New York Times, CT Post and Greenwich Time have articles about hot Greenwich/CT market (MP quoted)

New York Times logoHartford Courant

Greenwich Time Logo

 

With contracts up 100% over last year we are seeing lots of interest from the press about the increase in sales and the ways that the Coroanavirus have changed real estate in Greenwich and Connecticut. Here are three stories that I got quoted in about how the market is changing.

5 Ways the Coronavirus Has Changed Suburban Real Estate – NY Times

Agents: CT homes sales ‘are off the charts’ even if numbers don’t yet show it – CT Post/Hartford Courant/Hearst

New Yorkers continue to hunt for homes in Greenwich – Greenwich Time (features my listings at 1076 Lake Avenue and 505 E. Putnam)

 

Contracts Up 100% in the Hot Greenwich Real Estate Market – Mid-July 2020 Update

As of the middle of July, we have had 287 single family home sales in Greenwich. Of those sales, 44 or 15.3% went for list or over list price. Many of these, and others that sold for under list price were multiple bid situations. Many of these transactions were pre-Covid and you can expect that the percent of list and over list deals will go up. (I’m working on one now.)

Our contracts only really started to accelerate in the second week in May when we went a slow 23 transactions, sales and contracts, to 33 contracts in a week. Last week we had 58 transactions down slightly from 64 transaction the previous week when the Gold Coast conveyance tax increase kicked in on July 1st. The large percentage of those 58 transactions were contracts being signed.

Single Family Homes Sales and Contracts Each Week in 2020

The other interesting thing is where these list and over list contracts are. If you read my neighborhood report last week, you can predict where the competitive sales are. They are in the hot neighborhoods. Old Greenwich, Riverside and Glenville are seeing their fair share of over list activity. Mid-country and Cos Cob are seeing hot sales and the” backcountry is back” area is also seeing over list activity, while we’ve yet to see this in Byram and Pemberwick.

Closed sales for list or over list in Greenwich, CT as of 7/14/20

What’s really remarkable is the number of outstanding contracts we have. As of 7/14/20 we have 198 contracts which is an amazing number when you consider that last year that number was around 99 contracts. This is a 100% Covid driven increase. You can be sure that many of those 198 contracts went for list or over list. The market is hot and so far is only getting hotter with each passing week.

On the inventory side we are getting new inventory, but it is going off fast also. We presently have 566 listings; this is down from 640 listings as of the end of July 2019 or a drop of 12%. We had been done down about 20% in inventory, so only 12% down is an improvement, but some price ranges in some neighborhoods are very much combat buying.

I have spoken to several of our longest serving agents, in some cases their tenure goes back 40 years. They say they have never seen a market like this; not after 9/11, not in the go-go years of the 80s, nor in the bubble years of the digits decade. This really is an unprecedented time.

How to Be the Winning Buyer in the Hot Covid Real Estate Market

So how does a buyer get an advantage in a competitive bidding situation in a tight market? The short answer is to be better prepared than your competition and move faster than they do.

Build a Team Early

Everyone knows to get a good Realtor when they buy a house, but you will need other professionals too. If you are going to need financing, talk to a mortgage broker or banker early, even before you start looking. Meet with them and build a relationship. Very few financings are pro forma today and you’ll want a banker who will go to bat for you to move the process along.

Most buyers don’t think about a real estate attorney until after their offer has been accepted. Be prepared and find your attorney early. Let him or her know your level of experience and that you’ll probably need a quick turn around on the contract rider.

Building inspectors can also be a big help. Once again, speed can be crucial. In a competitive bidding situation, you may only have a day or two to inspect the property. The only thing worse than coming in second in a bidding war is winning war only to get a house with problems.

The top capital gains tax has increased and there is an additional 3.8% Medicare tax on gains. The rules are complex, but if you have a significant gain in your present house, you may face a bigger tax bite than you thought. If you are selling your own house and you need the funds from that house to close, consult a tax attorney or accountant now to see just how much the taxman taketh and ways to minimize that take.

Tactics

First relax you’ve got a team of advisors if things get difficult. You’re better prepared than most of your competition.

Second, have your mortgage broker or banker pull your credit and check for any problems. Get not only pre-qualified, but pre-approved and not just pre-approved, but under written pre-approved. What this means is that the bank has done everything necessary to approve your loan for a house except the appraisal on the house. A pre-approval letter and shorter mortgage contingency goes a long way when bidding against someone who only has a pre-qual letter. Also, the beginning of the process is the time to fix your credit score rather than when your entire loan hangs on getting your credit score a few points higher.

If there is some way you can do an all cash purchase great. An all cash offer in a competitive bid situation can move you to the top of the list and often reduce your purchase price by $10,000 to $20,000 for deals under $1,000,000 and by as much as $50,000 or more for deals under $2,000,000. Consult with your team before you do this.

You may want to make an all cash offer even if you are going to finance the house later, to free up cash after the purchase. Post-purchase refinancing can be tricky and may affect your taxes, so check with your accountant or tax attorney before you pursue this path. And, the time to do that is before you saddle up and go looking for your dream house.

Also, a high price is good, but if you want to be in your new house in two weeks and the sellers can’t find a new place and arrange a move for two months, your higher, all cash offer, may be DOA. You want to match your other terms to your seller’s needs.

Third, be available. If you are a couple and one of you can’t always take phone calls, what about email or texts? Whenever possible whoever is most available should be able to make decisions for both. Discuss various options in advance so you are both comfortable with this. Also putting in a bid and going on vacation or a trip is a not optimal. Often, an hour or two or even minutes can make the difference in whether you get the house. Making decisions and responding in minutes gives you a big advantage over the competition that can’t get back to the seller until tomorrow.

