2022 Guide to Westchester County and Fairfield County Luxury Real Estate Market

Similar Markets with Remarkable Differences

by Mark Pruner

You might think that with the common issues of high demand and low inventory facing the luxury markets in all the high-end towns in Westchester and Fairfield County, that the market in each town would be similar. However, we see large differences among these towns, all of whom have median sold prices over $1 million.

We have been bemoaning our lack of inventory of inventory in Greenwich all year, but compared to Darien, we have a major surplus of inventory. We have 152 listings on the market, Darien has 12 single family homes on the market which works out to 10 days of supply.

We also have marveled at how many of our houses have gone for full list price or over list but among the high-end towns in Westchester and Fairfield County we’re actually at the bottom with only 41% of our listings going for full list price or over list. Compare this to the Sound Shore Communities in Westchester County. In Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye and Rye Brook 57% of the houses sold for list or over list with one of them actually going for 44% over the initial asking price.

We were quite pleased with our 11% median sales price appreciation, however, Westport had 18% price appreciation. The one place where we clearly were the leader is our 16% sales growth in the number of single-family homes sold in 2021 compared to 2020. We had 1,006 sales compared to last year’s 864 sales: more about this later.

Similar Issues

Across the country, COVID has initiated the reshaping of the housing market. The pandemic led to a huge increase in work from home and the associated increase in the demand for larger homes. For most of 2020 and 2021, we saw extraordinarily low interest rates that kept monthly mortgage payments low. Less talked about is the run up in the stock market and it’s effect on housing demand. There’s nothing like having a bunch of gains in your stock portfolio to make you think that now might be a good time to buy a house and reallocate some assets, in case the stock market goes down.

Inflation has also encouraged house buyers to move assets from cash that is devaluing into hard assets that are appreciating. They also want to buy, before prices go up further. We’ve seen a jump in sales in December and the first part of this month as mortgage rates go up, presaging the Fed’s announced interest rate increase in March.  

The common wisdom is that increased interest rates slow the economy and over a long enough period of time that’s certainly true, particularly if you sharply increase interest rates in a short time. However, in the short term, the anticipation of increased interest rates and the initial portion of rising rates only drives sales as people move to quickly buy before interest rates go even higher. We’ve certainly seen that in last two months as what is normally a very slow holiday season in December saw lots of people out looking and that has continued, and even heightened, in the new year.

          Inventory, Supply & Demand

For towns that had inventory in 2021, we saw big jumps in sales. For towns that didn’t have inventory, sales dropped or just inched up over 2020. Westport and Darien actually saw the number of single-family home sales drop in 2021 compared to 2020. In Westport, sales were down a remarkable 13%, but this drop was due to insufficient supply, not low demand. The biggest drop in sales also resulted in the biggest jump in median price, up 18% in Westport to $1,599,500 last year. Where inventory was the lowest relative to demand, we saw prices go up the most.

New Canaan was the one exception to lower sales, higher prices. In New Canaan, prices increased by 23% and sales increased by 13%.  The price increase bumped their median price to $1,725,000 and sales to 440 sales, not bad for a town of less than 20,000 people.

It’s gotten so bad that months of supply don’t really tell the story; we are now looking at days of supply. New Canaan, with only 49 active listings has only 39 days of supply at last year’s torrid sales price, it will be interesting to see what happens this year. In Connecticut, Greenwich also saw nice increases in sales numbers and median prices, just not to New Canaan’s level. Both these towns have the highest median price with a fair number of houses at the very high end. While sales at the high-end jumped last year, we still had good inventory to keep the sales numbers chugging along.

When you look at the Westchester towns, Scarsdale and the Sound Shore Communities of Rye, Rye Neck, Mamaroneck and Larchmont all had double digit increases in their 2021 sales numbers and single digit increases in their 2021 median price. They also had; well, you really couldn’t call it good, but certainly better days of supply than in other towns. Scarsdale and the Sound Shore Communities have 60 and 54 days of supply.

