From The Heart Of Texas

The other day, an alert “06880” reader wrote:

I grew up in Westport.  I lived there from the time I was born until I graduated from Staples.

I’ve been in Texas the past 35 years, but deep down inside I felt some day I would move back home.

I just found out the other day that my childhood home was torn down, so I started looking at houses in Westport that were for sale.

Maybe you can tell me why Westport has become such an expensive place to live.  For the price of what homes go for in Westport, I could get one here for half the price.

I really miss Westport, but it just doesn’t seem like the same town anymore. When did it become so high class?  Thank you for your time.

Wow — there’s a lot there.

Tear-downs.  Housing prices.  “High class” — whatever that means, and which may or may not be tied in with the first 2.

This is one for crowd-sourcing — the collective (and probably contradictory) wisdom of “06880” readers.  Let’s hear what you have to say.

Click “comments” to respond — and please stay on topic!  Our Texas ex-pat depends on you.

This Beachside Avenue home goes for $24,950,000. A fair price, or overvalued?

34 responses to “From The Heart Of Texas

  1. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Tex, we are living in price evaluation (correction) hell!!! Many many homes were and are bloated in their price, but are worth whatever someone is willing to pay and what you are willing to except. For many years people have thought or felt bigger and new is better, so bye bye old. The joke amongst my parents and family is that our home a modest by Westport standards colonial is an expensive teardown.

  2. The Dude Abides

    I am not sure where in Texas this Dude is from but I lived there for 30 years and it wasn’t any shock moving back. Down there, you can get a 3,200 square foot house for about $300,000. That will buy you a condo here. Maybe. Why? Land is helleva lot more sparse than the Lone Star State and labor is nearly fourfold. If you worried about the price of a house (average 1.1 million), wait until you feel the cost of living. If that doesn’t dissaude you from moving back, check out the snow fall last January here. Your blood never recovers from 30+ years of hot! Stay put cowboy and you can keep your Governor too!!

  3. Simple market forces. A desirable town with limited space and real estate (lots of 2-acre zoning), plus an influx in recent years of wealthy financial industry executives (Bridgewater, for example), plus a really great school system that attracts buyers, plus the Long Island Sound, plus easy commute to NYC. I could go on. There’s no big mystery to this, no hidden agenda, no evil forces. Just the way it works.

  4. What you talking about? There are plenty of million dollar homes in Highland Park in Dallas, River Oaks in Houston and Barton Creek in Austin. Don’t be playing that good ole boy talk with us Yankees to try and low bid us.

  5. Much of the Northeast is the same way, especially the towns clustered around the major cities. I guess if you work in Manhattan every day, you would pay any price to come home to your house in the woods. The salaries match the house prices, so we stay, knowing that we’d take a big pay cut to move away.

  6. The ridiculously inflated price of homes is pretty simple to figure out….Wall Street. When you have an industry with several hundred thousand participants that makes 6 times the median average salary or the rest of and the income disparity between the top 10% and bottom 10% is immoral, some of them will find their way to Westport. What I can’t figure out is why the cost of living in CT is at least twice as expensive as other places (I have lived in several other states). Utilities are often 3 to 4 times more expensive than any other place I’ve lived and anything else you spend money on is easily twice as expensive. Definitely stay in TX!

  7. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    My understanding is when I lived in Westport (graduating in 1967), a lot of the residents commuted in to New York City for their executive jobs. The change in real estate came when the corporations started moving out to the suburbs and the high paid executives moved out with them and thus the housing price explosion. When my grandfather moved to Westport in the 40’s it was just onion fields and artists.

  8. Location, Location, Location 40 minute train ride to the greatest city in the world. 3 hours to bean town and beyond ME VT and NH. Compo Beach, Longshore, Schools better than most 5 figure $ private schools. Sports for kids all year, arts for all year. The most desirable downtown anywhere (if we can keep it that way) I would say we got quite alot to offer and only a limited amount of space. Yes traffic sucks at times, yes winters are cold (try Green Bay) and yes change happens. But it is WESTPORT and most of us know why we love it, if it was all so bad there is always other towns and states to fit your liking. Come home Tex.

