Friday, January 30, 2015

The New York Connection

After reading how the number of homes sold in the Hamptons grew by 48% in 2014 according to Douglas Eliman statistics, I am somewhat surprised that we have not seen more of a boost of home sales to New Yorkers looking to take advantage of our area for its proximity
to the city by train or car,  as a weekend getaway and/or summer home.

The exact numbers are difficult to calculate without going through the entire tax roll. I contacted
both the Westport Town Clerk and the Town Tax Collector to see if they would have an idea of what these numbers are, and neither of these departments were able to help me.  My own guess, and it is only a guess based on personal experience, both as a Realtor and a town resident, is that the numbers  are somewhere in the 10-15% range in Westport, and lower in surrounding towns.

On a personal level, relatives of mine purchased a home in the beach area over 50 years ago that they
have used in exactly this fashion-spending summer months walking to the beach, taking sailing lessons at The Longshore Sailing School (One of the oldest in the country), playing an occasional round of golf or tennis, or signing up for summer events organized by Parks & Rec.

The largest share of our real estate taxes go to pay for schools, but we have so much more to offer a town resident.  In addition to the aforementioned amenities, there are the town marinas, Mahackeno summer camp, Compo Beach camp, Earthplace, Westport Playhouse, local hiking areas such as Devil's Den and Trout Brook, not to mention the simple pleasure entertaining friends with a backyard bar-b-que, or during this time of year, ice skating at Longshore or sledding at Winslow park.

There isn't much happening in the Hamptons in the winter months, which is why most of the restaurants and many of the stores are closed until the summer season.

Perhaps it's better that more people haven't realized what our area offers.  The highways are already
pretty busy, and it's nice to have a slowdown on the weekends. 

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Watch out for Ice Dams in Winter Weather conditions

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining. As water backs up behind the dam, it can leak through the roof and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas. 

How do ice dams form? 

Ice dams are formed by an interaction between snow cover, outside temperatures, and heat lost through the roof. Specifically, there must be snow on the roof, warm portions of the upper roof (warmer than 32° F), and cold portions of the lower roof (at freezing or below). Melted snow from the warmer areas will refreeze when it flows down to the colder portions, forming an ice dam. 
Although the primary contributor to snow melting is heat loss from the building’s
interior, solar radiation can also pro-vide sufficient heat to melt snow on a roof.   Gutters do not cause ice dams to form, contrary to popular belief. Gutters do, however, help concentrate ice from the dam in a vulnerable area, where parts of the house can peel away under the weight of the ice and come crashing to the ground.

Problems Associated with Ice Dams 

Ice dams are problematic because they force water to leak from the roof into the building envelope. This may lead to: 
 Rotted roof decking, exterior and interior walls, and framing; 
 Respiratory illnesses (allergies, asthma, etc.) caused by mold growth;   Reduced effectiveness of insulation. 
 Wet insulation doesn’t work well, and chronically wet insulation will not decompress even when it dries. Without working insulation, even more heat will escape to the roof where more snow will melt, causing more ice dams which, in turn, will lead to leaks; and peeling paint. Water from the leak will infiltrate wall cavities and cause paint to peel and blister. This may happen long after the ice dam has melted and thus not appear directly related to the ice dam. 

 Keep the entire roof cold. This can be accomplished by implementing the following 
 Install a metal roof. Ice formations may occur on metal roofs, but the design of the roof will not allow the melting water to penetrate the roof’s surface. Also, snow and ice are more likely to slide off of a smooth, metal surface than asphalt shingles. 
 Seal all air leaks in the attic floor, such as those surrounding wire and plumbing penetrations, attic hatches, and ceiling light fixtures leading to the attic from the living space below. 
 Increase the thickness of insulation on the attic floor, ductwork, and chimneys that pass through the attic. 
 Move or elevate exhaust systems that terminate just above the roof, where they are likely to melt snow. 
 A minimum of 3” air space is recommended between the top of insulation and roof sheathing in sloped ceilings. Remove snow from the roof. This can be accomplished safely using a roof rake from the ground. Be careful not to harm roofing materials or to dislodge dangerous icicles. 
 Create channels in the ice by hosing it with warm water. Because this process intentionally adds water to the roof, this should be done only in emergencies where a great deal of water is already flowing through the roof, and when temperatures are warm enough that the hose water can drain before it freezes. 
Prevention and Removal Methods to Avoid 
 Electric heat cables. These rarely work, they require effort to install, they use electricity, and they can make shingles brittle. Manual removal of the ice dam using shovels, hammers, ice picks, rakes, or whatever destructive items can be found in the shed. The roof can be easily damaged by these efforts, as can the homeowner, when they slip off of the icy roof. 

 In summary, ice dams are caused by inadequate attic insulation, but homeowners can take certain preventative measures to ensure that they are rare.

Thanks to BIS Home Reporter for this report.

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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). 

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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

2014 Year End Statistics

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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