November 2017 Greenwich Real Estate – Sales Way Up 80% – Contracts Down 13%

Greenwich home sales were up dramatically in November. Last month we had 43 sales compared to only 24 sales in November 2016 or a jump of 80%. It seems a lot of people may have been waiting for the Connecticut budget issues to get resolved before closing.

As of 12/1/17 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 5 3 0 3 13 16 4.2 3.9
$600-$800K 19 2 4 6 42 44 5.0 5.4 4.8
$800K-$1M 18 8 6 14 43 51 4.6 4.4 3.0
$1-$1.5M 56 10 10 20 114 124 5.4 5.6 5.6
$1.5-$2M 59 17 8 25 81 98 8.0 7.5 7.4
$2-$3M 118 14 6 20 88 102 14.8 14.5 19.7
$3-$4M 69 7 4 11 55 62 13.8 13.9 17.3
$4-$5M 52 4 2 6 28 32 20.4 20.3 26.0
$5-6.5M 51 8 0 8 28 36 20.0 17.7
$6.5-$10M 36 7 1 8 17 24 23.3 18.8 36.0
> $10M 35 1 2 3 8 9 48.1 48.6 17.5
TOTAL 518 81 43 124 517 598 11.0 10.8 12.0

Now you would think that events that happened after the contracts were signed would not affect the number of sales in any particular month, but we see this over and over again. People wait to see what is going to happen before they set a closing. The result is that this October was only an average month while November was up almost double from last year.

The 80% jump in sales number this November compared to last November is mathematically accurate, but a little deceptive. November 2016 had the same time shifting problem with sales way down that month followed by a big jump up in December 2016. If you compare our November 2017 sales to last year you look at our 10-year average, our 43 sales are up 23% from our 10-year average of 35 sales. A nice jump, but not as dramatic as a year to year comparison.

The interesting thing is the prices where these sales increases are. In November we saw 12 more sales from $800 thousand to $2 million price range. The $1.5 – 2.0 million price range had been slow this year even with higher inventory available for purchase, so to see these additional sales was a nice November gift.

The high-end above $5 million continued to do well with 15 more contracts waiting to close compared to last year. Our high-end inventory has also been down all year and as of the end of November we had 39 fewer houses on the market than last year at this time. Our sales for this category are also 21 sales.

The result of lower inventory and substantially increased sales are massive drops in months of supply for the high-end compared to previous years. Months of supply are down from $5 – 6.5 million by 1.5 years, from $6.5 to 10 million we are down by 3 years of supply. Over $10 million we down by an amazing 6 years of supply from 121 months, or 11 years of supply to 48 months, 4 years of supply.

The over $10 million months of supply has literally been off the charts for years. It is still much higher than other price categories, but people are buying very high-priced houses in Greenwich. We doubled our record for over $20 million houses with four houses over this sky-high price.

These four houses alone represent $88 million in sales in Greenwich. So far, this year our total sales come to $1.33 billion dollars and this is in a town of 62,000 people. This compares to total sales last year of $1.15 billion. Due to the big jump in sales in November our number of house sales this year is down only 4 houses to 517 houses, while our high-end sales have increased our total volume by $180 million. The result is that our average price has gone from $2,206,908 to $2,575,130.

So, sales and inventory are about the same as last year, while high end sales and hence the average price are up substantially. Unfortunately, December promises to be another month of whipsawing sales. If you look at contracts, December sales should be down as contracts are down 12 from last year with most of that decline being, what had been up until November, our most popular price range from $1 – 1.5 million. Contracts are down 16 from last year in our prime market.

The Income Tax Bill and Real Estate

The great imponderable is the pending tax bills in the U.S. Congress. With both the House and Senate having passed bills we are only waiting for the compromise bill to come out and President Trump is waiting with his pen to sign the bill.

Now the general consensus is that property values are going to drop in states with high income taxes, high property taxes and lots of mortgages over $500,000 or $1,000,000 depending on whether the House or Senate mortgage limitation amount passes. The effective costs of property taxes and the other lost deductions will be higher as they will have to be paid with after-tax dollars. As a result, there is a good chance that we may see property values drop in Greenwich, but there is also a scenario where Greenwich house prices could actually go up.

Presently, you can deduct all property taxes from your federal income tax and both the House and Senate are proposing to limit this deduction to $10,000. So, anyone who has a property tax bill over $10,000 will see the real cost of those taxes go up next year. In Greenwich the $10,000 tax bill equates to a house value of about $1.2 million.

 Taxes & Real Estate – Greenwich Prices Up or Down

Westchester has some of the highest tax rates in the country so this reduction in property tax deductibility is more strongly felt there. For decades, downsizers and retirees have moved from Westchester to Greenwich for the substantially lower taxes. Once the tax bill passes Westchester homeowners whose jobs are in the NY metro area and thus can’t easily relocate to Florida may decide to move to Greenwich to avoid the higher taxes that will be paid with after-tax dollars.

Compounding this effect is that inventory may well drop as homeowners decide to stay in their homes to keep their grandfathered mortgages with there full interest deductions. A second, though less widespread effect, reducing inventory in our hottest areas, is that homeowners will have to occupy their houses for five years rather than two to avoid capital gains tax on the sale of their primary residence, so expanding families may well stay put longer.