Fourth, be flexible and reasonable. Don’t let a minor deal point or an item worth a few hundred dollars become an ego issue. Work with your team to come up with other options, particularly when the other side is being unreasonable. Don’t yell and scream. The seller has lived in your house-to-be for years and knows all your new neighbors. You want to arrive in their good graces.

Fifth, be human. Let the seller know why you like their place and what it will mean to you and your family to live there. Also try to connect with each person you deal with; don’t become just another case number.

Lastly, have fun. How often will you get to do this? With a good team you’ve got people to talk with. Even if you lose out the first time around you will have gained valuable experience. You will get a house and often a better house at a better price.

A call for a welcoming Greenwich

I’ve been dealing with a lot of Covid refugees who are going through the ups and downs of buying a house in a tight market. Many of them are scared of moving to Greenwich. Often, they have lived in New York City for decades and really don’t know what to expect. What will it be like for their kids? Will they be able to go to a school here? Will people from Greenwich look down on them? Where do they shop for those specialty items they love? Will there be dangerous wildlife in their backyard? We are all in this together and if you see someone that looks a little unsure of themselves you might ask if you can help. If you get a new neighbor introduce yourself or just drop a welcoming note in their mailbox.

Also, it would be great if each neighborhood association would host a welcome function for our new arrivals. It’s a great way to get some new members and tell people about your community. Associations could do a zoom function or small, social distancing, get-togethers outdoors. Just as we are seeing with business practices, this year is going change Greenwich and accelerate trends already taking place. Let’s make it as pleasant as possible for everyone and having a little fun along the way would be nice too.

Greenwich First Half Neighborhood Report – June Just Keeps Getting Better

This week we start with a quick update on June sales and how June went out like a lion, which given that we are now in our Covid time-shifted spring market is a little to be expected. The rest of the article is look at how our neighborhoods did in the first half of the year.

 

June Sales Update

If you could take one day of the year and clone it for the rest of the year, that date would be June 30, 2020. On that date we sold 12 houses out of 76 sales for the whole month of June. Of those 12 sales, the average price was $5.93 million. A house at 49 Midwood Road sold for $10,750,000 after 435 days on the market and a house at 45 Field Point Circle sold for $12,800,000 after 220 days on the market. In addition, we had sales of $7,500,000, $4,995,000 and $4,200,000 all on June 30th. As I wrote last week, the July 1st increase of 1% in the state conveyance tax for sales over $2.5 million was the motivated factor to get all these high-end deals done before the new tax kicked in.

But let’s get back to those 76 total sales for the whole month, that number is well above the 60 sales we had in June 2019 and even 4 sales above what we had in June 2018 when we didn’t’ have a pandemic. We also have 171 contracts waiting to close which is up 68 houses from last year or a 66% jump from last year.  We are doing better in just about every neighborhood, but three neighborhoods are seeing some headwinds.

The last time the conveyance tax was raised in 2011 we saw our biggest sales month ever with 114 sales in June 2011, followed by our worst July with only 48 sales. We won’t see that this July as we have just too many contracts waiting to close.

THE 2020 FIRST HALF GREENWICH NEIGHBORHOODS REPORT

The tight neighborhoods

                                Glenville

When you look at months of supply the neighborhood that really stands out is Glenville and not so much for its 11 sales, but for its 11 contracts waiting to close for a total of 22 transactions. When you throw in only 17 listing with these 22 transactions you get a tight 5.8 months of supply with contracts which is the best in town. This is down 11.7 months of supply from last year. A lot of that drop is attributable to the number listings going from 28 house listings at the end of June last year to only 17 listings left this month. Tight markets don’t just happen, smart agents and sellers help. While we have a tight market the average list price in Glenville has dropped from $1.13M to $1.09 as sellers are more competitively pricing their listings.

Old Greenwich & Riverside

Last year I sold a house in Riverside to a developer and had another listing cancelled for lack of buyer interest. Riverside was a tough place to sell in 2019 which is unusual. This year Riverside is back and once again running neck and neck with Old Greenwich, a perennial favorite of buyers. Even in a time when people are looking for more space and larger houses, the village of Old Greenwich continues to attract buyers. One factor is the R-7 zone in both Riverside and Old Greenwich, which is mostly north of the Post Road, are smaller lots, but they look good to a family living in a small 2 bedroom apartment in NYC. Inventory is down for these two contiguous neighborhoods by a total of 49 listings to a total of only 118 listings. The average sale price is down in Old Greenwich, but took a big jump in Riverside up by $792K. Anytime you see a change like this, a large part is because of the mix of what is selling. Higher end houses with more space and more land are selling in Riverside, but we are also seeing higher sales price/sf a better indicator of an overall market move.

 

The Rapidly Changing Neighborhoods

                                Backcountry & Mid-Country

Last year we saw sales jump 30% in backcountry Greenwich and also go up in mid-country (which for GMLS data purposes goes all the way down to the Post Road). This year that trend is continuing. Mid-country is the new sweet spot in Greenwich with sales up 20 houses from last year and contracts up by 47 houses while inventory is down by 52 houses to only 187 listings. The average price, average price/sf and sales price to assessment ratio are all down, as motivated sellers are covering their bases just in case we do see a depression next year when their values might drop. While the stock market is at record levels and is not predicting a depression, it’s a good time for sellers to take some of their chips off the table.

In backcountry, sales are up 4 houses, but contracts are up 27 and listings are down 31. The result of all that is when you look at months of supply with contracts you only get 12.4 months of supply. Even if you just look at the actual sales months of supply, that is down 10.4 months from last year. People want land  and houses with amenities; backcountry is one of the best places to get that.

