This Sunday’s Hartford Courant had an interesting piece by Tom Condon titled “Subdivisions On Way Out?” It is definitely worth a read if you were focused on other things yesterday, like spending time with your mother or enjoying the beautiful weather.
The basic thesis is that a confluence of trends will lead to more large houses for sale in the suburbs than buyers who will be interested in purchasing them. Supply will come from the Baby Boomer generation downsizing to smaller, lower-maintenance housing options.
However, demand for their properties may not materialize. Household size is increasing as multiple generations of a family are more frequently living together. Financially marginal buyers struggle to get a mortgage in the current environment, preventing them from being homeowners. Factors like smaller home sizes, walkable neighborhoods, mixed-use environments, and shorter commutes are creeping up to the top of buyer wish lists.
Many interesting questions could be asked using this thesis as the set-up. The first one that jumps to my mind is this, which areas of Greater Hartford will benefit most from these trends?
Some of the winners are obvious. West Hartford Center offers exactly the mix of features that Mr. Condon describes. It is an established mixed-use community with smaller homes, in a walkable setting, that is convenient to just about everything in the region. Slam dunk. The Center is currently one of the hottest real estate markets in the area with basically no inventory available. If you want to buy there, then you need to have your act together.
Other areas seem like logical winners, but there is still considerable work to be done. I see Downtown Hartford as a long-term winner. Right now there is a core group of residents excited about Downtown as a neighborhood. Seven recent apartment developments (The Hollander, The Metropolitan, The Lofts at Temple & Main, 915 Main, Bushnell on the Park, 55 on the Park, and Hartford 21) are generally considered successes. Active planning is underway to rehab another building, the former hotel on Constitution Plaza. There are many additional opportunities to add residents in smaller, apartment-style, homes that are in a mixed-use community with major established businesses and legitimate public transit.
Really, the whole Farmington Avenue corridor from Downtown Hartford through West Hartford Center seems like it has a chance to win big in the coming decades. Asylum Hill and the West End have a lot to offer on the Hartford side of the line. Residential density continues on the West Hartford side of Prospect Avenue with numerous apartment buildings and commercial areas transitioning to single-family housing just off the main road.
In the real estate market, we are already seeing buyers from the Farmington Valley come over the mountain to look at our listings in the Elizabeth Park neighborhood of West Hartford and in Hartford’s West End. If Mr. Condon is right, then this could be the beginning of a trend that will play out for years to come.