Lastly, the lower income tax rates and lower taxes on pass through entities, may well mean that Greenwich buyers will not be as sensitive to the loss of deductions for SALT, higher mortgage amounts and property taxes.

We have so many moving parts in this bill and so many different household circumstances, that it is going to take a while before the factors in the tax bill pushing up and lowering demand create a new equilibrium of supply and demand for Greenwich houses. The bottomline is that there is no way of knowing how the tax bill will affect Greenwich. What is clear is that our low property taxes are a major boon in a changing world and will ameliorate whatever effect the loss of property tax deductibility will have when compared to other towns.

 

October 2017 Real Estate Report & the GOP Tax Bills Effect on Greenwich

October was a better month for sales than September with sales returning to their 10-year average. In addition, we continue to see strength in the upper end of the market above $3 million.

As of 11/1/17 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts YTD Solds YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 6 0 0 0 13 13 4.6 5.3
$600-$800K 20 4 4 8 38 42 5.3 5.5 5.0
$800K-$1M 17 7 3 10 37 44 4.6 4.4 5.7
$1-$1.5M 68 18 9 27 103 121 6.6 6.5 7.6
$1.5-$2M 66 19 5 24 73 92 9.0 8.3 13.2
$2-$3M 130 17 5 22 82 99 15.9 15.1 26.0
$3-$4M 77 11 2 13 50 61 15.4 14.5 38.5
$4-$5M 59 2 4 6 26 28 22.7 24.2 14.8
$5-6.5M 55 5 3 8 28 33 19.6 19.2 18.3
$6.5-$10M 41 5 0 5 16 21 25.6 22.5
> $10M 38 1 2 3 6 7 63.3 62.4 19.0
 
TOTAL 577 89 37 126 472 561 12.2 11.8 15.6

October also continues our tradition this year of see-saw sales with alternating up and down months. Unfortunately, this see-saw effect has been taking place around a lower average. As of the end of October 2017 we have sold 470 houses compared to 552 sales last year. Only January and March of 2017 saw higher sales this year compared to last year.

Now, on the good news side, we should see an improvement for November sales. As of the end of October we had 89 contracts waiting to close compared to only 70 in 2016. Contracts are up in every price category from $800,000 to over $10,000,000 with the one exception of $4 – 5 million where they are down 3 contracts from last year.

Our under $800,000 market

Under $800,000 we continue to see significant inventory constraints. We only have 26 houses listed for under $800,000 in Greenwich. These houses that do come on the market usually sell fast and often for over list price. We have sold 51 houses under $800,000 this year at an average sales price to original list price of 95%. This compares with a median sales price to list price of 92%.

Now even in this competitive market you if you overprice a house it will just sit. Our lowest sales price to original list price in this category was 78% and that house stayed on the market for 539 days. Three other houses sold at around 84% of original list price and all three stayed on for over 300 days compared to a median of 75 days on market.

Of the 51 houses sold under $800,000, we had 13 sell at either list price or over with one of Gila Lewis’ Glenville listing going for 37% over its original list price and getting almost 2 dozen bids. As a group the house under $800,000 also sold for 15% more than their 2015 reassessment value.

October ’17 vs ’16 Inventory Contracts Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Mo. Annlzd
< $600K -3 -3 0 -3 0 -3 -2.3 -1.2
$600-$800K 7 -4 -4 -8 -7 -11 2.4 2.7 3.4
$800K-$1M -5 3 -1 2 -6 -3 -0.5 -0.9 0.2
$1-$1.5M 8 2 4 6 3 5 0.6 0.5 -4.4
$1.5-$2M -2 5 -3 2 -28 -23 2.3 1.5 4.7
$2-$3M 23 4 0 4 -10 -6 4.2 3.4 4.6
$3-$4M -11 5 -3 2 2 7 -2.9 -4.2 20.9
$4-$5M 2 -3 3 0 2 -1 -1.1 1.6 -42.3
$5-6.5M -5 5 2 7 12 17 -17.9 -24.0 -41.7
$6.5-$10M -19 4 -1 3 5 9 -28.9 -35.0
> $10M -9 1 2 3 2 3 -54.2 -72.7
TOTAL -14 19 -1 18 -25 -6 0.3 -0.2 0.0

U.S. 2017 House and Senate Tax Proposals

The U.S. House and Senate tax bills have several provisions that would have a disproportionate impact on Greenwich. The proposal to lower mortgage deductible to only the interests on mortgages that are up to $500,000 has been getting the most attention, but it is not the only provision.

Mortgage deductibility

At first glance eliminating deductions on mortgages over $500,000 would seem to be a big deal for Greenwich, since so far this year only two houses in Greenwich have sold for less than $500,0000. Now if you assume an 80% loan to value ratio on the mortgage that would equate to a purchase price of $625,000.  That higher amount doesn’t provide much help since only 3% of our houses have sold for less than that.

Fortunately, the other 97% of purchases will see significantly different impacts. Obviously if you buy a home for all cash this deduction is irrelevant. The higher the purchase price the more likely the purchase will be all cash. For many people this change may push them to borrow less.

