Mid-October Greenwich R.E. report – Still looking good

So far this month we have sold 52 homes in October 2020. Our 10-year average for the whole month of September is 49 houses. So we have already sold more in a half month than we normally sale in the whole month of October. We also have 178 contracts so once again we have a good chance of having over 100 sales for the month.

When you look at our sales and contracts they zig-zag, but at the highest level for the year.

Total 2020Greenwich House Sales and Contracts by Week

One of our hottest areas has been backcountry where sales are up 74% for the year.

Backcountry Sales 2020 YTD (10/17/20)
Sold (Blue)                                          73
Pending (Yellow)                              16
Contingent Contract (Green)      9

This increase in backcountry sales actually started in 2019 when backcountry sales for 2019 was 30% higher than we had in 2018. It’s going to be an interesting 4th quarter.

September Greenwich R.E. Sales Set Another Record

Why Aren’t Prices Up More

Once again sales of single-family home in Greenwich set a record with 116 sales. This is up 150% from last year. We’ve never had a September with triple digit sales. Post-recession, the highest number of sales reported on the Greenwich MLS were 63 sales in 2015. Given that we had 193 contracts as the end of August, I expected that we would have a very good September as these contracts closed, but I’m still surprised that sales set a new post-recession record for any month.

For the year, we have sold 577 houses in Greenwich and this is more than the 526 houses we sold in all of 2019. Now 2019 was not a great year, but we will easily break the 600 house sales level this year as we have 173 contracts waiting to close. Any year over 600 sales is a good year for Greenwich. But we will likely be over 700 sales, which makes for a great year. If you just take the 173 contracts, we have outstanding, also up 150% over last year, and add them to the sales YTD, you come up with 750 sales and contracts. We might even exceed 800 sales.

I say might, because our 173 contracts are down from our 193 contracts at the end of August. It’s possible, we may finally see the sales curve start to drop in October as our contracts are down 20 from August. It just depends on how many of the 173 contracts that we have waiting close, actually close in October versus later in the year. In a normal October, we sell around 41 houses. We should easily double that this year and might make it three months in a row with over 100 sales.

The market last week was as hot as it has been all year, when you look at our weekly transaction, sales and contracts signed. Last week we tied our previous high for the year at 68 transactions.

All these transactions are sucking up inventory quickly. We are down to 477 single family homes or down 23% from last year when we had 622 listings at the end of September. For every price category below, our inventory is from last year.  

Over $10 million we are up 2 listings to 35 listings. As we are seeing an increase in high-end sales over $5 million, we are seeing more people listing their houses. This increase in listings over $5 million has been mostly matched by sales. The result are big drops in months of supply starting at $3 million and going up. For example, when you take the 8 sales over $10 million and add in the 4 contracts, the months of supply have dropped from 4 years of supply to 2.5 years of supply.

Over $5 million, we went from a cold market to a warm market. From $5 – 6.5 million, we only have 14.4 months of supply. Drop down to $3 – 4 million and you are looking at 7.2 months of supply. This is the kind of number you see in Greenwich around $1 million not at triple that price.

As of 10/1/2020InventoryContractsLast Mo. SoldsLast Mo Solds+ Contracts YTD Solds YTD+ ContractsMos SupplyMos w/ ContractsLast Mo. Annlzd
< $600K114515160.60.70.3
> $10M3542681239.430.617.5

When you take the September sales and analyze them to calculate months of supply you can see big drops from $1 million all the way to the very top. I have a listing that I put on last week at 343 Sound Beach Ave in Old Greenwich for $2,195,000. It’s an older house, but it has been freshly renovated and hit a sweet spot with lots of showing right out of the gate.

I’m seeing the same thing at 677 River Road in Cos Cob, which is on for $1,3900,000. This is a nice 2,500 s.f. house on 1.1 acres. Being on River Road it slopes up from the Mianus River and has a limited backyard, normally a significant issue for families with kids, however, with limited inventory we are seeing more showings to families than we are to downsizers who often want less yard to maintain. Removing a few trees to create a yard when you only have 3 – 4 months of supply starts to look much more viable to those young family buyers.  

                House prices up 15.2% in Greenwich – Sort of

I was talking to brother, Russ Pruner, a Realtor since 1980, who has seen a lot of ups and a couple of downs in Greenwich real estate. We were both marveling at how all this demand hasn’t pushed up prices more. When you look at the sales price to assessment ratio for 2020, we are only up 1.0% for the year in sales price. On the other hand if you compare the average sales price for this year so far to last year, we are up from a 2019 average of $2.38 million to $2.59 million or an increase of 9.0% which matches some of the price increases that we saw in the 80’s, 90’s and early digits. In many of these years we were seeing double digit percentage increases in prices per year. In 2004 we sold 835 houses listed on the Greenwich MLS and had another 144 private sales.

If you want a dramatic number, the median increase is 15.2% in sales price for September 2020 compared to last year’s median. Much of this apparent appreciation is simply that we are selling more houses above the median this year. We are though seeing real price increases in the last two months as you would expect with sales over 100 house these last two months.

I know, what you are saying, which is how much is my house up? My best guess 4 – 6% with much of that coming in the last couple of months, but why isn’t it more? First off, each house is different and is its own micro-market. Houses that need work in Byram have not increased like moderately priced houses in mid-country, then again Byram saw some of our best appreciation pre-Covid.

Also, as I’ve written before, Covid buyers are running from NYC and are looking at lots of options, particularly under $1.5 million. I actually had a Covid buyer, who was interested in Greenwich, ask me how it compares to New Canaan, a very common situation, but then she asked me about Wilton and Fairfield, not towns that we usually compete against for buyers. Despite all this new “competition” Greenwich is doing just fine in the marketplace.

Curiously, for all the talk of multiple bid situations only 14 out of the 116 sales in September went for over list. Given that, with winter and the holidays coming up, now is not the best time to go with a premium list price. Save that for the spring market when you’ll have time to adjust the price if you over-price the house.

