Backcountry Greenwich, CT 2018

by Mark Pruner

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – New England

203-969-7900 – mark@bhhsne.com

What’s going on in backcountry Greenwich? That’s actually a really hard question to answer. Some stats point to backcountry getting better. For example, our days on market this year are dramatically down to about 9 months compared to 15 months in 2017 and 12 months in 2016. On the other hand, our median price for a backcountry sale is down to $2.45 million compared to $2.68 million the prior year but is up from 2016’s median price of $2.20 million.

Backcountry as of 9/19/18 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply
< $600K 0 0 0 0 0 0
$600-$800K 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.0
$800K-$1M 0 0 0 0 0 0
$1-$1.5M 9 0 0 0 5 5 17.1
$1.5-$2M 12 0 3 3 6 6 19.0
$2-$3M 19 0 3 3 7 7 25.8
$3-$4M 15 1 1 2 7 8 20.4
$4-$5M 14 0 0 0 1 1 133.0
$5-6.5M 18 0 0 0 1 1 171.0
$6.5-$10M 16 0 0 0 1 1 152.0
> $10M 11 0 0 0 2 2 52.3
0
TOTAL 114 1 7 8 31 32 34.9

Our sales on an unadjusted, annualized basis come out to 39 sales compared to 45 sales in 2017 and 62 sales as recently as 2015. The good news for those of us who live in the backcountry is that we will very likely have more sales than that in 2018, as we have seen sales in backcountry shift to the fourth quarter, (but then again may be not this year).

The one scary number for backcountry homeowners this year is “1”, that’s the number of contracts waiting to close in backcountry. When I put in the search criteria in to the GMLS for backcountry contracts and that number came up, I was sure that it was wrong. We have 114 listings in the back country and we have had 31 sales so far this year how could we only have 1 contract in the backcountry.

So, I mapped all the contingent and pending contracts on the MLS and lo and behold there were 4 contracts, not great but better I thought. Unfortunately, it turns out that while the GMLS calls backcountry “North Parkway” they don’t really mean it. Two of the sales that are geographically north of the parkway are in Glenville according to the MLS. As to the other contract it turned out to be just over the border in North Stamford; so, we really do only have one pending contract in backcountry. As President Trump would tweet, “not good”.  

It is not all bad news, inventory is down by 12% from last year and we have the previously mentioned big drop in days on market for the backcountry houses that are selling. Our highest price range in particular is looking much better. Over $10 million we had 24 listings at this time last year and this year we are down by more than half to only 11 listings. We also have had 2 sales over $10 million in backcountry Greenwich this year and last year we had none at this this time.

From $1.5 – $4.0 million inventory is down an additional 9 listings. What we are seeing is more people deciding that backcountry is a nice place to live and as a result our inventory in backcountry is down in most price ranges. On the sales side, we can’t really say till the end of the year since post-recession the 4th quarter has seen better sales. (Let’s go contracts!)

The reality is that you can over-analyze the market when you are dealing with only a few dozen sales. What we have seen is that when you look at price/s.f. the market has been stuck in a trading range between $470 and $565/s.f. for the last seven years with no clear trend. We have yet to have three years in a row where the price per square foot has continued a “trend”.

The same can be said for days on market. In the last 7 years, days on market has stayed between 267 DOM and 367 DOM with the one exception being 2017 when we saw an average of 475 days on market.

So, what does this all mean? Firstly, the backcountry market has not recovered like front country has. Old Greenwich, Riverside and central Greenwich continue to look good, while Cos Cob, Glenville and Pemberwick are arguably doing even better, albeit off a lower base price. Also, as you can see when you compare backcountry to mid-country, backcountry had a distinct bubble from 2004 to 2008. If you ignore this period, the “decline” in backcountry is more like a slow drifting. However, for anyone who bought in those years it makes for wrenching changes.

So, what can be done about this? Several groups are working on this. The Round Hill Association, under it’s new president, John Conte, has formed a committee to emphasize all the good things in mid-country and backcountry Greenwich and there are many. Some of the wealthiest people in the U.S. have made backcountry Greenwich their homes over the last 100 years and much of what attracted these people has not changed. The Town’s Economic Advisory Committee is also promoting Greenwich as a place to live. The BET’s no property tax increase budget this year finally got some national play in an article about Old Greenwich that appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion Global affiliate. (I might have helped that a little. 🙂

All these things move in cycles and backcountry will be back, but so far this year, it’s still mostly drifting, with occasional bright spots.