Cos Cob

Cos Cob has seen a strong rebound after being our neighborhood with the poorest results in 2019. Now 2019 results looked down in Cos Cob, because it had done so well in 2016-2018. In 2020, Cos Cob is back like those prior years.  Sales are up 10 houses and contracts are up 14 houses while inventory is down 10. This result in a competitive 9.3 months of supply. On the sales only side, months of supply is down 10.2 months of supply from last year to 11. 3 months of supply.

 

Higher density neighborhoods

Byram, Pemberwick and North Mianus have seen the greatest appreciation since the Tax Assessor last did a revaluation in 2015. Byram is actually up 33% from 2015 when you compare the sales price to the assessment ratio. Pemberwick is up 18% from 2015 when you look at the same assessment ratio. Lots of folks want to live in Greenwich and those are our most affordable areas. This year a combination of all this prior appreciation and a desire for more social distancing have made these three neighborhoods slower this year than last year.

In Byram, we have 14 listings and only 2 sales so far this year. In Pemberwick it is 8 listings and no sales. North Mianus was our hottest neighborhood last year, but this year months of supply are up 3 months from last years to 10 months of supply. If you throw in the 2 contracts pending and only 5 listings its drops to a very active 7.5 months of supply, it’s just not as hot as last year.

All three of these neighborhoods are small so a few sales would change things dramatically, but it is a little strange that these lower priced areas have not done as well so far this year, since the R-7 zones in Old Greenwich and Riverside are doing well.

                Summary

For the town overall, inventory is down 20% and this is true across most every neighborhood. Sales are up 18% and once again this is widespread with big jumps in Cos Cob, Riverside, and mid-country. The really dramatic change is in contracts which are up 66% as this market is just getting hotter. The areas that are hot right now based on contracts are backcountry, mid-country, Riverside and Old Greenwich. As I write this, I’m negotiating three deals, two in backcountry and one in mid-country. Trying to find good listings in those areas is tough and if you are looking to sell now is a good time to list.

 

 

 

 

 

Greenwich Homes Sales Surge in June 2020 – First Half 2020 Looking Good

High-End Sales have an Excellent Month

At the end of May we had 299 sales and contracts, then June came along and sales and contracts surged to 436 houses sold or under contract; an increase of 50% in one month. The story at the upper end is even more dramatic. Above $3 million we went from 68 sales and contracts at the end of May to 117 sales and contracts in June, an increase of 72%. By far our most dramatic jump was closed high-end sales over $5 million which are up 286% in just one month, but more about that later.

The growth in these sales and contracts continue to escalate. Back in the week beginning May 4th we only 23 transactions, then it was 33 and 43 in a week. We dropped back to 33 transaction for the 4-day week of Memorial Day. The next week we jumped to 53 transactions as made up for the 4 day prior week. Then 44, 48 and 52 transactions. This week, once again only a 4-day week, we had an amazing 62 transactions

This dramatic jump in sales is being driven by three factors. By far the largest is the continued flood of Covid buyers from New York City, who primarily fall into two categories. Most of these buyers are younger families who are looking in the $1 – 2.3 million range. These buyers have been cooped up in a New York City apartment, often with multiple children. More square footage, a yard, parks, and beaches look pretty attractive to them.

A second less obvious sub-group of Covid-motivated buyers from New York City are newlyweds and DINKs. Pre-Covid, couples that met in New York City would move in to whichever person had the nicer apartment and live there until the first or second child came along. I’ve showed houses to lots of couples where the wife is pregnant and wants to be settled in a new place before the baby is born. In the meantime, they would live in New York City enjoying all of the restaurants, cultural activities, and nightlife that NYC is so famous for. In the Covid era, all those activities are either gone or still dangerous to enjoy. As a result, many couples are skipping the NYC, Dual-Income-No-Kids period and moving directly to Greenwich. I’m working with three couples just like that.

As of 7/2/2020 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Last Mo Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 5 3 0 3 6 9 5.0 4.2 #DIV/0!
$600-$800K 16 12 1 13 15 27 6.4 4.4 16.0
$800K-$1M 30 9 4 13 17 26 10.6 8.7 7.5
$1-$1.5M 57 25 9 34 56 81 6.1 5.3 6.3
$1.5-$2M 77 30 14 44 42 72 11.0 8.0 5.5
$2-$3M 118 45 12 57 59 104 12.0 8.5 9.8
$3-$4M 91 24 16 40 38 62 14.4 11.0 5.7
$4-$5M 45 11 5 16 12 23 22.5 14.7 9.0
$5-6.5M 53 6 5 11 11 17 28.9 23.4 10.6
$6.5-$10M 50 4 5 9 5 9 60.0 41.7 10.0
> $10M 36 2 3 5 4 6 54.0 45.0 12.0
 
TOTAL 578 171 74 245 265 436 13.1 9.9 7.8

The second big group that is increasing sales in Greenwich are Greenwich homeowners and renters that are upsizing. Our Greenwich residents that have been waiting for the post-recession market to turn are seeing it and getting out ahead of ever-expanding market demand. Right now, most houses are priced at 2019 and pre-Covid 2020 prices. Greenwich buyers have another month or two to enjoy these prices. After that, we are going to see the closing prices of our 171 contracts. Many of these contracts, were signed after bidding wars involving multiple buyers and the contract prices are over the list price.

Indicative of this hot market is that in June, 32 of the new listings never made it to their one month anniversary. When we find out the sales price after closing, these prices are going to start the price resetting process. Another sign of a hot market is that our average days on market for sales and contracts jumped from 149 DOM last year to 183 DOM this year. Of the 171 contracts we have signed as the end of June, 7 were actually on the market for more than 1,000 days and 27 were on the market for a year. When the stale inventory is selling you know it’s time to get moving if you need a house.

