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Real Estate Market Watch

Whether you’re looking to downsize, upsize or sell your second home for something more to your liking, realtors from Greenwich to Nantucket are saying it’s a great time to sell your home. Here’s why.

INVENTORY IS LOW

The biggest reason to pull the trigger on selling, according to regional experts, is that there are very few houses on the market right now. Inventory in Fairfield County in January 2023 was 10.6 percent lower than in 2022 and 50 percent of what we had in 2019 according to Smart MLS, a real estate market database, says Lori Elkins Ferber, licensed real estate salesperson at William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty’s Westport and Stamford, CT, locations. Which means that those houses that are on the market are getting a lot of eyes and multiple offers, with bidding wars a common occurrence.

“Spring is a notoriously good time to list your home, especially with the inventory still very low,” says Jenny Allen, a real estate agent at Compass in Greenwich, CT. “It’s very much still a sellers’ market. Families that are looking to relocate are trying to get moved and settled before the school year starts, so lots of buyers will be looking now.”

PANDEMIC PRIORITIES STILL APPLY

The days of scrambling for more space and privacy during the pandemic may be in the rear-view mirror for many, but the impact has been a lasting one, with permanently-shifted priorities still driving some buying decisions.

So while some folks have moved back to Manhattan, many buyers from lower Westchester, Manhattan and Brooklyn continue looking to upsize to areas where they can have more space, property, outdoor amenities and room to socialize at home.

And, in a surprising twist, some empty nesters are opting for a bigger primary or second home to have a place to host family and entertain, according to local experts. “It’s not just young families anymore,” says Angela Kessel, real estate agent with Houlihan Lawrence in Bedford/Pound Ridge, NY. “There is tremendous value in this area,” she notes citing lots of activities, green space and cultural opportunities in the Westchester/Fairfield region.

And even those who aren’t looking to leave the city are still choosing bigger places. Kayla Lee, an agent from SERHANT.

New Development, leads sales at The Huron, a new-construction residential building slated for opening in 2024 in Green Point, Brooklyn. Lee says presales are doing well, particularly as the neighborhood blossoms and Manhattanites look to cross the bridge. “The three-bedroom units are very popular,” she says. The building boasts water views, rooftop terraces, children’s and teen’s rec rooms, private rooftop parks and home office space.

REAL ESTATE IS STILL AN INVESTMENT

With the Silicon Valley Bank failure earlier this year, some folks are again looking to real estate as an investment opportunity. The Hamptons and Nantucket, two favorite second-home havens, are seeing lots of interest. “There are a lot of buyers who want to invest and own here in the Hamptons,” says real estate salesperson Justin Agnello of Douglas Elliman’s Atlantic Team in the Hamptons. “If you have something special like a waterfront, water view or new construction, the demand is even greater. Right now, we are still seeing more buyers and not enough homes for sale.”

Plus, more buyers than ever before are able to work remotely, making the possibility of maximizing time at a summer house more feasible. And, since the pandemic pushed many realtors to incorporate more virtual visits and meetings into the buying process, there’s also more flexibility to the sale process. “Buyers can FaceTime a quick look at a new listing, then dash off to Nantucket to see the property in person, without missing work obligations back home,” says Great Point Properties Broker Nicole Bousquet of Nantucket, MA. “With low inventory driving price and urgency, and eager buyers at the ready to move quickly, I believe this is a perfect time to list your property.”

The turn-key interiors and stunning views of this home at 122 Wauwinet Road in Nantucket are tops for many buyers.

SHIFTING INTEREST RATES

While we aren’t seeing the 2 and 3 percent rates of a few years ago, they’re still not super high, say experts. “Buyers are taking advantage of the April dip and rates currently in the fives. That’s one point less than historical averages,” says real estate agent John Engel of Douglas Elliman in New Canaan, CT. His advice to clients? “List before rates rise again, banking standards tighten and your potential buyers find themselves priced out of the market. Prices are still strong in the face of continued demand, especially for millennials. As my mother always says, ‘When they pass the cookies, take one.’”

SALES ARE HAPPENING FAST

If you do decide to list, that sale will likely happen pretty quickly. Low inventory means while we aren’t seeing the same buying craze as when the pandemic hit in 2020, sellers are still getting multiple bidders—and homes priced right and showing well are sometimes going before they even hit the market. “Some people are doing off-market deals,” says Kessel. “If you price it right and have a good product in a good location, it will sell quickly.”

And the stats show similar: The average home is on the market for a 3.5 percent shorter time this year to date compared to last year, and the average price per square foot has gone up 5.6 percent for the same time period, according to data collected by Elkins at William Pitt. “These numbers speak volumes about just how strong our seller’s market remains,” she adds.

You can likely expect an average of four or five bids on homes with desirable qualities like prime locations, new construction, or pool sites. Michele Tesei, real estate agent with Houlihan Lawrence in Greenwich, CT, says one house in Old Greenwich with a pool recently got an offer for $600,000 over the asking price.

BUYERS WANT LOCATION—AND MORE

So what are buyers looking for this year? The old adage ‘location, location, location’ still stands. But location isn’t the only factor. “We have seen a shift in recent years to another feature of near importance [to location] in attracting eager buyers and higher-than-expected offers/sales prices,” says Bousquet in Nantucket. “A turn-key home that is brand new or newly updated, even sometimes if located in a less sought- after area, will see a speedier than normal sale, and often at a premium price.”

Tesei offers similar: “New construction is selling in days.” Home with amenities like pools, private offices and space for guests are seeing a lot of interest. She finds that the cost of materials and pandemic- related sourcing delays have slowed the new construction industry down a bit, making new homes hard to find and even more desirable.

This house in New Canaan closed in April for $4.55 million and a pool site was important to the buyers.

PREP PRE-SALE IS IMPORTANT

“When you are ready to list your property it is important to remember that first impres- sions are everything,” says Brooke Gallagher Podewils, a real estate agent with Compass in Greenwich, CT. “Buyers continue to be savvy when it comes to price, location and amenities. They do their due diligence and research every aspect of a real estate transaction.” She sug- gests decluttering, painting, landscaping and staging to all her clients. The goal is to sell at the listed price in a timely manner.

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