homes went to contract in July compared to 38 in July 2013 (a 42% increase), though the yearly figures are still down 13.4%. Yearly closed sales are down 16.3%, but should see a slight improvement based on recent escrow activity. The largest town in the area, Fairfield, had a solid month of July, with 110 properties going to escrow, a 22% increase. Closed sales are lagging the 2013 numbers by 6.2%. The median price has increased 3.2% to $575,000.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

June Bounce Back

June saw a marked increase in homes going to escrow in all towns within the Mid-Fairfield area. The biggest winner in those terms was Wilton which saw 59 homes go to contract In June compared to 29 in June of 2013, representing an increase of 103%. Closed sales in Wilton were identical in June to the total of the previous month of June, but the number of closed sales year to date is down 12.8%. The median price for Wilton year to date however is up slightly 1.5%, to $790,000, and inventory is down year to date -3.5%. Only Fairfield with 318 sales in the first 6 months of the year is ahead of the previous year’s closings, up 7.8%. Fairfield saw a 34.3% boost in June of homes going to contract compared to the same month in ’13, and is up 10.4% year to date of homes that have gone to contract. Westport saw 67 homes go to contract in June compared to 56 in June 2013, but year to date numbers continue to lag behind. There have been 226 homes that have gone to contract compared to 260 in the first six months of 2013. Closed sales year to date have totaled 170 compared to 211 in 2013, a drop-off of 19.4%, which closely mirrored the month of June which saw closings off 20%. The silver lining is that the median sales price is $1,400,000 through June, an increase of 10.9%. These numbers may not be the most accurate reflection of market values, because approximately 15% of sales in the past 6 months have been new construction averaging over $2,000,000, and 22% of the sales have been over $2,000,000. Inventory levels in all towns are at approximately the same levels as 2013 or lower. A significant number of homes on the market have previously been on the market in the past 12 months. Some of these have either been renovated or come back to the market at lower prices and have sold. An equal or larger number are still on the market and have not sold. Buyer’s expectations of ‘move-in condition’ homes are the driving force in the market.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Some Improvement in May

Sales were slightly better in May, 2014 than they were in the previous year but as a whole year to date sales trends are mixed. In Fairfield and Wilton yearly sales are ahead of 2013, but Westport and Weston are still lagging in unit sales numbers. The median prices are on an upward trend, following more historic levels. Westport median prices through May were $1,321,409, a modest increase of 2.8%. Wilton’s median price is now $760,000 an increase of 6.7%, and Fairfield’s median price of $550,000 is up 3.9%. The largest increase was seen in Weston with an increase of 11.1%, reflecting greater numbers of sales over $1million that have taken place. Both Wilton and Weston finished 2013 with a median sales price of $712,000. Wilton has a greater number of properties at the entry level due to the fact that certain areas of Wilton are zoned at 1 acre or less, whereas Weston is 2 acre zoned except for pre-existing smaller lots. 179 closed sales have taken place in Westport through May , down 12.3%. Weston saw a 7% drop off in sales, with 72 homes having sold through May vs. 78 at the same time in 2013. Wilton had the largest drop, from 88 to 71 thus far, representing a loss of 19%. Only Fairfield, with 230 closed sales vs. 215 the previous year, has seen an increase (7%). This drop off has occurred while inventory levels have remained stable or fallen off slightly. Sales under $1million make up the lion’s share in all towns except Westport, which has seen about 2/3 of its sales over $1million.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

April-A Slowdown in Activity

Did someone or something put on the brakes? We saw a slowdown in most towns in April, but Fairfield's entry level home market held firm, as did its year to date sales volume in comparison with 2013 figures. Fairfield's April figures saw a modest monthly increase compared to the previous April, 60 closed sales in April compared to 59 in 2013, but there have been 161 recorded sales in the first four months of this year compared to 148 in 2013. The median sales price in Fairfield has also seen an increase to $530,000 (compared to $512,000 through April 2013). Pending sales were also up considerably in April, with 97 single family homes going to escrow. The yearly figures for escrow properties totaled 234 at the end of April, which lowered the monthly inventory of homes to a respectable 7.2 months. Stamford, which in 2013 tracked in ways similar to Fairfield has also seen an increase in pending sales to 209 from 203 in 203. The median price has seen a 6+% increase to $615,000 year to date, with an even more significant median price increase in April, to $689,000. Closed sales year to date (through April) were down to 137 versus 165 at end of April 2013. The median price in Westport is up to $1,400,000 but pending sales were down 15% through the end of April, 91 vs. 108. Inventory levels did not change much-11 months- with a trickling of new homes coming to market in April, though yearly levels were up slightly. New Construction continues to outpace the rest of the market, which is bringing up the median price levels. We are seeing very little new construction of new homes in neighboring towns. Many of these buyers are coming from New York, or within Westport. Wilton had a nice month of April, seeing the median price for the month jump 25% to $1 million, though the year to date median of $803,000 is a much more accurate portrayal of where homes are selling. Volume figures were down slightly in April, with 36 homes going to escrow vs. 59 in April 2013, but the yearly numbers are only 2 units behind 2013 numbers, and closed sales in April were up 3 units to 16 vs. 13 in April 2013. Weston, which had been moving along very nicely in the first few months of the year after making strides in 2013, also had a slight slowdown, with only one closed sale in April. Closed sales year to date are down from 36 through April '13 to 28 in April '14. Inventory levels are at 7.4 months which is very healthy compared to the levels of a couple of years ago, and there has been a steady increase of sales of homes over $1 million.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

