Including Commute Time in the Home Search

Connecticut realtors recently upgraded the software we use to access our MLS database. The primary improvement was a modernization of the site that our clients use to browse property matches. There were some behind-the-scenes changes that impact agents, but nothing particularly noteworthy.

While testing out the new system, I found the feature that searches by “Drive Time.” It allows us to create a search to find properties within a certain commuting distance. Specifically, I set the destination, the arrival time, and the drive time, and the system creates a shape that includes all the places that I could leave from considering typical traffic at that time of the day.

For example, here is the shape it creates when I tell it I want to have a 15 minute commute and arrive at the intersection of Main and Pearl in Downtown Hartford by 8:30 AM.

15 Min at 830

Along the Interstate 84 corridor you’re okay from the Park Road exit in West Hartford all the way out to the 384 interchange in Manchester. The 291 interchange is the northern-most limit, and the Route 3 interchange is the southern-most limit. The shape is definitely organized around highway access, as the northwest quadrant of the map shows a surprisingly short distance is within 15 minutes along Albany Avenue (Route 44).

What if we choose an arrival time that is outside of rush hour, say 2:00 PM? Driving in the early afternoon allows much more of the region to reach Downtown Hartford within 15 minutes.

15 Min at 1400

I’m still skeptical of the non-highway routes. I regularly drive Downtown from the Albany Avenue area and think that the map understates how many homes are within 15 minutes, especially during non-rush hour times.

Despite my one concern, the Drive Time feature is an interesting tool to be able to use when defining search criteria for buyers. Commute time is important when considering where to live, and this gives us a way to estimate distances that correspond to times.

Contracts: Data Unavailable

We have, unfortunately, suspended our monthly contracts series. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope to restart it in the future.

If you’re interested in learning why we’ve had to suspend the series, then read on…

Our local MLS upgraded the software that agents use to access the MLS at the end of July. Although the new software is an improvement in a number of areas, it does not allow us to gather contract data in the same way as before.

The primary challenge is that the availability of database fields has been changing on a regular basis over the past month. The fields contain the correct data, but sometimes they are available to us, and other times they are not. The MLS tech team is fine-tuning the new system. There is one field in particular that we rely on for the Contracts search, which holds the date when each seller accepted an offer.

This particular field gets set when a property is moved to one of the many statuses in the database that signal the property is under contract. It is a required input for the listing agent.

Despite the field definitely having a value, the application agents use to access the database does not always show the value. And when the value is not visible, it is not searchable by the current application.

That the field is only visible in certain situations is actually not new, the same thing happened prior to the software upgrade. What is new, and what we’re struggling with, is that the previous versions would use the hidden field in collecting search results. We would search for the homes that went under contract during a month and some would show a contract date, while the others would not. This was fine since we didn’t care which specific date the home went under contract, just that it happened during the month.

What’s frustrating about the situation is that there is no reason to hide the data in this particular field. Agents can easily see when the property was moved to an “Under Contract” status in the listing itself. There is an entire display that shows the history of each property in the MLS. This is not sensitive information that needs to be protected. It’s already public, so it should be searchable.

We have formally requested that the MLS team make the contract field visible, and therefore searchable, to agents. Hopefully they will agree with our reasoning. If and when they do make the change, we will resume the monthly contracts posts. We find them useful for our work, and know that others are interested in the data too.

Thank you for your patience, and for your interest in a technical matter. We appreciate that you visit the site and follow along with the local real estate markets.

40 Ashley Street, Hartford

40 Ashley

Don’t miss a rare opportunity to own a historic brick single-family on Asylum Hill’s premier block.

This 1890s Victorian home welcomes you with a full width front porch featuring intricate wood details. The foyer retains the original newel post and banister, and opens to a living room with wood burning fireplace. Beyond the living room is a very large space that was originally the dining room, but is currently used as a family room. The oversized eat-in kitchen is divided into the cooking area and the seating area. A powder room completes the main level.

