WHY AVERAGE HOUSE APPRECIATION NUMBERS AREN’T ALL THAT USEFUL FOR BUYERS AND SELLERS

Real estate appreciations statistics can be dangerously deceptive leading both buyers and sellers to make expensive decisions that in hindsight they wouldn’t have done. Here’s a guide to some of the bigger red flags to watch for.

       How are average price appreciation numbers deceptive?

When you see a figure like average house prices have increased by 5.803% you need to ask a bunch of questions for that number to mean anything and even then, for most sellers and buyers, that number is of only marginal usefulness. Often this appreciation is stated as Y-O-Y or year over year, but are they looking at all sales in the first half of 2018 compared to all sales in the first half of 2017 or is it just June 2018 versus June 2017 sales.

      How many sales?

If you are talking just the monthly sales, then the appreciation number is less reliable as it contains fewer sales. Even worse, if we are talking appreciation on a monthly basis for a small subset of houses, say just sales in Cos Cob, the appreciation number is practically worthless since purely by luck you might have 5 predominantly higher sales this year compared to 8 predominantly lower-end sales last year. This is no way to determine if houses in Cos Cob are appreciating.  So, look at the time period and the number of sales that are compared in year over sales.

     The end price ranges works a little, the middle doesn’t

Some people look at appreciation within a price range. The problem with this approach is that houses appreciate out of the price range, so a house that was $989,000 and appreciates to $1,044,000, an appreciation of 5.6% i,s not counted in the under $1 million dollar range and may actually be bringing down statistics, like $/s.f., for the over $1 million price range.

For the middle price ranges this effect applies at both the top and bottom of the range and rarely does what’s moving up into the price range balance out what is moving out of the price range. So looking just at the price appreciation from say $1 million to $1.5 million doesn’t tell you anything. Prices could be going up, but if 6 houses move out of the high-end of the price range and 3 move in at the bottom due to significant market appreciation, the average price for that range could actually show a drop in average price.

For the very top and bottom ranges, this effect is a little ameliorated as houses can only move into the bracket one way. If house prices are going up at the high-end for all houses over $10 million or down at the low end you for all houses under $600,0000 you can be sure that is a real price change, but the same can not be said for the reverse.

             Luxury is not a percentage

Another variation of this is defining the luxury market as the top x% of the market, say 10%. The problem here is that sales vary from month to month so sometimes the top 10% in Greenwich might be at $5.5 million and other times it might be at $4 million. The result is that the average price for “luxury” sales in the 10% has very little meaning.

This luxurry by percentage also doesn’t work for more homogeneous communities, where the top 10% is similar in price to the top quarter. Lastly, I don’t want to be the one telling someone with a gorgeous multi-million dollar house that it is not a luxury house because it’s not in the top 10% of a high-end community.

                 Is seasonality a factor?

Another number that you see for appreciation is quarter-to-quarter sales price appreciation. This is another number that I personally ignore. The problem is that residential real estate has a major seasonality effect as you can see in the 10 year average line below. What is mostly selling in the first quarter are the leftovers from last year which tend to sell at a discount; whereas in the second quarter you have a lot of new listings selling with much shorter days on market and at closer to original list price. Each quarter has a different mix that problem so what appears to be a price appreciation/depreciation from one quarter to another is often just the seasonality of the sales.

                Differences in what price ranges are selling

But, by far, the biggest issue is a change in the mix of what is selling. Let’s say house prices are flat, heck let’s even say some high-end house prices are drifting downward, but if we have fewer low-end sales and more high-end sales than in the prior period the average is going to go up even though the value of individual houses is going down. This is just what happened this year. Our sales below $1.5 million are down while our sales over $10 million are up 350% from 2 sales to 7 sales. The result is that our average sale went from $2,402,151 to $2,541,557 this year an increase of 5.8%, but house values haven’t gone up nearly 6% in one year.

               Median helps, but still has a mix problem

What some people say is don’t use the arithmetic average a/k/a the mean, use the median. (Instead of adding all the numbers up and dividing by the number of sales. Let’s line all the sale prices up and take the one in the middle.) In 2017 our first half median was $1,817,500 and the median for the first half of 2018 was $1,865,000 or an increase of 2.6% in the median price Y-O-Y or less than half of the Y-O-Y appreciation in the mean.

The median has the advantage in places like Greenwich where the high prices are so high of having lower volatility, so seven more high end sales only move the median the same as seven fewer sales below the median. The problem is still that if you have fewer sales below the “middle” number and more sales above that number the median is still going to go up even if all the values of the houses are drifting downward.

