My old paper, Greenwich Post, has a good article today written by Sara Poirier on what’s happening in our local real estate market. Once you get past the silly and misleading headline (Market Resurgent!) you’ll see that Poirier interviewed two knowledgeable people and got intelligent quotes from both of them. With the exception of some “I’m a professional realtor so I have to sound optimistic here” lines, the two agents present a cautious view of what may happen this year. One quibble is Poirier’s invention of the word “influxing” – or at least, I don’t think that’s a word.
The Post hasn’t figured out permalinks yet so there’s no way to link to the article. So here it is:
|Thursday, January 08, 2009|
|Last year, 2008, was an emotional roller coaster for Americans, many of whom rang in the new year with lighter wallets and a grim outlook on 2009’s economic future.Real estate experts say even though it’s “just like somebody slammed the door” on the Greenwich market this fall when the economy took a nosedive, the new year will usher in a new wave of interest and consumer confidence sure to spark a fire in town.“I’m really a firm believer that people can only wait so long before they buy a house,” said Nancy Healy, partner at Shore and Country Properties in Riverside and president of the Greenwich Multiple Listing Service (GMLS).Ms. Healy said there is “pent-up demand” for housing in Greenwich and “people want to get on with their lives.”
According to John W.M. Cooke, a licensed broker with Prudential Connecticut Realty, single-family home sales in Greenwich went from 44 in January 2008 to 11 in November, taking the biggest monthly hit in September, when 26 houses were sold compared to 56 in August. That happened while inventory seesawed from 428 homes on the market in January to 623 in June and then 588 as of Dec. 1, according to GMLS statistics.
By the end of the year, said Eric Bjork, vice president of Prudential Connecticut Realty in Greenwich and Old Greenwich, inventory in town was up 26% from 2007, with 536 single-family homes on the market Dec. 31 compared to 426 the previous year. That means the market’s good for buyers and more competitive for sellers, he added.
Mr. Bjork’s advice in today’s market: If you see a home you absolutely love, buy it.
Mr. Bjork told the Post he’s seeing more first-time homebuyers walk through his firm’s doors. A lower median single-family home price — at about $1.85 million (down by about 8% to 12%), and a 5.75% jumbo mortgage rate for 20% down — is allowing those buyers to put less down than when the median price was $2.1 million, and keep monthly payments lower than they would have been had the house been more money.
Ms. Healy said with President Barack Obama taking the lead later this month, she hopes the country will move in “a more positive way” and have the confidence and security she said has not been had in a while.
“People are ready,” she said about potential buyers. “There are some fabulous buys out there.”
She added, “You can’t live in the stock market. You can live in what I consider pretty good value right now.”
Mr. Bjork and Ms. Healy agreed that when it comes to pricing, it’s hard to tell how homes in Greenwich will go.
“Greenwich is a blue-chip town,” Ms. Healy said. “It has so much to offer. It’s an expensive town but it’s always been.”
She added that the market is returning to a “more normal” state, and while houses are now staying a bit longer on the market before they sell, it’s no time to panic.
“People need to feel secure in their purchase and it takes time,” she said.
For sellers, “the news looks bleak, but it’s not,” Ms. Healy said, adding that when buyers get their confidence back, more houses will be sold.
“Nobody can time the bottom,” Mr. Bjork said, “and if we’re not there we’re really close.”
He added, “One of the benefits of Greenwich is it’s very stable. People can afford not to sell their homes. They take them off the market and wait.”
He said doing this may make the market freeze, but it means buyers are likely to have their investment be safe when they buy it.
“They look at it less as a financial play but as a quality of life opportunity,” he added.
With the government influxing money to stimulate the economy, Mr. Bjork said inflation cannot be far behind, making the case for owning property stronger.
“You can’t put a trillion dollars into the economy and not have inflation,” he said, “and at times of inflation, you want to own hard assets because they appreciate.”