2013 Year End Data Review

Most of the year we avoid looking at prices when we analyze market statistics. Considering only a month’s (or even quarter’s) worth of data is risky because the sample size is too small, while making a more sophisticated model to account for the small sample size is beyond our abilities. However we are comfortable looking at a full year of data, and now that the calendar has turned over to 2014 we can look back on the past year to see what happened.

First, we noticed that real estate activity increased during the year. The number of closed transactions in 2013 was about 12% higher than in 2012. Deal count continues to be well below the consistent trend line that was established in the early 2000s, so there appears to be room for activity to increase even further.

2014-01-09 Hartford County Single-Family Transaction 2013

We also noticed that median prices have not shown nearly as much strength over the past two years as the activity levels. In 2013 the median single-family sales price rose less than 1% over 2012, and remains just below the median sales price for 2011.

2014-01-09 Hartford County Single-Family Prices 2013

Pricing traditionally lags behind deal count in the real estate market. We saw this clearly at the top of the market, where prices continued to rise in 2006 and 2007 even though the deal count peaked in 2005 and was already falling quickly. The bottom of the market appears to be following this same trend, with prices more or less stable since 2009.

The Hartford County single-family home market has many individual town markets, and even neighborhood markets, that are all recovering at their own pace. We see some towns that are well into a recovery, with price appreciation. Other towns are struggling to find a bottom and buyers have an opportunity to really negotiate on price for their choice of homes. 2014 will continue this dispersion trend – the differences in the individual markets are likely to increase this year.

The most difficult part of interpreting median price changes is understanding how the mix of homes sold at the various price points impacts the final result. Hartford County has an active single-family market at a very wide range of prices, from less than $100,000, all the way into the millions of dollars. The number of closed deals increased in all of the categories except the $1MM+ bucket.

2014-01-09 Hartford County Single-Family Price Bands 2013

We know that bank-owned homes continued to be listed and sold in 2013. However, it is difficult to know the exact number because not all agents mark them properly in the CTMLS. It appears that at least 787 of the closed single-family deals in 2013 were bank-owned, which represents about 11% of the overall market. There were an additional 332 deals that the listing agent described as a “potential short sale,” bringing the total distressed sale percentage up to nearly 16% of the overall market.

Our view is that high-quality homes are attractive to buyers and seeing rising prices. At the same time, an active distressed market, with associated distressed prices, is putting downwards pressure on properties that are not in top condition. Buyers looking to update a home are more likely to go after the cheaper bank-owned property than a non-distressed house of the same quality.

We expect the local real estate markets to continue to improve in 2014. We’ll postpone our detailed predictions for now, but the big-picture trends are positive in Hartford County. Please let us know if you have specific questions about your town/property – we’re happy to help. Next week we’ll provide specific, town-by-town data for Hartford County.

July Contracts: Reinterpreting the Summer

There were 766 single-family contracts written in July in Hartford County. This is an 11% increase over July in 2012, and about a 6% decrease from last month.

Hartford County Single Family Contracts in July 2013

One important point to note is that we have revised the June contract count upwards by a significant number – see the original June post here. While working on the July numbers we found a spreadsheet error that had caused 67 contracts to be omitted from the analysis. Fortunately the big picture story for June remains the same … it was the beginning of the summer market.

Hartford County Single Family Contracts in July 2013 by TownJuly continued the summer trend with another step down in contracts. The chart shows a smooth transition from spring, and suggests the pace with which market activity may tail off through the winter. We continue to see the activity levels fall in the markets we’re currently working in too, though homes are still selling if their stats hit the sweet spot for their market and they are in good condition and priced properly.

The next big milestone to look for is in the September/October time frame. There is often a “fall market” that kicks off around the time that school returns to session and everyone’s weekly schedule returns to normal. Fall markets are not as active as the spring, but for buyers and sellers there is often a second wave of activity. We will see if that holds true for 2013.

The town-by-town chart shows that inventory levels are beginning to increase. We’re up to 6.2 months for the county overall, and no towns are in the 3 month range anymore.

The snapshot for this month makes it seem like Avon and Farmington are falling behind their deal pace from last year. However, the short (one month) timeline is misleading as both of those towns are almost exactly where they were in 2012 on a year-to-date basis. It’s actually surprisingly common for a town to have a “bad” month, which is why we don’t look at pricing on a monthly basis – there is too much noise in the data to make it meaningful.

6E Talcott Ridge, Farmington

Conveniently located, this end unit townhouse at Talcott Ridge in Farmington is light and bright, in move-in condition. This condo offers 2 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms over 1,224 square feet.