            The better way: sales price to assessment ratio

Now the ratio that I like to use is the sales price to assessment ratio. This compares what the tax assessor thought the value was at the last revaluation (10/1/2015) to what is sold for this year. Now some folks think that the Tax Assessor wants a high value for houses, but that isn’t so. What she really wants is for the relative value of all the houses to be correct so each house pays it’s fair share of the total budget as approved by the RTM. If the relative value of every house was increased equally, you’d still end up paying the same tax, so she has no incentive to inflate house prices.

            Problems with SP/Assmt ratio

The mandated assessment ratio is 70% so if a house sells for 1.42 times the assessment, (the reciprocal of 0.7) then there has been no appreciation. Now you would think that you can simply compare this year’s SP/Assmt ratio to last year’s ratio and get a better estimate of actual house appreciation in Greenwich and you’d be right, but it’s not quite that easy.

The problem is two part; changing properties and garbage data. The SP/Assmt ratio number are usually pretty tightly grouped between 1.35 and 1.70, so if you throw in a larger number say a ratio of 4 or 5 it moves the average a lot. This happens when a property is sold for land value and then a big house is built on it. It’s great appreciation, but most of the additional value comes from the beautiful new house.

The other issue is just bad data, agents miss a decimal point or two and the assessment ratio comes out to be 1,301 rather than 1.301 as happened on one listing this year. That single number totally destroys the average, so a couple of times a year I calculate the SP/Assmt ratio after taking out the top 10% and the bottom 10%.

Does knowing the sales appreciation percentage help in ?

Now you would think that is a pretty good number, new construction is removed (as well as a few demolitions), most human errors are removed and seasonality is not a major factor, but just what good is that number? If you are a buyer or seller trying to negotiate a sale does it really tell you what the value of that particular house has done. It’s of some help, but you really need to look at what houses of similar style, price range, condition and age have done in that particular neighborhood. When you do this in Greenwich you will find that there aren’t enough sales to be statistically significant. So the tow wide appreciation percentage may be the best hard number you can get as to what the overall market is doing, but it’s not going to tell you whether your particular house has gone and by how much. And, it definitely won’t help to figure out what it’s value is likely to be over the next couple of years.

In the end the best thing to do is consult an experienced Realtor when it comes to making those decisions and take all those numbers out there with a grain of salt.

 

 

 

 

 

Six Thoughts on How to Make Greenwich Better

Greenwich is a great place to live. One of its greatest assets is the people that volunteer to serve on a wide variety of boards and in elected offices. These people bring a wealth of talents, education and prior experience to these positions and in the main come up with useful, cost effective solutions to problems.

Having said that one of the things that the Town could be do better is adopting more innovative solutions, more quickly. Some things I’d love to see are:

 

  1. A “Greenwich Card”

Right now, you have to have a beach card, a library card, a golf card, a parking card and several other forms of licenses to enjoy many of the benefits in Greenwich. The question is why do we need a different card for every activity. This system penalizes the occasional user. If you only play tennis once a year a $35 annual fee is excessive, particularly for a resident whose taxes help build and maintain these facilities.

Let’s have one card, that you only have to apply for one time, that lets you use the beach, the library, the golf course and can even be used to pay parking fees. One card would save both residents and government time and its basic cost could be rolled into our taxes. If you wanted to go the beach once a year, no problem and no standing in line for a beach card whether one time or annual. (Let’s also throw in 10 hours of metered parking.)

 

  1. Simplify and Make More Certain Land Use Decisions

At the present time, lots of simple land use decisions require lots of time, lots of money and lots of professionals. The usual procedure is you need to file an extensive formal application and will likely need to hire an attorney, a surveyor, a soil scientist and possible others. You and your hired professionals may also may have to appear before three or four land use agencies and wait hours for your application to be called. At the end of the day most of the applications end up getting approved.

But, that’s for the people that apply for permits. What we as Realtors see every week, are the number of people that got someone to do the work without the permits and are now having problems selling their homes. We see this kind of “illegal” work on properties in Byram on 0.1 acre and in the backcountry large lots and everywhere in between. We need an intermediate system where proposals that are likely to be approved, can be reviewed, tweaked as necessary and permitted quicker and for less money.