 

 

 

The August 2018 Greenwich Real Estate Market Report – Fighting High Federal & State Taxes with Low Property Taxes

To realtors, buyers and sellers who are active in the market, contracts are where it’s at. More accurately contracts are where the market will be next month. The good sales we had in July 2018 were predicted by the 120 contracts that we saw at the end of June.

Despite this some folks were feeling depressed, because sales for the first half of the year were down compared to the prior year and some even were making dire predictions about the market by focusing solely on sales. So, July came and went, and low and behold lots of those contracts we had at the end of June closed. In total, July 2018 saw 23 more sales than we saw in July 2017, when we only had 54 sales.

As of 8/31/18 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 2 3 0 3 9 12 1.8 1.6
$600-$800K 13 1 6 7 35 36 3.0 3.4 2.2
$800K-$1M 29 5 7 12 41 46 5.7 6.0 4.1
$1-$1.5M 68 15 11 26 72 87 7.6 7.4 6.2
$1.5-$2M 69 11 10 21 70 81 7.9 8.1 6.9
$2-$3M 122 10 13 23 78 88 12.5 13.2 9.4
$3-$4M 93 11 7 18 48 59 15.5 15.0 13.3
$4-$5M 52 1 2 3 22 23 18.9 21.5 26.0
$5-6.5M 51 2 3 5 22 24 18.5 20.2 17.0
$6.5-$10M 48 2 2 4 7 9 54.9 50.7 24.0
> $10M 35 0 0 0 8 8 35.0 41.6
TOTAL 582 61 61 122 412 473 11.3 11.7 9.5

Contracts

On the contract side, at the beginning of August, we were up slightly and by the end of the August the slight rise in contracts resulted in a slight raise in monthly sales compared to August 2017. Unfortunately, outstanding contracts at the end of this August, aren’t that outstanding. We are down 7 contracts from 2017 indicating that September 2018 will likely be a little down from last September. The good news, however, is that anecdotally, we are continuing to see more house showing activity in early September which is continuing from last two weeks of August.

The New Tax Law Changes

The new tax law imposed a $10,000 limit on the deductibility of SALT (State And Local Taxes including local property taxes). As a result, the real cost of high property taxes went up as they had to be paid with after-tax dollars after the new tax law came into effect.

The predicted result was that sales were going to drop in states with both high property taxes and high income taxes. At first, the numbers seemed to bear that out, but recently the fall in sales in Westchester County seems like it may not be as high as first reported. What was initially reported as a sales drop of 18% in Westchester County, may actually only be a drop of 5.7% in sales according to Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors. If this is the case, then the effect of their high property taxes may actually not have the immediate jarring impact predicted and a general economic rise may ameliorate this impact even more. (I also apologize for relying on these early numbers, which showed a bigger market decline. I, and others, saw the impact as more dire than it seems that it was.)

The long and short of all this is that 2018 in Greenwich is starting to look like 2017. This might seem like less than excellent news, but given what was supposed to be a market collapse a return to average might not be bad. Several indicators seem to be saying we are reaching the end of the beginning that the new federal tax law changes have wrought. We see this in three principal areas:

  1. The increase in inventory, particularly under $4 million, and even more so from $800,000 to $2 million, is slowing. Whereas in July we had 44 more listing than in July 2017, by the end of August this had slipped to only 19 more listings.
  2. The hardest hit area in Greenwich was from $1.0 – $1.5 million which is now recovering nicely. In August, inventory was the same as last year and sales for the month were up 4 houses from the previous year. We are, however, still down 15 sales from this time last year.
  3. At the high-end the jump in market activity over $4 million is mellowing. Inventory, which actually had been down at the high end, is about the same as last year. On the sales side, we are now up only slightly in sales YTD. Contracts waiting to close are also down throughout the high-end price range. In fact, now that the $1.0 – 1.5 million price range is doing better, the $6.5 – 10 million price range is where we are seeing the most dramatic changes from last year. Total transactions are down by 10 houses, while inventory is back to average after having shrunk. The result is we are looking at 51 months of supply; up over 2 years from this time last year.

Overall though, the folks fleeing to Florida seem to have moved from a jog to a simple walk, much like we have always had. Also, the influx of high-end buyers from New York as well as those from other parts of Connecticut may be slowing also.

