While Fairfield County’s commercial real estate market generally is predicted to take a dive this year as a result of COVID-19, such may not be the case with its residential market.
Residential sales may be off at the moment, but rentals are showing resilience. According to the Mid-Fairfield County Association of Realtors, home sales through March 2020 were up 8% over the same three months in 2019 in Norwalk, Westport, Weston and Wilton.
April, when the virus proved it wasn’t going away, saw a swoon of some 40% — but rentals were up about 35% compared with the same period in 2019.
On a national level, Apartment List reported April’s lowest year-over-year growth rate in five years, 1.4%. Still, that is a positive figure, one which Stamford-based Building and Land Technology said is being borne out here.
“People are definitely still looking for apartments,” said BLT co-President Ted Ferrarone. “It’s just that the logistics have changed. Traditionally we’d get a call from somebody, meet them at our leasing office on a Saturday and take then to four different places.”
Instead, as has been the case with other real estate agents, the firm has turned to virtual tours. “We’ll make an appointment and usually have an agent walk through the particular apartment on their phone to put across what the property has to offer,” Ferrarone said.
He further noted that all of BLT’s leasing offices have now reopened, as the peak of the virus appears to have passed.
Although Ferrarone was reluctant to say there has been a mass exodus from New York in the wake of its becoming the virus’ hotspot, other sources indicate that is part of what’s going on. According to FlatRate Moving, between March 15 and April 28, moves from the Empire State to Connecticut were up 74% over the same period a year ago.
In addition, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties reported a 90% rise in lease signings in Wilton, as well as a 75% increase in Westport and about a 27% rise in Greenwich from March 1-April 29.
Ferrarone, however, characterized what BLT has been seeing as mostly an increase in a trend that has been going on for the past few years.
“It’s what we’ve been seeing with (Stamford’s) Harbor Point for a while now,” he said. “People want to be able to have some space to do things, and to be able to walk around, while living somewhere that’s more affordable. There are bigger apartments, more amenities and open space. It’s a much more effective way to live for a lot of people.”
Although the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession saw a general migration from New York City, Ferrarone said it was still too early to make such judgments about the coronavirus’ effects.
“And with commercial tenants, it’s too early for them to make big decisions,” he said. “With apartments, people know what they’re looking for, and there’s a lot of product available. You can definitely find something.”
As proof, he noted that The Curb at North Seven, BLT’s luxury apartment complex in Norwalk, continues to receive “a lot” of inquiries, while construction continues on apartment towers at 880 Pacific and 900 Pacific St. in Stamford; the project’s combined 615 apartments are still on pace to be completed next year, Ferrarone said.