Home sales climb, market gears toward ‘fast pace’

A High Ridge house currently on the market: More than 300 homes are for sale, but a third of them are under contract.

A High Ridge house currently on the market: More than 300 homes are for sale, but a third of them are under contract.

With approximately a third of the homes on the market under contract, Ridgefield Realtors are confident the positive results from the first quarter will carry over into the rest of the year.

“The outlook for Realtors is far more positive than it has been in recent years,” said Bob Neumann of Neumann Real Estate. “We are very confident that we will outpace the number of units sold last year. There’s less homes on the market and more demand, so we are seeing multiple offers coming on more than a half-dozen homes. It’s all about the market being back on a fast pace.”

As of Monday, April 22, he said 46 houses were under deposit and 54 more were pending transactions in town.

“That’s 100 houses waiting to be closed out of 306 properties,” he said. “That’s almost 33%.”

He estimates inventory, the number of houses available, is down 20% from last year, which is a result of “pent-up demand increasing the number of sales.”

Colette Kabasakalian of Coldwell Banker said 62 units were sold at a median sales price of $527,750 in the first quarter of this year, January to March. Compared to the same time last year, 46 units were sold at a median sales price of $606,250.

The number of units sold this year is up 26%, while the median sales price is at a 12.9% decrease from last year at this time, she said.

Despite inventory being down, Mr. Neumann believes now might not be the time to sell, with prices still being down.

“It’s not a seller’s market yet,” Mr. Neumann said. “Sales are up and inventory is down, which means real estate value is increasing and more people are jumping into buying. However, price rates are still down or remain relatively flat in some areas.”

He added that consumers’ increased faith in the market has been integral in the upturn in number of houses sold.

“There’s a more positive view of the whole economy, not just in the real estate market,” Mr. Neumann said. “With better and better forecasts coming in, there’s more belief in the market and everyone wants to keep that momentum going.”

According to Keith Evans of Keller Williams, the first quarter trends of the market this year are similar to this time last year, with house sales up and sale prices remaining lower than usual.

“You don’t know you were at the bottom until you rebound, and now customers are beginning to realize there were deals last year and there are still deals this year so the time to buy is now,” Mr Evans said. “The average sale price usually takes off with more people in the market, but it has remained pretty down, and that’s because we are still coming out of the recession. The switch doesn’t turn on right away.”

The local trends are being shared across the state, with sales of single-family homes rising 8.8% in Connecticut, according to Prudential’s first-quarter market report.

Mr. Neumann added that if pricing is realistic, houses can sell in the first two weeks of being on the market, which is another indicator of a healthy real estate market.

“It’s all about supply and demand; there’s less homes and more demand,” he said. “With multiple offers coming in on certain homes, people get anxious about closing on a house so they put in multiple bids.”

Although the single-family market is improving with the number of sales increasing both locally and statewide, the average time on the market in Ridgefield is up from 162 days in 2012 to 179 this year, a 10.5% increase, according to Prudential’s first-quarter report.

Mr. Evans explained that the difference in number of sales in a given price range affects both the average time on the market and the median sales price.

While the upper-end market continues to gradually climb — there were 39 sales between $1 million and $1.5 million last year, the lower-end to mid-range market is growing at nearly double its rate from last year.

Of the 62 homes sold this year, 33 sold for under $500,000, Mr. Evans said. At this time in 2012, 17 houses had sold for under $500,000.

The lowest sale price of a single-family home dropped from $220,000 last year to $142,000 this year, according to both Mr. Evans and Ms. Kabasakalian.

Of the 62 homes sold, eight were in the $1 million-plus price range, which represents approximately 13% of the total units sold, Ms. Kabasakalian said. She added that six $1 million-plus homes were sold in 2012, making up around 14% of the total units sold.

Mr. Evans said the highest sale price in the first quarter was $1.9 million for a new house on Bryon Avenue. Compared to the same period last year, the highest was $2.7 million for a modernist mansion at Ridgebury Road. (The $8.2-million sale of the 82-acre Innisfree estate on West Mountain occurred Dec. 31, 2012.)

The highest-priced home on the market so far this year is an $11,950,000 home on Florida Hill Road.

For Realtors, an increase in sales volume is seen as a precursor to a price turnaround.

As the prices of single-family homes get less expensive in the area, though, the rental market has been decimated, Mr. Evans said.

“There’s a crazy low in the rental market, but that hasn’t affected the buyers’ market,” he said. “Now is certainly the time to buy, and what the numbers are actually saying is that it’s cheaper to buy than it is to rent.”

Mr. Evans said this pattern will likely change because interest rates will rise again. For now, though, the low interest rates and low prices make the market attractive for people looking at low-priced homes.

While rentals seem low on a local level, on a state level it is “indicative of a balanced market,” according to the Prudential report.

The report said the Connecticut real estate market will continue to be influenced by many factors, including jobs and available inventory.

“The positive signs for Connecticut’s real estate market are very evident and there is good momentum in the marketplace,” said Candace Adams, CEO and president of Prudential. “Based on our first-quarter report findings, sales should continue to recover throughout the year and this is the best time to get into the housing market.”

In Fairfield County, sales are up from 1,062 to 1,187, a 11.8% increase. Median sales price is also up, from $381,250 to $400,000, a 4.9% increase, which is second in the state.

As for Hurricane Sandy’s impact on local real estate, both Mr. Neumann and Mr. Evans are in agreement: The storm didn’t do much, if anything, to affect the single-family home market here in Ridgefield.

“I don’t think Sandy was much different than the nor’easter in 2011,” Mr Neumann said. “There was a lot more certainty in 2012 than in 2011, so there wasn’t much of an effect here when Sandy came through.”

As the key spring season from March to June continues, Realtors have reason to be optimistic looking ahead to the rest of 2013, thanks to an active market and more confident buyers.

“It’s all good right now,” Mr. Neumann said. “Things are looking positive.”

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