Condo Market Soars in 2021

Sales Up 24%, Inventory Down 47%

Last year was an amazing year for condo and co-op sales in Greenwich. We sold 272 condos in Greenwich in 2021 and this was up 52 sales or 23.6% compared to 2020. If you want to go back to our last pre-Covid year of 2019 sales were up 71%. Condo sales did not fare well in the early days of Covid. Buyers didn’t want to move out an apartment in NYC into an apartment-like condo in Greenwich. Buyers didn’t want the same shared elevators and hallways that they had in New York City.

As the first wave of Covid trailed off in 2020, this reluctance fell away, and condos sale picked up going from 159 sales in 2019 to 220 sales in 2020 and then to 272 condo sales last year. (In this article references to condo numbers include co-ops, since co-ops trade similarly to condos.)

              2022 sales shrink under $600K due to excess demand

Our 272 condo sales increase got no help from the lowest price range. Sales under $600,000 actually went down from 82 sales in 2020 to 74 sales in 2021. This drop in sales was not due to any drop in demand from buyers. In fact, it was excessive demand from buyers that drove down sales under $600,000. Lots of demand at our lower end, resulted in price appreciation, pushing list prices above $600,000 into the next higher price bracket.

Sales up 61% from $600K – $800K

Last year our 79 sales from $600,000 to $800,000 represented 29% of our sales, our largest percentage of any price range in 2021. As discussed above, this price category benefitted from more listing prices appreciating into this price range. Many of the sales in this price range were in Putnam Park, central Greenwich and along River Road in Cos Cob.

              Lots more inventory needed

If we had more inventory, at the lower end, we would have had more sales. Under $1 million all three of our price categories have less than 6 weeks of supply. Right now, we only have 47 condos available for sale. Of those 47 listings, only 17 are priced less than $1 million. Under $1 million represents 60% of our sales in 2021, but only 35% of our inventory.  

If you do a static analysis, then it’s hard to see how we could get to 190 condo sales under $1 million in 2021 with only 17 listings on the market now. The good news for buyers, who’d like to buy a condo in Greenwich under $1 million, is that last year we had more than 227 condo listing come on the market under $1 million. Of those listings, 190 were sold last year, another 20 are under contract now and 17 are left in inventory.

We actually had more than that, as some of the condos were listed for rent and rented before they were sold. In addition, another 19 listings under $1 million expired unsold. One condo listed for $620,000 was on for an amazing 1,196 days, before expiring unsold. The ever tighten market and increasing prices got it to contract in September 2021 in only 21 days.

It’s not just our under $1 million market where we need more inventory. The only place where inventory is not tight to ridiculously tight is $2 – 3 million where we had 16 sales last year and have 12 condos in inventory. Of course, if you want to live anywhere else but 89 River Road in Cos Cob, you’ll find the market is very tight. That address, which has some beautiful new condos represents 8 of the 12 listings between $2 and $3 million.

I have three clients that are gridlocked. They would love to buy a nice downtown condo in that price range, but we only have one listing in downtown Greenwich. Of course, if they would like to live south of I-95 there are three more choices, but they want a short walk to Greenwich Avenue and preferably not an uphill. (If anyone knows of such of a downtown listing coming on, please let me know.)

              Our high-end condo market is also tight

With the big shift of most white-collar jobs to a work from home model, our high-end sales have done particularly well. Our median sales price in 2021 was $1,052,917, so sales over $2 million are certainly, the high-end of Greenwich condo sales. In 2021, we had 31 condo sales over $2 million, with our highest sale being $4,900,000. The prior year, 2020, was also a good year for high-end condo sales with 28 sales. Compare these two years to 2019 when we had only 12 sales over $2 million and 2018, when we had 16 sales.

Part of this increase in high-end sales can be attributed to several beautiful new developments that hit the market at the right time. Of our 28 high-end sales in 2021, 8 of them were new construction. In 2020, 11 of the 28 high-end sales were new construction.

Covid really bailed out these projects, because while these were beautiful units with lots of amenities and located close to town, many were hitting the market at the same time. Much of this was a result of Planning and Zoning reducing the R-6 to multi-family zone to a two-family zone. Developers rushed to get in under the old rules, resulting in a bulge of high-end units coming on at the same time. Of course, when you are talking about Greenwich downtown condos, this “bulge” was only a few dozen units. Several of these projects could not be built under today’s rules.

              What about prices?

Our condos are spread out in multiple neighborhoods and multiple price ranges. Having said that the large part of our condo sales are within a half-mile of the Post Road, albeit, literally stretching from the Port Chester to the Stamford border.  So, take the following with a grain of salt.

As noted, before, the median condo sales price in 2021 was $1,052,917. This was up 6.3% over 2020’s median price of $990,137. In 2020, condo prices were up even more with median prices increasing 9.4%.

While mathematically accurate are those price increase representative of the market. Much of these price increases could be in the mix of what was selling. One way to check this is to look at other measures of price appreciation. If you look at price appreciation by square foot, then some of the effect of price changes driven by higher priced units, or in 2019 more lower priced units, is reduced. The price/sf price increases are similar to the median sales price increases.  

Year Median Condo Price% YoY changeMed $/s.f.% YoY changeMed. SP/Assmt% YoY change
2018 $           967,502$  4691.58
2019 $           904,872-6.5%$  425-9.5%1.55-1.9%
2020 $           990,1379.4%$  4669.6%1.571.3%
2021 $        1,052,9176.3%$  5037.9%1.665.4%

However, when you look at the change in the sales price to the assessment ratio, the appreciation is much more focused in 2021 and the drop in prices in 2019 and the increase in 2020 is not as dramatic. It looks like the much of the “price appreciation” was driven by more high-end units selling driving up the median and the price/s.f. While the price changes are not as dramatic, the price changes are in the same direction; down in 2019 and up in 2020 and 2021.

What does mean if you are buying or selling? Actually, not all that much. You shouldn’t determine your list your house based on town wide averages, nor should you make your buying decisions off these price increases. You want to check the half dozen best comps for your condo, who your competition is and what buyer demand is.

              What to expect in 2022?

Demand is likely to hold up in 2022 at least for the first half of the year. We still have lots of New Yorkers looking to move to Greenwich as commuting times are way down, when you only have to go into the office once a week. At the same time, the condo market is much more sensitive to changes in mortgage rates, so the market may shift towards a more balanced market, but it would have to go a long way to be considered a buyer’s market in 2022.

 Stay tuned, we just might get some more inventory in the upcoming spring market…

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