At this point, I’m just curious, not concerned. The biggest driver of the Greenwich market for the last several decades has been Wall Street; and the Dow just hit a new all time. Unemployment is very low and new housing construction is limited. All of these factors point to a rosier housing market. The other major reason is these are  August numbers, possibly the flakiest month of the year. People are gone, inventory additions are minimal and few sales here and slightly more inventory there can significantly change things.

 

 Post Labor Day

We have had a bunch of new listings come on the market in only a couple days since Labor Day. I put 151 Lockwood on the market Wednesday afternoon and by the evening I had 5 showings scheduled. Now it is the only house under $1 million in Riverside south of the Post Road, but the buyers are there. So far 81 houses out of 412 have sold for full list price or over list.

As always, it’s where the balance is between people selling and people buying. Having said that I’d still rather be a buyer or seller in Greenwich than over the border in NY.

Mark  Pruner is an award-winning Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England in their Greenwich office. He can be reached at mark@bhhsne.com or 203-969-7900.

 

2018 Real Estate: What’s Going on in Greenwich, CT Neighborhoods

Let’s take a quick look at the neighborhoods from north to south in Greenwich and see how they have done in the last three months from April 30th through July 31st., but first let’s take a look at house sales in the whole town.

 

Totals & Averages

Listings                                 643

Percent of Market           100%

Listing DOM                       242 days

No. of Sales                        351

Sold DOM                            208

Average Sales Price         $2.50M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $572

Months of Supply             12.8

For the town overall, sales are up slightly from last year. We have had 199 sales in the last 3 months, since I last did a neighborhood report. These sales were boosted by a particularly good July this year. Our inventory is up by 44 houses all between $800,000 and $4,000,000 as the new tax law encourages our downsizers to move earlier than they might. August 2018 looks like it will be up a little from August 2017 when we had 57 single family home sales in Greenwich. Contracts are about the same as last year with 68 contracts outstanding. More on this next week when we have the final numbers.

 

Backcountry

Listings                                 114

Percent of Market           18%

Listing DOM                       375 days

No. of Sales                        24

Sold DOM                            321

Average Sales Price         $3.47M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $486

Months of Supply             33.3

Backcountry is showing some signs of perking up with an $11.1 million sale so far this year and an average sold price of $3,471,799 up $300,169 from the end of April. This is our highest average neighborhood price except for Byram (see below). Prices are also up since our last assessment in 2015, however we are still seeing the lowest townwide sales price to original list price ratio at 88%. We have had some remarkable discounts from what people paid pre-recession, which have garnered their share of attention. We also have 33 months of supply, but this is down from 79 months of supply when we had our spring inventory surge in April and sales had not caught up with the surge of spring inventory.

 

South of the Parkway

Listings                                 194

Percent of Market           30%

Listing DOM                       252 days

No. of Sales                        93

Sold DOM                            247

Average Sales Price         $3.32M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $593

Months of Supply             14.6

Now you might think of this “neighborhood” as mid-country, but it goes all the way from the Merritt Parkway to the Post Road. It has our most listings, 194, and our most sales, 93. Sales range from $725,000 to $12 million plus. This area has seen some nice improvement over the last three months with 47 houses sold during those three months. Inventory is down 17 listings; the most of any neighborhood. It also has had the most sales in the last 3 months, 47, and the biggest decrease in sold days on market, from 299 days to 247 days, though this is still above the townwide average. We also are seeing a good 14.6 months of supply in a market that was not doing nearly as well at this time last year.

 

South of the Post Road

Listings                                 63

Percent of Market           10%

Listing DOM                       209 days

No. of Sales                        33

Sold DOM                            199

Average Sales Price         $2.43M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $718

Months of Supply             13.4

This area also covers a wide variety of price ranges, as it covers from Belle Haven to Chickahominy. As a result, the sold prices range from $515,000 to $9,245,000. The area around Greenwich Avenue continues to be very busy. We also have a fair amount of construction going on particularly of condos, but this condo construction will slacken off as the recent R-6 zone revisions reduces demand for developable land in this zone. The waterfront sales give this section the highest sold price/s.f. at an average of $718 s.f. for houses, with the new construction in the downtown helping also. This leading number however is down from $754/s.f. through April of this year. This could be just a change in the sales mix, or slight lessening in demand in an area that has seen more appreciation than some other areas. It is worth monitoring going forward.