We are seeing other stats that are likely to lead to increased prices. September sales were on for a median of only 96 days compared to 140 days in July. The sales price to original list price was 95% compared to 92% in July. Lastly our inventory is continuing to stay down, making for a competitive market. Normally, I don’t suggest listing your house in October, but I do this year, and the sooner the better.

The $2 billion question is will we make to 800 sales this year. We’ll have no problem with 700 sales as we already have a total of 750 sales and contracts with a whole quarter to go. We’ll need about 75 sales in each of the next three months and that shouldn’t be a problem in October. But our contracts have dropped from 193 at the end of August to 173 today and we have the holidays coming up. We also have the election uncertainty, never a good thing for house sales, and Covid cases are going up again in parts of NYC. We’ve still got a good shot at making it, if we get anything like the number of contracts signed in October as we saw in August and September. Stay tuned, it will be an interesting 4th quarter.

September 2020 on Record R.E. Sales Pace in Greenwich

The Greenwich real estate market is going into uncharted territory. After a near record August, September is continuing hot after a short rest for the Labor Day weekend.

  • September will likely be a record with 157 contracts and sales so far this month
  • Last year we had 46 sales for the whole month of September, as of 9/25/20 we have already had 95 sales and we will break 100 sales for the second month in a row
  • We had a big drop for the 4-day Labor Day week, but transactions rebounded strongly the last two weeks.
  • We have yet to see a fall drop off as sellers are continuing to supply inventory late in the year, but inventory is going off about as fast as it is coming on
  • Inventory continues tight with 491 house listing versus 622 listings last year at this time a 21% drop
  • High-end NYers are looking for weekend and bailout houses as Greenwich is looking more attractive than the City and is much closer than the Hamptons
  • We have 67 sales and contracts over $5M this year compared to 39 sales and contracts as of the end of September last year an increase of 72%

Making a Good House on Long Island Sound a Great House

We have a lot of great houses in Greenwich that sell at premium prices, but these houses, particularly, the older ones, were not built the way you see them today.  Their owners moved with the times and renovated these houses to include the features that they and other people want. Today we are going to look at 22 Cherry Tree to see some of the things that were done to make a good house great.

                Location, Location, Location

First off, the house at 22 Cherry Tree Lane has location (Riverside), location (Harbor Point Association) and location (great views of Long Island Sound).  For many folks in Greenwich, and even in Riverside, these streets may not be known, as unless you are going there, you aren’t going through there as the streets on the southern end of Riverside all end at the Sound.

The Harbor Point Association was at one time a great estate of some 40 acres and now hosts some 35 houses. The association fronts on Greenwich Cove and the Sound and comes with its own marina and beach along a breakwater that reaches out into the Sound. It also has one of the nicer security guards at the front gate and many of the houses overlook a tidal pond with a weir at the opening that keeps the pond full at low tide.

                A Hot Neighborhood Today

The present owners bought the house back in 2013 and it was a good house with 5 bedrooms and 4/2 baths on 1.05 acres with beautiful views of the Sound and tidal pond. (On the other side of the pond is 34 Indian Point Lane that sold in June of this year for $42,175,000 and also 32 Indian Point Lane which is listed at $20,995,000, but it’s too late if you wanted to buy it as it is under contract.) In 2013, 22 Cherry Tree was a two-story house with a portico across the front and seven gables on the second floor. It had been listed originally in 2011 for $6.99M. The following year it came back on at $5.49M and towards the end of 2012 was relisted for $5.19M and sold for an even $5 million on July 8, 2013.

                Finding Ways to Improve a Good House – The Pool

The question for the buyers was how to take a good, solidly built house and make it better. The new owners and the architects came up with several ways to improve the house. The most obvious change was the addition of a large pool right out the back door. The owners were originally told this could not be done, but with some creativity, perseverance and $400,000; the pool got built.

While the pool is beautiful much of that cost was not paid to Shoreline Pools to actually build the pool. The lot is 1.05 acres and this area is not served by town sewers, so each lot needs a septic system. In the case of 22 Cherry Tree Lane, the septic system was located right where the pool would go. So. Redniss & Mead had to come up with an engineering solution. The whole septic system was moved from the large yard on the side of the property to the rear of the property, which meant you needed engineering studies and the approval of the Town Health Department. The nice thing is that moving the septic system meant that area is now a level yard ideally suited for the present badminton court or other outdoor activities.

This area of Riverside falls within the Coastal Area Management Zone so it gets extra scrutiny from the town Planning and Zoning Commission. The regulatory process for all town agencies took two years to complete and cost a substantial portion of the $400K spent on the pool. Another major cost was that owners wanted the pool to be a roughly the same level as the first floor of the house to get better views of the water and sunsets. This required bringing in dozens of truckloads of dirt. At the end of the day the owners had a beautiful pool, an amenity that is in great demand in the Covid era.

                Adding interior space and improvements

The owners also wanted several additional features including a large walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a screened in porch, an elevated place to sit and watch the gorgeous sunsets and more space. They also wanted an updated kitchen, a second floor laundry and more parking spaces. The walk-in closet had an easy solution that was hard to do. Right next to the master bedroom was a small bedroom that didn’t work well as a bedroom but made for a very nice walk-in closet and an upstairs laundry room.

The hard part was figuring out how to replace that bedroom as you don’t see many four bedroom houses at this price point. The solution was to add a third floor but zoning only allows for 2 and a half stories and a maximum height of 40 feet. A half story does not mean that ceiling is only 4 feet high on the third floor, it means that the size of the floor can only be half the square footage of the floor below. The height requirement would also have been violated with a standard peaked roof, so the third floor had a roof with two peaks each lower than a full peaked roof.

The setbacks in the RA-1 zone are 50 feet for the front and backyards and 25 feet on the side, so how to add floor space without significantly expanding the overall footprint of the house. One way to do this was to use the “wasted” upper space for the cathedral ceiling in the living room. By putting a ceiling over this space, the owners got a playroom on the second floor. Directly off of the living room they screened in part of the portico and put a roof deck on top, which became one of the great features of the house.  Now you can sit and watch the water from an upstairs vantage point.

