BY MAGGIE GORDON
Hearst Connecticut Media
After years of being overlooked, the neighborhood of Cos Cob has become a bright spot in Greenwich’s real estate scene, with house closings up significantly over last year and buyers finding themselves in bidding wars over a property.
In the first quarter of 2015, residential sales in Cos Cob’s 06807 ZIP code accounted for 13 percent of the total transactions in town, up from 8 percent during that same period a year prior. But it’s not just the number of closed deals that’s showing strength. According to David Haffenreffer, the brokerage manager at Houlihan Lawrence’s Greenwich office, pending deals are up 30 percent, while the median price of properties changing hands has increased 6.7 percent.
With so many data points trending upward in Cos Cob, the one thing that’s shrinking is inventory, which Houlihan Lawrence agent Amy Whitlaw said is a sign of a strong market.
“What makes it a hot market is that when anything new that comes on – if it’s priced well – sells very quickly, and the days on market are turning out to be very low,” said Whitlaw, who has been selling in Cos Cob, where she resides, for about 15 years. “At the end of the day, in Cos Cob right now there are more buyers than sellers.”
As of Thursday, Houlihan Lawrence reported 27 active listings in Cos Cob, along with 13 pending sales, which factors out to a supply-demand ratio of 2. That’s about as strong as it can get – any ratio between 1 and 4 is considered high demand, with scores between 5 and 6 considered balanced, and anything over that considered low or very low demand.
Quick contracts are limiting the numbers of properties on the market, with agents like Marje Vance of Sotheby’s reporting offers only days after listing properties.
“I brought a house on (the market) on Osee Place, and we had multiple offers very quickly,” Vance said Friday of the property at 7 Osee Place, which was listed for about $1.5 million and has a pending offer. “There were three houses in a row on Osee Place, numbers 7, 9 and 11, which all went on at the same time, and they all went within the first week.”
While final prices haven’t been reported for No. 7 and No. 11 on that street, 9 Osee Place sold for about $1.3 million on March 24, according to paperwork on file at Greenwich Town Hall.
“Osee Place has been on fire,” said Randy Keleher, an agent with Halstead Property who also does a considerable amount of work in Cos Cob.
But what’s been sending one of Greenwich’s typically overlooked neighborhoods into such a flurry of activity? Agents say it might have to do with the ever-escalating prices in neighborhoods such as Riverside and Old Greenwich. While the average price of a home that sold in the first quarter of 2015 rang in at $3.1 million in Riverside’s 06878 ZIP Code and $1.7 million in Old Greenwich’s 06870 ZIP Code, Cos Cob’s average price was only $1.4 million.
A little more than a quarter of the supply in Cos Cob is priced between $800,000 and $1 million. That price point is as hard to come by in Riverside and Old Greenwich as a parking spot at Starbucks.
“I think it’s a little bit of a backlash against Riverside and Old Greenwich,” said Vance, who raised her children in Cos Cob. “In Cos Cob, in the mid-million price range, at, say, $1.5 million, you still get a substantial house in a great neighborhood. Where in Old Greenwich, you’re looking at a little cape that probably needs work, and I think that’s exhausted the young homebuyers.”
Traditionally, Old Greenwich and Riverside have garnered more attention than Cos Cob, but that may be changing.
“I always feel like Cos Cob has been seen as the poor cousin of Old Greenwich and Riverside, which people hear and read so much about,” Whitlaw said. “But once people get to Cos Cob and they discover the community, discover what they can get for under $1 million, with a lifestyle where you can walk to so many things, and you’re surrounded by young, active families – it works.”
With strength building over the past few months, and even over the course of several years, it’s easy to track the growing popularity of Cos Cob. But it’s unclear whether it signifies a true rebirth.
“It’s tough to tell whether this will last,” Keleher said. “The landscape changes all the time in the market, and it’s hard to say that this is going to be consistent. It would be nice if it was. Cos Cob has been overlooked for years, but who knows how it will pan out?”
Hearst Connecticut Media includes four daily newspapers: Connecticut Post, Greenwich Time, The Advocate (Stamford) and The News Times (Danbury). See greenwichtime.com for more from this reporter.