Daily Archives: June 16, 2006

The State of the Market

A real estate column (not this one, thank goodness) recently opined that “a pattern has emerged in the real estate market in lower Fairfield County ….[S] ingle family home sales have spiraled down or remained stable. Prices continued their upward run in Norwalk, Westport and Darien….Condo sales may be up, or down, but prices are still on the increase.”

So there’s your pattern: we’re either in a death spiral or soaring or staying level – okay?

The market is a bit confusing right now, but, despite what Barron’s says, there’s no death spiral here. I heard another agent say that our market is down 56% from last year. That’s absolute nonsense and, since rumors and nonsense can (sometimes) be defeated by facts, I looked some up. Turns out, prices are actually up, not down. Inventory has grown, but well-priced houses continue to sell. Here are the numbers for single family homes, 1st quarter: 2006: 156 sold, $2.8 million average, $2.1 median; 2005: 166 sold, $2.37 avg., $1.675 median; 2004 (best year ever): 173 sold, $2,21 average, $1.550 median; 2003: 136 sold, $1.757 average, $1.175 median.

There are at this writing (June 9) 151 single family houses under contract in town, most of which, presumably, went to contract after January. I can’t dig up the number under contract for the same period in 2005 but I do find that 85 houses sold in July of that year and 107 in August (192, total). As a rough rule of thumb the majority of contracts close within 90 days, especially when school starts in September, so I think most of these can fairly be traced back to May and June contracts. If we average 4 contracts per day (a modest expectation) between now and the end of the month, we’ll have 215 houses in contract. “The bubble has burst! The bubble has burst!”

Inventory as of June 1st, 2006: 542; 2005: 468; 2004: 425. Our inventory is 14% higher than at this time in 2005, but that’s an improvement from January, when we were 34% higher. Houses are being picked off.

In summary, like politics, real estate is local. Stocks are traded worldwide, and what happens in Urkistan may very well effect a hedge fund in Greenwich. But before you believe that condo gluts in Florida or layoffs in Flint mean the value of your house in Greenwich is collapsing, check things out around town. How’s your hedge fund doing? Anyone lost her job at your firm? Nice bonus last year? Chances are, you and your peers are doing just fine. If so, guess who’s ready, able, willing to buy a house in this town?

On Top of Old Smokey

Well, on top of Round Hill, anyway, David Ogilvy has just listed a fantastic old house that is one of the last of “The Great Estates”. The house is very nice, with all its original (1939) charm including beautiful moldings and carved woodwork but forget that, what sets this house apart from anything else I’ve seen are its views. To reach the house, you climb a long, winding red gravel driveway and arrive in a courtyard that has views of Long Island and Long Island Sound – I swore a felt a sea breeze, in fact. From the house, and its beautiful lawns, those same views are present, as well as the Manhattan skyline. I’m told that, when the leaves are down, the Berkshires can be seen. All those views are protected because the top of the hill is 570’ and the adjoining properties are at least 60’ below. Until we rezone for high-rises in the Back Country, no one’s going to spoil your day. Twenty-two acres of gardens, lawns, meadows and woods, a pool, tennis court. And all the usual accoutrements you’d expect at this price which, by the way, is $38,000,000. I’m a little short this week but if your year’s going well, there’s not another property in town with this nice a location. It’s a real estate cliché to describe a property as “truly unique” but in this case, it’s true.

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