The Over $2 Million Report for Fairfield County
By Mark Pruner
Berkshire Hathaway – New England
Greenwich/Old Greenwich Office
The high-end market continues at nice pace in Fairfield County. In the first nine months of 2014 we have had 448 sales over $2 million dollars. Of those sales 93% were in Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan and Darien with 50% of all sales in Greenwich. Both Greenwich and New Canaan have seen unit sales jump by double-digit amounts and sales volume in Greenwich is up by a quarter billion dollars in the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. Half of this gain was due to sale of one house for $120,000,000, but even with that sale subtracted out we still have an increase of $130,000,000 of money pouring into the Fairfield County real estate market, a very good sign.
II. The Numbers
So far this year $1.67 billion dollars of houses and condos over $2 million have been sold in Fairfield County, this is up 17.6% over last year. Sales have climbed from 429 units in the first 9 months of 2013 to 448 units so far this year or an increase of 4.7%.
|2014 1st 9Mos||Units||Total $||2013||1st 9 Mos||Diff|
The average price of these units has increased to $3,734,000 up 12.3% from the first nine months of 2013. Of this gain in average price, $267,000 is due to the sale of Copper Beach Farm in Greenwich, CT, which sold in April for $120,000,000. If you take out this house the average price for houses over $2 million in Fairfield County is $3,475,000 still up 4.5% over last year.
A. Unit Sales by Month
When you look at the sales by month you can see just how similar the two years have been. Like the rest of the market the high-end sales jumped up in January 2014 as buyer’s rushed to beat what the financial pundits said would be rising interest rates and increasing home prices. Sales dropped back in February as interest rates actually fell.
The third quarter of 2014 had two good months of sales followed by a September with lower sales than in either 2013 or 2012. Once again this was true for the whole market both above and below $2 million. Overall sales were down a small 3% for the third quarter of 2014, but still up for the year.
B. Total Volume
The one thing about the high-end is the highest end can be very high. The result is that even when totaled over all of Fairfield County the sales volume for any one month jumps around year to year. The $120,000,000 sale in April of this year made for a big jump. We also saw the sale of a $15.8 million home in June of this year and two houses over $10 million in August.
Lower number of sales in September resulted in lower volume even with another $10 million sale that month.
III. The Ultra-High End
The over $10 million is looking much better this year. Many high net worth families in New York see Connecticut, and particularly Greenwich, as a more attractive place, while still being close to New York City. We have 19 properties in Connecticut that have sold for over $10 million so far in 2014. Fifteen of these properties are in Greenwich, but Darien, New Canaan and Fairfield all have sales over $10 million.
The highest priced present listing on the market is Leona Helmsley’s former estate. The house is on for $65,000, 000 after being purchased for $35,000,000 four years ago. The house was bought by an investor and has been extensively renovated making for the ultimate renovation flip. Following closely on the Helmsley Estate price is a Sasco Hill property on Long Island Sound in Fairfield at $62,000,000. If you are looking in this ultimate price category over $10 million you have 98 choices on the Berkshire Hathaway – New England website.
The improvement of the economy and the stock market recovery has gotten high-end buyers moving again. Post-recession, Wall Street bonuses are often spread out over three years and paid out in stock rather than cash. This compensation change initially resulted in a big drop in compensation, but by 2014 these financial sector buyers are “fully-bonused” with one-third of their 2014 bonuses coming from 2014, and two-thirds coming from their 2013 and 2012 bonuses. All of these years were relatively good years for bonuses. In addition stock portfolios are up and the wealth effect is kicking in spurring buyers to make high-end purchases. The volatility of the stock market also makes houses look relatively less risky.
This market is still a challenging market with more sellers than buyers, but the momentum is definitely swinging to the sellers. For sellers that need to sell, pricing their house to today’s market is essential. On the flip side many sellers at the high-end of the market don’t have to sell and if the buyer really wants one particular unique property they have to make a good offer. Ron Howard’s multi-acre property in Conyers Farm on the New York/Greenwich border just went for the full list price of $27,500,000.
We have good sales months followed by not so good months and good months in one town may not be a good month in an adjacent town. Having a good agent is always important, but even more so in this end of the market as the changing dynamics can literally mean a million dollar difference in the sales price either way.
IV. Sales by Town
Greenwich – Many of the high end sales are driven by Wall Street bonuses so being close to Wall Street is a big help as you can see in the sales charts by town below. Greenwich’s market share of over $2 million homes in Fairfield County grew from 48% last year to 50% this year. Unit sales grew from 205 last year to 224 sales in the first 9 months this year.
The growth in sales over $10 million and the sale of Copper Beach Farm at $120,000,000 meant that Greenwich’s share of sales volume went from 53% to 60%. Total dollars went from $751 million to over $1 billion.
Westport – Sales of over $2 million homes in Westport were the second highest in Fairfield County. Through the first three quarters of 2014 sales totaled 71 up 1 from last year. Surprisingly, total dollars were down by $22 million to $206 million as the mix of houses shifted slightly to the lower end.
New Canaan – Sales of over $2 million in New Canaan were third highest in the county, but looked at per capita actually came in second at $10,200 per resident for a total of $203 million. Number of units sold were up 17.9% over the first 3 quarters of 2013 to a total of 66 sales.
Darien – Sales and dollars were both down slightly in Darien, but total dollars were still $154 million. This is down 9% from 2013 and the number of sales is down 7% from 58 to 54 for the first three quarters of 2014.
V. Greenwich, Fairfield County and Connecticut
In Fairfield County we have a market where good local market knowledge can make a big difference to buyers and sellers. I specialize in Greenwich with listings in mid-country ($1.9 – 7.8M), central Greenwich ($1.7 – 2.6M), live in back-country Greenwich and have a sale pending in Riverside ($3.3M). Keeping up with all these neighborhoods is a full time job (actually more than a 40 hour a week job :). If you have a question about Greenwich real estate feel free to give me a call at 203-969-7900 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having lived here since 1967 and been a real estate attorney before becoming a Realtor, I have worked on deals in New Canaan, Westport, Darien, Stamford, Fairfield, Weston, and Wilton. I know the cities and towns in Fairfield County pretty well, but in these other towns I want the best local expertise and affiliate with some of the top brokers in each town. Feel free to call me if you have questions about any town in Fairfield County. If you have focused in one town I can get you to get to a good broker.
Also you should check out Berkshire Hathaway’s latest third quarter report. It is the definitive guide to real estate statistics in Connecticut. (I wrote the luxury report for the third quarter so some of the data there may look a little familiar after reading this report.) The BHHS – New England website is also a great place to go if you are looking for options statewide or countywide. Unlike many of the real estate sites out there you can do broad searches. You don’t have to select just one town. The other great thing about the site is that it pulls from all the multiple listing sites in the state so you get more listings.
Overall, we have a good market in Fairfield County that is trending in the right direction. Knowing where to look and what to look for is crucial for buyers. For sellers the deals are there to be done, often at very good prices, but presentation and reach is crucial.