March Contracts: Bouncing Back

Hartford County finished March with 984 single-family contracts, a 2.3% increase over March of 2016. The slight outperformance brought the year-to-date contract total to within one deal of the first quarter of 2016.

2017-04-07 Hartford County Single Family Contracts in March 2017

The market continues to be very active, with strong demand from buyers. The County-wide market is on the verge of being a seller’s market, which is traditionally defined as having less than 3 months of inventory. In general, sellers have an advantage at low price points and buyers have an advantage at high price points. However, people actually in the market looking to buy or sell need to look closely into the dynamics of the individual towns, price points, or both, to get a true picture of their situation.

The count of active listings for this time of year is down compared to recent years. The MLS reported 2,471 active single-family homes in Hartford County when I downloaded data a few days ago. Last year at this time there were 3,178. There were 3,188 in 2015.

Since the number of deals is virtually identical to last year, but the number of active listings is about 22% lower, it seems safe to conclude that the “problem” is on the supply side. Meaningfully fewer owners have listed their property for sale this spring, limiting the supply of available homes.

Too few listings is a great problem for property owners. It gives people thinking about a move some comfort that there will be buyers interested in their home. Hopefully the favorable dynamics will allow them to sell for a good price. We’ve been telling our seller clients to consider getting their home onto the market sooner rather than later.

If you’re considering a sale, we would love to have a chance to interview for your listing and provide a more in-depth analysis about your situation. Feel free to reach out to us at any point.

Finally, I should note that the table showing the number of contracts by town has been updated to include the year-to-date totals. Monthly results can be quite volatile, especially for the smaller towns. Adding the deal total over a longer time period should give a better sense of what is happening in each town’s market.

2017-04-07 Hartford County Single Family Contracts in March 2017 by Town

WH Real Estate News: Mar 2017

The West Hartford real estate market continued its strong start with 66 closed single-family sales in March. On a year-to-date basis, the 156 closed sales in the first quarter were the most since the height of the real estate boom in 2004.

West Hartford Sales by Month - March 2017

Growth in sales activity over the past 12 months has been broadly distributed through the Town’s many price points. Only two segments of the market showed a decrease in activity, but for very different reasons.

West Hartford Sales by Price - March 2017

The decrease in the number sales below $200,000 is a positive for property owners, as it shows the strength of the market. Demand is much higher than supply, and competition between buyers has caused values to increase to the point where homes that used to be worth just less than $200,000 are now worth slightly more.

The top end of the West Hartford market has a different dynamic, with the supply of homes outpacing demand. The $1,000,000+ market is never very active in Town, but the pace of seven figure sales has fallen over the past 12 months. What we’re seeing anecdotally is that buyers are not particularly interested in taking on large historic homes that need updating.

Inventory data shows the supply and demand dynamics of all the price points quite clearly. West Hartford has too few available listings at price points below $500,000. There is a reasonable number of listings between $500,000 and $700,000. Above $700,000 the market strongly favors buyers.

West Hartford Inventory - March 2017

At some point buyers will hopefully realize that there are good opportunities at the upper price points in West Hartford. The biggest opportunity continues to be for move-up buyers. They have the chance to sell their smaller home into a strong market, and buy their larger home in a weak market.

I’m always happy to talk about the local real estate markets, so feel free to reach out to me at any point.

WH Real Estate News: Feb 2017

The West Hartford real estate market performed well through the first two months of the year. The number of closed sales totaled 90, which was about 9% more than 2016’s total through February. It was strongest start to the year since 2007, which also had 90 deals in the first two months.

West Hartford Month February 2017

The Transactions by Price chart shows that over the past 12 months most of the increase in sales activity was between $200,000 and $499,999. These homes represent the core housing stock in town, and they drove median prices up about 3% in 2016.

West Hartford Price February 2017

You’ll notice that there was about a 17% decline in the number sales that closed in the $100,000s. The decline reflects a strengthening price environment at the low end of the market. Homes that in previous years were selling below $200,000 are now worth more, and many are selling in the next highest price band.

