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.

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