First quarter real estate: Prices rise, home sales flat

The home at 150 Oscaleta Road sold for $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2019. It was one of two sales over $2 million recorded by the town clerk between January and March.
The home at 150 Oscaleta Road sold for $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2019. It was one of two sales over $2 million recorded by the town clerk between January and March.

Three months into 2019, and Ridgefield’s real estate market is exactly where it was this time last year.
Forty eight single-family homes sold in the first quarter this year, which is the same number that sold in the first three months of 2018.
The good news is the average sales price for homes is up from $672,892 in 2018 to $706,566 this year. The total sales volume is also up from $32,298,800 to $33,915,150.
“We’re about the same as last year,” said Toni Riordan, president of the Ridgefield Board of Realtors. “The biggest different is the average sales price and that was brought up to some bigger homes being sold.”
In the first quarter of 2019, seven homes sold for more than $1 million — up from the five $1 million-plus homes that sold over the same three-month stretch last year. Of those seven homes, two sold for more than $2 million — one for $2.5 million at 209 West Lane and another for $2,050,000 at 150 Oscaleta Road.
In 2018, no homes sold for over $2 million in the first quarter. The largest home sale of last year was $2.55 million in October.
“The fact we have buyers in that price range this early in the year is great, and there are even more coming in the spring, which is really an encouraging sign,” Riordan said.
There are 37 homes under deposit in Ridgefield heading into the spring quarter, according to the Multiple Listing Service, and seven of them are being sold for more than $1 million.
“It’s not a definite but if they all come in over a million that brings us up to 14 on the year,” Riordan said.
“There are six more under deposit between $750,000 and $999,000, which is another good sign for us.”
Despite the sales in the upper-end market, the most common home sales fall under the $700,000 price tag. In the first quarter last year, 31 of the 48 homes that sold went for under $700,000. In 2019’s first quarter, Ridgefield saw 32 of its 48 home sales go under that $700,000 figure.
“That’s still the most popular price point,” Riordan explained. “It sells the fastest, and that’s because it’s where the inventory is the highest. ... Some of these bigger homes have been on the market for a while. It’s a positive they’ve closed and that there are buyers out there for them but we definitely see the most buyers looking
Two-thirds of home sales under $700,000 also helps explain why the median sales price was actually down from $619,750 in 2018 to $567,000 this year.
“More homes sold at a higher price — those ones that go for over a million — drives up the average price,” Riordan said, “but what we’re seeing is what we’ve always seen, and that’s the lower-priced homes driving a majority of our traffic.”
While the market for single-family homes remained flat in the first quarter, the number of condominiums sold dropped from 15 in the first quarter of 2018 to 11 this year.
The average sales price also dipped from $315,667 last year to $268,955 in 2019. The median sales price didn’t fare any better, dropping from $230,000 to $193,500 year to year.
“Right now, the condo market is a bit slower than we imagined it would be, which is a little surprising,” Riordan said.
The problem isn’t necessarily with the number of units sold; rather, it’s with inventory.
“There’s not a lot on the market currently,” she added. “Of the 22 condos listed, only four are under deposit. ...
“It might be a good time to get your condo ready and put it on the market because there’s not a lot of competition.”
As for the decline in sales prices, Riordan thinks the market has been skewed recently with upper-end condos selling for hundreds of thousands more than the average listing.
In the first quarter of 2018, the highest sold condo went for $865,000 at 77 Sunset Lane. The high from this year’s first quarter was $580,000.
“The new construction drove up prices in the last two to three years,” Riordan explained, “but those are not your average condos — 77 Sunset Lane, the Elms ... they are higher-end units and the numbers reflect that.”
Conveyance tax collected at the town clerk’s office indicates that Ridgefield’s real estate market was strongest in March this year. The clerk’s office collected $31,539 in taxes last March, with $44,335 being recorded over that same month in 2019.
In January 2018, the town clerk collected $51,287 in property transfer taxes compared to just $27,434 brought in this past January. The market picked up in February this year with $36,199 collected in taxes — up from $30,036 recorded in 2018.
“We saw a lot of activity this quarter,” Riordan said. “The weather cooperated for the most part and brought in more people at the end of winter than we normally see in March.”
Riordan said that sales were pretty steady throughout the quarter: 11 homes sold in January, 15 in February, and 22 in March.
“It’s still early,” she said. “I feel like there could be a lot more coming on the market here real soon. A lot of people like to wait until the winter’s gone to fix their house.”
Riordan said she didn’t have a crystal ball but she’d imagine activity to ramp up after this week’s spring break and two religious holidays, Easter and Passover.
“We tend to see a lot of people wait until after Easter, then they put their homes on the market,” she said.
Despite claims that proposed bills to regionalize Connecticut’s public school districts have lessened home buyers’ interest in Ridgefield, Riordan said the town remains a popular destination for couples looking to move to Fairfield County.
“I hear everyone talking about it but our schools are going to be fine,” she said. “We have great schools, we have a safe community, and there’s a booming art scene here and plenty of events for families — what’s there not to love? We’re the quintessential New England town.”
When asked whether buyers or sellers had the advantage heading into the second quarter, the president of the Ridgefield Board of Realtors said the early-bird shoppers have seen some good value which has contributed to a market that’s up in prices and flat in units sold.
“It always depends on the type of buyer,” she said. “If they’re not in a hurry and can wait around to see a bunch of different homes, then they will find good deals out there. Some people don’t have that luxury and want to settle in quickly because of a move or another set of circumstances...
“If you’re flexible and can wait more, then you can use it to your advantage ... You don’t want to wait too long though, you never know when these really low interest rates will start to go up again.”
Based on the low rates for buyers and the reasonably strong amount of shoppers in town, Riordan expects the market to continue on an upward trajectory this spring as the weather gets warmer.
“We’ve been very steady,” Riordan added, “and when it’s this early in the year, steady is a good thing.”