The third thing that is driving high-end Greenwich market in June is the state’s new Gold Coast conveyance tax. Last year the Connecticut legislature increased the conveyance tax on sales over $2.5 million by 1% effective July 1, 2020. Of the 124 sales in CT over $2.5 million so far this year only 11 were outside of Fairfield County. Within Fairfield County near all the sales were in Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and Westport.

The July 1st effective date of the $2.5M+ tax meant we saw a lot of deals that would have closed in July and August get pushed up to June. On a $10 million dollar sale, the seller would save $75,000 by closing on June 30th rather than July 1st. This was all the motivation many high-end buyers needed to closer sooner. As I mentioned above, sales above $5 million were up 286%. We went from 7 sales over $5 million at the end of May to 19 sales at the end of June. Of the 12 sales in June over $5 million, 7 of them over $7 million compared to only 1 sale over $7 million in the first 5 months or an increase of 600%.

We had 2 sales over $10 million occur on June 30th and 2 sales from $5 – 10 million on that date out of 11 sales. Unfortunately, this also means that July will likely be a poor month for high-end sales as the June accelerated deals aren’t there for a July closing. Right now, we have 12 contracts for houses listed over $5 million, all of whom will be helping to fund the Connecticut treasury by paying the higher conveyance tax.

One of the fun things to do is take these high-end June sales and annualize them. When you do that our months of supply over $10 million drops from 54 months of supply to 12 months of supply. From $6.5 – 10 million the drop in months of sales is from 60 months, or 5 years of supply, to 10 months of supply. Would that we could keep these June sales rate up all year round. Even with our present sales rate, things are still looking up for future sales over $3 million. When you include contracts over $3 million our months of supply is lower than when you only look at sales. This indicates an improving market though we may have to wait until August to see the number of sales increase.

 On the inventory side we are still down 21% from last year, but fortunately we are seeing lots more inventory come on the market, particularly in backcountry and mid-country where we need new listings. I just put on 14 Gray Oaks Lane for $3.65 million and it has been getting good interest as mid-country seems to be the new sweet spot in the Covid-era, not too far from town, but with good acreage for outdoor activities and social distancing.

14 Gray Oaks Lane, 5 BRs, 5 BAs, 2.28 Ac, $3.65M

Our 74 June house sales were better than June 2019, when we had 60 sales and a better month than June 2018 when we had 66 sales. We still have a ways to go to reach our 10 year average of 86 June sales, but the trend is definitely in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Coronavirus is Reshaping the Real Estate Market

Everything Old is New Again in Greenwich

How is the Covid virus reshaping the Greenwich real estate market? The short answer is in many ways. We are seeing significant rises in sales of houses on larger lots reversing the trend that we saw post-Great Recession. It looks like everything old is new again and larger houses with amenities on larger lots are back in fashion. Also, rentals may be returning to something more like the early 20th Century.

                Rentals & Condos

For condos, apartment style units with shared hallways and elevators whether for sale or rent are down while townhouse style condos sales and house rentals are up. I just had a condo get an accepted offer in five days.

Where we see the most dramatic change in Greenwich real estate is in high-end rentals. Last year at this time we had leased out 25 rentals over $15,000, this year we have 92 rentals or an increase of 268%. If you go even higher, last year we had 11 rentals for over $25,000/mo, this year we have 34 rentals.

  2020 Rentals Over $15,000/mo – 1/1 – 6/17/20

At the very top of the rental market, we had a summer rental for $38,000/mo last year. This year we had a summer rental go for $80,000/mo in 10 days and it rented for $5,000 over list price. We had 24 rentals this year for over $30,000/mo and all but 6 were rented in less than 30 days. Of those same 24 high-end rentals all but 4 went for list price or better. One house was put on for $32,000 per month on January 1st this year. It sat around for 73 days until the virus hit when all of a sudden it got multiple offers and rented for $50,000/mo, or 156% of the original list price.

 2019 Rentals Over $15,000/mo – 1/1 – 6/17/19

When you map the rentals, you can see that these high-end rentals are all over town. You have them in backcountry, the old golden triangle in mid-country around Clapboard Ridge, the post-recession golden triangle around lower Lake Ave and North Maple and what really stands out is the demand for waterfront rentals.

Now some people would have argued that the owners of these high-end home rentals being fairly well-to-do themselves would be unlikely to rent out their homes to strangers, but for at least 67 additional families in Greenwich the never-renters would be wrong. For these owners, the prospect of taking a long summer vacation, renting out their house, and coming back to $45,000 to $150,000 of additional money, is too enticing to pass up.

Summering in Greenwich?

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2021. In the early 20th Century Greenwich was a place where a lot of New Yorkers would summer. There used to be a trolley line down Sound Beach Ave in a village that was then called Sound Beach. They would bring people from the train out to a group inns in and around the intersection of Sound Beach Avenue and Shore Road in what is now Old Greenwich.

In the 60’s I used to deliver newspapers to the last of those two inns. Chris Franco did a wonderful job of renovating one of these inns into several beautiful condos through the use of a historic overlay. Another former inn is on the market just around the corner at 5 Holman Lane for $1,890,000. You can still see the reception area and the wide porches where rockers use to be set up for the guests. It will make a nice home someone.

House Sales

Sales of single family homes are also seeing the Covid effect. Last year as of 6/13 we had sold 41 houses on 2 acres or more, this year we have sold 53 houses or an increase of 29% over last year for larger lots. These large lot sales accelerated in May. We are also seeing more buyers coming into the market each week. Below is my Greenwich transaction index chart, which continues to go up in a jagged pattern, but the trend is clear. This sort of increase in a pandemic shows a lot of motivation by buyers.