Now I’m not suggesting this procedure for big projects, but things like variances to setbacks for a deck where there are no neighbors shouldn’t need a full review. Either staff could approve the change or where a state statute requires the approval of the Commission these items could go on the consent calendar as the RTM does with motions. Any item needing a full review could be pulled off of the consent calendar with a majority vote.

As part of this the staff in each agency should be given more authority. Right now, the staff can’t say yes. They can say maybe or it’s possible, but woe be it if they say the full commission would allow something no matter how certain. At present lots of small things require full hearings. These commission hearings can go on for hours and even into the next day, before the application is heard. Once heard it may have to come back, for review of even smaller tweaks and then the homeowner may have to go to another commission who may not meet for another month(s). A lot of these decisions could be made at the staff level. If so we’d have shorter hearings, less expense for applicants and more compliance with the regulations.

 

  1. Making More Use of Under-Utilized Schools

Today, we have several elementary schools that are operating at full, or more than full capacity, and other elementary schools with empty classrooms. The geographic lines are very strictly drawn about where you have to go to school. I have a client whose son goes to Parkway, which does an excellent job, and they’d like to keep their son there with his friends. They are reluctant to move, because if he moves even a short distance out of the district he’ll have to go to a different elementary school unless he can get special permission.

Why not let students anywhere in town select any of the under-utilized schools? We relieve pressure on one school and better use the facilities at another school. It might actually help with some of our redistricting issues. If the parents bear the cost of transportation, it’s worth a trial.

 

  1. More Vacation Homes in Greenwich

For over a century Greenwich was known as a great place to have a summer house. We need to bring that back. Much of the pressure on sellers in the 2 and 4 acres zone is due to the loss of demand for summer and weekend homes. When I moved to the backcountry 20 years ago, half of the houses on our street were owned by people who lived out of town.

The real estate agencies here in town need to do a better job of bringing this market back. If you are a homeowner who has a house that would be a great weekend house, ask your agent what their firm is doing to reach out to the weekender and vacation home market. If you live here, tell your friends from out of town what a great place this is for weekenders and summer people. And if you are in town government there could always be a summer version of the Greenwich Card.

 

  1. Publicize our lower taxes to encourage buyers

When you got your tax bill for this fiscal year it was the same as last year or may even have gone down. Not many people outside of Greenwich know that. If you do a news search on Google for Greenwich lower property taxes 2018, very little comes up. My article from last week’s Greenwich Sentinel is there, but not much else. We have a great story to tell, but it isn’t getting much coverage.

Our sales over $10 million are up 350% from last year and our contracts are up 25% (now sales overall are down 5% for the year, but that’s mostly due to the $1.0 – $1.5 million range which seems to be a problem throughout the area). If you a reporter, you should tell your assignments editor there’s a story here and it’s likely to get better as those 120 contracts close.

  1. Support the Greenwich Sentinel

One of the great things about Greenwich is we have an excellent weekly paper covering a wide variety of people and stories and it deserves your support. It helps build the sense of community here in Greenwich and gives local vendors a way to reach people here in Greenwich. If you’ve been getting it free you should take out a paid subscription and support hometown news.

 

FIRST HALF 2018 GREENWICH REAL ESTATE MARKET REPORT – Taxes Down, Transactions Up

For the first half of 2018, we had 273 sales of single family homes. This is down 13 sales from the first half of 2017 or 5%, but the good news is that we have 120 contracts waiting to close which is up 25 contracts from last year. When you add the contracts to the sales we have 393 houses that have gone off the market or an increase of 3%. So, you could say that the first half of 2018 was much like the first half of 2017 and you would be partially right, but we do have several significant differences.

Most of these changes can be attributed to Greenwich’s low property taxes and the BET’s remarkable ability to keep our already low taxes flat for this year. Our mill rate for sewered properties continues to be 11.871. If you leave outside of the area with town sewers (mainly the 2 and 4 acres zones) your Greenwich property taxes actually went down for the July 2018 – June 2019 fiscal tax year to 11.369. These folks are only paying $7,958 per million dollars of valuation.

