Once upon a time, the shopping mall was at the top of the retail food chain. The mall was home to the best stores, and the most excitement.
Amy and I grew up in the mall era. Our small town (population ~25,000) had its own little mall that kids hung out in, but it was not comparable to the shopping destinations that are available in Greater Hartford. Both of our families made the hours-long drive to larger towns with bigger malls for back to school shopping.
Back in the day we went to the mall to buy clothes, electronics, and even tools at the anchor stores. There was always a toy store in the mall, but we usually weren’t allowed to go in there. And, of course, there were the delicious specialty food shops … Orange Julius anyone?
Malls haven’t dominated the retail environment for a long time, as big box stores sprouted up in mall-adjacent locations decades ago. The crowds that turn up during the Christmas shopping season are a nice reminder of olden times when it seemed like everyone was at the mall.
November exhibited the typical 4th quarter decline in activity, but outperformed November of 2017 by 4%. There were 672 single-family home contracts in Greater Hartford during the month, a number that was comparable to the September 2018 result.
As we approach the year end, the chart at the top has basically finalized its shape. The months of June, July, August, and September feel out of line. It’s not that we’re questioning the data, rather we’re observing that those four months do not smoothly connect the May and October data points like they do in some years.
The reasons behind the abrupt market change are, unfortunately, not a mystery that we are likely to solve. We neither predicted the change, nor were able to explain it as it happened. Even now, a few months removed, hindsight has not provided any additional information. No single factor has emerged as the defining narrative for the summer months. As always, we prefer to acknowledge the uncertainty and factor it into our thinking rather than pretend to be able to explain it.
Even though the year isn’t quite over, we’ve begun the planning process for 2019. We’re looking forward to another active year in the real estate markets.
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Just when it seemed like the real estate year was over, the month of October turned out to be surprisingly active.
Hartford County recorded 812 single-family home contracts, which was more than 11% higher than October of last year. The total was also a significant jump from last month, September 2018, when the county finished with just 684 contracts.
This single-month reversal is one of the largest we have seen since we began reporting on monthly contract data. There appears to be no direct cause for the increase. The economy has not dramatically changed, election day has not arrived, mortgage rates remain slightly below 5%, and we are not aware of any major new narratives that would justify such a significant market shift.
We’re happy to be reporting positive market news, however unexpected it may be. Consult with your favorite real estate agent to find out how this upswing impacted your town or neighborhood market. There may still be opportunities this year, and this is the time to begin planning for next year’s spring market.
September was a down month for the Hartford County single-family market. The number of contracts signed declined more than 9% from the same month last year, leaving the County 4% behind on a year-to-date basis.
It appears that there will be a modest fall market in Hartford County this year. Other agents throughout the state are reporting similar observations about the market, so the deceleration does not appear to be unique to Greater Hartford.
I’ve heard a number of competing theories as to why we had a slow September, but it’s unfortunately impossible to know for sure why the number of deals moved downward this month. We cannot say for certain whether it is the local economy, rising mortgage interest rates, Connecticut’s political and economic situation, the national political environment, or something else entirely.
Most likely it is a combination of many factors.
Ironically, this may be an excellent opportunity for buyers to step in and find their new home. Let us know if you are considering a home search. We are always happy to talk real estate!