Fortunately, for us, the number of infections and hospital admittances is going down, so I expect to see even more buyers going forward. The falling number of Covid cases also means that we are finally seeing more inventory come on the market as people are more willing to have their houses shown. We are up to 570 house listings, but last year at the end of June we had 729 single family home listings. We are still down quite a bit, but at least we are seeing net additions coming on faster than the sales are going off the market in our delayed 2020 “spring” market.

As to those going off the market, larger lots in backcountry are doing better this year than last year. The must have amenity for many is a nice, inground pool. (Check out my new seven bedroom listing at 1076 Lake Avenue that has everything including the heated pool.) The two-acre zone in mid-country, where buyers get a fair amount of space and are still relatively close to town is also very popular with folks fleeing the high-density of New York City. (I’ll have a listing in that area to talk about next week.)

While I’m continuing to get inquiries from Greenwich people looking to list their homes, I’m also getting inquiries from Greenwich residents that are looking to buy within Greenwich. Many our local residents that had been waiting to move up have decided that now is the time to do so when prices are still at pre-pandemic levels. This window won’t last much longer as lower inventory and higher demand from both Gothamites and Greenwich residents are only pointing in one direction.

The rest of this month promises to be a busy time in Greenwich real estate.

CONDOS & CO-OPS: A KEY PART OF THE 2020 GREENWICH REAL ESTATE MARKET

Condos have been quietly playing a bigger and bigger role in Greenwich. In 2012, condos were only 22% of our market, by 2017 they had soared to over 36% of our residential market. Since 2012, they have continued each year to be over 30% of sales compared to single family home sales. Condos this year have done about the same as last year. However, the mix of what is selling has changed. In this Covid era, we are seeing more sales of townhouses and fewer sales of apartment style condominiums.

As of 5/31/2020 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Last Mo Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 31 7 6 13 29 36 4.3 4.7 5.2
$600-$800K 25 8 4 12 12 20 8.3 6.9 6.3
$800K-$1M 14 1 1 2 7 8 8.0 9.6 14.0
$1-$1.5M 17 6 0 6 6 12 11.3 7.8
$1.5-$2M 14 0 0 0 1 1 56.0 77.0
$2-$3M 16 3 0 3 5 8 12.8 11.0
$3-$4M 10 7 0 7 2 9 20.0 6.1
$4-$5M 2 0 0 0 0 0
 
TOTAL 129 32 11 43 62 94 8.3 7.5 11.7

So far this year we have 62 sales of condominiums and co-ops. (All condo references and numbers in this report include co-ops as they trade almost like condos.) As is true of most years, these sales are concentrated under $600,000. For many people condominiums are an affordable way to get into the Greenwich housing market and for downsizers are a way to stay in the Greenwich that they love. The other thing we’ve seen in the last few years is the growth in new higher end condominiums, those priced above $2,000,000.

As of the end of May, we had 129 condominiums on the market. Our median list price was $985,000 while our medium sales price was $612,500. We had listings from $75,000 all the way up to $5 million. (OK the $75,000 listing was actually a boat slip but it’s legally a condo, though we don’t have the housing boats in Greenwich as you see in places like Sausalito, California. Our lowest real condo listing is priced at $199,750.) On the sales side our lowest sales price so far this year is $248,000 while our highest sale so far is $3.2 million.

Like houses we have a certain seasonality to condo purchases. Over the last 10 years, condo sales tend to peak in June, however they do not drop off as much in the fourth quarter. The first quarter also does  have rising condo sales, but it is not as steep as we see for single family homes. The result is that condo sales are spread throughout the year. Also, given the smaller number of sales the graph tends to jump around month to month much more in condo sales.

Condos as you would expect sale for a little less per square foot than houses , but not that much last. Our house dollar per square foot is around $500 per square foot whereas the median price for condos is $450 per square foot. This is even more remarkable when you consider that the price per square foot for a single-family home obviously includes the land cost too. The reason that we’re seeing such high prices is that condos are often sit on some of our most valuable land. They are located usually within a half a mile of the Post Rd where land prices or higher and are often in downtown areas where prices are even higher.

You see a concentration of condos as you would expect in downtown Greenwich, but we also have a fair number in Pemberwick and in Old Greenwich. What many people may miss is that Chickahominy just west of downtown Greenwich has a bunch of relatively new condos at the end of streets off of Hamilton Ave.

8 View St. #5, listed 6/11/20, $1,199,000

I’m listing one of these condos this week at 8 View Street , the street across from the Two Door restaurant and Bella Cucina. This is a 3300 square foot unit with a two-car garage and even its own  small yard which is unusual for a condominium. It has a large balcony with winter water views of Long Island Sound. This 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath condo is listed for $1,199,0000.

That condo is on the larger size for Greenwich. Condo sizes vary from studios at 585 square feet to large town houses at close to 5000 square feet. Our median condo size is around 1,500 s.f.  On average, our condos stay on the market for 141 days and we have about a 7.5 months of supply of condos. The lower the price, the lower the months of supply we have.

In 2011 we only sold 128 condos in Greenwich however by 2015 the market had recovered strongly, and we sold 210 condominiums. Since then we’ve been roughly around 200 condominium sales a year. Last year, in 2019, was a slower year for both houses and condominiums, as we only had 159 condo sales and only 526 house sales. Last year was the year that the Tax Cut and Job Act with its limitation on mortgage and property tax deductibility really cut into the Greenwich real estate market.

This year the condo market, like houses, started off the year doing well. The last two months things have slowed down with the Covid virus. We are seeing good interest from buyers looking to get out of New York City, particularly in those condo units that don’t share common elements, such as elevators and hallways, with the other units. Townhouse style condos are very popular.