As of 7/1/18 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Last Mo. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 5 0 1 1 8 8 3.8 4.7 5.0
$600-$800K 13 8 3 11 23 31 3.4 3.1 4.3
$800K-$1M 33 10 7 17 29 39 6.8 6.3 4.7
$1-$1.5M 76 22 11 33 44 66 10.4 8.6 6.9
$1.5-$2M 91 21 11 32 45 66 12.1 10.3 8.3
$2-$3M 143 27 13 40 48 75 17.9 14.3 11.0
$3-$4M 105 16 11 27 34 50 18.5 15.8 9.5
$4-$5M 54 5 2 7 15 20 21.6 20.3 27.0
$5-6.5M 62 6 5 11 16 22 23.3 21.1 12.4
$6.5-$10M 53 5 0 5 4 9 79.5 44.2
> $10M 35 0 2 2 7 7 30.0 37.5 17.5
TOTAL 670 120 66 186 273 393 14.7 12.8 10.2

Under $800,000 sales are down, in fact under $600,000 our transactions (sales + contracts) are down 33%. This dramatic drop in sales does not mean that all of a sudden entry-level buyers and downsizers moving to more modest homes are suddenly fleeing the Greenwich market. What it means is that we have fewer houses to buy.

That 33% drop in transactions under $600,000 is only 4 fewer transaction in 2018 than in 2017, down from 12 transactions to 8 transactions. If we had more inventory under $800K, we would have more sales. What is encouraging is that the reason for less inventory is not fewer listings. We actually have more listings under $2 million, but the houses that were under $800K, and particularly under $600K, have appreciated nicely over the last couple of years, so our low end has gotten higher valued.

Overall, if you take what used to be called the Klein index (sales price/assessment), when Stanley Klein’s numbers were the bible with what was going on in Greenwich real estate, you get 7.8% appreciation for all the sales since the Tax Assessor’s last revaluation as of 10/1/15. If you do the same calculation for the 8 sales under $600K that we have had in 2018, you get 13.7% appreciation or 75% more appreciation that the rest of the market saw on average. So, if you are looking to buy in Byram, Pemberwick or the R-7 zone north of the Post Road in Old Greenwich and Riverside, you had best be prepared to move quickly.

As stated above, we are down 13 sales in the first half of this year compared to last year and if you want you can blame nearly all of it on June’s lackluster sales which were down 12 sales compared to last June. If you want to get really specific you can blame all of that June loss in sales on the price range from $1.0 – $2.0 million where sales were down 10 houses compared to last June.

Fortunately, there is no need to panic as this same segment was also strong for contracts with 43 contracts waiting to close up 9 contracts from last year. This increase in contracts is very promising as the tax changes seemed to hit this price segment particularly hard earlier in the year We saw more inventory and lower sales. We still have significantly more inventory from $800K to $4 million than last year with 41 more listings, but that’s also the exact same price range where contracts are up 28 over last year. Bottom line you should see a strengthening mid-market in the next couple of months.

At the high-end the market has cooled a little, but we are still doing better than last year, particularly over $10 million. In the first half of 2018 we 7 sales over $10 million compared to only 2 sales in the first half of 2017. These high-end sales have a disproportionate impact on sales volume.

Through the end of June $693,845,087 worth of houses sold in Greenwich, CT, a town of 62,000. This gave us an average sale of $2,541,557 and a median sale of $1,865,000. There are a few other towns that have higher averages, but not many of towns of our size can match our sales volume.

 

The one area in the high-end that has seen a significant June retreat is the $6.5 – 10 million price range. While inventory is down 9 listings from last year to 53 houses in this price range our June sales were down from 5 sales last year to no sales this month. We do have 5 contracts in this price range which is up 1 from last year. The result is that month of supply for the $6.5 – 10 million price range jumped from about 4 years of supply to 6.7 years of supply (literally off the chart.)

This is at the same time that we had only 2.5 years of supply of houses over $10 million or down an amazing 7 years reduction in months of supply from last year. At the high-end, a half dozen sales or more inventory can make these numbers jump around, but before June 2018 all the high-end was looking good.

We could still do with more buyers and with a little less uncertainty from Washington, we might get some. Still we are chugging along, with nearly every price range having something that is good news.

 

Surviving the Move: Three Mid-Market Listings in Greenwich

by Mark Pruner

mark@bhhsne.com, 203-969-7900

They say that there are seven events that are major traumas in your life. Most of them are dramatic and soul rendering; death of a parent or child, life threatening illness, divorce, loss of a job, imprisonment and then there is moving. The good thing about moving is that you actually have a fair amount of control over that last event, unlike the other major life stressors.

I know because before I was 12 years old, my parents had moved 13 times and were experts at minimizing the trauma of losing your friends, school and neighborhood. My father had a successful career at an international oil company and they way they promoted you then was to give you your bosses job, but in another office, and usually in another state.

