Despite a soft market in 2018, realtors in both Westchester and Fairfield counties have a bright outlook for 2019. Continued low interest rates and tax reform are expected to reignite buyers this spring according to realtors. Plus, prices have come down, presenting the perception of value among buyers. “That’s the most important piece of what buyers are interested in today,” says David Haffenreffer, brokerage manager at Houlihan Lawrence in Greenwich, CT. Fairfield and Westchester provide lots of great home-buying options, good school systems, proximity to New York City and beautiful parks. Especially key for sellers is pricing their home right when it first comes on the market, he says.
That becomes even more important in a competitive market, says Melissa Colabella, realtor for Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Chappaqua, NY. She predicts tax implications mean we will likely see a broadening of buyers’ search circumferences this year: “This means buyers will search varying municipalities within their tax target versus sticking to one area as they may have done before, thus broadening the inventory within their search and essentially making the home-buying process more competitive for the sellers.”
So, what are buyers looking for? And how can sellers get their houses ready for the market? Realtors share the trends they are seeing.
Keep it Simple
Low maintenance is the key. “The younger buyer wants to travel,” says Sarah Ryan of Douglas Elliman in Katonah, NY. “They don’t want to move in and do a lot of work on their homes.” Smaller, new or renovated-like-new properties are still trending among buyers who have reprioritized spending in today’s economy. Cosmetic renovations bring buyers in, but updated roofs, mechanicals and windows keep their attention, says Erica Cohen, real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Westport, CT. “Buyers don’t have or want to spend extra money on these items,” she adds. Ease of living extends to location. Still en vogue is a desire for in-town properties, close to train stations and shopping—and with access to city water and sewer, says Cohen. Adds Haffenreffer, the Westchester/Fairfield market is closely tied to the New York City market and convenience to New York continues to be key for buyers.
Traditional, yet modern
Traditional is still king when it comes to exteriors. “We are in the gateway to New England,” says Haffenreffer. “People have that white colonial experience on their mind.” Inside, buyers want a blending of the two. The modern farmhouse has become increasingly popular, says Cohen, and this holds true with renovated historic homes. While weathered finishes are popular, décor needs to be light-filled, modern and muted.
The one new design surprise bucking the neutral trend is artful wallpaper. Beautiful papers in modern prints and textures used in a creative way are wowing buyers and providing character and personality that make a home stand out. Adds Haffenreffer: “When the experience really pops for a buyer when they walk in, that is of interest to them.”
Bringing in the Pros
When working with a blank slate or dated interiors, sellers are bringing in the experts. Staging is bigger than ever in today’s market where buyers are searching for perceived value. “Buyers need to feel right at home from the moment they step through the door,” says Cohen.
Stagers can help sellers communicate options for how the rooms can function and proper furniture placement removes any questions for buyers as to how they would live in the home.
“You want the room to breathe and feel fresh while it tells a story and informs the buyer about what the space is useful for,” says Kate Nann DeCarlo, founder and
creative director at Grey Stone Designs in Greenwich, CT. “I often work with a
neutral color palette of whites and gray, adding in soft luxe layers.” Don’t be afraid to infuse some personal connection. A few family photos are OK. “People sort of took it to an extreme for a while there, removing all personal photos and artwork, says Helen Servick, owner of Blink staging company in Greenwich. “Buyers really respond to a nice blend of an edited interior, but also one that suggests a happy home.”