When you look at months of supply, we have a competitive market all the way up to $1.5 million. We have a big jump in months of supply from $1.5 to 2 million as we have a bunch of new condos coming on in that price range. At the very high end, over $2 million for condos, we have a bunch of new condos whose prices are challenging previous highs particularly when you look at the price per square foot. These units are going to contract, many are waiting for C.O’s before closing.

Overall, our condo market is an important element in the diversity of Greenwich. Many of the smaller towns in Fairfield County have only a very small percentage of condominiums. One of the great things about having the number of condos that we have is that people who want to downsize to a more maintenance-free lifestyle don’t have to leave town to do so. We also see many of these downsizers become snowbirds and spend winters at houses in Florida and other places and come back for summers in Greenwich.

As we recover from the Covid virus, condo sales should rebound. We have 32 contracts waiting to close or more than half of the sales we have seen so far this year. We are also seeing a fair number of people from New York looking at condos in Greenwich. For many of these New Yorkers, the question may be a condo in Greenwich or a small house in Stamford or Norwalk.

Families tend to go for the smaller houses, though you actually see a surprising number of children at certain condo complexes, whose parents prefer the Greenwich schools. Couples tend to like the condos over houses and also like being closer to their jobs in New York City. As in the past few years, condo sales will likely be around a third of our market this year.

Condos are one of the things that make Greenwich Greenwich and maintain its vitality and they are an important part of our real estate market.

GREENWICH REAL ESTATE MARKET STAYS BUSY IN MAY 2020

Greenwich Owners Buying in Greenwich Adds to Covid Buyers

May was a good month for sales in a pandemic. All the late reporting sales are in, and we had 54 sales in May compared with 56 sales for May 2019. The good news is that we have exactly the same 108 contracts this year as last year at this time.

As of 5/30/2020 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Last Mo Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 5 2 2 4 6 8 4.2 4.1 2.5
$600-$800K 18 5 3 8 14 19 6.4 6.2 6.0
$800K-$1M 28 6 2 8 13 19 10.8 9.6 14.0
$1-$1.5M 57 14 14 28 47 61 6.1 6.1 4.1
$1.5-$2M 73 23 8 31 28 51 13.0 9.3 9.1
$2-$3M 122 26 15 41 47 73 13.0 10.9 8.1
$3-$4M 95 19 7 26 22 41 21.6 15.1 13.6
$4-$5M 46 4 1 5 7 11 32.9 27.2 46.0
$5-6.5M 45 4 1 5 6 10 37.5 29.3 45.0
$6.5-$10M 48 3 0 3 0 3 104.0
> $10M 32 2 1 3 1 3 160.0 69.3 32.0
 
TOTAL 569 108 54 162 191 299 14.9 12.4 10.5

These contracts show that the market from $1.5 – 4 million is doing particularly well. What had been the hot market, and still is when you look at how little inventory we have, is the $1 – 1.5 million market. In that market we only have 57 listings down 17 listing from last year. At the same we have sold or have under contract 61 houses in only 5 months. This equates to 6.1 months of supply. Generally, under 6 months’ supply is considered a seller’s market. Also, generally our lowest months of supply are at our lowest price range, but right now that 6.1 months of supply from $1 – 1.5 million is actually is even less than the 6.4 months of supply that we have from $600,000 – $800,000.

May 2020 vs. May 2019

 

What’s hot

Overall, we have had 186 sales of single family homes this year up 21 sales from 2019 when we had only 165 sales. Our sales are up, or about the same as last year, all the way up to $6.5 million. As noted above sales from $1 – 1.5 million have done particularly well with an increase of 12 sales or a gain of 36% over last year. The other two price ranges that have shown nice gains in sales is the $600 – 800K range where sales are up 56% from 8 sales to 13 sales and also the $5 – 6.5 million price range where sales are up 100% from 3 sales YTD in May 2019 to 6 sales this year.

                What’s not

Anytime you see a big gain in one particular price range you should take a look at the price ranges just above and just below. If all of them are up, you have a strong price trend and you can be reasonably sure that you are seeing a real change in the market year over year. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the $5 – 6.5 million price range. Sales from $4 – 5 million are down 22% from last year from 8 sales to 6 sales.

If you then go the other way and go up in price range, sales from $6.5 to $10 million dollars are down 100% which sounds a lot more dramatic than it is. Down 100% means no sales this year compared to 4 sales last year.  We do have 3 contracts waiting to close from $6.5 to 10 million. (BTW: Another issue when numbers are small is just what price ranges are picked and the exact beginning and end of the “month”. I use $6.5 million as a dividing line, because roughly half of our listings between $5 and 10 million are below $6.5 million (45 listings) and half are above $6.5 million (48 listings)).

So, is the high-end weak or is it just market segmentation? Unfortunately, the market above $6.5 million is weak as we only have 1 sale so far this year above $6.5 million. The good news is that it is a $17 million sale. We also have a total of 6 contracts above $6.5 million while inventory is down 10% above $6.5 million, Even when you throw in lower inventory and add contracts you are looking at over 8 years of supply from $6.5 million to $10 million and almost 7 year of supply over $10 million. My law of small number does say that a couple of sales and additional contracts will mean a drop of years in the months of supply, but we will need more than a handful of sales for this market segment to start looking healthy.

               

             Why is the high-end weak?

The question is why is the high-end is looking weak when we have good activity in the rest of the market. The short answer is no one can say for sure, but I was talking with a couple of other brokers and all three of us kind of felt the same thing. At the high-end people already have a couple of houses and are not seeing the same pressure to “get out of Dodge” as the New York Times called it. The potential high-end buyers already have a nice place outside of Dodge.