 

Cos Cob

Listings                                 46

Percent of Market           7%

Listing DOM                       198 days

No. of Sales                        45

Sold DOM                            161

Average Sales Price         $1.60M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $500

Months of Supply             7.2

Cos Cob is busy. So far this year we have had 45 sales through the end of July with 46 listings looking for buyers as of this week. This represents 7% of our total inventory. This neighborhood has also seen the most appreciation based on a sales price to assessment ratio of 1.85 or a 30% increase since October 2010, when the last reassessment was done by our Tax Assessor.  Part of this popularity is the average sales price of $1,598,812 is where we usually see the most sales activity. Unfortunately this year, the $1.0 – 1.5 million price range has been the area where we have seen the most impact from the new federal tax law, but it doesn’t seem to have hit Cos Cob as much as other areas in town (which is good as I have a listing coming on in the downtown Cos Cob area for a very competitive $749,000.)

 

Riverside

Listings                                 92

Percent of Market           14%

Listing DOM                       192 days

No. of Sales                        62

Sold DOM                            177

Average Sales Price         $2.45M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $598

Months of Supply             10.4

While Cos Cob is only about 7% of our market, Riverside and Old Greenwich are both about twice that. We have seen lots of good appreciation in this area post-recession, as Riverside has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the entire NYC metro area for successful young families. There are some signs that the pace of this appreciation is slowing as Riverside’s price per square foot is almost $600. Riverside still has a better than average days on market of 177 DOM compared to a town wide average of 208 DOM. People still love Riverside, they just love it a little less at these prices.

 

Old Greenwich

Listings                                 81

Percent of Market           13%

Listing DOM                       191 days

No. of Sales                        52

Sold DOM                            174

Average Sales Price         $2.34M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $615

Months of Supply             10.9

I grew up in Old Greenwich and never saw that much difference between Riverside and Old Greenwich. Statistically, that is also true this year. Riverside has a slightly higher average price, but OG can claim a slightly higher price per square foot. The both have the same sales price to original list price ratio at 0.93, which is above the townwide average of 0.91. Things seem to have gone from hot to warm for these two areas as they both have over 10 months of supply.

 

Glenville

Listings                                 20

Percent of Market           3%

Listing DOM                       148 days

No. of Sales                        21

Sold DOM                            219

Average Sales Price         $1.09M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $411

Months of Supply             6.7

Glenville has a lot in common with Cos Cob they both had months of supply around 7 month with Glenville having 6.7 months.. It’s a place where people are finding what many call a good value and sales are doing well in Glenville. The average price per square foot is a reasonable $411 and the average sales price is $1,092,976. That average sales price per square foot is our lowest of any neighborhood. (Well, OK, Banksville is lower at 4313/s.f., but its only had 1 sale so far this year and 4 listings.) Glenville Elementary has had a significant part of this. It’s a modern, well-designed, well-run school that has made this area more desirable.

 

Pemberwick

Listings                                 6

Percent of Market           1%

Listing DOM                       150 days

No. of Sales                        8

Sold DOM                            131

Average Sales Price         $643K

Sales Price/S.F.                 $413

Months of Supply             5.3

I wish people didn’t like Pemberwick so much, then we Realtors would have more houses to sell. We only have 6 houses in inventory; we have sold 8 Pemberwick houses so far this year. It ties Glenville for our lowest price per square foot, since unlike Byram, there isn’t an ultra-high-priced area that skews the numbers. Pemberwick also has the lowest days on market and the highest sales price to original list price ratio in town. If they only had more turn over it would get more attention.

 

Byram

Listings                                 15

Percent of Market           2%

Listing DOM                       121 days

No. of Sales                           5

Sold DOM                            369

Average Sales Price         $3.85M

Sales Price/S.F.                 $585

Months of Supply             21.0

Byram is small part of our inventory, but now holds the record for the highest sales price this year at $17,000,000. This sale also led to Byram having the highest average sales price for any neighborhood, $3,845,100. Byram also has the lowest priced sale this year in Greenwich at $408,000. What we have are really two markets in Byram; north of I-95 we have a market much like Pemberwick where listings are few compared with demand and prices are mostly below $1 million and often well below. South of I-95 in the Byram Shore area most prices are over $3 million and houses tend to linger on the market. The result is some confusing numbers if you don’t’ consider this market dichotomy.

 

The question is what will the fall market bring? We can be pretty sure there will be some rings some surprises. Lately, my listings have been getting more showings so I’m hoping the changes will be in the positive direction.  I’ve got four listings coming on in the next two weeks and can’t wait to see what that market is going to bring.