  9. I would second Don’s comment, especially re the school system. Families with children are willing to pay a house price premium for the excellent schools.

  10. With income disparity in American similar to Rwanda, enclaves like Westport will only get more exclusive and isolated economically.

  11. When we left Westport in 1959 it had the highest per capita income in the U.S. The Saugatuck area seemed to be the middle and lower class, the rest was, as we called it “the hi-si”. Although my friends were a mix of both, I still felt inferior to most of the kids my age.
    My father did carpentry and interior design for many of the shops on main street as well as for several celebrities, such as Mike Todd, Richard Rogers, Martha Raye and Herman Wouk. So for whatever reason (location, charm, Long Island Sound) Westport has always attracted celebrities, artists and the wealthy in general. It’s nothing new.

  12. P.S.
    Tex, as many of us are aware, I think those rose colored glasses tend to soften reality.

  13. I just moved to Westport because it is a great place to live. I could have purchased a condo twice the size in Shelton for the same price but I want to live in Westport for all the reasons Chip Stephens mentioned in his comments above.

  14. In Saugatuck “hi si” stood for ‘high society.”

  15. Tex, the Bond market. When we grew up here there was no remarkagle difference between wealth here. It was artists and upper middle class- a a nice peaceful hamlet mix of creatives and executives who commuted to NYC…That was before high finance hit this area- meaning, before the ridiculous and absurd bonuses of wall street affected Westport. These outsiders an anomoly’s (and i have noo problem calling it for what is is) created an entirely new market for Westport. In my humble opinion, Martha Stewart’s brand attention to Westport as this perfect glassy shiny image of aspiration had a direct affect on the real estate and the demographic make up and personality of the town. It’s entirely different than when we grew up.
    The schools remain excellent as they always were, the parks as well. It’s the people, the houses, and the attitude which are not what you remember- or what I remember- and if people were to get off their high horses, so proud of how super it is to live in a super rich town- unless they are new here- they’d admit that too.

  16. Why does anyone need so much house?
    Do they have more money than they know what to do with?
    Are they running a boarding school?
    Just sayin’…

  17. Tex…come on home! I have a great house for sale in Westport (unfortunately) I can no longer afford (job loss) it was my family’s a big house for the price range..on Roseville Rd..great location..check it out it’s listed with Halstead Properties…I’m sad to leave, but would love to sell to someone who would love to come back!

    • Longtime Westporter

      It’s a great home with lots of family history (I remember neighbors named the Wakemans and Aquinos living there). We’ll be sad to have you leave. I loved the variety of people in Westport when growing up here.

  18. Clearly those commented about the great schools, amenities and proximity to the city, hit it on the head. As to class well we do have a more moneyed group in town but its not just Wall Street folk. What about that town resident who constructed an amusement park on Cross Highway. The rumor is his mandate to the pool guy: ” I want the biggest pool in Westport.” Before the ink dried on this contract a guy from Saugatuck issued the same orders…its two feet bigger. So lets add ego to the mix.

  19. When 60 minutes did a piece on the size of homes and the trend of “MacMansions,” they went to Dallas. Land is cheap in Texas, labor
    is also and they build cheap houses there with no insulation. It is predicated
    that every 4 member family in America could live nicely in the size of Texas.
    Also, thanks to the last two Governors, you have many working for $5.85 an hour with the salary differential huge from up in the Northeast. But such things are changing: it is also predicated that the next 100 million people, by 2050, will make Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Denver the great cities of tomorrow because of better weather and affordable housing. But Tex, we also remember your bumper stickers of the 70’s: “Let the Yankees freeze in the dark.” Now, we don’t cottin’ to strangers.