The main ameliorating factor is that there is already a $1.1 million limitation on mortgage interest deductibility, $1 million of home acquisition debt plus a $100,000 home equity line. So, what we are really talking about is that gap in deductibility between $1,000,000 and $500,000. If you assume an 80% loan, it’s those houses with a purchase prices of $625,000 and $1,250,000. So far this year, 121 of 484 houses sales fall in that gap or one-quarter of houses.

Property tax limitation

The House bill also proposes a $10,000 limit on property taxes, so houses in Greenwich over $1.2 million will see their property tax deductions limited based on our present mill rate. This provision might actually help accelerate movement of downsizers from high property tax Westchester County to Greenwich. At the same time, it would hurt Connecticut’s national competitiveness against low tax states.

Carried interests

One big factor that was left out of the proposal; any changes in taxes on the carried interest taxation. While even candidate Trump complained about taxing these carried interests at capital gains tax rates, leaving this policy unchanged will help mean many of our residents and prospective residents.

Capital Gain on Sale of Residence

On the downside, there is a proposal to change the $500,000 capital gains tax exemption for personal residents from a 2 out of the last 5 year owner occupancy requirement to 5 years out of the last 8 years. In addition, the proposal includes a phaseout for those families earning over $500,000 so that if you earned over $1 million a year you would get no capital gains exemption. This change will push more people to rent rather than buy if they might occupy their house for last than 5 years.

Now the bottom line is that these are just proposals and we can expect substantial changes as this legislation goes through the Washington sausage making machine. In addition, the interaction of all of these factors is complex, with increased standard deductions, reduced tax brackets and dozens of other details impacting each household differently, so to say this will help or hurt any particular Greenwich residents you just can’t say.

So, contracts are up, we have a Connecticut state budget that is better for Greenwich and we’ve got tax changes proposed in D.C. Things will continue to change and only the future can tell what will happen.

 

September 2017 – A Good Month for the High End & Greenwich Neighborhood Analysis

For the last three months we’ve had a real estate market that we haven’t seen post-recession; a good high-end and a mediocre middle. September took that up a notch. First the poor news, from $600,000 to $3 million sales are down. Under $600,000 we have no inventory. (Well, OK we do have three listings, but we had 8 listings last year). The demand is certainly there as even with this lower inventory we have the same 13 sales that we had last year.

Now for the good news; sales over $3 million are doing much better than last year. So far this year, the GMLS has reported 114 sales over $3 million up from 95 house sales last year. Some of the high-end price ranges have been particularly outstanding.

Between $ 6 and 7 million our inventory is down by a quarter and sales are up by 500%.  That calculation came from my fellow agent, Jill Marchak, here at Berkshire Hathaway, who does the internal market numbers for our Greenwich offices. The percent increase was so surprising that she initially thought it must be wrong, but sales really did go from an anemic 2 sales last year to 12 sales this while inventory dropped to only 20 listings even though this is the peak of fall market.

10/06/17 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 3 0 2 2 13 13 2.1 2.4 1.5
$600-$800K 20 6 0 6 34 40 5.3 5.3
$800K-$1M 16 7 2 9 34 41 4.2 4.1 8.0
$1-$1.5M 73 15 6 21 94 109 7.0 7.0 12.2
$1.5-$2M 83 14 6 20 68 82 11.0 10.6 13.8
$2-$3M 135 14 4 18 77 91 15.8 15.6 33.8
$3-$4M 86 8 3 11 47 55 16.5 16.4 28.7
$4-$5M 59 3 3 6 22 25 24.1 24.8 19.7
$5-6.5M 57 4 3 7 25 29 20.5 20.6 19.0
$6.5-$10M 45 4 4 8 16 20 25.3 23.6 11.3
> $10M 37 0 1 1 4 4 83.3 97.1 37.0
                   
TOTAL 614 75 34 109 434 509 12.7 12.7 18.1

And, in the first few days of October, the hits just keep on coming. We had 116 Oneida close for $20,377,000 on 10/3 and then 50 Byram Drive closed for $12,650,000 on 10/5. The high end is definitely chugging along. Inventory is down in ever price category over $3 million and as mentioned above sales are up.

Unfortunately September 2017 was the third consecutive month of below average sales numbers and have cancelled out the good sales months we saw earlier this year. We are now down 5% in total unit sales year to date. Despite this drop in the number of houses sold, however, we are up about 5% in sales volume as these increased high-end sales have powered the total dollar value of all sales upward.

As I mentioned this time last month, September was likely to be a down month as contracts were down 29% year over year. This month contracts have recovered very nicely with contracts down only 3 houses when compared to the beginning of October 2016 or 4%. One of the places contracts saw a nice recovery was our busiest segment from $1 – 1.5 where we are actually up to 15 contracts which was 4 more than in early October last year.

The only major drop in contracts was from $600,000 – $800,000 where we are down 7 contracts from 13 contracts last year to only 6 contracts this year for that price range. With only 20 total listings I wouldn’t expect that category to be recovering quickly.