At the same time, they enlarged the windows on the second floor to let in more light and make the views of the Sound ever better. One area where many homeowners have particular requirements is the kitchen. Today’s kitchens are just as much gathering areas as are the adjacent family areas.  The owners hired Kitchens by Deane to give the kitchen a warm inviting feel, while still being very functional.  They also opened the kitchen to the family room and redid the large center island.

Much of this work was done before the family moved in, though the long approval process for the pool meant that that work was going on while the owners were there. These changes and improvements in total came to $4 million over and above the purchase price, but in the end the owners got a house that felt like new and had everything that they wanted.

As I often tell buyers, very few people ever regret creating the house that they really want. The costs to create a great house are not insignificant, but why put up with house features that make you unhappy every day. Your home should be the castle that you want.

Real Estate Sales Soar in Pandemic – Why Some Houses are Still Not Selling

Even in one of our hottest market ever 13% of our 491 listings have been on for more than a year. Of those 64 old listings that have had their birthday anniversary, 18 of them have actually had their second birthday and 5 of them have actually been on for more than 1,000 days, so what keeps houses from selling.

INITIAL PRICING: The biggest reason by far is over-pricing the house when first listed. The first two weeks of a listing is critical and if online buyers think the house is overpriced they won’t even go see the house. Even if their agent recommends seeing the house if what they see online doesn’t match up with their idea of its value they will turn down the showing.

So why do owners over-price their houses? First, it’s just human nature; no one wants to leave money on the table if a buyer would have paid more, so why not take a flyer at a higher initial price. This hope and a dream approach can set off a cascading list of issues that can easily leave the house on the market for a year or more and result in price well below what you might have gotten.

Second, owner’s value the unique features in their houses that were added as labors of love and money. The problem is that most buyers will only pay a little more, if any for these features. Paradoxically, the lowest list price often leads to the highest and fastest sales price, by generating the most traffic to the house.

Things like quality of construction, beautiful gardens, and homeowner care and maintenance often don’t play into a buyer’s decision as whether to see a house or not. With the rise of the Internet, items that can be rendered as numbers have reduced the unquantifiable elements. Buyers look at square footage, price per square foot, acres, days on market and other features that they can sort on their spreadsheets as signs of value.

PRICE REDUCTIONS: Every time, an owner changes the price it shows up on the Internet and each price change or lack of them have an unwritten tag line in buyers’ mind:

  • Price unchanged for 100 days – The seller won’t negotiate a “fair price” and may not want to sell at all, probably a waste of time to go see
  • A small price reduction – Seller will negotiate, but their bottom line is close to their present list price so that needs to be close to the buyer’s perceived value
  • A series of small price reductions – Must be something wrong with the house if no one has bought it after all those price reductions and the buyer is probably desperate and will take a lowball bid.

If the buyer traffic is not there initially, or if you had good traffic, but no offers have been made it’s time to take a major price reduction. You also don’t want to do this more than twice so the bigger the better. Once again paradoxically the bigger the price cut the better your sales price will be. What you don’t want to get caught in is the death spiral of a dozen cuts, if you do you may end up having to reduce the price below “fair market value” to get people to come see your house.

POOR PRESENTATION: I was talking to another experienced agent about how much clutter and poor presentation could cost a seller and we both came to the same figure. We posited two identical older homes, but one was neat and tidy and the other cluttered and dirty. If the neat house went for $750,000 we both estimated, it would be minus $50,000 if the other house was a mess. If you add dishes in the sink and mildew in the shower, you could take off another $25,000. Appearance counts.

So, the things you can do that will improve the value of your house starting at street side:

Curb appeal – A lot of people decide whether they like a property as soon as they see it, so trim the trees and bushes, remove fallen branches, fix the driveway, paint the mailbox and add big house numbers so the house is easy to find. Make sure the path from the driveway to the front door is a nice as you can make it; buy a new doormat with a welcoming message, paint the front door and replace any corroded door knobs and knockers.

First steps – Assuming they still like the house from the exterior the next most important is the first two steps inside. Make the inside air temperature the opposite of the outside; warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Make sure there are no unpleasant smells such as cat pee or cigars (we smell one of these every week.) The entry should have the warm inviting feel of a home not a hotel lobby.

Inside – Get rid of “bad memory points,” the things that people remember a week later about the house. I’ve seen dead squirrels in the attic, dead bugs under the sink, and used diapers left out. Even things that aren’t offensive should be fixed, like door that stick, dust on shelves and a used drinking glass in the sink should be removed.

NEGOTIATION: If you want to really insult a Greenwich seller make a lowball offer, however, if you are the seller put that irritation aside and consider the situation. Last year our median sales price to list price was 92% so if the parties were to meet in the middle the buyer would start with an offer of 84% of list price or an $840,000 offer on a $1,000,000 listing. A lot of sellers wouldn’t even counter this “insulting” offer and a lot buyers would be too embarrassed or prideful to raise their own opening offer so the negotiation is over, before it began.

My philosophy is to counter every offer. The buyer maybe an ignorant, irritating, cheapskate without any money, but you’ll never know unless you counter-offer (along with a strong, and often unneeded, admonition from seller’s agent to buyer’s agent to get serious in buyer’s counteroffer.)

The other major negotiation killer is the line in the sand. Very often the buyer and seller will be less than 1% apart, but they both draw a line in the sand and won’t make a better counter. (Seller: If it’s that small a difference the buyer shouldn’t have problem coming up 1%.”) If that happens try to add more negotiating options; a better closing date, larger down payment, or offer to include the yard furniture, or the Mercedes.

And, whatever you do, try not to tick-off the buyer. It never makes the process easier and greatly increases the chance that both parties will walk. At the same time try not to be ticked-off yourself. Yes some buyers are rude, but it’s a transaction not dating. Too often, what is perceived as rude is really a cultural, regional or national difference in style, so stay cool and a few showings, can lead to a good price and quick close.