Inside you’ll find an open floor plan with cathedral ceilings. The living room has a fireplace and sliders to a large deck. The kitchen is updated and opens to the dining room. The master bedroom is generously sized with ample closet space and is adjacent to an updated full bath. Laundry is also on the first floor.

Upstairs there is a loft space perfect for an office or reading area. You’ll also find an additional bedroom and another updated full bath.

The unit has a 1-car garage, access to the community pool and clubhouse and guest parking. Condo fees include heat and hot water.

6E Talcott Ridge is offered at $225,000. If you’d like to see this home, please have your agent arrange a showing, call me at 860-655-2125 to schedule a visit, or stop by the open house on April 15th between 1:00pm-3:00pm. More details and a photo tour are available.

Relocating to Hartford: Picking a Town

So you’re thinking of moving to the Hartford area? That’s great – it’s quite lovely here!

Scion of the Charter Oak, in Bushnell ParkHave you thought about which town you might want to move to – where to put down roots? Greater Hartford is made up of lots of small towns that each have their own character, strengths and weaknesses. The challenge is that what may be a strength to one buyer is a weakness to another.

If you have a job lined up, then I’m sure that your future coworkers have been generous about sharing their views on where you should live. People are very opinionated on that subject. You’ll quickly realize that they’re advocating for the town/area that they live in. And that they’re also warning you about towns/areas that they know very little about other than what “people say.” Unless they know you pretty well, it’s probably best to do your own research – how do they know what you will like?

How do you research different towns? I’m glad you asked. We help people relocation to Greater Hartford regularly and have some suggestions.

The best way to check out a town is to come visit.

Drive around the business district(s) and neighborhoods to get a sense of what they are like. Walk the streets at different times of the day to see how you feel. It’s interesting to see how people respond to the different towns when we take them on a tour. Most have a mental image of what kind of town they want to live in – they don’t know how to articulate it well but they know it when they see it.

Another important step is to investigate the expenses and amenities of each town.

On the expense side, how do the property taxes compare to other towns? Almost all the towns in the area can be compared on an apples to apples basis using mill rates. The City of Hartford cannot because it uses a dramatically different tax system than everyone else. The Town of West Hartford, at the time of this writing (Jan 2012), is also tricky because of a frozen phase-in that will hopefully be resolved by Jul 2012.

Connecticut has motor vehicle taxes at the town level. So you will be taxed on the value of your car in addition to the value of your home.

On the amenities side, you can check out the parks and libraries they have, whether they do curbside trash, recycling, and/or leaf collection, how the schools are organized and perform. You can also research crime statistics for the community.

Finally, you’ll need to figure out if the town has the kind of housing you’re looking for.

To get there, you’ll need to do some thinking on your own.
– What kind of environment you like – urban, suburban, rural?
– Do you want a single-family home, or would you consider a condo or multi-family?
– Are you interested in historic, or more architecturally ornate homes?
– Would you prefer a newer, more energy efficient home?
– What are you hoping to have for a commute?
– Are there other criteria that are very important to you?

Greater Hartford has just about everything out there. Knowing what you would ideally like to find will help narrow the options quickly since each individual town has different housing types.

The quick way to sort through the different towns is to work with a real estate agent, like us. We’re happy to take some time to tour the different towns with you – show you the highlights and provide some commentary. We can also tell you which towns to look in for your preferred type of home.

Congratulations on moving to Greater Hartford … just let us know if we can help!

Burgers Around Hartford

Fatty Melt at Max BurgerThe Hartford area has become a hot spot for hamburger restaurants. We’ve always had the fast food places, like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and the like, but over the past two years there has be an explosion of more upscale places featuring the burger.

We like burgers, and have tried many of the options (though not all … yet). Each offers something a little different, and has their own strengths and weaknesses. In alphabetical order:

* Announced, but not open, as of 11/10/2011

Another Note: This is not the complete list of places to get yummy hamburgers, just a list of restaurants with a strong burger theme. And it’s not even complete in this subset. At the time of the writing, a place called Burger Baby was announced for Downtown Hartford (hopefully the website will be up by the time you read this)

For me (Kyle), there is no one place that has the best of everything. If it were possible to mix and match a meal, I would get my burger at Five Guys, onion rings at Counter Burger, and a shake from The Burger Joint. The Five Guys fries are also top notch, and the price is at the lower end (since it’s more like fast food than fine dining), so I tend to gravitate there even though milkshakes are not available.

Amy agrees that there is no one restaurant that hits the magical burger-fries/rings-shake trifecta. She is partial to the Plan B burger, the Five Guys fries, and the Counter Burger shake. She also noted that she felt like she needed to do more research into the matter since we haven’t thoroughly vetted all the options. Mmmm, sounds like delicious work…

So readers, what do you see as the best-of-the-best out there?