My mother was wonderful at making a move an adventure. From the ages of 2 to 12 for me, and even younger for my brothers, Russ and David, we always looked at moving as a way to meet new friends, experience different world outlooks (though we wouldn’t have described it that way at the time) and move to new and interesting neighborhoods.

Today, I have listed houses for sale for three families that are doing the same things all from very different neighborhoods in Greenwich. They include a couple moving within Greenwich and downsizing, a couple whose kids have left home and they are moving to NYC to be closer to work and the activities there and an international family being transferred to Florida. Each seller presents a different challenge to make the house most appealing for today’s market.

31 Guinea Rd., Greenwich, CT 06830

The couple downsizing have a beautiful colonial off of Stanwich Road in the northeast section of the 2-acre zone. The house, located at 31 Guinea, is an immaculate, beautifully cared for, 4-bedroom house, that could of have had an open house the day that I first walked in to meet my clients.

The 4,722 s.f. house sits on 2.3 acres and was reduced to $1.85M. It would be appealing to a younger downsizer whose kids come back for holidays or a growing young family. It’s Parkway ES and Central MS, but it has a bit of their parent’s house feel for younger buyers. While I thought it was move-in condition, one young couple who came back twice estimated it would take $500K to make it “their house” with their look and feel.

Front3

Meanwhile, in Riverside, I have another house at $1.75M located at 11 Wilmot Lane in Riverside. My clients took a 1927 colonial with3,479 s.f.  on 0.25 acres that had been expanded and renovated, but not well. In some ways, they unrenovated fixed it. They only owned for it 4 years, but each year they improved a major aspect of the house and created a very- comfortable colonial with a modern feel.

When they moved in the whole first floor had an exaggerated open floor plan; it was literally one big room. They smartly added a wall along the central stair case defining a family room/kitchen area on the left side and a formal living room with fireplace in the center. They also enclosed another open area on the left side and made a comfortable media room with a huge flat screen TV for movies and cartoons for their young daughters. (Disappointingly for me, even though they are from a country that is participating in the World Cup, they are not using this Cinemascope experience to watch the World Cup limiting my pre-showing conversations with them.)

Front2

Meanwhile over at 108 Pecksland a couple raised a family on 2.54 acres in a 3,127 s.f. house with a pool and pool house and is on for $2.15M in what has become the new Golden Triangle. Pre-recession the Golden Triangle was the north central section of the 2-acre zone that nestled below the Merritt Parkway along Lake Avenue.

Now, that post-recession people are looking for places closer to town, the Golden Triangle has moved south, closer to town as evidenced by days on market and sales price to list price ratio for listings in this new Golden Triangle. This house is a very elegant 1936 house with a modern kitchen and a family room addition that can accommodate the large screen TV on the wall above the new third fireplace. (Large screen TVs have done more to reshape today’s layout than anything since the large center islands in kitchens.)

This classy house could be a movie set for a 1930 romance or a black and white film noir where Philip Marlowe visits his upscale clients, but the interesting thing about it is that also a candidate for a historic overlay. If P&Z were to grant a historic overlay then you could put a second house on this lot just as if this 2.54 acres were in the 1 acre zone. The historic overlay zone was designed to permanently protect our historic houses and this house would be a great one to preserve.

All in all, these three houses epitomize what is going on in mid-market for both buyers and sellers. One family is downsizing within in Greenwich to a condo, an empty nester is returning to New York City for all the city has to offer, and one family is going to Miami for the career opportunity. It will be interesting to see who the buyers are for each property.

May ’18 Greenwich Real Estate – New Tax Law Increases & Decreases Sales

May 2018 was a good month for transactions, but not everyone may feel that way as the tax acts changes explained below work their way through the housing market.

In May, our single-family home inventory was up significantly to a monthly high for the year of 687 single family homes listed on the Greenwich MLS. This is 33 more listings more than we had at the end May last year or an inventory increase of 5%. The mid-market price range saw an even greater percentage increase. Between $800,000 and $2 million we saw an increase of 51 listings which was a 31% increase over last year. This increase was partially offset by a decrease of 20 listings in our over $4 million market or a high-end inventory decrease of 9%.