Northeast Westchester, which includes the towns of Rye Brook, Harrison, Armonk and Chappaqua, our nearest Westchester neighbors, saw a big jump up in median price, which was directly related to a small increase in the number of sales caused by very limited inventory. What’s curious is that the two area in each county that are the furthest from New York City, Northeast Westchester in NY and Westport in CT, are the ones that saw the least growth in sales.

It looks like Northeast Westchester, Darien and Westport all saw major saw major increases in 2020 which wiped out much of the shadow inventory. Also, the work from home movement meant that these towns were less inconvenient, i.e, they had shorter weekly commuting times as people no longer commuting every day. As a result, these areas were more attractive to more buyers.

          List, Over-List and Multiple Offers

Throughout all the towns, we saw houses going for full list or over list from 41% in Greenwich to 58% in Westport and 57% in the Sound Shore Communities of Westchester. Demand is not easily is not easily quantifiable, but these numbers show that the demand is out there. Every agent I’ve talked to, has stories of new houses coming on the market and getting anywhere from 25 to 70 appointments in the first couple of days. You hear stories of having so many offers that the only way to keep track of them is with a spreadsheet.

Clearly, there is lots of demand and at the lower price levels under $1,000,000 or even $1,500,000 is where competition is the fiercest. In Greenwich, we only have 14 listings under $1.0M, and only 6 more, if you go up to $1.5M. From $1.5M to $2.0M, there are eleven more listings for a total of 31 listings under $2,000,000. We see similar shortages of affordable houses throughout the area.

          Inventory vs. New Listings in a Hot Market

Today’s hot housing market is driven by new listings. Looking solely at inventory can be a little deceptive for two reasons. First many new never get counted as active inventory in monthly report and certainly not in the quarterly report. You don’t get to 1006 sales in Greenwich or 866 sales in Northeast Westchester without a significant number of new listings coming on and going off.

Greenwich, with its 152 listings, stands out among all of the towns. Greenwich is more like a small city with multiple neighborhoods, multiple price ranges, a population of over 63,000 people and 22,000 plus housing units. Even with these 152 listings at the present pace of sales seen last year, we only have 54 days of supply which is similar to most of Westchester. East of Greenwich, the days of supply drop. Westport has 42 days of supply; New Canaan has 39 days and Darien only has 10 days of supply.

Now, this days of supply does not mean that we are going to run out of houses to sell. New listings will come on to replace sales and even in this market houses that are priced above market rate and particularly, if they need work, can still be tough sales.

Over $5 million, even newer houses can stay on the market for a while. Our median year built for all sales in 2021 was 1961. The median year built for houses that are active on the market over $5 million is 2004 and the median days on market 240 days or 8 months. Our market at the high end, and particularly those high-end houses in back country and midcountry are doing much better than in 2019, but over $10,000,000 we are still looking at 13.7 months of supply. This is the same price category that only a couple of years ago we were looking at months of supply measured in years.

What’s the new year going to bring?

The short answer is I don’t know, and I tend to be concerned about anybody who says that they do know. If we assume that interest rates are going to go up, we should have a short burst of sales. Presently we have 29 sales in the middle of January and our ten-year average for January is 35 so despite this incredibly low inventory we will very likely be above our 10-year average for sales by the end of the month. If interest rates increase significantly, they may well cut into sales as our lower inventory is doing now. Increasing interest rates will also likely switch some money from stocks to bonds, potentially resulting in lower demand for stock and hence lower stock prices. Higher interest rates will also push down bond prices lessening the wealth effect.

With stock prices down, bond prices down and interest rates up, you would expect that demand will drop, however interest rates are likely to below particularly compared to inflation. Even some softening in buyer demand is unlikely to result in a major correction given the lifestyle shift caused by work from home which looks to persist even after the pandemic.

On the flip side, after two torrid years of sales, lots of folks who had been thinking about downsizing or upsizing may have already done so. Downsizers often move out of the area or switch from houses to condos, while upsizers are more of a zero-sum game. Their purchase of a larger houses reduces inventory, but their sale of their older house adds a listing back to inventory.

Also, a thank you to my fellow Compass agents, Heather Harrison in Scarsdale, Peggy Jackson in the Sound Shore Communities, Kori Sassower in NE Westchester, John Bainton in Darien, Christine Saxe in New Canaan, Laurie Morris in Westport and Michael Ferraro online for their statistics and insights in their markets. I, however, am responsible for any misstatements, mischaracterizations or just bad conclusions. Lastly, we can never discount, the black swan events and the emotions of the market.