’17 vs ’16 Inventory Contracts Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Mo. Annlzd
< $600K -5 0 0 0 0 0 -3.46 -4.04 -2.50
$600-$800K -2 -7 -5 -12 -2 -9 -0.21 0.54
$800K-$1M -2 0 -5 -5 -5 -5 0.08 -0.01 5.43
$1-$1.5M 15 4 -6 -2 -1 3 1.49 1.29 7.33
$1.5-$2M 17 -4 -6 -10 -25 -29 4.60 4.38 8.33
$2-$3M 21 0 -3 -3 -10 -10 3.99 3.73 17.46
$3-$4M -7 0 -1 -1 4 4 -3.00 -2.73 5.42
$4-$5M -2 -1 1 0 -1 -2 0.27 1.06 -10.83
$5-6.5M -3 3 0 3 10 13 -15.48 -18.74 -1.00
$6.5-$10M -16 2 3 5 6 8 -29.59 -29.75 -49.75
> $10M -7 0 0 0 0 0 -15.75 -18.38 -7.00
                   
TOTAL 9 -3 -22 -25 -24 -27 0.84 0.81 7.26
Percent 1.5% -3.8% -39.3% -18.7% -5.2% -5.0% 7.1% 6.9% 67.2%
    Pro-Seller Pro-Buyer            

The mood in the marketplace varies but one thing that seems to apply across a broad range of prices is that buyers are just being more thorough. They are going to more open houses and feel that they have to see everything in their price range to make sure that haven’t missed anything before they put in an offer. All this research and legwork does mean that when something new comes on that they see as a good value, buyers can move quickly. Of our 491 sales and pending contracts so far this year 101 of them went to a binding contract in less than a month.

When you look at our months of supply what is generally a smoothly rising curve from only a few months of supply under $600,000 to many years of supply over $10 million is not smooth this year. We actually have a stair step arrangement with $1.5 – 2 million being a transition zone from a seller’s market to more of a buyer’s market. Activity at the $2 million dollar range which is usually more than at higher price, this year is about the same as around $4 million.

From $4 – 5 million we have about the same supply and demand as last year which works out to be about 24 months of supply. Then we meet the high-end sweet spot that has expanded from $5 – 6.5 million to go all the way up to $10 million. When you throw in the 4 contracts from $6.5 – 10 million we actually have a busier market from that lofty price range than we have from $4 – 5 million.

At the high-end the steadily rising stock market seems to be really helping out as people look to diversify their portfolios and take some of their gains off the table and put them in real estate. In the middle, the bread and butter of Greenwich’s real estate market, our state legislature is sowing doubt and confusion (and Washington isn’t helping either.)

Our contracts indicate that October should be a return to more normal sales, not the nearly 40% Y-O-Y drop in monthly sales that we saw this September. If the Connecticut legislature and the governor can get together on a budget deal, we still have a good shot at an excellent 4th quarter, but if we get past this week without a budget, the fourth quarter will be a struggle. I’m hoping for the best.

 

How’s Your Neighborhood Doing

 

Section No. of Sales  Avg. Sales Price  Avg. $/sf  Avg. Sales$/Assmt   “Change %”  Avg. of SP/OLP  Avg. DOM  Avg SF
Banksville 1  $      1,150,000  $ 402      1.44 1%              0.92       204     2,864
Byram 10  $         704,275  $ 405      1.93 36%              0.94       256     1,728
Cos Cob 41  $      1,378,058  $ 459      1.64 16%              0.91       166     3,104
Glenville 34  $      1,092,735  $  415      1.57 11%              0.96       140     2,705
North Mianus 6  $      1,348,583  $ 447      2.28 60%              0.96       128     3,071
North Parkway 28  $  3,540,350  $ 478      1.21 -15%              0.80       415     6,336
Old Greenwich 55  $      2,551,993  $ 710      1.64 15%              0.90       185     3,565
Pemberwick 9  $          719,586  $ 459      1.83 29%              0.91       126     1,618
Riverside 75  $      2,410,715  $  612      1.64 15%              0.92       163     3,766
South of Post Road 42  $      3,037,977  $  671      1.65 16%              0.92       155     4,227
South Parkway 131  $      3,193,294  $  601      2.20 55%              0.89       237     5,232
Total 434  $  2,502,444  $576      1.73 22%              0.90       203     4,147

If you look at the sales year to date some interesting numbers emerge. As of the end of September we had 434 sales down slightly from last year. The most sales were in the South of the Parkway area that runs from the Parkway all the way down to the Post Road so you would expect that area to have the most sales. The second and third most were in Riverside and Old Greenwich which are seeing a disproportionate number of sales given the number of listings.

North of the Parkway still retains the highest average sales price at $3.54M, but it also has the lowest appreciation (actually a depreciation of 15%). The way the appreciation is calculated here is to take the sales price and divide it by the assessment and then divide that by 0.7 (the town’s assessment ratio).

The assessment is supposed to be 70% of the fair market value of the property as of October 1, 2015. So, what we are looking at is two years of price changes in the “Appreciation” column. Whether you have a low appreciation or a high appreciation you need to take these numbers with a large grain of salt. According to this calculation houses that sold in North Mianus have appreciated 60% since 10/1/15 and they have not. First off there are only 6 houses that have sold in North Mianus this year and second and most importantly, these figures also include new construction and major renovations which throws these numbers out of whack. A better way to look at this “Appreciation” is to use it as an indicator of where the most activity is.

