NY Times: “The Builders Are Back”

It’s hard to hide a 12,000-square foot house.

But for anyone living under a (very heavy) rock — with no idea that some very large homes are going up all around town — the secret is out.

Tomorrow’s New York Times real estate section splashed us all over Page 1.

The story is headlined: “In Fairfield, The Builders Are Back.”

“Fairfield,” of course, is Fairfield County. And — just as we’ve taken the lead with some big-ass houses — Westport leads the article too.

It begins:

On a recent Sunday afternoon here, anyone visiting open houses might have thought the recession never happened. At one new multimillion-dollar colonial after another, real estate agents were eagerly waiting to show visitors high-ceilinged kitchens anchored by immense white-marble islands; fireplaces hefty enough to offset mega-size flat-screen TVs; exercise rooms with saunas and steam showers; and marble bathrooms with freestanding tubs and heated floors.

En-suite bathrooms for every bedroom are “really big right now,” said Lisa Watkins, an agent with William Raveis, who was showing a $2.699 million house on the outskirts of the sought-after Compo Beach area.

The Times used this photo of a new house on Turkey Hill Road South to illustrate its story on Fairfield County real estate ... (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

The Times used this photo of a new house on Turkey Hill Road South to illustrate its story on Fairfield County real estate … (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

So are “fabulous outdoor spaces,” said Todd Gibbons, an agent with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, who was holding an open house at a $4.35 million home (since reduced to $4.199 million) with multiple stone terraces that incorporated a pool, a spa and a fire pit.

Builders’ expectations for the spring market here are clearly high. After a recession-induced lull, new construction catering to wealthy buyers is back in a big way in Westport and a few other select areas of Fairfield County, particularly New Canaan and the neighborhoods around the beach. And the voracious demand for teardown properties where that new construction can be built is raising the already-high bar for first-time buyers, pitting them against builders looking for older homes on decent-size lots.

The piece notes the pressure put on owners of older homes. “It’s not uncommon for builders in Westport to pay upward of $1 million for a teardown, and $2 million or more near the water,” the Times says.

... and this one, on Charcoal Hill Road. (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

… and this one, on Charcoal Hill Road. (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

The story adds that while construction dropped nearly 60% during the recession, it’s zoomed since 2012. The driving force: “demand for new homes for well-to-do buyers — many of them from the city, agents say — who want the latest in design and technology, and aren’t willing to renovate existing homes.”

So it’s no surprise that there were 103 demolition permits issued during the fiscal year ending last June. The tough winter has driven the recent number down slightly, but more permits are expected this spring.

Life is good for new-home buyers — and realtors. The Times‘ look at Westport noted:

Earlier this month, a remarkable 93 new homes in various stages of completion were listed for sale in Westport, said Jillian Klaff, a broker specializing in new construction. About 40 of them were priced over $2.5 million, which, as she observed, is “a lot of houses.” Especially given that in 2014, only 25 sold in that price range.

The story briefly touches on other towns, including Fairfield and New Canaan. But I’ve summarized the most important points.

Now you don’t have to read it. Why waste time with the Times, when there are so many new homes to buy?

(Hat tip: John Karrel)

14 responses to “NY Times: “The Builders Are Back”

  1. Thanks Dan. I’ll be sure to sell a couple of these tomorrow. 😉 Jillian is correct and it will be interesting to see how this market pans out.

  2. Bobbie Herman

    So much for Westport as a “quaint little New England community.”

  3. Patricia Blaufuss

    Re 14 Charcoal Hill Road pictured above, it went on the market nearly one year ago at $4,995,000. It was reduced in August 2014 to $4,799,000, and reduced again a couple of times since then. It’s now reduced to $4,199,000.
    The original house that formerly sat on the property was designed by architect Frazier Peters and owned by the late Harry and Natalie Maynard. It was torn down and the property cleared in 2013. A 2011 photo of the historic home (prior to tear-down) and information on its heritage are at the following link: http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v2_5/comments/honoring_our_heritage_14_charcoal_hill_road/

  4. A. David Wunsch

    The Gilded Age
    ADW Staples 1956

  5. Homes and land pictured above would cost at least 15 million in my neck of the (Canadian) woods. Consider yourselves lucky. As always, it’s the land that matters.

  6. don l bergmann

    The Times story did not include anything about the role of ZBA “hardship” variances in the tear down process in our beach areas where the lots are fairly small. As most know, developers acquire property, tear down the existing home and build a much larger house relying upon the existing variances, many of which are “grandfathered” variances. The result is that a modest older home on a footprint that exceeds the zone requirement is replaced with a much taller, new home, including one that often has even more additional bulk through the artful use/manipulation of our zoning regs. Some of us have tried to stop or lessen this. I am actively so engaged now. However, the process of appeal is costly and CT Courts are very deferential to decisions of local Zoning Boards of Appeal. Still, a very recent ST Supreme Court may begin to turn the tide. We shall see.
    Don Bergmann

  7. Sharon Paulsen

    Such a darn shame that the Frasier Peter’s on Charcoal was demolished. FP homes are wonderful, and quintessential to the character of Westport and surrounding communities. I lived in one for a short time as a child. It was a magical place for me.
    Sad sad indeed.

  8. sandy johnson

    OH, yes the builders are sure aback!!! I have a huge ugly mansion that just went up across the street from m e which faces me everyday as I leave my driveway!! there is no more “Quaint Westport for sure!! Andy Frank must get building permits 24/7 with all the ones he is building. My neighbors and I are devastated with it all!!! Wonder what will happen when all of a sudden no one can afford the upkeep !!! Unfortunately, I also am a senior with not much income and have had to put my property up for sale and move. Wonder how fast my house will be torn down for another mansion!!

    • jerrymacdaid

      If you feel strongly about it, you (and your neighbors) could probably put in deed restrictions, add conservation easements or do various other things to restrict your property’s use to ensure your house is not torn down and/or replaced by a McMansion to help ensure at least a little part of “quaint Westport” remains.

  9. Hi Dan,   This is so sad  in a way – WP will never be the cute peace ful small town anymore.   My property is being sold to a builder and house will  be torn down.  Bobby Saipe’s house which was across the street got torn down fast., and in it’s place is one big monstrosity =  all the neighbors are up set about it.  I’mheartbroken that I have to move, but that’s life and I just hope I get through it all!!   Have someone who isinterested but doesn’t want to pay what I’m asking  I’m not giving my lovely flat one acre property away!!Well, as I said to you at they Y, at least when Imove you will be the one I check eachdayto see what’s going onThere is so much here I willmiss!!Sandy

  10. All these mega homes do is waste energy. Its a sure sign that the buyers ego needs to be bigger than their neighbors..sad!