Stay tuned it’s going to be a fascinating market.

Greenwich Real Estate 101 – Introduction

Greenwich, CT has a lot of neighborhoods and nuances. Here is an introduction to Greenwich neighborhoods and Greenwich real estate statistics. Click on the

The Town of Greenwich

People
63,500 people
60% married
33% with children under 18
Median age is 43
23% Foreign Born
Real Estate
$30B Grand List
22,271 total housing units
66% single family houses
Taxes $8,400/$1M
Zoning from 0.17 Ac. to 4 Ac  
2021 Sales (GMLS)
1,007 House Sales
272 Condos & Co-ops
777 Rentals
39 Land Sales
1,000 agents
Click the link below for the basic of Greenwich real estate statistics and Greenwich neighborhoods.

Mark Pruner, Compass, Greenwich, 203-817-2871, mark.pruner@compass.com

Every Neighborhood in Greenwich Does Even Better than in 2020

Well Almost All

For just about every neighborhood, and every statistic in every neighborhood, 2021 was an amazing year. We had total sales of over $3 billion and this was up 31% over what was at the time a record setting 2020. Our sales were up $718,204,338 over 2020, in increase in dollar sales that is more than most towns total sales.

What’s really remarkable about that 31% increase in sales volume is that our number of sales were up only 17%. We had 863 sales in 2020 and were up 143 sales in 2021 to 1,006 sales this year.

Townwide, 2020 was a good time to be a seller as we were up in every category, except for those categories where being down is pro-seller. Our average sales price was up 12% and our median sales price was up 11%, while our days on market were down 40% from 205 DOM in 2020 to 124 DOM in 2021, i.e., on average houses were on for almost 3 months less last year over the year before.

Scattered around the table comparing neighborhoods this year to last year there are a few stats that moved in the buyers’ direction, but nearly everyone is just statistical noise in neighborhoods with small numbers of sales. If you take out North Mianus (11 sales), Pemberwick (16 sales) and Banksville (5 sales) just about every statistic was up. The only significant exception was number of sales in backcountry, but more about that later.

When you draw a line through the sales for each neighborhood by year, it’s looks like a Ralph Cramden quote, “Too the moon, Alice.” Cos Cob, backcountry, Old Greenwich and South of the Parkway were all neighborhoods where total sales volume were up by a lot. In mid-country sales volume was up by almost a quarter billion dollars.

We are getting these big jumps in sales volume for two reasons. Our total number of sales are up, and the average price is also up. Combine those two things and get these big jumps.

When you look at the number of sales in each neighborhood, you only have one factor pushing the numbers up. In just about every neighborhood, our sales were up: by 15% in mid-country (aka South of the Parkway) and up 26% in Cos Cob our biggest gain for our larger neighborhood. Also, all our smaller neighborhoods, who have lower average prices, saw dramatic jumps in sales. Pemberwick’s sales were up 78% going from 9 sales in 2020 to 16 sales in 2021.

As mentioned above the one area that saw a drop in sales, (besides North Mianus where sales went from 13 sales to 11 sales) was backcountry. There sales fell from 102 sales in 2020 to 92 sales in 2021 or a drop of 10%. As noted above a 22% jump in average sales price per s.f. more than made up for this small drop with total sales dollars up in backcountry.

The natural thing is to think that high-end sales are dropping in backcountry, but townwide sales from $5 – 10M were up over 100%, so it’s going to take more slicing and dicing to figure out the details of what is up and down in backcountry. One thing that is definitely down is inventory dropping from 49 listings at the end of 2020 to only 37 listing at the beginning of this year.