As of 6/2/18 Inventory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Mo. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 4 1 1 2 7 8 2.9 3.3 4.0
$600-$800K 16 7 5 12 19 26 4.2 4.0 3.2
$800K-$1M 29 10 5 15 22 32 6.6 5.9 5.8
$1-$1.5M 94 19 12 31 33 52 14.2 11.8 7.8
$1.5-$2M 91 27 9 36 34 61 13.4 9.7 10.1
$2-$3M 147 34 6 40 35 69 21.0 13.8 24.5
$3-$4M 101 13 7 20 23 36 22.0 18.2 14.4
$4-$5M 56 8 2 10 13 21 21.5 17.3 28.0
$5-6.5M 63 9 3 12 11 20 28.6 20.5 21.0
$6.5-$10M 55 3 1 4 4 7 68.8 51.1 55.0
> $10M 31 1 2 3 5 6 31.0 33.6 15.5
TOTAL 687 132 53 185 206 338 16.7 13.2 13.0

On the sales side we had 53 sales up 4 sales from last May. The good news is that the price ranges where increases in sales were the greatest are the two price categories where we were also seeing the biggest increase in inventory; $1 – 1.5M and $1.5 – 2.0M. This increase in sales brought down the months of supply for the $1.5 – 2.0M price range by 2 months to 13.4 months of supply, (Months of Supply: If no more listings came on the market in that price range it would take 13.4 months to sell all the listing at the sales rate so far this year.)

Now 53 sales is better than last year, but it is not as good as our ten-year average of 58 sales. All the cold, damp and snow weather earlier this year has not been great for sales. Luckily, by May people were out looking and making offers faster than last year so our contracts are up over last year.

The price range where people were really busy was $2 – 3 million where we were up 14 contracts over last year. This will catch us up, and then some, with the YTD drop in sales in that price category, where YTD we are down by 10 sales. Somebody, who looks on at sales will report this drop in sales as a problem. Luckily, it is a problem that will cure itself in the next couple of months as these contracts close.

We have 147 houses listed between $2 and $3 million, but unlike the next three lower price ranges this is the same as last year. Year-to-date we have 35 sales from $2 – 3 million, 34 sales from $1.5 – 2.0 million and 33 sales from $1.0 – 1.5 million. The two price ranges between and $1 and $2 million are very interesting. From $1.5 million to $2.0 million our sales are up 8 sales from last year to the aforesaid 34 sales, and we have 27 contracts pending which is up 3 contracts from May of 2017. Just below that from $1.0 – $1.5 million our sales are down 11 houses and we have 19 contracts pending down 3 from last year.

The curious thing is that if you ask agents the whole segment from $1 – 2 million feels slow with significant amounts of time between both showings and offers. This is because we are up 185 listings in this price range, 43 more than last year. The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act has encouraged owners thinking about moving to a low tax state to retire to accelerate their plans resulting in more inventory.

This $1.5 – 2.0 million range is where we see another issue for Greenwich house sales which is the locked-in, working, Westchester downsizers. Before TCJA, the Westchester downsizers generally waited until after they retired and had to pay the high Westchester property taxes out of their savings, before they sold their place in Westchester and bought a place in Greenwich. These retiring downsizers were principally in the 65 – 75 year age range.

With the loss of deductibility of these high property taxes caused by TCJA, they are looking to move earlier, often when they become empty-nesters in the 50 – 65 year age range. The problem for them, is that unlike the buyers who are driving the over $4 million market, carrying two houses is not easy and they are having trouble selling their houses in Westchester. The result is more inventory, more lookers and a couple more sales, but not enough to heat up the market.

The price range, from $1.0 – $1.5 is where TCJA has had its greatest impact. Our inventory is way up from 62 listings to 94 listings as many of our own retiring downsizers decamp to Florida where sales over $1 million are seeing a nice bump up. We have always had folks retiring and moving to Florida. This increase in people selling is likely just a one-year bump as this group adjust to a new steady state moving rate at an earlier age.

The demand side of the $1.0 – 1.5 price range is where TCJA’s $10,000 limitation on the deductibility of property taxes and SALT is having the greatest impact. Most of the people buying in this property range, like most of America, need a mortgage to purchase a house. To buy in this price range they are also likely earning over $198,000 where Connecticut income taxes exceeds $10,000 for a joint return. Alternatively, on the property tax side, those buying a house assessed at over $1.2M FMV are paying more than $10,000 in property taxes to Greenwich. So, in total buyers in this price range are going to be paying a significant part of their Connecticut income tax and Greenwich property tax burden in after tax dollars.

As a result, they have less money to spend on monthly payments at the same time that interest rates are rising. For young families the result is that they can’t get the house they want. This segment is also losing demand due to the locked in Westchester downsizers, whether working or retired, who want to move, but can’t.

