Tag Archives: Real estate

Real Estate Reality

Realtors are hard-wired for upbeatness.  And Karen Scott is among the cheeriest of the cheery realtors I know.

But when I asked recently for her assessment of the current market, she did not bubble nonsensically.

Karen Scott realtor“We’re in unprecedented times, especially for Westporters,” she said.  “This is a marketplace people never expected, or thought would happen.”

Yet, she noted, “there is life — especially in the last couple of weeks.”

Karen  — who’s with KMS Partners of Coldwell Banker — added:  “There are opportunities to be had.  If you’re a buyer with a job, good credit and money for a down payment, you can buy.”

The media has created fear, she said.  But there are mortgages available — though with more scrutiny than before, and perhaps a longer wait.

People still relocate, Karen said.  As they have for years, when they compare various towns Westport often seems desirable largely because of our schools.

“We worried that a very large budget cut would ruin our school system,” she continued.  “Cuts had to be made, but I thought it ended up okay.”

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This 6-bedroom, 6-bath, 5-fireplace property is NOT in the hot market segment of sub-$1 million homes.

The choice of inventory is greater than ever, Karen said.  One result:  Buyers have more time to pick and choose.  “Gone are the days when you had to make a decision by tomorrow, or it would be gone.  If you can get a great rate, a good deal and can stay a few years, this is a great time to buy.”

The hottest markets in Westport, she said, involve homes under $1 million, and first-time buyers.

Sellers, meanwhile, must price their properties below the competition for 2 reasons:  to attract buyers, and satisfy appraisers.  Some lenders now require 2 appraisals.

Karen said that realtors are “adjusting to a different way of doing business.  We have to exhibit enormous patience.  Buyers are all set to buy, then they read a scary headline and get all worried.”

However, compared to January, the “media hype and fear has subsided a lot.  Sellers have made adjustments, lenders are lending, and people are holding onto their jobs.”

Some observers think the bottom of the market has been reached.   Karen cautions:  “You never know the bottom until you see it in the rear-view mirror.”

Karen Scott loves her job.  “Business is still being conducted.  And real estate is still a fascinating topic — people are always talking about it.  Everyone has an opinion, or a story.”

Looking for a spot on Saugatuck Shores for under $1 million? Check out this $975,000 baby.

Looking for a spot on Saugatuck Shores for under $1 million? Check out this $975,000 baby.

Real Estate Roulette

The word on the treadmill is that New York Sports Club may leave Compo Shopping Center.

An employee answering the phone three days ago denied the rumor.  The Norwalk location closed March 31, she said, but Westport will remain open.  She took my name and number, and said the general manager would call back.   I’m still waiting.

Chip Stephens — the ear-to-the-ground, eyes-wide-open longtime Westporter who may mount a first selectman run — heard the fitness club news, and let his imagination run wild.

With so many businesses closing, he says, what would happen if real estate owners panicked and agreed to long-term leases at reasonable rates?  Perhaps, Chip wonders…

Food  Fair could return to its former site — the one currently occupied by New York Sports Club…

The Magees might reopen  Bridge Market, with basic home-and-beach grocery needs and a sub-$5 sub…

The Purcells would resurrect their bar, complete with shuffle hockey and pool tables in the strip mall across from Barker’s — er, Super Stop & Shop…

The Crest Drive-In might reappear at Derma Clinic, just a few yards behind its original, legendary spot at the Playhouse Square entrance.

I built on Chip’s list.  Selective Eye could return where Katzenberg Kafe just klosed.  Sport Mart might live again in its first home, Sconset Square (back in the day it was “Sherwood Square”).  And the Pepper Mill could revert to its long-ago role:  a Greyhound bus stop.

Take it from here, “06880” readers.  If you could reincarnate your favorite place — at a currently closed site — what would it be?

Retail Space Available

Do not read this if you are a commercial real estate owner.  Or if you are prone to depression.

Especially do not read this if you are a commercial real estate owner prone to depression.

A friend recently said there were 26 vacant storefronts in downtown Westport.  Despite the economy, I thought that was high.  I decided to see for myself.

The good news is:  He’s wrong.  The bad news is:  He’s not off by much.

“Downtown” is an amorphous concept, but if you consider it as Main Street and environs, here’s what I found.

Across the Post Road Bridge, near Riverside Avenue, both Little Tibet and The Stuart Collection have closed.  There is a “retail/restaurant” available sign near the Inn at National Hall, while in the other direction King’s Texaco has serviced its last vehicle.

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A “Prime Retail” sign sits in the window of the old library (now HSBC Bank).  Katzenberg Kafe on Main Street is gone; so is the spot next to Ann Taylor and, just past always-thriving Westport Pizzeria, both the old Soup’s On and the former Clementine.

The entire odd 4-story building at 125 Main Street — a vertical mall erected after a furniture store fire 30 years ago, and which never took hold in horizontal Westport — is completely closed.

Swezey’s Jewelers — site of the best Christmas window in town — is long gone.  Behind Talbot’s on Parker Harding Plaza, a sign advertises “Space Available.”  A similar sign hangs in front of Cocoa Michelle (though that upscale coffee/chocolate shop thrives).

Over in Sconset Square, we’re down both a jewelry store and a cabinet/countertop maker.

The storefront next to La Villa Restaurant is vacant; across from the post office, Sang’s Tailoring is shut.  A few steps west, Beautiful Faces is empty.  Particularly sad is the old Town Hall, the handsome stone building next to Restoration Hardware.  A bank — actually, a few banks — used to operate there.  Now the only sign of life is  a “Welcome to Westport” banner out front.

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The rest of town fares no better.  In Playhouse Square, Derma Clinic has given its final facial.  Heading east, Totally Kool is totally closed.  Across the street, tumbleweeds blow across the empty asphalt of both Curran Cadillac and Shaw’s — plus nearby Everything Personalized, the Kodak photo place, and a third store I can’t even recall.

There is one vacancy in the Calise’s strip mall, another where Gallerie Je Reviens used to be.  Carvel will never close, but the business next to the Great American Stamp Store behind it did.

Just past Bertucci’s, Sports Collectables and another store could not make it.  Retail space is available in the Crate & Barrel shopping center, and where Green’s Farms Variety used to be.

Pane Vino restaurant closed recently; the old Pepper Mill property remains undeveloped.  Across from Super Stop & Shop, an empty storefront snoozes next to Sleepy’s.

Circling back toward downtown, through Saugatuck, Conte’s restaurant is vacant.  So is part of Bridge Square, the poster shop on Riverside Avenue, a store across from the railroad station, and a large space next to the AAA.

What a list — talk about a buzzkill.  So, to avoid starting off your week on a down note, consider a few signs of life:

Crumbs Bakery will soon dispense scrumptious cupcakes (for dessert after dinner at nearby Matsu Sushi?).  Joe Arcudi’s square pizza returns to its old stomping ground.  A flotation therapy spa opens in May downtown.

Or take an even broader view:  With all that empty space, now’s the perfect time to make your move.

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