Going forward inventory is going to determine how we do this. To be more precise, it’s not inventory, but the number of new listings. We were at record low inventory almost every week last year, but we still set a record for sales. You are looking for a new neighbor, now might be a good time to encourage your neighbor to list their house. They’ll get a good price, and you’ll get a new neighbor. 😉

Greenwich Breaks 1,000 Sales in 2021 for a New All-Time Record

Record Sales – Record Low Inventory

 1,000+ Sales

We broke 1,000 sales in 2021, a goal that most people thought we would never see, and we did it on the last business day of 2021. Pre-Covid, our 2019 sales were only 528 sales, so we are looking at sales up 90% in just two years and we were up 16.8% this year over 2020; a year when many towns outside of Greenwich saw lower sales this year.

For example, both Darien and Fairfield saw single family home sales decline in 2021, not because of any drop in demand, but due to lack of inventory. In Darien sales dropped 3.4% and in Fairfield sales dropped an amazing 14%.

Greenwich was not immune from such drops. Under $600,000 our sales were down 53% as many of the houses in our lowest price range appreciated over $600K, but that still didn’t raise sales from $600,000 to $800,000. In that price range, our sales were down 17% from 54 sales in 2020 to 45 sales in 2021. We also saw sales drop from $1.5 to $2.0 million, from 154 sales in 2020 down to 139 sales in 2021 and this is in the heart of our market in Greenwich.

Sales were down in some price ranges, but overall sales were up 16.8%, that means that we had to see big jumps in other price ranges and we did. Our biggest gainer by numbers of sales was from $2 – 3 million, where we had 59 mores sales this year leading to 251 total sales. This was an increase of 31%.

Part of what led to this big increase was that many Greenwichites who owned homes in the $2 – 3 million price range upsized their houses to get more offices, amenities, homework areas and just space in general. What that meant was that their homes were available for sale both to people coming from New York City and coming from smaller houses and rentals in Greenwich. These homeowners then listed their homes otherwise we would never have had enough listings to make it to 1,005 sales in 2021.  

Our biggest percentage increase was from $6.5 million to $10 million where we saw sales jump 120% from 25 sales in 2020 to 55 sales last year. Some of this sales increase were those Greenwich people who were selling their $3 million house and moving to a $6.5 million, but we also had a lot of New Yorkers concerned about their safety in New York City as well as Covid. Hopefully, the new ayor, Eric Adams, with his police background will bring the crime rate down. Problems in New York City bode ill for Greenwich in the long run, even if they lead to a temporary influx of new residents.

Overall, our high-end has been the strongest part of our market with sales from $5 – 10 million up 216% since 2019 and up 82% just from 2020, which was itself a record setting year. Interestingly, another price range where we saw a slight sales drop was over $10 million where we went from 15 sales in 2020 to 14 sales in 2021. I’d take that “drop” with a grain of salt. I know of a bunch of private high-end sales, such as the $19.3 million sale on Lower Cross Road that were never listed. I’d love to know how our private sales did both years. I’m betting that like the rest of the market, our private sales were up last year.

 Very Little New Inventory

 All this is happening while our inventory, which was never close to normal levels this year, dropped precipitously in the last part of the year. We started this year at 152 listings, when we should have around 400 listings. Pre-Covid you have to go back 21 years to Dec. 2000 for the prior record low number listings and that prior low was almost double what we have now. In 2000 we hit a low of 291 listings and this week we have 152 listings.

In some areas of town, our inventory is almost comical. In Byram we have 3 houses for sale. In Glenville, 5 houses, in Cos Cob we are up to 6 houses and we have 8 and 9 houses in Riverside and Old Greenwich. These incredibly low numbers mean that we have zero inventory in some price ranges in these neighborhoods.

For example, in Cos Cob we have 6 listings, but nothing between $1.8 million and $3.2 million, i.e., if you are looking for a house anywhere around $2.5 million you won’t find anything to see in Cos Cob. This is after we sold 28 Cos Cob houses in that price range in 2021. This $2.4 million wide price range was mostly emptied last month, December 2021. In that month, we had 8 Cos Cob houses go to contract creating that big empty space where we would normally have a couple of dozen listings.

Our inventory peaked at 342 listings in June and dropped for most of the rest of the year. In a normal year we peak at around 650 listings. As we had less to sell, contracts dropped in the second half of the year, then surprisingly flattened out in the last 3 months of the year as buyers rushed to buy, before interest rates and prices went up. At year-end, our contracts dropped, as our mini-yearend buyers’ frenzy started to see even a dearth of house priced reasonably.