Greenwich Neighborhood Sales – Most Up, a Few Down

Greenwich Neighborhood Sales – Some Up, Some Down

Sales are up in Greenwich, but not in every neighborhood. Overall sales, as of the end of August, are up from 359 sales last year to 461 sales this year an increase of 102 sales or 28%. What’s up even more are contracts which are up from 83 contracts as of the end of August 2019 to 193 contracts this year or an increase of 133%. When you total up all of these sales, we went from a total sales volume of $877,661,399 last year to $1,180,418,928. This is $303 million increase in sales is 34.5%, which means that the town conveyance taxes are up nicely this year. At the same time, our inventory is down 14% and this week we actually dipped below 500 listings. So, it is a tight market overall.

As of 9/2/2020InventorySoldsSum of Sold PriceAverage of Cumulative DOM Average of Sold Price Average of List Price/SqFt Average of Sold Price/SqFtAverage of SP/ASMTAverage of SP/OLP
Cos Cob4442$62,307,750225$1,483,518$470$4471.5091.2%
North Mianus55$8,693,950166$1,738,790$479$4771.6297.4%
North Parkway9650$122,965,449351$2,459,309$441$4091.1883.7%
Old Greenwich3975$162,942,881153$2,172,572$640$6131.5893.3%
So. of Post Road7234$142,944,500270$4,204,250$851$7591.6688.1%
South Parkway166143$450,800,448259$3,152,451$565$5321.4289.8%
Grand Total505461$1,180,418,928232$2,560,562$580$5461.4790.4%

These are the headline numbers, but the market gets much more nuanced when you look neighborhood by neighborhood. We have four neighborhoods that are up and three neighborhoods that are down, but even there some stats are up and some stats are down. The Covid buyers are definitely looking for land and as you might expect backcountry and mid-country are the big beneficiaries of this desire for more space and larger houses.


In backcountry sales are up 52 percent to 50 solds compared to only 33 last year. Our average sold price is actually down 22% from $3.13 million last year to $2.46 million this year. Now for my backcountry neighbors there is no need to worry about what some wag, somewhere, will call a collapse in prices. What we are seeing is just a major pickup in sales below $3 million. Anything that comes on the market in backcountry under $2 million gets snapped up quickly. Our average sales price/sf is down 4.3%, which also is due to the number of sales under the median of $2.46 million. While our inventory is down 14%, this is not a time to be asking for a premium price as discussed below. Priced correctly, houses in backcountry sell and under $3 million they sell pretty quickly.

                South of the Parkway

Our second biggest increase in sales is South of the Parkway, an area that covers central Greenwich from the Merritt Parkway to the Post Road. There sales are up 47.4% with total volume up 53% to $451 million. Inventory is down 16%, days on market are down 11% and the average sales price to original list price is up 3.9%. All are signs of a stronger market. Even here though, you can see how the pandemic has shaped the market. Our average sold price is up 3.8% and our average sold price/sf is actually down 4.3%.  

The average sales price is up, because we are seeing more high-end sales this year, which is bringing the neighborhood average up. The average sales price/sf and the sales price to assessment ratio are down, showing that we have some motivated sellers. Also, these averages cover the whole year and clearly lots of sellers were looking to sell in April and May at last year’s prices. We are seeing more recent sales prices at higher values and ratios, but not by a huge amount.

Aug 2020 vs. Aug 2019InventorySoldsSum of Sold PriceAverage of CDOM Average of Sold Price Average of List Price/SqFt Average of Sold Price/SqFtAverage of SP/ASMTAverage of SP/OLP
Cos Cob-412$21,778,75043$132,551$7$100.001.3%
North Mianus2-2-$231,05065$463,790-$20-$100.090.7%
North Parkway-1517$19,613,5995-$672,565-$109-$97-0.15-3.1%
Old Greenwich-1813$20,583,221-6-$123,552-$20-$15-0.032.0%
South of Post Road6-3$9,362,2005$593,918$45$8-0.16-0.9%
South Parkway-3146$156,081,681-33$114,113-$31-$24-0.023.9%
Grand Total-80102$302,757,529-3$115,822-$10-$10-0.091.4%

                Cos Cob & Glenville

Cos Cob has had a good year, sales are up 40% over last year. Now part of that is because last year was not a good year for Cos Cob. In fact, Cos Cob had our biggest percentage drop in sales last year. This year Cos Cob is back; sales are up, the average sold price is up and the average sold price/sf is also up a little. Cos Cob has had 42 sales this year and has another 21 contracts waiting to close, so sales should continue to look good in September.

The past few years Cos Cob and Glenville have moved together, as alternatives to pricey Old Greenwich and Riverside. Like Cos Cob, Glenville also had a poor 2019 and this year it has recovered somewhat with 20 sales compared to last years 17 sales. One of the issues for doing statistics on Glenville is that people like the area so much they move in and stay and it’s a smaller area. So, a couple sales up or down can make a significant percentage change. Right now, we only have 18 listings in Glenville compared to 44 listings for Cos Cob,

                Riverside & Old Greenwich

Riverside has returned to being a very preferred neighborhood after not being so favored last year. Sales there are up 35.6% compared to only 21.0% in Old Greenwich. This difference is due to the poor sales last year in Riverside. Between the two neighborhoods we have total sales of 155 houses or a third of all of our sales. When you look at a map, you see a lot of sales and contracts in an area that is a small fraction of Greenwich’s total land area.

Also indicative of Riverside’s rebound this year is the average sales price is up by $471,481 this year in Riverside, while the average sales price in Old Greenwich is actually down despite increased sales. Once again much of this is an adjustment in what prices are selling, rather than an overall change in prices. If you really want to make Riverside look good, we can include the private $42 million sale on Indian Point Lane earlier this year. If we do that, the average sale in Riverside goes up by over $500,000. In fact, that one sale would have brought up the townwide average sale by $91,000.