  20. We became high class shortly after they tore down the Sanatarium and put a dog poop park there. Don’t even think about moving back: we are entitled and don’t like to fraternize with commoners, especially red necks. We have the best schools, the smartest people, the most beautiful homes and lovely scenery. Simply put: we are better than you. Take that and go sit under a red covered wagon with your two speckled pups. Don’t come back now, ya hear?

  21. The price of real estate is determined by the market. What is the mystery? Comments about income distribution etc. are utterly besides the point. There are many other towns in the US, and most certainly in Texas, where the price of a house seems unreasonable; except to the person who bought one most recently. When we moved here over 30 years ago we were told that home prices in Westport were too high to be within reach of a young couple. Take a look around; see many young couples? Check the school population. The myth of the unaffordable home persists for yet another generation. If the homes were truly unaffordable, the prices would decline.

  22. We moved to northern Wilton where there’s very little traffic and most people wave each other on through an intersection before racing into it themselves. We’re not far from funky Georgetown (mainly part of Redding), considered not so hi si when we were growing up in Westport, but it’s become the real thing with real nice people and real good taverns and restaurants. Arcudi’s, Mario’s, and Tommy’s Compo Mens’ Barber Shop are only 15 minutes away, and we can breathe again when we get home.

  23. Don Wilmott has it right. It all comes down to zoning. People complain about large houses in Westport, but it’s not like you could build more smaller houses unless zoning was changed. Of course you need the demand side as well, but supply is very limited. Check out any of Ed Glaeser’s books or articles.

  24. I too pine for a time that was but ain’t never coming back….I “came of age” in 50’s on Long Lots Road (near Sanitarium where my Grandmother was placed). But count your blessings! Where I live now (Malibu CA) is much more expensive than Westport for all the valid reasons Don pointed out above. Take the average $2 million dollar home in Westport and put it in Malibu and you would be talking $6 or $7.

  25. A well published & personally very wealthy economist astonished at the price of houses in Westport could not understand why people would pay and mortgage so much for a house in Westport. I brought this up to local commercial realtor with large portfolio of property in Westport who replied that most home purchasers aren’t making rationale business decisions when purchasing their homes.

  26. Carl Addison Swanson

    Indeed, I am marveled at the personal attachment people have toward the market value of their house here. It is like some kine of badge of honor or disappointment nowadays. They seem to value the price of their homes rather than the memories instilled by in living in it.

    • To some it is a house, and to others it is a home. The latter group probably does not fret over fluctuations in the monetary value of their home.

  27. A. David Wunsch

    Before moving back to Westport, ask yourself whether you want to raise your kids in a town where nearly everyone they will meet will be rich. Is this good for them ?
    Staples High , class of 1956

    • Not true at all. While the mean income is $190,000 in this town, many are well below that and hardly rich. Westport remains a wonderful place to bring up your kids. If it has any problems, it is the parents but that may just not be unique to this town.

  28. Westport is made up of all classes, yes the median is high but persons and families from all economic rungs of the latter live, work and make Westport a great place to live. I won’t stoop to knocking any town, city or community as that geographic location will always have its cheerleaders and will always have its critics. The most important thing about that location is the community that allows it to thrive, and most love where they live, no matter how low someone may go to knock their HOME TOWN. I am Westport.

  29. Don ‘t appreciate the slags at Texas, even in fun. Austin has become a “boom” real estate town as well, it is also very literate (and liberal). Plus, person who asked the question is FROM Westport!!! That was the whole point of the question. It’s a sad day when a person can’t afford to live in the house he or she grew up in. Oddly I live in (Austin) TX too and plan to return to the Northeast. Probably too sad to try Westport (memories) plus it has ZERO nightlife (the reason I left). I miss it a lot sometimes but the character of the town has changed so much anyway, it doesn’t even feel like home anymore. Used to be the super-rich (shoreline mansions) and working people lived side-by-side and got along, and there was affordable housing for anyone. We also had family-run farm stands galore, apple orchards, an egg farm, and 2 riding stables ($3 an hour). And 2 “sanitariums”!!! And great, homey affordable restaurants (the Arrow!) The schools were always great though, glad to hear they still are.