One way to see if this appreciation/activity number is in the ball park is to look at the sales price to the original list price. So far this year, Glenville and North Mianus are seeing houses go for 96% of the original list price. At the other end, North and South of the Parkway are both under 90% of the original list price.

Pemberwick has the fewest days on market and also the next to lowest average price, which you would expect to go together. Pemberwick also has the smallest average house size at 1,618 s.f. Backcountry, as you might expect is at the other end of square footage with the average house there being 6,336 sf.

 

 

 

 

 

Backcountry Greenwich vs. Midcountry Greenwich, CT 2000 – Sept. 2017

Backcountry Greenwich gets a lot of attention in town for its 4 acre zoning and some very high sales prices, but there is another area in town that is similar, has more sales and for the moment a higher average price and that is the 2-acre zone. The RA-2 zone runs along the south side of the Merritt Parkway about halfway down to the Post Road. It also includes three small areas; a section just west of the Merritt Parkway on the NY border, the area around Field Point Circle and an area on Mead Point. These last two areas account for some major high-end sales, but in any given year only contribute a handful of sales. So for most purposes the 2-acre zone is a stand-in for upper mid-country.

In the RA-2 zone the floor area ratio is 9% versus 6.25% for the for 4-acre zone. This means that the above ground portion of the house is limited to 9% of two acres or 7,841 s.f.   The FAR does not count the size of the basement, so developers these days include a fully finished basement often with 10-foot ceilings. The size of the resulting structures is usually in the 8,500 s.f. to over 10,000 s.f. Given that only 16 out of 437 houses that have sold this year are larger than 10,000 s.f. the bottomline is that most people can get a house as big as they want in the 2-acre zone.

Greenwich Zoning Map

With one notable exception the average sales price in backcountry and mid-country have fought each other for pre-eminence from 2000 to the present. Some years mid-country had a higher average price other times it was backcountry. The one exception is the period from 2006 to 2010 when the average sales price in backcountry exceeded mid-country’s average sales price by as much as $1.78 million in 2009.

The 2017 average priced house in the RA-2 zone is $3,158,622 this is down from  $3,347,559. The least expensive house in RA-2 zone sold so far this year sold for $935,000 for a house on a non-conforming 3-acre lot, while the highest sale was for $13,065,000 for a house on an 8.1 acre lot on Meadowcroft Lane. We are seeing an uptick in demand for the 2-acre zone as some people who pre-recession might have bought in the 4-acre zone north of the Merritt Parkway now want to live closer to town on somewhat smaller lots and the 2-acre zone meets their needs.

Greenwich Mid-Country Sales, Average and Median

Post-recession the number of sales in the RA-2 / Mid-country area averaged 89 sales each year with a total sale volume averaging $320,000,000. The average sale price in the RA-2 zone in 2017 has been $3,158,622. This is down slightly from 2016 where the average sales price was 3,347,559.

The average price for a single family home in the RA-2 zone in 2015 was even higher at $3,921,555, but this apparent drop in the value of house in the RA-2 zone is more attributable to the change in the mix of what is selling rather than a drop in all house values. From year to year each individual price range may be up or down resulting in change in both the average and the median price.

In addition, the very highest price range, the over $10 million market, has a disproportionate influence on the average. For example, the highest sale in 2015 was for $26,000,000, while in 2017 our highest sale so far in the RA-2 zone has been for “only” $13,065,000 or just half of the highest sale in 2015. From 2000 to October 2017 our highest sale, with one exception was the Helmsley place which sold for $39,500,000.

These very large sales can significantly distort averages from year to year. The one exceptional sale that show this is the sale of Copper Beach Farm, a 50 acre estate on Long Island Sound that sold for $120,000,000 or more $80 million more than any other residential property in Greenwich. That property has been excluded from this analysis as including it would have single-handily raised the average sale price of all RA-2 sales for 2013 by $1.3 million.

Another factor that plays into a market analysis for the subject properties is that these properties are new construction and there is greater demand for new construction and much less inventory.

 

From 2000 to 2007 we averaged 10 new houses a year in the RA-2 zone sold on the Greenwich MLS. From 2011 to 2017 we have averaged only 3 new houses a year in the RA-2 zone. Now this only counts the house that were publicly listed, so called “spec” houses. In fact. in 2013 not a single new house was built for speculative sale in all of the RA-2 zone. At the same time there were dozens of custom houses built for individual owners.

The problem was not a lack of demand for new spec homes. New houses in the RA-2 zone sold for an average of $90/s.f. more than previously occupied houses in that zone so people were willing to pay a premium for new homes. The problem has been financing. Getting financing for owner-occupied housing has not been a problem, but it has been for speculative houses.

Overall demand in the RA-2 zone has been good all the way up to $6.5 million. Generally, we see months of supply rising from the lowest to the highest priced home going from 3 – 5 months of supply under $1 million to several years of supply over $10 million. (see Appendix XII.B. below.)

