2020 – A Very Good Year for Greenwich Condo Sales

Like the Greenwich single-family home market, 2020 was a very good year for the condo market. Our unit sales were up 51% to 220 sales in 2020 compared to only 159 sales in 2019. Now 2019 was a bad year all around. Sales in 2019 were down 12% from 2018’s 181 sales. Even better than our condo sales number was our 2020 condo sales volume. Sales dollars in 2020 were up 51% compared to 2019’s sales volume of $217,830,079 dollars. If you look at our condo sales in 2018, you see a more average year with 181 sales, even so our 2020 sales at 220 sales were up 22% over this “average” year.

201820192018  vs 20192020  2019 vs 2020
 # Sold$ Sold# Sold$ Sold% ch # sold% ch $ sold# Sold$ Sold% ch # sold% ch $ sold
Jan11$8,901,50012$15,251,5009%71%13$13,191,5008%-14%
Feb9$6,917,7759$9,013,2500%30%13$15,503,00044%72%
Mar11$8,316,90015$10,367,50036%25%15$8,335,4000%-20%
Apr18$19,492,00017$16,954,500-6%-13%11$10,979,500-35%-35%
May13$17,610,00012$9,492,500-8%-46%11$5,729,280-8%-40%
Jun22$23,365,50017$16,105,625-23%-31%16$13,503,750-6%-16%
Jul18$11,953,07717$11,980,500-6%0%17$19,745,0000%65%
Aug22$14,767,0447$6,101,000-68%-59%26$26,990,500271%342%
Sep6$6,630,00012$13,032,250100%97%19$17,960,52458%38%
Oct14$17,843,00013$12,276,500-7%-31%31$26,116,000138%113%
Nov14$15,255,00013$11,315,500-7%-26%17$12,469,00031%10%
Dec23$24,066,00015$11,984,000-35%-50%31$47,306,625107%295%
 Total181$175,117,796159$143,874,625-12%-18%220$217,830,07938%51%

Our sales by month show just how remarkable 2020 was. Our 38% increase in annual sales occurred in just the last five months of the year. We did better in January and February 2020. March was even. April, May and June actually saw sales declines in sales below the same months in an already poor 2019.  Then came the five months of August to December 2020, where sales were 107% higher than in 2019.

Curiously, we had started the year out pretty well with condo sales up in January and February, then came March and sales were flat. April, May and June saw a sales decline over an already poor 2019. We got back to even in July and then the boom started.

We also saw a jump in prices in 2020, though a recovery might have been a better word. Our average condo sales price in 2020 was $990,136 up 9.4% over 2019 when we had dropped to $904,872. However, when you compare 2020’s average sales price to the average in 2018, we were up only 2.3%,

This average illustrates another factor in the condo market, which is that it provides some of our most affordable houses. In 2020 the average house sold for $2.67 million compared to $990K for the average condo. In 2020, condos (which for purposes of this report include the handful of co-ops associations that we have in Greenwich) represent about 26% of our houses sales (220 condos/861 houses). This is down from 2019 and 2018 when condo sales were about 30% of house sales both years. So, in 2020 we saw more people buy condos in Greenwich, but the increase in single-family home sales was even greater. People wanted out of New York City, but most wanted a yard and not a shared hallway and elevator, which they already had in NYC. We do have lots of townhouses and other condos without shared spaces and those were particularly desirable in a pandemic.

Condos sales are concentrated at the lower end. Sixty percent of our condo sales are concentrated under $800,000 even though only represent about 40% of our inventory. That wasn’t true in December, where we saw lots of sales over $2 million. These high-end condo sales represented 32% of December sales compared to only 13% for all of 2020. Many of these high-end sales are units in new developments, where both owners and developers wanted to book the sales before year-end.

Our condo market was very competitive at most price ranges. Under 6 months of supply is the traditional dividing line between a pro-seller and pro-buyer market. Under $800,000 we have only about 3.5 months of supply which is a hot market and from $600 – 800K it is getting even hotter as shown by months of supply with contracts included and December sales annualized. When these bars drop in a steady line, the market is only getting hotter.

Normally, months of supply market-wide is an increasing curve from the lowest price range to the highest price range, but that’s not the case in January. Our most pro-buyer market is from $1.5 – 2.0 million where we have 13.2 months of supply. If you go up to the next price range, we only have 4.7 months of supply from $2 – 3 million. This is partly real and partly the law of small numbers. Right now, we have 11 listings between $1.5 and 2.0 million and only 7 listings between $2 and 3 million dollars. Switch a couple of listing from under $2 million to over $2 million and this dramatic market demand difference shrinks a lot.

What you do want to look at is the market wide condo/co-op months of supply which is a tight 4.9 months of supply, then a slightly tighter 4.7 months of supply when you add in contracts and an amazingly tight 2.9 months of supply when you annualize December 2020 sales.  

Our contracts indicate that we will see a bunch of sales in the $600,000 – 800,000 in the next few weeks. Unless we get a lot more inventory in the next few weeks, this market becomes combat-buying. The victors will be the buyers that enter the process fully prepared.

A Condo Search Strategy

What is a buyer to do? A couple of hopefully helpful thoughts. Try to figure out what neighborhoods you don’t want to live in. A good deal on a nice house, in neighborhood you don’t like, is not a good deal. Open houses are great for this. You can check out the area as well the house. This also saves you time going forward, because you don’t have to look at the houses that are in the wrong neighborhood. Also, when you have a longer time horizon, you can attend open houses looking for features you like and don’t like in a house.

One fun thing to do after seeing a house is write down what you think the house will sell for and then when it does close, check and see how you did. This way when you do find your dream house, you’ll know whether it is properly priced.

In this hot market, with the likelihood of rising interest rates, you may still be willing to wait for the right house to be listed, but be prepared to move quickly. This can make all the difference between winning and losing a bidding war. You can check with your stockbroker about the process and time to cash in stocks if need them for a downpayment. You should talk with your banker and go ahead and get pre-approved. Once you think you will be making an offer in the next 60 days, get underwritten pre-approved so the only thing the bank will need to do is an appraisal.

If you are seller, you want to list your condo at the worst time of the year, the middle of winter, i.e., now. It’s carpe emptor, seize the buyers when they are there. I’ve been involved in three bidding contests so far in January and the one winner in everyone of them was the seller.

Stay tuned, it’s likely to get even more interesting.

Chart, bar chart

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Our biggest month by far for sales was December as people wanted to close before year-end. The election also had an effect as November was slower than either October or December.

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