                South of the Post Road, Byram and Pemberwick

Sales are down a little bit in the southwest part of town. Now while South of the Post Road includes Belle Haven, it also includes Chickahominy, which moves much more like Byram and Pemberwick. In these areas we have a lot of R-6 zones. The R-6 zone is a two family zone with a minimum lot size of 0.17 acres. In the Covid era, 2 families on a sixth of an acre is just a little too cozy for some.

The other issue for these neighborhoods where the median R-6 house sold for $655,000 is that they are seeing lots of competition from Westchester County, as well as Stamford, Norwalk and further up the line. The Covid buyer is hoping to only commute a couple of days a week so the longer commute from Norwalk, Wilton or Fairfield is less of a factor in 2020 than when employees had to be at there desks in the City every day.


Covid has turned our market on its feet. I say this because, the Great Recession turned our market on its head and now Covid is putting us back on our feet. Buyers from NYC are looking for more land, more square footage and more in-home amenities, which says 2 and 4 acre zoning in mid-country and backcountry. The second office and the pool are becoming bigger wants. At the same time, mid-size zones in Cos Cob, Riverside, and Old Greenwich are doing better than last year.

Our two family, R-6 zone is not doing as well with buyers even at the lower price ranges. In the Covid era, buyers are willing to pay higher taxes in Westchester or are willing commute further into Fairfield County for more space. We also have a fair number of Greenwich residents who are looking to upsize. Many of these folks were waiting to move and now that the market is so much more competitive and interest rates are at record lows, they are pulling the trigger.

As to where we are going, we have lots of contracts so September and even October should be good months. I’ve also met several buyers who had rented here for the summer and are now going to buy something in the near future. If you have a house to sell, now is a very good time to do it as who knows what will happen next year.

 If you do put your house on the market, your Realtor needs to do a thorough analysis of the micro-market for your house. Some areas, styles, recent construction and amenities would support a higher price in this market, but you still need to be competitive. Every week, we see nice houses whose listings are expiring unsold.

On the buyer’s side, it’s also a good time to be in the market. Interest rates are down, and prices are not up significantly, however, we are seeing slightly higher prices in the sales starting in August. While the seller’s need to worry about recession/price drop, there is a better chance than we will see higher prices next year, so there is a good opportunity for buyers. Waiting may not be in your interest.

ERRATA: Last week’s article mentioned that this August was our best August ever with 108 sales reported on the GMLS. As my brother, and long-time Realtor, Russ Pruner pointed out we actually had 109 GMLS sales in August 2001. He is the keeper of stats that go back well into the last century and has a website with lots of good interactive stats in the “Market Data” section of his website at http://www.russellpruner.com. His data also shows that in the last 40 years we have had a couple of years where August was the highest sales month, just not this century. I apologize for slightly over-stating just how good August 2020. As Bum Phillips said about Herschel Walker, “He may not be in a class by himself, but it doesn’t take long to call roll in that class.” That’s what this August was like.

August 2020 Sales are Off the Chart in Greenwich

Sales Contracts are Up 133% at the beginning of September

August single family home sales were literally off the chart, at least my chart. We had 108 sales which meant I had to rescale my graph of monthly sales; it normally only goes to 100 sales. Post-recession, we have never had an August like this. We also have never had a post-recession year where the high point for sales was in August; it’s normally June or July. Covid has not only increased sales, but time shifted them, by two months or possibly more.

Starting in the 3rd week of June, we have seen weekly transaction, contracts and sales) in a trading range as the stockbrokers call it, that varies from 47 transactions to 68 transactions per week. The lower transactions weeks are primarily due to a 4-day holiday week or a tropical storm. Overall, we have been averaging about 60 transactions a week. In the most recent week we had 63 transactions. For the last 4 weeks, we have averaged 64.3 transactions per week.

September sales & contract

As a result September has a decent chance of beating August’s outstanding sales. We can be fairly sure that  September sales will be the highest for any September since September 1990, but they may not beat August 2020’s 108 sales. We have 193 contracts up from 83 last year, however, that number is down 15 contracts from the 208 contracts that we had the beginning of August. We do have a late school start this year, so we will continue to see families in September pressing to get in before the beginning of school.

                Inventory stays down, despite lots of new listings

On the inventory side we, only have 505 listings, down 14% from last year. So, with increased sales and lower inventory, we are seeing big drops in months of supply. For the market overall, we have 8.8 months of supply dramatically down from 13.0 months of supply at this time last year. The really dramatic number, however, is when you take August sales and annualize them, there you go from 9.3 months of supply for last August’s annualized sales to 4.7 months of supply August 2020. You just don’t see that kind of low number in a town, like Greenwich, where the median sales price is now $2,040,000. High-end houses take a while to sell and this results in higher months of supply, well at least did.

As of 9/1/2020 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Last Mo Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 1 4 1 5 10 14 0.8 0.7 1.0
$600-$800K 14 11 5 16 24 35 4.7 3.8 2.8
$800K-$1M 19 10 3 13 30 40 5.1 4.5 6.3
$1-$1.5M 56 29 17 46 86 115 5.2 4.6 3.3
$1.5-$2M 61 36 22 58 78 114 6.3 5.1 2.8
$2-$3M 105 40 28 68 109 149 7.7 6.7 3.8
$3-$4M 75 33 14 47 66 99 9.1 7.2 5.4
$4-$5M 44 6 9 15 24 30 14.7 13.9 4.9
$5-6.5M 48 10 3 13 16 26 24.0 17.5 16.0
$6.5-$10M 50 9 5 14 12 21 33.3 22.6 10.0
> $10M 32 5 1 6 6 11 42.7 27.6 32.0
TOTAL 505 193 108 301 461 654 8.8 7.3 4.7

Prices trending up

Our median sales price in 2019 was $1,866,666 as of the end of August our median sales number is the aforesaid, $2,040,000 or an increase of 9.3%. Now as usually happens, most of this apparent increase in appreciation is due to a major increase in sales above our $2 million median, not an overall increase in prices across the town. As more house sell above our old median price, the median gets pulled up. But we may finally be seeing real appreciation as more of these houses that went contract after multiple bids close.

