It took a few years, but Greenwich Time has caught up with the changing (changed) market

88 Conyers Farm Drive, on the market since 2005 (Ogilvy listing, started at $91 million, now $13.5)

88 Conyers Farm Drive, on the market since 2005 (Ogilvy listing, started at $19 million, now $13.5)

A reader sent along the link to this Greenwich Time article, “Abandoned Backcountry: record number of  homes aren’t selling.

This has been the subject of an ongoing conversation here for several years, but all of those homes that aren’t selling are brokered by the local real estate firms whose advertisements, coincidentally, are keeping the paper afloat. I’m a bit surprised that the story has finally emerged in the local paper.

Pretty accurate summary of the situation, but here are a couple of paragraphs that should prove disheartening to backcountry sellers. Before we get to them, however, one additional point: although the article mentions 14 unsold homes in Conyers Farm, but when I was up there for a political meet and greet for Paul Ryan a few years ago (I was a guest of Cliff Asness, not one of those paying $10,000 for the privilege), the talk around the dinner table, from Conyers Farm residents, was that there were even more homes not publicly listed, but on the market nonetheless, listed privately and quietly with some of the big name brokers. They weren’t selling, either.

[M]any of the backcountry homes on the market are selling for less than when they were last purchased, a stat considered highly unusual given most of the estates are renovated multiple times in the period they’re owned. Additionally, land values have risen in the past decade, and so has the value of the dollar. Yet the average list time for these properties is 300 to 400 days, and [Elizabeth] Douthit said even in that amount of time they’re not selling. They’re being taken off the market.

“Often you’ll see them come up as a new listing six months later, but they’re not a new listing,” Douthit said. “They just didn’t sell the first time so the owner took it off the market and is trying again, usually at a lower price.”

There are 14 homes currently listed for sale in Conyers Farm at prices ranging from just more than $5 million to $60 million. Douthit has worked in Greenwich real estate for nearly 30 years and said she’s never seen that many homes for sale at one time in Conyers Farm, and she hasn’t seen a property for sale in the $5 million range since the parcels of land were selling with no home on them yet. One home in the exclusive gated community has been on the market for 600 days [since 2005, actually – the numbers have been fudged a bit – ED] and is for sale for $13 million, down from the original $19 million asking price.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in all my time in real estate,” Douthit said. “It’s really amazing.”

Douthit said there are a couple of factors driving people out of backcountry, while not attracting new owners.

First, she said many young families may be moving out of the city and into Greenwich, but they aren’t ready to give up the convenience of having everything they need within a few-block radius.

“They want convenience over land and they want everything to be new, new, new,” Douthit said. “A lot of these young families are two-income families, so both people work and they don’t want to spend time on the house. They want everything to be done and updated, so the construction businesses are incredibly busy right now.”

And at the same time new Greenwich residents aren’t interested in buying, many current residents are trying to downsize. As a result, the luxury condominium and townhouse market is flourishing, with an average price point of $3 million to $5 million selling the fastest.

Condos and townhouses on small pieces of land also mean closer neighbors and greater community. While the tradeoff is less privacy, Siciliano said having that community is especially nice for raising children.

“You’re able to have trick or treaters, it’s easier for the kids to get to school or their friend’s house, it’s quicker to get to the grocery store, I spend less time driving and more with my family … those are just some of the advantages,” Siciliano said.

But it’s not just this trend of wanting something smaller with less upkeep and more amenities driving people out of the backcountry, Douthit said. Many people are projecting into estate futures and they’re not optimistic about the state’s tax situation, she said.

“As sad as it sounds, they don’t want to die in Connecticut — it’s too expensive,“ Douthit said. “So they’re not leaving Greenwich altogether, but they are maintaining a much smaller residence here.”

Douthit said she’s been in the real estate business long enough to know that it’s cyclical — trends will change, and what people want today may not be what they want tomorrow.

But she’s not convinced the young people seeking luxury condos today will ever want a sprawling backcountry estate. So while it might seem like a good investment to purchase a backcountry property when prices are low and wait for demand to shift back to large estates, Douthit said she can’t say for sure whether that will happen.

