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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Thursday, October 16, 2014

10 Projects to Complete Before Thanksgiving

The Farmer's almanac is indicating that we may be having a harsh winter. Although we are now basking in warm temps and winter still seems a long way off now is a perfect time to be thinking about things that need doing around the house, according to Better Homes and Garden magazine. Replace Windows — A professional can swap out your problem windows with more efficient models that will increase your level of comfort while at the same time decrease your heating bills. This type of project only makes sense if you are planning on spending several years in the house, or if you are preparing your home for sale. It will take several years before one can expect to recoup the costs of this type of upgrade.
  Exterior Paint — Fall offers plenty of days that are warm enough to work with exterior paint, and a touch-up can help prolong the life of your siding and trim. A fresh coat of paint or sealer on any surface that will be potentially covered with snow, such as wood floors or stairs, also is a wise idea. Roof Repair — The cold of winter can aggravate even a small roof leak. Any leaks in a home's roof should be fixed in advance of the first snowfall.
  Power Washing — Having your home's exterior and windows power washed won't just make your home look sharp, it also will prevent the growth of mold and mildew that feed on grime. 
Seal Gaps & Add Insulation — Consider a home energy audit that includes a review of your home's caulking and weather stripping. Energy auditors also will likely look inside your attic. If the insulation is at or below the level of the joists, you may be able to keep your home warmer by adding more. A depth of 10 to 14 inches is generally considered optimal.
  Tune Up Furnace — Maintenance from a trained professional can keep your furnace running effectively and efficiently and prevent potentially catastrophic damage to your home from burst or frozen pipes.
  Clean, Repair, and Protect Gutters Inspect and clean your roof's drainage system. Better still; protect your gutters with mesh guards to keep leaves and other debris from causing blockages in the first place.
  Install a Programmable Thermostat — Programmable thermostats save money without sacrificing comfort by using less energy on heating and cooling while you're away from home, asleep, or at any other specific times you select.
Repair Driveways and Walks — Small cracks and gaps in a driveway or walkway can quickly expand during winter's freezing temperatures.
  Winterize Faucets and Sprinklers — Most exterior plumbing in areas with temperatures below freezing must be winterized to prevent freezing and bursting. Winterizing more complex plumbing, such as sprinkler systems or water features, is best left to a professional.
  Fireplace Repair — Proper inspection of a fireplace is vital to ensuring its safe operation, even if it is rarely used. An experienced chimney sweep will check wood fireplaces for flammable buildup (known as creosote) and chimney blockages like bird nests.

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Friday, October 03, 2014

A Warm September

This title can also be applied to the September Real estate market locally. All towns saw a boost of activity when compared to the previous September. We are also seeing housing inventory decreasing-a good sign for Real Estate, although there are some mixed signs still out there, with overall sales still lagging behind 2013 levels. Activity was more robust in the early part of the month, representing perhaps some last minute purchases at the outset of the school year. The median prices in all towns continues to rise slightly, but I still believe this to be influenced by the upper end of the market which continues to increase in terms of percentage of overall inventory. In Westport, for example, more than one third of the current listings are over $2,000,000. In terms of September activity 52 homes went to contract in Westport compared to 33 in the previous year. Housing inventory is at 8.8 months, down 40.5% from 2013. We would love to see those numbers at about 6 months or less. At those levels there is a good balance between buyers and sellers, which makes the market more fluid. At current levels of inventory buyers seem to be having difficulty in making decisions. There is the perception that 'better' or less expensive homes may be coming to the market. Recent reports of likely increases in interest rates may help to change perceptions. Yearly sales are still behind 2013 levels with 292 closed sales year to date, 19.3% behind last year's total. Weston and Wilton are seeing their median prices climb incrementally. 3.9% for Weston and 1.7 % for Wilton. Their median prices are $805,000 for Weston and $815,000 for Wilton. Since new construction represents a very small percentage of the sales in these towns, these are more accurate indicators of what a 'true' median price is than in Westport. Housing inventory is slightly lower in Wilton at 9.3 months versus 9.8 months in Weston, and in both cases this is down over 50% from 2013, a sign that there markets are evening out. Previously the market was clearly a 'Buyer's Market'. We are slowly trending to a more neutral market. Closed sales are off 12-13% in both Weston and Wilton, though both towns saw a doubling of activity in September compared to the previous year. The recent correction in the stock market is another factor which can influence sales activity. What happens in the next months geopolitically can also have an effect on the real estate market. Fairfield, which has a median price of $581,000 is driven more by the lower end buyer. Overall sales were least affected in Fairfield, with 520 closed sales year to date compared to 566 at this time last year. Inventory levels are similar to other towns at 8.9 months and September sales jumped to 80 from 45 in September 2013.

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5 Reasons New Houses Are Getting Bigger

I often speak to local people who are concerned about the sizes of new homes in Westport and surrounding towns. This phenomenon is happening in areas across the country and a recent Wall Street Journal article on September 30th does a good job of analyzing how the Real estate market works: "It’s a strange time for houses to get bigger. The housing bust was followed by sharp criticisms of excesses such as McMansions and started a movement toward tiny houses. Combined with America’s aging, “empty nester” population, increasing environmental concerns and smaller household sizes, you might think the U.S. would want to build smaller houses. We haven’t. As of the last Census, the median house was 2,384 square feet—in between the sizes of a single and a doubles tennis courts. That’s up from 1,525 square feet in 1970, with a rise punctuated only by a brief stall during the recession. Over the last decade the median house size has increased on average about 25 square feet per year, and the share of new homes with 4+ bedrooms and 3+ full baths is going up. Why are new houses still getting bigger?" Here are the 5 Reasons: 1-Glut of Foreclosures: Foreclosures nationally are actually declining, however, in many parts of the country there is still housing inventory for sale made up of these homes which are bank owned. These homes are in good part smaller homes that were purchased with little downpayment. Since they make up a significant portion of the lower end of the market builders have no incentive to build new SMALLER homes. 2-Stiff Mortgage qualifications: Ben Bernanke just told reporters recently that he was turned down for a refinancing of his house. Incredible for someone who can command $250,000 for one speaking engagement, and whose house was purchased in the low 800s. But that incident is a pretty good indicator of how demanding banks have become for home buyers. Those individuals with lower credit scores will not qualify to purchase a new home. 3-Wealthier People are driving the Market: This is certainly true in our area. Wealthier people are looking for purchase larger homes. If they were looking for something smaller than builders would likely follow their desires. In the previous market there were more middle class buyers who could afford new homes. This is less true today. 4-Builders are Following Demand: It logically follows that builders who build speculatively will build to suit the type of buyer likely to purchase their product. 5-Americans Want More: "According to data from both the NAHB and Trulia, Americans usually want bigger houses—17% more space than they have. “As incomes go up, people are able to consume more housing, more entertainment, more tech and everything else,” according to Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. “We’d expect, as society gets richer—in the long run, not just over a year or a decade—people to live in larger housing.” According to Mr. Kolko, “The kind of thing that could change this is if we got poorer, or if attitudes or policies made large homes less desirable.” For now, big is king."

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