First quarter real estate: Storms slow home sales
Ridgefield’s real estate market is still thawing out after being shelled by a series of winter storms that slowed down both the number of homes sold and their average selling price in the first quarter of 2018.
In January, February and March of this year, 47 single-family homes went off the market — down from the 61 homes that sold over the same period in 2017.
The average sales price also decreased, from $720,593 in the first quarter last year to $679,336 in 2018.
“I think we got to spring a little sooner in 2017, for sure,” said Board of Realtors President Mary Pat Sexton.
She said she wouldn’t call the downturn a slump, “but there’s definitely a little give on the single families.”
“Time will tell, the second quarter [April, May, and June] could even everything out,” Sexton added.
One area for optimism among Realtors was the number of condos sold in the first quarter — up from 12 in 2017 to 15 this year — and their median sale price, up from $217,000 last year to $230,000 in 2018.
The median sale price on single-family homes was also up, from $606,000 in 2017 to $627,500 in this year’s first quarter.
While condo sales and the median sale price on homes went up, the total sales volume fell $11,478,333 from last year.
Sexton was hesitant to say whether the market now favors buyers or sellers.
“I would say the [interest] rates are expected to go up, and this is probably the most inventory you’re likely to see, and money is still relatively cheap to borrow,” Sexton said. “Historically, rates are still low.”
As for sellers, with the spring months approaching, Sexton recommended putting their listing on the market.
“I think people shouldn’t be waiting any longer — if you can get your house on the market, get it on,” she said.
High, middle, low
Of the homes that sold in the first three months of 2018, the middle market, those priced between $500,000 and $1 million, had the most sales — 35 of the 47 homes sold in that price range.
“That is a popular price point for families of four, so that’s holding on very well,” Sexton said.
While fewer entry-level homes — those priced below $500,000 — sold in the first quarter of 2018 than did last year, Sexton said those homes remain popular, too.
“I do think that it’s a hot market,” she said of the low-end market. “The reason there’s so few selling in the lowest price point is that we don’t have a lot in the lower price point.”
Seven such homes sold between Jan. 1 and March 31 this year, compared with 14 in the same period last year.
The high-end market also saw fewer sales in the first three months of the year, with five homes selling over the $1-million mark, compared to 10 such sales during the same time last year.
All home sales over $1 million this year took place in January, before the heavy snowstorms hit town in February and March.
“They might have been left over from the fall,” Sexton said of the higher-priced homes.
She explained that homes listed above $1 million often sit on the market for much longer.
“There’s a lot of houses for sale over $1 million,” she said.
A home on Tanglewood Road that went for $1,475,000 was the highest-priced sale recorded in the first three months of the year. The lowest sale of the first quarter was a home on Ramapoo Hill Road that went for $210,000.
While sales of single-family houses fell in the first three months of the year, the market for condominiums held steady.
“Condos are moving quickly,” Sexton said. This has been “a very, very busy market, especially at the market-entry levels.”
Twelve condos sold below the $500,000 level in the past three months, compared with eight during the same time frame last year.
Sales of condos above $500,000 but below $1 million also held steady, with three units selling — one fewer than at the same time last year.
Sexton said those high-end sales may be tapering off because of inventory at the two recent condo developments in town, the Elms and Sunset Lane.
“I’m not sure how many they have left — that’s going to start to flicker off as they sell,” she said. The highest recorded condo sale of the first quarter was $865,000 for a unit in the 77 Sunset Lane development.
There are currently 280 single-family homes left on the market, as well as 30 condo.
“There is encouraging news with 38 properties currently under agreement and 37 already in contract,” said realtor Karla Murtagh of Neumann Real Estate. “We are also seeing an uptick in the number of listings entering the market on a daily basis, providing a much-needed influx of inventory.”
“Rising interest rates should favorably impact our peak selling months of April, May and June as people jump into the market to maximize their buying power,” Murtaugh added.
The winter slowdown also showed up in the town’s conveyance taxes — a small percentage that the town takes in whenever property in town is transferred between a buyer and seller. Because the taxes are a percentage of each transaction, they’re useful as a sort of snapshot of the month’s sales volume, as well as the prices of properties that are selling.
“I’m not too concerned about it because I think it was an unusually long winter,” said Town Clerk Barbara Serfilippi. “I think in the spring months things will pick up.”
The town took in $112,861 in conveyance taxes in January, February and March this year, compared to $125,499 during the same three-month stretch in 2017.
January brought in the most taxes, at $51,287 this year, while February and March dropped off, with $30,036 and $31,538, respectively.
While sales fell in both February and March compared to last year, conveyances taxes in January were boosted by several high-end sales.
Five homes were sold above the $1-million mark during the month of January, and one commercial property sold for over $2 million — 66 Grove Street, which sold for $2.45 million at the end of the month.
“Once we get those larger sales, you just need one or two of those to boost up the conveyance tax,” Serfilippi said.
The next two months saw conveyance taxes decline, with conveyances down by $14,409 in February, and $6,354 in March, compared to the same months in 2017.
While Serfilippi noted that the condo market remained active, she said the next quarter will give a better picture of whether the town will meet the conveyance tax figures set by the Board of Finance.
“It’s the next few months that tell the story,” she said.