 Strong Buyer Demand in Greenwich –   While our new listings have slowed, demand has not slowed as winter is here. Buyers are snapping stuff up as quickly as it comes on the market.  Of our 152 listings, only 30 have been listed for 60 days or less. In Old Greenwich, our hottest market, buyers have a choice of 9 houses with only 3 houses under $1.5M. Of those 9 houses, only one has been on the market for less than two months.

You can see that we have strong buyer demand from Westchester County, if you look at the map of 2021 sales in Greenwich. Our border looks like a Seurat pointillism painting with a series of sales right along our western and northern borders with New York State. These folks are in a new state, but in some cases their old friends are just across the street or only one exit away.

Price Ranges – Sales, Inventory and Months of Supply

We have low inventory across the board. In some price ranges, our contracts waiting to close exceed the inventory. From $1 – 1.5 million we have 13 contracts waiting to close, but only 10 listings. The ten listings in this price range are nicely distributed. You have one listing in Old Greenwich, Riverside, Cos Cob and mid-country. You have two listings in backcountry, Glenville and central Greenwich. At least the buyers in one of our most popular price ranges have a choice of neighborhoods. Another price range with more contracts than inventory is from $600,000 to $800,000, where we have 7 contracts and only 4 listings.

To see just how tight the market is check out our months of supply. The traditional dividing line between a buyer’s and a seller’s market is 6 months of supply, i.e., all listings would sell out in 6 months at the present rate of sales, if no more inventory came on the market. We have less than 6 months of supply all the way up to $10M and less than 3 months of supply under $5M.

Our total months of supply is an astounding 1.8 months, but is it really that tight? Looked at some ways, our market really isn’t that bad as the stats make it out. In part, this is because these stats are designed for a normal market not the hot market we have.

One of things that the traditional stats don’t show well are listings that go on and off the market in less than a month. In a typical market, this isn’t a big factor, but last year, 351 of our 1,005 sales were on the market for less than a month. Many of these listing probably never appeared as “inventory” as they weren’t an active listing when stats were run at the end of the month or quarter.

Of those 351 shooting star listings, 73 were on for zero days on market meaning they were private sales that were “listed” on the MLS “For Reporting Purposes Only”. And, there were a lot more of these private sales that weren’t reported on the MLS.

Real Estate in 2022

Regardless of how much inventory we get on in the next two months we are going to have a tight market for a while and possibly the entire year. For the time being, the smart money is out there buying their houses before prices go up even more than the 10.6%, they did this year. Also, for the majority of our buyers that need mortgages, they are rushing to buy, before the Fed raises rates.

The greatest imponderable is how many people are left to sell their homes after 1,869 house sales in the last two years. In 2021, we had a stellar first half and a good 3rd quarter. We should have had a much slower fourth quarter and thats the way it looked to be at the end of October, but some of the Frenzy that we saw in second quarter came back in the last two months and sales went up even as we had less and less inventory to buy.  

The one thing that we do know is that this year is going be different, than the prior two years. Covid will go away or at least no longer be at pandemic levels. During the year most people will have a much better idea of just when they will have to be in the office. People who are waiting out this uncertainty in rentals are likely to buy and we will get some more upsizers listing their “smaller” houses which will look big to those people in rentals.

Interest rates will go up, meaning some money may move from stocks to bonds, potentially flattening the stock market. But, a lot of Wall Street people are going to get some nice bonuses for last year’s market. Also, a major economist says that stimulus money takes about a year to have its full effect, so alot of the $2.2 trillion of stimulus money is still sloshing and will be looking for a home well in to 2022 (preferably a nice home here in Greenwich.)

If you have a home, January 2022 is a great time to list it. If you are buyer, it’s not as bad as the headlines look, but there is probably no more important time to have a good Realtor, banker, home inspector and attorney and if you need a mortgage pay the fee and get underwritten pre-approved. You are going to be going up against a lot of buyers that are bringing all cash to the table and no mortgage contingency.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be a really interesting first quarter…

By Mark Pruner, 203-969-7900 – mark.pruner@compass.com