FROM POOLS AND HOME OFFICES TO LOTS OF LAND, HERE’S A LOOK AT THE LATEST TRENDS IN THE LOCAL REAL ESTATE MARKET

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted many areas of life—including real estate—with lots of people looking to buy homes in the area. “The real estate market in Fairfield County and Westchester County is very busy,” says Joy Kim Metalios, team leader for Metalios Group at Houlihan Lawrence in Greenwich. “We quickly went from a buyer’s market pre-Covid to a seller’s market in a matter of months.”

Barbara Brock Zaccagnini with Coldwell Banker Global Luxury echoes that, saying that houses are “moving very quickly, sometimes with two and three backup offers.”

Eric Bjork, vice president and director of sales for Greenwich and Old Greenwich at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, says the year began on a high note, but was on hold in the early spring. “Since then, demand for single family homes and condominiums has increased the number of contracts dramatically year over year,” he says, adding that with increased demand and a lower supply of inventory—listings are down by 12 to 15 percent—houses are getting multiple bids and it has stabilized property valuations.

So what are home buyers trending towards these days? Here’s a look.

1. Home Offices This one comes as no surprise. With so many people working remotely, the desire for a dedicated and (ideally!) quiet work area has also increased—something almost every expert we spoke with noted. “More and more, home offices are becoming important to today’s home buyers,” says Dave Wilk, manager of the Greenwich office of William Raveis. “Properties with home offices, or those which can be adapted in ways to make an actual office space, are generating a lot of interest.” Kevin Sneddon, founder and lead broker with The Private Client Team at Compass, serving Greenwich and NYC, pointed to home offices as the second most popular “must-have” after swimming pools

2.Pools and Other Outdoor Amenities Experts say pools are the hot ticket item. “With a ‘staycation’ mentality for the foreseeable future, virtually all buyers want homes with a swimming pool,” says Sneddon.

Wilk notes this is a recent change. “In the past few years, pools were a ‘wash’ or even a negative in some instances compared to today,” he explains.

But it’s not just pools—it’s all sorts of amenities that make life at home more fun. “Homes that offer an ‘outdoor lifestyle’ where [people] don’t have to travel and where they may entertain may become more and more popular; those with pools, tennis courts, built-in grilling and pizza ovens, patios, and other large outdoor gathering areas, etc.,” says Wilk.

Metalios mentions many of these, as well others, such as movie theaters, gyms, saunas and even gardens. For instance, a recent buyer bought a home with both a garden and a chicken coop, she says.

3. Additional Land “The trends are reversed from smaller houses on smaller properties located as close to town as possible, to larger homes on larger properties located farther out of town,” says Sneddon.

Other experts agree. “Recently, buyers have become more interested in more land,” says Wilk. “For example, in Greenwich, ‘backcountry’ has become more popular than in recent years, and we have seen a number of homes that have been on the market for a while selling.” Towns inland and in northern Fairfield County are also seeing a resurgence, adds Wilk: “This may be due to the fact that more and more people will be working from home rather than commuting for the foreseeable future and may not need to be near trains or I-95.”

Bjork has a similar take, noting that, “Buyers are more open to outlying areas as attitudes towards commuting are changing. Thus, markets like New Canaan, Wilton and Weston are seeing increased levels of activity.” Buyers are still looking for balance, though. Wilk points out that while many want the additional space, they also want to be able to easily get to town.

4. To Head Out of New York City “We are seeing two types of buyers,” explains Metalios. “The buyer who was thinking of moving out of NYC eventually, who has expedited their plans due to Covid, and the buyer who plans to move back to NYC, but wants a weekend home in case we have to shelter in place again.”

And this move will have positive effect in the area, says Sneddon. “Overall, the NYC exodus has breathed new life into most suburban towns located within about an hour from NYC,” he says. “There is a new ‘energy’ in these town that will make them more culturally dynamic.”

The rental market is also surging, including yearly and summer rentals, which Wilk says has increased significantly lately. “There may be a number of reasons for this, including people wanting to leave NYC and get a feel of how it is to live full-time in the suburbs or rural areas, as well as more people than usual wanting to get away from the city for the summer season. In addition, I believe we are seeing more and more people taking summer rentals in our areas versus going to the Hamptons.