The thought among these agents that high-end owners are more able to take a wait and see approach. While the stock market says it’s unlikely to happen, there is some concern about a major depression next year, so low-yield government bonds look better than real estate so high-end buyers are keeping their powder dry.

                Are Greenwich buyers getting out ahead of the surge?

Overall sales are up 12.7% for the year with most of that increase happening pre-Covid. Post Covid sales are bumpy week by week. The common wisdom is that most of the buyers are families from NYC and we are seeing a lot of that. (I had three buyers referred to me this weekend.) What is interesting though is that I had 5 transaction in May, two sales, two contracts and a rental. In the case of the buyers, all four of them were from Greenwich and all were up-sizers. A couple of other brokers said they were seeing the same thing with Greenwich buyers being a bigger factor in the market in mid-country and backcountry.

Many folks in Greenwich watch the real estate market very closely. Some of our smart, and hopefully prescient, local citizens see this as a window of opportunities for buyers. Mid-country and backcountry have seen declines the last couple of years, but there is a good chance that is turning around this year. For mid-country and backcountry, buyers are getting these houses at last year’s prices and making some good deals. For sellers that are worried about a second great depression, they are flexible on pricing and doing deals now rather than waiting. The result is good sales in a pandemic.

The Greenwich buyers that are out there know what they want and can move quickly when they find it. My listing at 7 Dempsey sold in 11 days from showing to closing on Friday, 5/29, breaking my personal best from the previous week of 12 days from showing to closing.

                How Covid is changing the housing market

We are seeing the trend of buyers looking for more land and social distancing continuing. The other trend that we are seeing are people wanting more on-site amenities. Pools are big, wine cellars are of interest and game rooms are also popular. This might even bring back interest in home theaters, often the least used room in a house.

                Condo sales up and down

On the condo side, sales look flat, but it’s because two types of condos are balancing each other out. Sales of townhouse style condos, without shared hallways, are up, while apartment style condos with elevators are down. Covid giveth and Covid taketh when it comes to real estate.

               The coming surge: More buyers and More inventory, hopefully

It looks like we will be getting our spring market in June and given the large number of folks from NYC looking the market may continue into what is a traditionally a slow August. If many traditional vacation sites are shut down or quarantining, we may see more stay-cations and more buyers house hunting in what would be a slow month. If you are thinking of selling please call me or another agent, we still need more listings, since we are down 23% from last year.

 

The 2.0 Guide to Successful House Hunting in the Covid Pandemic

The goal in house hunting in a pandemic is to see as few houses as possible. While it is always a good idea to do your research beforehand, in a pandemic the less you expose yourself, the less likely you are to be a victim.

The easier way to house hunt

There is an easy way and a harder way to find the right house and many people elect to take the harder way. The easier way is to get a real estate agent involved early in the process and let them do a lot of the work for you. The harder way, which actually seems to be the way that most buyers under 40 take, is too do all the research yourself and then once you’ve identified a house call the listing agent rather than getting your own agent.

For buyers, having an agent represent them is usually free, since the sales commission for both brokers is paid by the seller. The one exception is when the seller hasn’t listed the property with their own agent, such as a for sale by owner or an owner who hadn’t planned on selling and that owner refuses to pay a commission. If a buyer doesn’t want to pay a commission, they can simply tell their agent don’t show me any off-market properties where I would have to pay a commission. This is not a big a hardship as it sounds, as the huge majority of house that are available for sale are publicly listed.

The ideal way to do things is to do your own research and work jointly with your agent. He or she can send you some good options and guide you as to what areas may be best suited for you and your family. You personally can look at a variety of things that the agent might not know you want in a particular house or neighborhood.

How to do an efficient house search

But, what can you do to determine what should you look at and more importantly what shouldn’t waste your time on?  I always think of the catch phrase; location location, location, however each of these locations are different and require different approaches. The first location is what town or neighborhood do I want to live in. You shouldn’t be looking at random houses that you like in three different states in the New York metro area. Figure out what towns you like and concentrate on those towns. The second location is what part of town and what street do you want to live on. The third location is the house itself do you like how it is located on the lot and the street.

The Greenwich Association of Realtors just debuted their new website for buyers and sellers at http://www.greenwichrealtors.com. It has a buyer’s guide and a seller’s guide and an overview of each neighborhood in Greenwich and the listings in that neighborhood. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t been there before. (NB: I was on the GAR advisory committee on the design of the site. It is much more useful than the old site.)

Another good way to narrow your choices is to figure out what you can actually afford. If you need a mortgage now is a great time to go out and talk to your banker or mortgage broker to determine just how much you can afford. Before the Great Recession, many buyers would try to get the maximum loan, with lowest downpayment and the biggest house on the largest lot that they could afford. The idea was that real estate always goes up so that this was a great way to leverage an investment.

In these uncertain times, that isn’t necessarily the best idea. Keeping something in reserve is a good idea.

On the good side, uncertain times can lead to lower interest rates as they do now, when low mortgage rates are making purchases more affordable. Also find out from the bank what it would cost and how long it would take to get underwritten pre-approved. This means the bank has gone through all the steps necessary to give you the loan, except for the house appraisal. Being underwritten pre-approved gives you significant negotiating advantages, because the mortgage approval period goes from 45 – 60 days to a couple of weeks.

Finding the right neighborhood

Once you have your loan amount, see what houses have sold for in the neighborhoods that you are thinking about. Hopefully, the sales prices and your financial capabilities match-up. Online pictures are good, but take a drive through those neighborhoods you are thinking of living in and look at the sold houses and the active houses to make sure that neighborhood works for you based on what you can afford. Traditionally, the best time was a weekend when lots of folks were home. Now you can go just about any day as lots of folks are home.