Upstairs, the home has five bedrooms and one full bath. Three of the bedrooms are on the second level, and the final two are on the third level. All the bedrooms are spacious, and the home has good closet space throughout.

Behind the kitchen is a wood deck that is perfect for a grill and relaxing. A brick three bay garage is at the rear of the lot, though currently not in use, with an attached shed on the side. The home has gas heat and the roof was replaced in 2016.

The property is being sold AS IS. 40 Ashley is a terrific opportunity to own a piece of Hartford history and make it your own!

40 Ashley Street has 5 bedrooms, 1.1 baths, and 2,388 sqft. The home is offered for $140,000. If you’d like to see this home, please have your agent arrange a showing, or call Kyle at 860-655-2922 to schedule a visit. More details and a photo tour are available.

June Contracts: One Thousand

2017-07-08 Hartford County Single Family Contracts in June 2017

Hartford County finished June 2017 with 1,000 single-family contracts. Hitting four digits in a month is rare, a level of activity that the market only reaches during spring months of busy years. Despite reaching the 1,000 deal milestone, the month trailed the activity level of June 2016 by about 2.6%. On a year-to-date basis, 2017 trails 2016 by 0.5%.

Town-by-town results (below) are often widely scattered, but June’s results seem to be exceptionally diverse. Even in the smaller markets it’s unusual to see outperformance or underperformance of more than 50% for a month. Five of the 28 towns had at least a 50% swing in the number of deals compared to June 2016.

The year-to-date trends also show quite a bit of diversity. Many, but not all, of the less dense suburbs to the west and north of the City lagged last year’s performance by over 10%. At the other end of the spectrum, East Hartford and Manchester recorded the two largest increases in deals. East Hartford is 59 contracts ahead, while Manchester is at +57 contracts.

Inventory of active listings continues to follow the same trend we have been reporting for years. In the County overall, it is a seller’s market for properties worth less than $200,000, a neutral market for homes between $200,000 and $400,000, and a buyer’s market for prices above $400,000. The dynamics of individual towns definitely vary, but the general trend typically holds. Sellers have the advantage at the low end, while buyers have the advantage at the high end.

Although the summer has the reputation of being a slower period for real estate, the chart at the top shows that July and August are still active months for buyers. We’re looking forward to keeping the year going as we work with our buyer and seller clients. Let us know if you need some real estate help!

2017-07-09 Hartford County Single Family Contracts in June 2017 by Town

May Contracts: Rebound

Hartford County Single Family Contracts in May 2017

May contracts rebounded sharply from the seemingly out-of-line data point reported for April. Hartford County finished the month with 1,123 single-family contracts. It was a higher total than any of the spring months in 2016, or any other month since we began tracking contracts using this methodology in 2009. The May total brought the year to date deal count to within 2 of May 2016 count.

Inventory data showed that there was a modest increase in the number of available homes. The County’s months of inventory increased from 3.3 to 3.5. Additionally, the number of municipalities with 3.0 months of inventory or less declined from 12 to 8. There was more balance between supply and demand in May than in April.

Buyers intent on purchasing this spring faced two headwinds that may have caused the April data point to be an outlier.

First, competition from other buyers may have prevented home shoppers from “winning” properties that they tried to buy. This headwind was caused by the low inventory levels that were observed.

The second headwind was psychological, the natural tendency to want to wait to see if better options appear. The Greater Hartford real estate market is dominated by homes that were built decades ago. There is relatively little new construction, and virtually no large-scale subdivisions that offer new, cookie-cutter single-family homes.

Because of the nature of the housing stock, every home is different. Buyers who don’t love their options will often wait to see if something better comes onto the market. They want to find the right fit. However, there is a limit to their patience. At some point they have to pick from the available options so that they have a place to live.

May continued the strong spring real estate market. Hartford County is back on pace with 2016, and shows signs of continued strength into the late spring and early summer months.

Hartford County Single Family Contracts in May 2017 by Town