March: In with a bang, slowed by the weather

There were some signs in March that spring was around the corner, but then Mother nature decided that it was a little premature to go in that direction. Momentum from the early part of the month was able to carry many of the towns through the month. Early signs of cold weather plus holidays (Easter/Passover and Spring breaks) will likely bring down April sales. March saw a quick run on some of the new construction in Westport. Some partially built homes went to contract, along with some pricier homes. Bonuses may have played a part in the median sold price for the Month of March increasing to $1,600,000, signficantly higher than it was a year earlier in March. The year to date figure of $1,300,000 is much closer to the year end median sales price. Sales were up slightly from the previous year's March figures, with 52 properties going to contract, though year to date figures are behind 2013 figures in Westport, and supply of new homes increased by the end of March to 271 properties. The month inventory of homes at 8.6 is practically unchanged from the previous year. These are fairly healthy figures though still above what we would expect in a pure seller's market. We continue to be in a more mixed environment. At the highest end of the spectrum larger inventories and a smaller buyer pool give buyers the edge. The opposite is true on the lower end of the spectrum. Wilton was the suprise leader in March in terms of seeing an increase in properties going to contract. 25 properties in Wilton went to contract versus only 15 in March of 2013. Much of this activity was focused on the entry level properties resulting in the median sold price decreasing to $698,000 year to date, down about 1.8%. Sales through March were 48 compared to 45 in the first 3 months of 2013, and inventory is slightly down. The month supply of inventory is now at 8.5 months a big change for the positive in Wilton. Weston also had a successful March with 13 properties going to contract, though the 29 properties under contract through March was down 2 from the previous year. The number of homes that have closed through March was identical with the first 3 months of 2013, and the median price has increased to $830,000 through March indicating that buyers have been attracted to moderately priced homes in Weston. Fairfield, which has a large inventory in entry level homes has been very hot on entry level homes. One moderately priced home in our office drew 8 offers. There were 75 properties that went to contract in March in Fairfield, up from 61 last March, and the numbers through the end of March were up to 151. A modest increase in the number of listings has resulted in inventory levels of 8.4 months in Fairfield, similar to levels in Westport and Wilton. Easton sales are up slightly. The median sales price of $523,000 is up from last year's median price of $468,000 but the lower end of the market continues to outpace larger, more expensive home sales.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

It may be cold outside, but...

February 2013 Update The spring market started to take off in February. The number of properties that went to contract in February is up considerably in each of the towns. In Westport there were 53 properties that had accepted offers compared to 36 in the previous year. In Fairfield the numbers were even more impressive with the number of accepted offers more than doubling, from 40 in February 2013 to 91 last month. Weston also had an impressive increase, doubling the number of contracts in February compared to the previous year, with 18. The figures were a little less impressive in Wilton, 28 compared to 20 in the previous year, but Wilton had had a particularly brisk January. Interestingly, Wilton was the only town in February that saw an increase in the median price of properties with accepted offers, at $1,200,000 for the month, well above the February 2013 number ($670k), which was explained by the fact that 2 of the properties were listed at over $2 million, and 9 additional properties were listed at over $1million. This was partially a case of the selling off of existing properties, with buyers fearing that there might be a shortage of new inventory later in the spring. As a result, inventory supply is down in all towns to levels close to 6 months of inventory. There has been a slight increase in inventory since the beginning of the year, though many of the properties had previously been on the market. I know of many brokers who are holding back on listing new inventory until the weather improves. I expect to see a large influx of properties in April, and with an existing buyer demand, I think that buyers should be prepared to deal with multiple offer situations. In these situations buyers should be in touch with their mortgage brokers now, to be prepared to have Pre-approval letters provided at the time when offers are made. Buyers who are already familiar with the market will be prepared to make offers within one week of a property being listed if it is priced at what is perceived to be within a few percent of its fair market value. This will be particularly true of certain price ranges in different towns. In Westport, inventory below $1 million will likely be very active, as will homes listed between $1 million and 1.5 million. New construction continues to be very active, and supply is still below demand. In Wilton, Weston & Fairfield there continues to be a lack of inventory between $600,000-800,000 and I expect that well-maintained, well-priced properties in those price points will be extremely active this spring.

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