Look not only at houses but take a drive to the train station or highway you would commute on. Drive to the local shopping area where you would do most of your shopping. When looking for shopping don’t be bound by state or town boundaries. The nearest shopping center may be in the next town or even the next state.

If schools are an important part of your house hunting, you need to determine which school districts work for you. If, however, you’re looking at private schools you need to check and see what kind of admission requirements, tuition fees and waiting list there may be for any particular school that you’re interested in. With private schools you generally can live anywhere.

So now that you have picked the neighborhood(s), the number of houses you need to sift through is much smaller. Many people like Zillow, I personally prefer Realtor.com. Particularly in a busy market it is the major site that gets the listings the quickest.

Finding the right house

Your agent can forward you the listings right from the GMLS, where you know the information will be accurate, particularly as to public schools and you can now find them at greenwichrealtors.com. Also have your agent set up an alert with your particular parameters, so you know when anything comes on and equally important any time a house is sold, so you can see today’s sales price.

When you’re looking at the listings, focus on those aspects of house that are important to you. Do they have enough bedrooms? Do you like the floor plan? Is the lot relatively flat with nice yards ? Also look at the history of the house how long has it been on for. (NB: Most histories involve how long it’s been on that particular site and they may not match up with the days on market that the GMLS has.) What’s been the pattern of price reductions if any? This is a good time to rely on your agent to send you stuff since here she or he knows the market better than you do.

Try not to obsess too much over one factor. Realtors have an expression that “Buyers are liars.” We don’t actually mean that, but it rhymes and is easier to say than, “Buyers often can’t articulate everything they want and occasionally see a house that is outside their stated parameters and really like it.” Don’t however use this as excuse to go look at a bunch of possibilities, do keep an open mind. A really ugly paint job can be fixed.

Ideally, you can narrow down your options to only a few houses. Today, this is where things get interesting. In the old days, everybody would jump in their cars and go over and see the houses. Nowadays the first thing you may want to do is just drive by the house.

Multiple ways to see a house

Surveys say that half of buyers have decided on whether they like a house or not by the time they get to the front door. This is a problem in Greenwich. One of the many aspects of Greenwich politeness in the pre-Covid days is that the listing agent, the buyer’s agent, and the buyers will all take a tour of the entire house, when everyone already knows it is not the house for that buyer. A quick drive-by can save you a fair amount of time by eliminating the houses that don’t appeal to you.

After the drive-by, or alternatively, you can talk to your agent about a FaceTime or Zoom tour of the house. That can be done either by your agent, the owner’s agent, the owner or even the tenant depending on what the situation is. The tours work pretty well for a first cut to narrow the houses you want to see. Once again saving you time and maintaining social distance.

You can also go window peeping. The window peeping tour is where the buyers and the agent can walk the property and look in the windows. I’ve actually had a fair amount of luck with this process. My buyers have been eliminating two out of three houses this way.

If you do this type of tour you need to be prepared. You will likely be walking through gardens and certainly lawns. So, wear shoes that are no problem if you get them wet or a little dirty. Also, it helps to pull up the listings on your phone and scroll through the pictures. This way when you get to the house you can look at the cached picture on the phone even if the area has poor cell reception. Since you are out in public, don’t forget your mask and gloves. Your agent probably has some, but it’s nice to have the ones that you like.

If you’ve now found the house that you like it’s time for the inside tour. Some houses are bought without the buyer going inside. We just had one contract where the owner’s first visit to the house was the day, they signed the contract. Having said that, even in the Covid era, it’s not very common. Once again you need your mask and gloves and some places like you to have booties.

Be flexible

Lastly, this is a good time to be flexible. I’ve always told people that if you’re looking to buy in Greenwich given that we only have several hundred house listings you’re very likely not going to find 5 out of the 5 of the things that you want. Now that our inventory is down 25%, this is a particularly good time to be flexible. You can always do renovations to make the house more like what you want. Getting the right house, at the right time, is key in this day and age.

Enjoy your house hunting, it’s a great way to get out of the house and go for a drive. If you do it right, you will have minimal social distancing issues and make good use of your time out.

[You can check out my 1.0 Guide here, House Hunting in a Pandemic It was posted on March 29th.]

 

NY Post – NYers cause coronavirus real estate ‘tidal wave’ in CT (MP Quoted)

Lia Eustachewich highlights the trend of NYC folks moving to Connecticut in this NY Post article. I get quoted about the NYC woman in the beautiful Park Avenue co-op who just doesn’t feel comfortable in her building; she is particularly afraid in the elevator, as there is just no way for her and family to socially distance.

The New York Post article is very well timed as this week we saw a new 2020 high for transactions with 43 properties going to contract or closing. This increase of 10 transaction week over week means this week is the busiest so far this year.

Last week we also had an increase of 10 transactions from the previous week when we 23 transactions. So from the first week of May to the third week. we had an 87% increase in transactions.

We are also seeing an increase in inventory finally. We are up to 557 listings, which is a nice improvement over 523 listings last week. This 6.5% net increase in inventory over last week is even more remarkable given that we had 43 transactions in the same week decreasing our inventory. Last year at this time we had 732 listing, which was a year with higher inventory and lower sales than average, But, even in 2018 we had 686 single family homes listing. We are down 24% from last year and 19% from 2018. (A hat tip to my brother Russ, who keeps a great site for current and historic Greenwich real estate data at RussellPruner.com.)

We still have a long way to go, but I’m guessing that with the nice weather and the decline in Covid cases that we are in that scene in movie where the dam is just starting to burst (see 0:10) Excepting some even more unforeseen circumstance, June looks to be a busy month.