 

RA- 2 zone

(As of 9/2/17)

Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts
< $600K 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.0 0.0
$600-$800K 0 0 0 0 0 0
$800K-$1M 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.0 0.0
$1-$1.5M 9 1 0 1 9 10 8.0 8.6
$1.5-$2M 18 0 1 1 11 11 13.1 15.5
$2-$3M 34 1 0 1 16 17 17.0 19.0
$3-$4M 28 1 0 1 11 12 20.4 22.2
$4-$5M 10 0 0 0 5 5 16.0 19.0
$5-6.5M 20 1 1 2 8 9 20.0 21.1
$6.5-$10M 21 2 1 3 2 4 84.0 49.9
> $10M 14 0 0 0 1 1 112.0 133.0
TOTAL 154 6 3 9 65 71 19.0 20.6

 

In the RA-2 zone we see a similar pattern with one anomaly. Sales from $4 – 6.5 million in the RA-2 zone are doing particularly well in the 2-acre zone and as they have in the rest of the town. The steady rise in the stock market over the last 12 months, regularly setting new record highs, has encouraged buyers with substantial portfolios to buy this year. Sales have climbed through the year in the high-end price ranges as the year goes on.

This is reflected in the months of supply for the price range from $5 – 6.5 million which is down 24 months this from 44 months last year to only 20 months of supply. A drop in months of supply by two years is a dramatic drop. Now 20 months of supply might seem like a lot of months of supply, but the higher the price the longer that houses take to sale leading to these higher numbers. The drop in inventory and increase in sales in this price ranges shows a competitive market.

Guide to Organizing a House Hunt and Buying the House You Want

Buying a house can be one of the most fun things that you do in your life. How often do you get to go out and look at million and multimillion dollar properties and buy them. It outranks jewelry and cars by an order of magnitude in usefulness and price. Unfortunately, for some people it can also be one of the more tension-filled and miserable experiences of their life. Some people who start out happy end up miserable. This often happens if people don’t have a plan and start coming up against time barriers.

Figure out what it is that you need in your new place. Is it more bedrooms? Is it more space for her favorite hobby? Is it less hassle for maintenance? The next thing to do is to figure out what you like, what you like to do and what you’d like to have in your house so that you can do those things that you want to do. Do you like to have friends over and entertain? Do you like to go away for long weekends? Do you want to be able to hang out in the backyard without nosy neighbors?

If there are two or more of you, each of you can make a list of want’s and don’t wants and compare them. Often people will find a common denominator and things they hadn’t thought of. The next thing is to check with your Realtor and your mortgage company. Get an estimate of what you can afford and take a look at houses in that price range either in person or online to see if they meet your needs. If you are in a competitive market segment, then do more than get an estimate, pay the application fee and get pre-approved.

Bing.com’s birds eye view can help give you feel for the neighborhoods before you head out. When you do go out don’t so much look at houses as look at neighborhoods and see if those are the areas where you would like to live. This newspaper publishers a weekly open house list, and I, and a lot of other folks will send you a list of open houses for each week. So check out the open houses and get your agent to show you the houses that look interesting. You shouldn’t let all this be a straitjacket but you also shouldn’t be going from Byram to Banksville and from Old Greenwich to Quaker Ridge to find a house.

Once you get to a house ignore the furniture. Unless you have identical taste to this homeowner try to imagine what the house would look like furnished to your taste. One of my favorite examples of how not to do this was when I was out a public open house checking out some houses that I had gotten around to see. As I was walking down the upstairs hallway I heard a voice coming from the master bedroom that said, “Honey we could never live here this house has a blood-red bedroom!”. If you were planning on renovating anyway don’t be put off by small dark rooms. They can be opened up with a few extra windows, sliding glass doors and/or moving a walls. The one thing you should look at is ceiling height, because that can be easily changed.

If you like the house check out the basement. If it’s unfinished you can check for cracks in the foundation; minor vertical cracks are usually not a big issue while wide horizontal cracks may mean you should move on to a another house   Another thing to look for is efflorescence. When concrete gets wet some of the lime is leached to surface and leaves a fluffy mineral deposit.  Even if the basement is dry now, it’s worthwhile to find out why those lime deposits are 3 feet up the wall.

Even for a new house, you want to set aside some funds to get the house just the way you want. For an older house you can get a real bargain if you’re willing to do some work to fix it up to your taste. Lots of people are unwilling to take on a large renovation challenge, so if you are, you have a leg-up on the competition.

If you’re not finding what you want you should revisit that table you made of what it is that you’d like to see in the house and also consider some more financing options. In Greenwich, in particular, everything from artwork to stock portfolios, to rich relatives can be helpful in deciding how much you can spend.

Mark Pruner is part of The New Team at Berkshire Hathaway. He can be reached 203-969-7900 or mark@greenwichstreets.com

 

 

Backcountry Greenwich Market Analysis 1999 to August 2017

Backcountry Greenwich is recovering, though its recovery has been slower than southern Greenwich. In the recession year of 2009, we had only 27 sales down from the 84 sales five years previously in 2004. In  2009, we also saw the highest backcountry average sales price; $6,040,185 and a median price of $4,500,000.

BackCountry Median Sales Price and S.F.

From 2004 to 2009 sales and price diverged with sales falling nearly every year while the average price also went up every year. Falling sales and rising prices are the classic signs of bubble, but then hind sight is always 20:20.