This is not a Chicken Little situation; the sky is not falling in Greenwich. Transactions, sales and contracts, are up. Sales last month were up over last year. Inventory above $4 million is down. Under $1 million it is still a seller’s market.

What we have is a series of adjustments as a result of the new tax act effect working their way through the NY metro real estate market. Much of that will be accomplished this year and the worriers will have to find something new to worry about next year. However, at least for this year, the young family reaching above $1 million for a house for their growing family, and the locked-in Westchesterite, and the Greenwich retiree wanting to move to warmer weather with a house under $2 million may find that 2018 is not be the best of times. For folks with houses over $4 million they are seeing a much better market than last year with months of supply way down due to the lower inventory and higher sales.

If you would like more information please feel free to contact me:

 

 

 

Greenwich Neighborhoods – Who’s Up and Whose Down

This year has been different from prior years with more transactions and less inventory at the higher end and fewer sales and more inventory in the heart of our market from $1 – $3 million. The result is that our neighborhoods have seen a shift in activity levels and demand.

Greenwich Neighborhood Real Estate Activity – April 2018

Greenwich Neighborhood Real Estate Activity – April 2018

South of the Parkway

The largest number of listings in the GMLS system is South of the Parkway which extends all the way from the Merritt to the Post Road (except for those parts in another neighborhood like Old Greenwich or Glenville.) I tend to think of it as a shorthand for the mid-country one and two-acre zones, but it also includes other zone. As usual this area has the most listing with 211 listings or 38% of all our listings.

This area has the highest average price of any area in town with $3.18M and the most sales with 46 sales. It also has our lowest appreciation rate when you compare the sales to the Greenwich Tax Assessor’s assessment as of October 1. 2015. The assessment ratio is 70% so if prices had not changed at all the Sales Price/Assessment ratio would 1.42 the reciprocal of .70. For this area the assessment ratio is 1.52 which is only 7% appreciation in 2.6 years, but the good news is that it is appreciation.

North of the Parkway

North of the Parkway is doing better this year, primarily because our high-end market is doing better this year. You can see this, because this area had a sale for $11,100,000 and it still only came in third. Both Riverside with a $14.5M sale and South of the Parkway with a $12,075,000 came in above the northern section of town. North of the Parkway did have nearly the highest average with $3,171,630 compared to South of the Parkway’s average of $3,180,354. These nearly identical high averages bode well for the northern half of the town. Together these two areas represent almost 2/3rds of our listings so this improvement in the higher end is good news for the town.

North of the Parkway still however has some ways to go on the sales side as the 113 houses listings there constitute 24% of all our listings, but only 7% of the sales. The good news for backcountry is that the trend is in the right direction. In fact, backcountry has the second highest appreciation SP/Assmt ratio at 2.04 or 89% appreciation, but this, like all early season numbers in this article, factors in the effect of a few anomalous sales which causes averages to swing wildly in the first half of the year. With only 10 sales, I don’t think Old Greenwich needs to worry that they will have less appreciation than backcountry by the end of the year.

Old Greenwich & Riverside

Old Greenwich and Riverside are actually pretty diverse when it comes to real estate. Prices so far this year have varied from $740,000 to the aforementioned high sale of $14,500,000. Each area is just under 9% of our inventory, while on the sales side OG is 12.5% of sales and Riverside an even more competitive 15.8% of sales, so both areas are still quite popular. As you might expect their sales price to original list price ratio is also quite high at around 93% compared to 91% for the town-wide average.

As between the two areas, you can see some of the popularity shift towards Riverside as we’ve seen the last couple of years. We have greater sales in Riverside than in Old Greenwich, 24 houses to 19 houses and a higher average price of $2.7M in Riverside compared to $2.2M in Old Greenwich. They are still premier places to live in the NY metro areas and demand exceed supplies supply which is what drives these high average sales price.

Cos Cob & Glenville

Unlike north and south of the parkway and OG and Riverside these two areas are not contiguous, but buyers who look in one area often look in the other area across town. These two areas have not reached the heady averages of OG and Riverside, but they are headed that way. Cos Cob has a higher average price at $1.71M compared to Glenville’s $1.02M, but Glenville sales have fewer days on market and a slightly higher sales price to original sales price ratio.

Both areas are smaller with limited inventory, however, when you compare the percentage of sales to the percentage of inventory town wide, the sale percentage is 3 – 4 times more than the inventory percentage. We seen more inventory in $1 – 1.5 million range this year and slightly slower sales so these ratios are down a little bit from prior years.