West Hartford Active February 2017

The Active Listings chart shows how many options buyers have in each of the price bands. However, the more interesting information is the ratio of the available listings to the number of sales over the past 12 months.

Consider the 44 active listings shown for the $200,000s, which is the highest count of all the price bands. Because that price band is so active, with 265 sales over the past 12 months, that only represents enough available listings for 2 months of sales. We refer to that price band as having 2 months of inventory. The $200,000s, and all the other price bands below $500,000, are markets that favor sellers. Properties that are in good shape, and that are marketed well, have an opportunity to generate considerable interest.

Inventory levels increase as the price point increases, but that doesn’t mean sellers are out of luck. West Hartford homes that are priced appropriately tend to sell. That’s one of the nice things about the town’s real estate market.

Although we like to let the data inform our opinions about the market, we also pay close attention to the day-to-day in town. We’re seeing bidding wars on nicer properties on a regular basis. The market is currently limited by the relatively few homes available in the lower and middle price points. We are expecting a strong spring real estate market in West Hartford.

Amy & Kyle Bergquist are residential real estate agents based in West Hartford Center. Reach out to us at any time for a free consultation – we would love to help you buy or sell a home!

Video Surveillance in Progress

Kids Room

Video technology has advanced considerably over the past 10 years. Cameras are smaller and cheaper than ever, with very high quality video.

Homeowners frequently have surveillance video at, and in, their homes. Home security monitoring companies now offer video that is accessible directly from a smartphone. Cable TV providers offer video cameras as part of a security add-on to their core data and entertainment services. Some owners install dedicated video surveillance systems to keep an eye on their property. Doorbells provide video feeds. Nanny cams can be placed anywhere inside a home.

When it comes time to sell the house, all those cameras are still in place. They can tell the owner when the buyers arrived at the house, and how long they stayed. This is convenient information if the seller had to gather their dogs/kids and make themselves scarce for an hour. Cameras on the inside of the home also have the potential to provide unique insight into what happened during the showing. Where in the home did the buyers go? What did they do while they were there? Did they touch anything they really shouldn’t have touched?

Despite the temptation to monitor every detail, we recommend that sellers not review video footage of buyer visits unless they notice something wrong at the house.

Buyers do and says a lot of things during a home tour without also noting how important that observation is to them. They need to take a step back and review the entire showing in order to prioritize their observations and reach a big-picture conclusion about the home. Big-picture feedback is best gathered from the buyer’s agent. It is part of the listing agent’s job to collect and interpret buyer feedback for the seller.

The other reason to not review the video footage is that seller will develop opinions about potential buyers. When a buyer makes an offer on the home, those opinions may get in the way of a successful negotiation. A mild example is a seller having hurt feelings because the buyer didn’t like their decor. In the worst case scenario, the video footage could cause the seller to illegally discriminate against a bidder.

Technology evolves faster than the law, so it is difficult to say with certainty what types of recordings are allowed versus not allowed. We consulted with legal counsel at the Connecticut Association of REALTORs. They reported that Connecticut state law requires that anytime anyone is recorded with audio inside a home that they have to sign a consent form. As a buyer’s agent, being asked to sign a consent form for video surveillance in order to show a home would get the showing off to a rocky start.

Knowing the theoretically correct thing for a seller to do is great, but all sellers may not follow those guidelines. Buyers should always be on their best behavior when touring a home. Assume the owner is watching and listening, and show their home the respect that it deserves. There is no need for the experience to be stressful since the vast majority of buyers act appropriately.

Video surveillance is the new norm, and will continue to expand into more and more homes. Sellers should disable the audio to make sure they’re in compliance with state laws. Buyers should assume they’re being recorded even if they don’t see cameras or any warning from the seller. Big brother is watching.

Lego House: Split Level

Lego House - Split Level

Split level homes are a common sight in Greater Hartford. However, they don’t show up in all neighborhoods. The vast majority of the split level homes in the county were built in the 1950s and 1960s, so expect to find them in neighborhoods developed in that era.

2017-03-06 When Were Split Level Homes Built