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.

370 Freeman Street, Hartford

370 Freeman Street, Hartford

Come see this rarely available, fully updated brick Colonial with a 3-car garage and oversized lot in Hartford’s Southwest neighborhood.

Inside, the first floor is perfect for your modern lifestyle. Formal living and dining rooms anchor the traditional Colonial floor plan. The remodeled kitchen is complete with new cabinets, granite counters, tile flooring, and stainless appliances. An office overlooking the backyard provides a quiet workspace. The heated sunroom enjoys southern and western exposure. A renovated powder room and dedicated mudroom complete the first floor.

Upstairs, the spacious master bedroom features a sitting area, walk-in closet, and fully updated bathroom. There are two additional nicely sized bedrooms and a classic, remodeled hallway bathroom.

You’ll find that the third floor is a walk up with storage space or additional room to finish, if you’d like. The basement level houses the laundry area and offers finishing potential, complete with an additional fireplace.

Freshly painted with hardwood floors throughout, the home also features a new gas hot water heater, newer gas boiler, and replacement windows.

Outside, you’ll love the level, oversized backyard with a patio, stone walls, full sun for gardening and 3-car detached garage.

370 Freeman Street is offered at $249,900. If you’d like to see this home, please have your agent arrange a showing, visit the open house on Sunday 3/19/2017 from 1:00 to 3:00, or call me at 860-655-2125 to schedule a visit. More details and a photo tour are available.

15 River Mead, Avon

15 River Mead, Avon

Move right into this updated townhouse in the River Mead community of Avon.

The main level features an updated kitchen with Corian counters and stainless appliances. A comfortable living room includes a fireplace, and a slider out to a deck facing the woods. There is a formal dining room and an updated powder room.

Upstairs the master bedroom includes double closets and an updated en-suite bathroom with heated floor. The second bedroom also has an updated en-suite bathroom.

The lower level is partially finished with family room space that walks out to a stone paver patio. The unit includes a private garage space, gas utilities, and central air.

15 River Mead is offered at $225,000. If you’d like to see this home, please have your agent arrange a showing, or call me at 860-655-2922 to schedule a visit. More details and a photo tour are available.

Advanced Real Estate Photography

New techniques and technologies are changing the way real estate is photographed, and how properties are presented online. Two new approaches that have been developing in the background finally seem ready for early adopter agents; drone photography, and 3-dimensional media.

MLS listings occasionally include exterior photos of homes that were taken from a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The new and unique feature of drone photos is the dramatic angle of the shot. Typically the camera is positioned above the street, allowing the viewer to see the home and surrounding area from a bird’s eye perspective.

Drone View of Home

3-dimensional media is a new way to interact with house pictures. A special camera is set up in the center of each room, and takes a 360 degree photo of the space. The images are uploaded and processed to create a 3 dimensional photographic model of the home. The final result is a complete model of the interior of the building that resembles a doll house. The viewer can interact with the overall building to get a sense of the floor plan, and can zoom into any of the camera positions to look around the individual room.

Both types of photography have a “wow factor.” They’re impressive, mainly because they provide a view of real estate that most people don’t get to see. But how do they fit into the listing agent’s arsenal of marketing tools?

Local professionals are available for drone photography, so it’s ready when we need it. However, we have not chosen to use it for any of our listings yet. Our view is that drone photography is most appropriate for properties with significant acreage, so that buyers can see the home in relation to the land. It is also nice for showing the scale of mansion style homes, as it has the feel of the helicopter shots that have been used in the industry for quite some time.

Traditional Photo of Home

More often than not, we find drone photography counterproductive. When used to show homes in dense neighborhoods, the aerial shots end up showing how close the neighbors are. Aerial shots also tend to prominently feature the roof of the home. Properties with an older roof, especially if it has staining or is made of slate, could be shooting themselves in the foot by showing its condition so clearly and making it a first impression of potential buyers.

3-dimensional media is still quite rare in our region. The finished product isn’t as easily displayed as a photo, so potential buyers have to visit a special website where the media is hosted. The MLS allows listing agents to upload links like this as “virtual tours.” Agents and buyers have to know that more info is available and seek it out to some extent, as the layout of the MLS and other real estate sites focus more on the traditional photos than on the extras.

Consumer real estate sites are focused on engagement, since that’s how they make money. Video is big right now, though they tell us that most consumers only watch the first 20 seconds of a clip. The sites are saying that they want to do more to promote virtual tours, like 3-dimensional media, as their next innovation. How they implement that feature will likely determine how many agents use the new technologies.

Currently, the best use of drone photography or 3-dimensional media is to help an agent win a listing. Sellers are impressed when agents talk about the innovative techniques that will be used to market their home. We feel these two advanced photography techniques are more useful as talking points than to actually attract a buyer. That may change as the online presentation of homes evolves, and as technology improves. We’ll reevaluate as needed.

On a related note, we continue to be surprised at how many agents still don’t use professional photos. Agents that don’t feel quality pictures are needed are highly unlikely to adopt more advanced (and expensive) photographic technologies.