“I’m just truly not convinced young people want that anymore,” Douthit said.

25 Comments

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25 responses to “It took a few years, but Greenwich Time has caught up with the changing (changed) market

    • Disguised advert for bell point condos. There is always an ulterior motive in these articles. Back country decline has occurred as with mid country. These are simple facts that don’t need the selling points of a new condo offering.

  1. Cos Cobber

    Wow – its fairly on point for once. How did this article slip past the editor?

    Dual incomes, ever demanding careers, generational and cultural change (away from the land owner/ independence mindset), uncertain tax future and most of all – uncertain economics (who buying in back country can feel good about resale tomorrow) have all converged.

  2. Mickster

    She’s talking her book, as they say on the Street. Not that it’s totally wrong, times are a changing and many of the financial guys and gals feel more comfortable in Riv/OG and some in mid-country.
    I believe, like CF said yesterday, if you have an older house or a house of a style no longer popular, then you will have issues when selling.
    If you let brokers ‘buy’ your listing with the promise of a huge selling price, you will have more issues. Compare carefully each brokers market analysis. Nothing sells a house faster than pricing it to market.

  3. Anonymous

    The demographic of wealth that once moved out to Greenwich backcountry in the 80s and 90s now primarily reside in New York City. The people moving out to Greenwich now are, relatively speaking and on the whole, a lower-end buyer ($1.5-3mm range) pushed out of NYC due to spiraling housing costs. That’s why OG and Riverside have been popular.

  4. Anonymous

    In case you haven’t noticed, Wall St is weak and the number of multiple 7 figure bonus’s have dwindled in the past year or two. Hedge funds are not producing returns like they used to (and a lot are actually down on the year). That is probably the most important factor contributing to the weakness in the $5mm+ market – which the Greenwich Time failed to mention.

  5. Publius

    The demand for large houses and the subsequent crash have been a staple of the real estate cycle in the Metro area for a century+. Fifth Avenue was once lined with mansions from the 50’s all the way up Central Park as the cycle of the Gilded Age peaked. Beginning in the early 20th Century and accelerating with the Great Depression, these unbelievable opulent residences were knocked down in favor co-operative and high end rental apartments with shared hotel like amenities that appealed to those whose fortunes had waned and the shift in taste from opulent run by a large staff to more discreet and lower annual overhead. Likewise too, the “cottages” of Newport were the rage in late 19th Century only to be in some cases abandoned and subsequently bulldozed. There are still vestiges of this cycle (Frick and Cooper Hewitt (Carnegie) museums in NYC and the mansions on Bellevue Ave in Newport) that still exist but even with today’s wealth these places look rather overbearing. Back country Greenwich is no different and it reflects a time in this part of the world when the financial markets exploded in the 1980’s and 1990’s after 2 decades of rising inflation, stagnant markets and “general malaise” and people wanted to celebrate their new found wealth with the late 20th Century version of the Gilded Age mansion that today looks very unappealing and has little demand.

    There are buyers for these properties and as indicated by the owner of this blog, it usually comes down to price. Price in this case however, will be set by the buyer not the seller and those that refuse this reality will end up with carrying costs that will exceed the initial haircut that they could have taken to unload the asset.

  6. Anonymous

    I’d love to live in Back country, but there’s zero inventory in the 1.2m range, so its not to be.

  7. Anonymous

    We may have found a place in back country Westport in Coleytown so he’d have to list it like tmrw.

  8. Anonymous

    I am convinced that Greenwich backcountry prices will come down to the point where the area can provide attractive second homes for affluent city folk. No more will they have to make the slog to Litchfield County to get their pool and court.

    • Anonymous

      Interesting thesis. Not sure I agree that the Litchfield County folks will move in. No doubt though the prices will have to drop low enough to compensate new buyers for the the cost of maintenance. I wonder how many cycles it will take for the assessed values to correct with Riverside.

  9. Anonymous

    lewis rosenstiel was correct when he envisioned conyers as riverside north