When you look at the sales price price/sf, that number is up 4.5% from $503/sf last year to $526/sf this year. The other key indicator is the sales price to assessment ratio and that is up only .73% over last year, but even there we are looking at real appreciation. Another key indicator does show actual appreciation. When you look at the August sales price to the original list price ratio (SP/OLP) we see a lot more hot sales. Of the 108 sales in August 2020, 44% of them were for full list or over list price. This compares to August 2019 when only 8% out of 63 sales sold at list or over list.

Sales under $1 million

When you look at the price ranges our inventory under $1 million is supply constrained with only 34 listings compared to 47 last year. Sales are the same as last year. One reason may be that these houses  are on smaller lots, so these buyers may be buying large lots further upstate Connecticut and in Taxchester, New York.

Sales from $1 – 4 million

The standout part of the market is from $1 – 4 million where we have 339 of our 461 sales so far this year. This is up 121 sales from last year. We also have 138 of our 193 contracts between $1 and $4 million. This our family market.

The remarkable thing is that last one million price range from $3 – 4 million. This is traditionally an older buyer with high school or college kids or empty nesters looking for the large house that marks a lifetime of hard work and success. This year it includes successful families with toddlers and young children that might have otherwise stayed in the city.

Sales over $4 million

Even over $4 million we are seeing more young families. Patty Ekvall and I have had a bunch of showings at 22 Cherry Tree Lane in Harbor Point in the Little Belle Haven Section of Riverside. This house is on for $7.25 million and with one exception, the buyers have all been families with elementary school or younger children. Two of the buyers have had houses in the Hamptons who now want a high-end house that is a commutable distance from NYC.

If you are interested in percentage change rather than absolute number changes the high-end is the place to look. Our contracts from $6.5 – 10 million are up 350% from last year. Last year we had 2 contracts in that price range, this year we have 9 contracts. For the whole market over $5 million we are up 24 sales and contracts to 58 transactions this year.

The high-end market was slow to get started, but really started to heat up in the middle of June and has only continued to get busier. To see that just look at transactions over $5 million in the last three days from 8/31 to 9/2. We’ve had 4 sales over $5M including 75 Byram Shore Road at $12,000,000 after it had been on the market for 971 days.

The really remarkable deals are the 4 listings in contract in that 3-day period. The Helmsley place finally went to contract after 1,540 days on market. On the shorefront, 32 Indian Point Lane is under contract and is listed at $21,000,000. Over in Belle Haven, 66 Glenwood Drive listed for $13,750,000 has a contract after being on and off the market since April 2018.

Some Do’s and Don’t

Some sellers are seeing all this activity and are reaching for the golden ring on their listing price. Despite all  this activity, that is probably not your best strategy. Any busy broker can tell you of houses that are overpriced and just aren’t getting showings. The idea that in a hot market people will come see houses that they think are overpriced is just wrong.

In most price ranges you are not competing against other Greenwich houses, but potentially two counties worth of similar listing. Traditionally, a Greenwich buyer was a Greenwich buyer. A Covid buyer just wants out and the particular town is not as crucial. Even if the market is tight here, buyers that think your house is priced to high are often looking Scarsdale or Bedford or New Canaan or Westport.

For buyers, be prepared and be prepared to move fast. You can check out my article in the Greenwich Sentinel from a couple of weeks ago about how to be the winning bidder in a hot market. Set up a meeting with your mortgage banker and your attorney, either in person or virtually. They need to know who you are before you need them. Also get the contact info for an inspector or two in case the first one is busy. You want to be able to get to contract before your competition. Even being a day faster can mean you get the house.  I have had two buyers contact me after they lost a house, because they were day late and would not have been a dollar short, they had the money.

The Future

So, can this market just keep getting hotter? The short answer is yes. We still have lots of contacts waiting to close. We have a lot of inventory coming on the market now, something that normally is a trickle just before Labor Day. These last thre weeks were the hottest of the year when you count sales and contracts. We also have lots of folks looking.

For the glass half empty types, contracts are down a fraction and inventory from $5 – 10 million is up by 7 listings. We also need more inventory under $600K as we only have 1 listing. For me personally, the last two weeks have been the busiest of the year, but fall is coming, a time when the market slows down after a couple of weeks of post-Labor Day inventory increases. This year that slowdown may be much later.



July 2020 Real Estate Report – Greenwich Contracts Soar by 119% Y-o-Y

Northern School Districts See Lots More Deals

In July 2020, we had 85 sales of single-family home in Greenwich. This blew away last year when we had 72 sales and is above our 10-year average of 74 sales. The sales are impressive, but what is really astounding is that we have 208 contracts waiting to close. This is up 119% from last year when we had a fairly normal 95 contracts at the end of July 2019. Contracts are up in every price range with a big jump in contracts between $1 and 4 million. Even our contracts over $4 million are up 21 contracts from last year going from 13 contract to 34 contracts are a jump of 161%

Our 10-year average for sales in August is 67 houses, so if a third of the houses under contract close in August we will still exceed our August average. The odds are that we are going to see a lot more than that. Of those 208 contracts, 148 are between $1 and $4 million, which means in Greenwich that most of those 148 families have school age children who want to be in their house before the school year starts.

July 2020 is also the third year in a row with more sales in July than in June, our traditional high sales month. It looks like we have a real market change with sales getting more complicated and shifting later in the year. The result is that first half of the year is just not going to look as good, since sales are shifting from June to July. What is going to be interesting is that August actually has a good chance this year of exceeding our already high July sales.

When you look back over the year you can see the market went through four phases this year. We opened the year with a typical run up in transactions; i.e., sales and contract. Everything was looking pretty normal in this first phase with transactions steadily rising, until the second phase, Covid lockdown came. We went from a good 33 transactions in the second week of March to only 17 transaction in the third week. While we never stopped showing houses, lots of people put off looking and our transactions dropped to an average of 20 transactions per week through the first week in May.