Backcountry Greenwich House Size and Median Price

So, what’s been happening since the depths of the Great Recession. From 2009 to 2015 we saw a jagged increase of sales to a peak of 61 sales in 2015. In 2016, sales dropped back to 49 sales and through August of 2017 we have seen 25 sales in backcountry Greenwich.

BackCountry Volume & Sales Nos.

Now only 25 sales might make you think that 2017 will be another down year for sales, but high-end sales are now skewed to later in the year, so it’s not over till it’s over and the last house sale gets counted early next year. This high-end shift to later in the year is epitomized by the three properties listed for over $20 million that have either sold or gone to contract in the last 30 days including one in backcountry.

As of 9/2/17 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts
< $600K 0 0 0 0 0 0
$600-$800K 0 0 0 0 0 0
$800K-$1M 1 1 0 1 0 1 9.5
$1-$1.5M 6 0 0 0 6 6 8.0 9.5
$1.5-$2M 12 0 1 1 4 4 24.0 28.5
$2-$3M 15 1 1 2 7 8 17.1 17.8
$3-$4M 12 1 0 1 4 5 24.0 22.8
$4-$5M 11 0 1 1 2 2 44.0 52.3
$5-6.5M 12 1 0 1 0 1 114.0
$6.5-$10M 15 2 0 2 2 4 60.0 35.6
> $10M 11 0 0 0 1 1 88.0 104.5
TOTAL 95 6 3 9 26 32 29.2 28.2

What we have seen in 2016 and 2017 is an increase in the average size of backcountry houses that have sold. In 2015, we had the smallest average size or 4,861 s.f., which would be a large house in most of the U.S. So far in 2015 the average size house had increased to 6,020 s.f.  This is a nice house, but in the peak year of 2009, the average size of a house in Greenwich hit an all-time high of 8,289 s.f. Those days of big, for big sakes, mansions are not likely to return anytime soon.

You do have to be careful when dealing with averages in a changing market. Much of what drives these changes in the average house size is not that houses are getting smaller.  (We haven’t seen people lopping wings off their 8,000 s.f. houses to make them more saleable.) What we are seeing is that the mix of the houses that are selling were tending to smaller houses and that mix has started to get bigger as town-wide the high-end is having its best post-recession year.

Also, as you would expect if the average size of houses being sold is increasing then so is the price of those houses and that is what we are seeing. In 2015, the median price of a house sold in the backcountry was down to $2,043,000 while the average was $800,000 more or $2,834,464 as the high-end sales pulled up the average. The high-end didn’t pull up the average as much as it could have in 2015 as that was our first year since 1990’s without a single, backcountry sale over $10,000,000.

The median sales price in the backcountry was up to $2,200,000 in 2016 and is at $2,495,000 so far this year or an increase of 22% in just two years. Now this doesn’t mean that your house is up 22% if you live in backcountry, but it does mean that we are seeing more high-end sales that are pulling up both the average and the median.

Backcountry Inventory, Sales YTD, August Sales and Contracts

Backcountry is also sharing in some of the 2017/best year for sales over $5 million since the Great Recession ended, e.g. the over $20 million September contract mentioned before. However, we still have some seller expectations to be reset to the 2017 reality. Many of our younger, family buyers want to live closer to town. Peter. What used to be highly desirable in a property; more acreage and privacy is not as highly desired by many in this group. Having said that you don’t need a lot of buyer to change backcountry sales, an increase of 20 sales would easily do it.

BackCountry Greenwich Months of Supply August 2017

In addition, for sales from $1 – 4 million demand for backcountry homes is about the same as in other parts of town. We are not seeing the same demand for the price range from $5 – 6.5 million. In the rest of town, we around 20 months of supply in backcountry we have yet to have sale out of 12 listings.

On the good news side, we are seeing more interest in the backcountry as a place for weekenders who used to roughly account for about a third of backcountry sales. Some weekenders are getting tired of the long schlep out to the Hamptons. A resurgent Armonk has also helped backcountry sales. What used to be a quiet little time with little nightlife has seen a resurgence of good restaurants; such as Fortina, Zero Otto Nove, Mariachi Mexico, Koku, Nick’s Pizza, while DeCiccio’s Market has become a Saturday destination for my wife.

Once we get the budget settled in Hartford and the fear of uncertainty goes away, 2017 might turn out to be a nice year for backcountry.

 

Mark Pruner is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway. He can be reached at mark@bhhsne.com and 203-969-7900.

August 2017 – Greenwich Real Estate Market Report

** High End Market Looking Up – Even Way Up **

Our high-end market is back from the dead, though I’d say that at worst it was only seriously ill. For all price categories over $5 million, sales are up and inventory is down, and in many cases months of supply is way down. The best indication of this is 460 North St. which just reported a sold price of $22 million. The curious thing is it was listed for 379 days on the market at $20 million. Regardless, it’s quite a sale and speaks to the perking up of the high-end market.

Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 1 2 0 2 11 13 0.7 0.7
$600-$800K 15 4 3 7 34 38 3.5 3.8 5.0
$800K-$1M 17 4 3 7 32 36 4.3 4.5 5.7
$1-$1.5M 68 11 12 23 87 98 6.3 6.6 5.7
$1.5-$2M 75 11 10 21 62 73 9.7 9.8 7.5
$2-$3M 125 11 11 22 73 84 13.7 14.1 11.4
$3-$4M 76 6 7 13 44 50 13.8 14.4 10.9
$4-$5M 47 5 2 7 19 24 19.8 18.6 23.5
$5-6.5M 55 4 3 7 22 26 20.0 20.1 18.3
$6.5-$10M 47 7 4 11 12 19 31.3 23.5 11.8
> $10M 37 3 1 4 3 6 98.7 58.6 37.0
TOTAL 563 68 56 124 399 467 11.3 11.5 10.1

Above $5 million total sales and contract through August are up 20 to 51 houses wanted by buyers. At the same time, the sellers have pulled back and inventory is down in the high-end price category by 36 houses to 139 listings. Now all of that is good news but not great news.

Over $10 million we only have 6 sales and contracts out of a total 37 listings which equates to 59 months of supply or almost 5 years. While 5 years of supply is still very much of a buyer’s market, it compares to over 12 years of supply at the end of August 2016. This dramatic drop of 93 months of supply from last year to this year is due to inventory falling 11 listings and sales and contracts increasing only 3 houses. When you have a very poor market, a few sales can dramatically reduce the months of supply, but it’s still only a handful of sales. Still the high-end market is seeing more sales. Part of this is sellers are taking significant haircuts on prices, but that’s what makes for a better market; buyers and sellers finally agreeing on the value of a property.

Greenwich R.E. Months of Supply Aug. 2017

To see the part of the high-end price range that is doing the best look at the $5 to 6.5 million price range. There we only have 20 months of supply which is a down from 44 months of supply last year. Sales and contracts are up 12 and inventory is down 12 making for this dramatic drop. In this price range, we have 57 house houses on the market and 26 sales and contracts so far this year. This compares to only 14 sales and contracts at the end of August last year. We are seeing almost twice as much activity in this price range.

Another price range that has become so competitive that has almost disappeared is our inventory of single-family homes under $600,000. We only have 1 house in inventory and we’ve sold 11 this year; the same as last year’s sales.  They go off the market as fast as they come on. This equates to three weeks of supply. Last year we had 3 1/2 months of supply.

Greenwich Real Estate Sales 2015 - Aug 2017 w/ 10 year average

In between $600,000 and $3 million the situation is muddled, particularly from $1,000,000 to $3,000,000. In this price range inventory is up 41 listings from last year while sales are down 22 from 2016. This is the heart of our market where we have 268 listings out of a total of 563 listings. We also have 255 sales and contracts, curiously this is down by 38 sales and contracts from last year. If anyone knows the reason why the middle market is down somewhat, while the high-end is looking much better I’d love to know what it is.

’17 vs ’16 Inventory Contracts Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Mo. Annlzd
< $600K -4 0 0 0 0 0 -2.91 -2.92
$600-$800K -4 -8 -4 -12 3 -5 -1.37 -0.45 2.29
$800K-$1M -5 -4 -1 -5 0 -4 -1.25 -0.74 0.17
$1-$1.5M 10 -3 -6 -9 4 1 0.66 0.91 2.44
$1.5-$2M 15 -9 -4 -13 -19 -28 3.75 4.12 3.21
$2-$3M 16 -4 -2 -6 -7 -11 2.80 3.24 2.98
$3-$4M -11 0 1 1 5 5 -4.03 -3.93 -3.64
$4-$5M -11 1 -1 0 -2 -1 -2.31 -3.44 4.17
$5-6.5M -12 2 3 5 10 12 -24.67 -25.37
$6.5-$10M -13 2 4 6 3 5 -22.00 -17.21
> $10M -11 3 1 4 0 3 -29.33 -93.42
 
TOTAL -30 -20 -9 -29 -3 -23 -0.51 -0.04 0.93
% change -5.3% -29.4% -16.1% -23.4% -0.8% -4.9% -4.5% -0.4% 9.3%
Pro-Seller Pro-Buyer

The end result of all of these changes in sales and contracts in different price ranges is that inventory is down 5% from last year and sales are down a minuscule 0.8%. You could say that overall 2017 is about the same as 2016. The disappointing thing at the moment is that our contracts are down 29% from this time last year from 80 contracts to 68 contracts, which tends to indicate that September will also underperform the average.

So, what does this all mean? It all depends on who you are. If you are a seller in the mid-range from $1.5 to $3 million you’re going to find the market a little tougher than last year. However, if you have a new house in Riverside under $3 million, of which there are vanishingly few, you will still do well if you price it right.

And, that’s where our market is today at every price range. Buyers will buy if they think the house is a good value. It doesn’t have to be a bargain, it just has to appear to the buyer to be a fair price. As prices have adjusted to what buyer’s think is FMV at the high end, folks are buying. Maybe that’s what’s happening in the middle. Sellers have seen lots of demand the last few years and may be starting out and then holding out for a price that is more than the buyer’s price.

As a result, the fall market promises to be interesting. We had 57 new listings coming on the market in just the last week and my buyers are asking about all this new property, so this should be a busy open house weekend. If you are out this weekend, I have a nice 3,800 s.f. house with a pool on 6 acres in the backcountry for $1.69 million that’s having an open house from 1 – 4 pm on Sunday. Stop by and let’s talk about the market.