Summary

Compared to last year our inventory is up and so are our contracts, while our sales are about the, albeit with a shift to the higher-end.  The movement of people from Westchester is also starting to build. I recently did an open house at 108 Pecksland which is on for $2.3M; we had 9 groups come through and 6 of those were from Westchester. I expect the trend of more Westchester buyers will continue, especially as the BET proposed and the RTM just approved a budget with no property tax rate increase.

The northern half is picking up, and some of the hot areas have cooled a little, but this is all relative. The one area that has had the biggest change this year is mid-country with noticeably increased interest, but value pricing is still key there and in every part of town.

GREENWICH REAL ESTATE APRIL 2018 – Sales Bounce Back, Contracts Up

Sometimes when you follow the market closely you just can’t wait to see what the next month is going to bring and April 2018 was one of those months. The first quarter of this year was very different from what we had seen after the Great Recession. The high-end was doing well and the mid-market was seeing more inventory and fewer sales. Was this a trend or was it just an anomaly of the fact that with that a few sales up here and a few less listings in the winter doldrums numbers tend to jump around in some random Brownian motion?

April2018Sales.SFH.2016-Apr2018.050218

High-End Moving Along

Now the definitive verdict is still out, but the high end is still doing better this year than last year, though not quite as good in April as it was doing in the first quarter. Above $4 million we are down 30 listings while our year to date transaction (sales and contracts) over $4M are up 13 sales. As a result, months of supply are down dramatically over the last few years.

Over $10 million when you look at sales and contracts months of supply are down 6 years from last year. Now our negativists will point out that in the whole month of April we did not have one sale over $10 million and this dramatic 6-year drop is due to reduce inventory and sales from prior months. True, but we have 2 contracts pending and only 32 ultra-high-end listings at the peak of the market inventory.

As of 5/2/18 Inven-tory Contracts Last Mo. Solds Tot. Solds+ Contracts  YTD Solds  YTD+ Contracts Mos Supply Mos w/ Contracts Last Mo. Annlzd
< $600K 5 1 2 3 6 7 3.3 3.9 2.5
$600-$800K 14 8 4 12 14 22 4.0 3.5 3.5
$800K-$1M 19 9 4 13 16 25 4.8 4.2 4.8
$1-$1.5M 80 21 6 27 21 42 15.2 10.5 13.3
$1.5-$2M 82 20 12 32 25 45 13.1 10.0 6.8
$2-$3M 145 22 8 30 29 51 20.0 15.6 18.1
$3-$4M 92 15 8 23 16 31 23.0 16.3 11.5
$4-$5M 49 9 4 13 11 20 17.8 13.5 12.3
$5-6.5M 61 6 1 7 8 14 30.5 24.0 61.0
$6.5-$10M 53 3 0 3 3 6 70.7 48.6 *
> $10M 32 2 0 2 3 5 42.7 35.2 *
TOTAL 632 116 49 165 152 268 16.6 13.0 12.9

 

Mid-Range Getting Back to Normal

In the mid-range, we have 307 listings between $1 and $3 million. This is up 41 listings or 15% from this time last year. For those commentators that focus on sales only, our sales from $1 – 3 million are down from 88 sales last year to 75 sales this year or a drop of 15 sales. I wouldn’t worry too much however as contracts in that same price range are up by 12 houses or just about the same as the decrease in sales. Also, the $1 – 3 million price range saw an improvement in April, as was expected from the number of contracts waiting to close in March. We will likely see another improvement in May as the 63 contracts in this price range start show up as deeds in the Town Clerk’s office in May and June.

Apr2018.MoS.050218.

In fact, contracts were up in every price category from $800,000 to $10 million. We have a total of 116 contracts, 44 contingent and 72 pending, which is up from 92 in April 2017. This bodes well for the market overall. Whenever you see most price ranges seeing increased sales and increased contracts things are looking up. Our contracts were up 24 and sales were up 20 from April 2017.

Apr2018vsApr2017.Spreadsheet.mp.050518

Under $800K has a lack of inventory

Now this was not true under $800K where contracts were flat at 9 houses under contract and we had only 6 sales. I wouldn’t worry about this being some sort of sub-$800K sea change. We only have 19 listings under $800K down 3 from last year so there just not much to buy. We are still looking at less than 4 months of supply indicating a strong sellers’ market.

Apr2018.4Pie.050218