Starting with the second week of May, transactions increased steadily going from 33 transactions the first week of the third phase all the way up to 64 transactions in the third week of June when we reached the fourth phase that we are now. What we are seeing is a persistent high plateau of transactions with about 60 transactions each week for the last 5 weeks now.

As of 8/1/2020 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Last Mo Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 4 4 3 7 9 13 3.1 2.6 1.3
$600-$800K 11 13 4 17 19 32 4.1 2.9 2.8
$800K-$1M 23 9 9 18 26 35 6.2 5.6 2.6
$1-$1.5M 68 26 10 36 67 93 7.1 6.2 6.8
$1.5-$2M 66 41 12 53 54 95 8.6 5.9 5.5
$2-$3M 116 47 20 67 79 126 10.3 7.8 5.8
$3-$4M 83 34 11 45 50 84 11.6 8.4 7.5
$4-$5M 42 12 3 15 15 27 19.6 13.2 14.0
$5-6.5M 52 11 2 13 13 24 28.0 18.4 26.0
$6.5-$10M 53 7 2 9 7 14 53.0 32.2 26.5
> $10M 37 4 1 5 5 9 51.8 34.9 37.0
TOTAL 555 208 77 285 344 552 11.3 8.5 7.2


As transactions increased, new listings followed, which is normally just the opposite in our market. In a normal year, inventory comes on in February, March and April, goes to contract in April and May and closes in June and July. In this year, our contracts started rising in in the first week of June and surged through the rest of the month and only then did we start seeing more inventory. Of course you might not notice the new inventory coming on if you only looked at the bottomline numbers. New contracts have been at such a rapid pace that they are actually pulling down our inventory at a time the owners are listing an unprecedented number of houses for July.

The increase in sales, as mentioned, is across the board from $600K to $10 million plus. The only category where sales are not up is under $600K where we have 9 sales YTD plus 4 contracts with an inventory of only 4 houses leading to only 2.6 months of supply, i.e. very hot. If we had more listings under $600K we had more sales. You can pick any price category and it’s much more pro-seller this year. Out total sales even with the Covid lockdown phase are still up 48 sales or 19% from last year.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a house you want to look at contracts not sales, since contracts tells you what the market demand is now.

  • Demand has increased the most over $1.5 million with an average increase in contracts of 189%.
  • The biggest jump in deals is from $3 – 4 million where we have 34 contracts compared to only 7 contracts in July 2019, an increase of 386%.
  • The market from $4 – 5 million has also changed a lot. We only have 6 more contracts, but 16 less listings. Months of supply in this price category have dropped by more than a year to 13.2 months of supply from 24.8 months of supply in July 2019.
  • We have seen a slight up-tick in inventory over $5 million with 142 listings compared to 132 listings in 2019 or 7.5%, but don’t worry too much as we also seen a big jump in contracts from 7 last year to 22 deals in 2020.

When you look at months of supply what jumps out is just how remarkable July is. If you take sales and contracts every category is getting tighter. If you look at just deals that close in July and analyze them, everything up to $4 million dollars is accelerating. The other thing is just the absolute numbers.

For most of the U.S. anything under 6 months supply is considered a seller’s market, but then median price for a home sale in the US is $329,000; i.e., half of the houses in the U.S. sell for less than $329K. The last time a house sold in Greenwich for less than that amount was in 2012. The idea of 6 months of supply being a seller’s market only works up to about $2 million. Above $3 million its more like one year of supply and above $5 million its probably 18 months of supply. Very high-end house just take longer to sell. Based on those criteria we have a seller’s market all the way up to $6.5 million.

When you look at where the contracts are they are concentrated between $1 million and $4 million where we have 148 contracts or 71% of all contracts. This price range covers successful young families at the lower end and folks looking for a weekend house at the upper end. Also, we continue to see an increase Greenwich buyers who realize that now is the time to buy before prices go up, since our median price is already up 5.6% this year. Curiously, that is not where to focus.

Lots of people and the press focus on what is happening to the average sales price of houses and that is not a good number to look at in Greenwich if what you are trying to do is to see where the overall market is going and the median price is only a little better. Most years, the change in the average price is not due to changes in overall market demand, but due more to the mix of what is selling. Given the broad increase in sales and contracts 2020 may be the exception to that rule as we are seeing an increase at most price ranges, but for the moment other price change indicators do not agree.

  2019 Jul-20 % Diff
Price Changes
Average Sales Price  $      2,376,978  $         2,480,642 4.4%
Median Sales Price  $      1,866,666  $          1,970,375 5.6%
Median Sales Price/ sf  $                503  $                   504 0.2%
SP/Assmt Ratio                   1.45                        1.43 -1.0%
Market Demand
SP/OLP 89.0% 92.0% 3.4%
DOM                       149                             140 -6.4%

So, what are sales prices doing. As I said, if you look just at the average you’d say that prices are up 4.4%, which isn’t bad for 7 months appreciation. If you look at just the median, then sales prices are up 5.6%. But, if you take a look at cost per square foot for  July 2020 compared to the median for 2019 then prices are only up 0.2% and if you look at the sales price to the tax assessors FMV assessment then we are actually down 1.0%. Throw in the sales price to the original list price which is up 3.4% and the median days on market, which is down 9 days or 6.4% you can get really confused, but it’s not that hard.

The median price is up, and the average price is up, but not as much. This is because, more higher-end houses are selling, but not compared to the very high-end so the median is up, but the average is up a little less. That’s the mix of what’s selling.

Overall prices in 2020 are flat based on price/sf and SP/Assmt ratio. This means we have some motivated buyers and many of the multiple offer deals that are rumored to be high have not closed as yet. At the same time the market is tightening as the sales price to original list price is up. Also the days on market is down so things are a bit tighter. Sellers are pricing their house better as indicated by the SP/OLP ratio and there is more demand as indicated by the sales price.

