Fairfield County’s housing market experienced a mostly vibrant first quarter, according to data released by Douglas Elliman Real Estate. During this period, The county had the highest level of first-quarter sales in 11 years and the first year-over-year increase in the median sales price in a year. However, sales of luxury homes and condominiums recorded new lows, according to the report.
The Douglas Elliman report was prepared by Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. That company’s president and CEO, Jonathan J. Miller, observed there were some imbalances within the market.
“We continue to see a sales boom that is generally located within the entry and middle of the market, not the high end of the market,” he said.
In the luxury housing market, the average sales price for a home in the first quarter was $1.59 million, down 1.3 percent from the fourth quarter’s $1.6 million and a steep 24.2 percent drop from the $2.1 million level set one year earlier. For luxury condominiums, were even more problematic, the $642,000 average sales price in the first quarter was a 41.7 percent decline from the $1.1 million price in the fourth quarter of 2016and a 61.5 percent plummet from the $1.66 million level one year earlier.
Wayne Frankel, CEO and regional owner of Greenwich-based Exit Realty of Connecticut, predicted the region’s luxury home prices will be reduced even more. “If you price a house correctly, it will sell,” he said. “People are asking too much.”
The average price of a single-family house during the first quarter was $645,782, up 12.4 percent from the $574,541 level in the fourth quarter of 2016 and up 1.1 percent from the $638,879 level set in the first quarter of 2016. The median sales price for the quarter was $380,000, up 2.2 percent from the $372,000 level in the previous quarter and up 2.7 percent from the $370,000 mark set one year earlier.
The number of closed sales was 2,092 in the first quarter, down 17.5 percent from the 2,536 closed sales in the fourth quarter, but 10.1 percent above the 1,900 closed sales in the first quarter of 2016. The active listing inventory for the first quarter was 5,044, up 21.3 percent from the 4,157 active listings in the fourth quarter but down 14.6 percent from the 5,903 listings one year earlier. The average market listings of 118 days for the first quarter was up 5.4 percent from the fourth quarter, but identical with the first quarter of 2016.
Within the county’s submarkets tracked by Douglas Elliman, Greenwich recorded the highest average sales price for single-family homes – $2.5 million, up 22.5 percent from the fourth quarter and up 7.8 percent year-over-year – and for condominiums – $997,741, down 23.7 percent from the fourth quarter but up 10.5 percent year-over-year. Wilton was the only submarket where the average sales price of single-family homes fell: $932,066, down 1.5 percent from the fourth quarter and down 1.3 percent year-over-year.
Scott Durkin, chief operating officer at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, was pleased by the first-quarter results. “Business picked up considerably from the prior two years,” he said. “This confirms that the market is moving again.”
Durkin credited the conclusion of the 2016 election season as a driving force. “Election years have become sort of a hiccup for the market. We felt the market took a pause during the election year and people are now dipping their toes in again,” he said.
While the Douglas Elliman report did not consider home construction data, industry experts did not see any great new wave of activity. Tammy Felenstein, executive director of sales at Halstead Real Estate in New Canaan and vice president-at-large for large firms at Connecticut Realtors, said that many home builders were “still a bit nervous” in the aftermath of the 2008 economic tumult and were focusing on communities where potential residents could leave their cars at home. “They are looking for areas that are accessible for walking to commuter lines and stores,” she said.
Michael Trolle, co-founder and principal at Wilton-based BCP Green Builders, said Connecticut’s financial environment makes it easier to upgrade existing property than to build new residences.
“It is always going to be cheaper with construction costs high and land costs high,” he said. “It is cheaper to buy an existing house and you can buy homes that are not very old.”