Another factor in why prices aren’t increasing yet is that many buyers are looking well beyond Greenwich, but not just in New Canaan and Darien, but also in Westchester County and even New Jersey. Our market looks tight inside our borders, but buyers are not coming to Greenwich per se, but fleeing the high density and lack of social distance in NYC. They are looking overall and hence have lots more choices, having said that there are lots more buyers for all the areas that have backyards and amenities. There, as always, Greenwich stacks up pretty well.

While we may not have seen a significant increase in sales price per square foot and sales price to assessment ratio as our 208 contracts close I expect that we will. There is just too much demand and I’m hearing of too many bidding wars for prices not to go up. When you look the 85 deals that closed in July, 25 of them went for the original list price or more. This percentage is up from 17% for all 2020 deal. Most of the deals that closed in July were signed in the Phase 3 ramp-up period. It will be interesting to see what percentage of deals signed in July go for over list.

Not only are some price ranges hotter than others, some areas of town are hotter. When you look at the market bey school district you can see that our areas with the largest acreage have become the most popular. Our two most northerly school districts are where the action is. North St and Parkway elementary school districts are in a tie for largest percentage of transactions with 96 sales and transactions each. As they used to say in elementary school, Parkway is the “most improved” in the Covid era with transaction up a third from 15.5% pre-Covid to 20.4% in the Covid era.

Elem. School Sold Pending Contngt Total Post Covid % Pre-Covid % Diff
North Street 58 24 14 96 20.4% 21.4% -0.9%
Parkway 46 36 14 96 20.4% 15.5% 4.9%
Riverside 45 11 13 69 14.7% 11.7% 3.0%
Glenville 25 11 5 41 8.7% 10.7% -2.0%
Old Greenwich 27 9 6 42 8.9% 9.7% -0.8%
North Mianus 28 5 8 41 8.7% 7.8% 1.0%
Julian Curtiss 12 6 13 31 6.6% 6.8% -0.2%
Cos Cob 10 7 7 24 5.1% 11.7% -6.5%
Dundee 7 4 3 14 3.0% 1.9% 1.0%
New Lebanon 1 4 5 10 2.1% 2.9% -0.8%
Hamilton Avenue 2 1 2 5 1.1% 0.0% 1.1%
Grand Total 262 118 90 470

School Districts in the Covid Era – Sales, Contract – 2020 Covid Era % vs Pre Covid %

Riverside Elementary School District has also seen a significant increase in transactions in the Covid part of this year, while Cos Cob has seen the biggest decrease. This doesn’t mean that Cos Cob School District sales are down compared to 2019, they are not only that there has been a shift in the post April 2020 sale percentage to Parkway and Riverside.

2020 Pre-Covid vs Covid-Era Sales and Contracts

When you combine to the two most northerly school districts with Riverside you have more than half the deals in town. Does this mean we are going to see more crowded schools; possibly. What isn’t clear is how many of these families have school age kids that will be going to public school. And, in some cases a family with school age kids may just be replacing a family with school age kids so there is no net increase in students. Also Parkway and North St have additional capacity, but Riverside which already has our largest elementary population and possibly Central Middle School may see some expanded enrollment.

After years of a shrinking, to flat population having a few more people in town will be a good thing, particularly if everyone has electricity. 🙂



New York Times, CT Post and Greenwich Time have articles about hot Greenwich/CT market (MP quoted)

New York Times logoHartford Courant

Greenwich Time Logo


With contracts up 100% over last year we are seeing lots of interest from the press about the increase in sales and the ways that the Coroanavirus have changed real estate in Greenwich and Connecticut. Here are three stories that I got quoted in about how the market is changing.

5 Ways the Coronavirus Has Changed Suburban Real Estate – NY Times

Agents: CT homes sales ‘are off the charts’ even if numbers don’t yet show it – CT Post/Hartford Courant/Hearst

New Yorkers continue to hunt for homes in Greenwich – Greenwich Time (features my listings at 1076 Lake Avenue and 505 E. Putnam)


Contracts Up 100% in the Hot Greenwich Real Estate Market – Mid-July 2020 Update

As of the middle of July, we have had 287 single family home sales in Greenwich. Of those sales, 44 or 15.3% went for list or over list price. Many of these, and others that sold for under list price were multiple bid situations. Many of these transactions were pre-Covid and you can expect that the percent of list and over list deals will go up. (I’m working on one now.)

Our contracts only really started to accelerate in the second week in May when we went a slow 23 transactions, sales and contracts, to 33 contracts in a week. Last week we had 58 transactions down slightly from 64 transaction the previous week when the Gold Coast conveyance tax increase kicked in on July 1st. The large percentage of those 58 transactions were contracts being signed.

Single Family Homes Sales and Contracts Each Week in 2020

The other interesting thing is where these list and over list contracts are. If you read my neighborhood report last week, you can predict where the competitive sales are. They are in the hot neighborhoods. Old Greenwich, Riverside and Glenville are seeing their fair share of over list activity. Mid-country and Cos Cob are seeing hot sales and the” backcountry is back” area is also seeing over list activity, while we’ve yet to see this in Byram and Pemberwick.

Closed sales for list or over list in Greenwich, CT as of 7/14/20

What’s really remarkable is the number of outstanding contracts we have. As of 7/14/20 we have 198 contracts which is an amazing number when you consider that last year that number was around 99 contracts. This is a 100% Covid driven increase. You can be sure that many of those 198 contracts went for list or over list. The market is hot and so far is only getting hotter with each passing week.

On the inventory side we are getting new inventory, but it is going off fast also. We presently have 566 listings; this is down from 640 listings as of the end of July 2019 or a drop of 12%. We had been done down about 20% in inventory, so only 12% down is an improvement, but some price ranges in some neighborhoods are very much combat buying.

I have spoken to several of our longest serving agents, in some cases their tenure goes back 40 years. They say they have never seen a market like this; not after 9/11, not in the go-go years of the 80s, nor in the bubble years of the digits decade. This really is an unprecedented time.