Tag Archives: Westport real estate

The Buzz About Real Estate

There’s a buzz in the Westport real estate market. It’s both real (the sound of new construction) and metaphorical (a swarm of buyers).

My anecdotal observation of the market — watching what’s going on around town, scanning sales numbers and prices — was confirmed by Karen Scott.

Karen — of KMS Partners at Coldwell Banker — is one of Westport’s savviest, energetic and experienced realtors. (Full disclosure: She’s also a friend. I have coached her 2 sons on the Staples soccer team, and am a huge fan of the entire Scott family.)

Karen says there’s a reason the local real estate market shows life for the first time since the tumble crash of 2007-08.

Interest rates are low, and should remain so for a while.

Some buyers are tired of renting. Others are tired of searching, and willing to commit.

Even the weather helps. Our North Carolina-ish winter has not only encouraged people to go outside and be active; it’s also kept them away from the ski slopes, giving them time search homes on the internet, then drive around to actually see them.

This Nantucket Shingle-stylel residence "captures water views from nearly every room." It's listed at $8,850,000.

In past years, the “spring market” — often the most active of the year — has taken place in May and June. This year, Karen says, it’s already begun.

Agents, mortgage lenders, buyers and sellers — all sense an increased level of activity” since New Year’s. “People are negotiating and making offers,” Karen says. “They’re no longer sitting on the fence.”

New construction is hot, particularly in the $2 million range.

“Westport has a love/hate relationship with new construction,” Karen says. “But for a while, there was no construction at all. It’s back, but with smaller homes and on smaller pieces of property” — 5,000 to 6,000 square feet, finished on 3 to 4 floors. The footprint is smaller than before, and there’s more interest in energy efficiency.

Westport remains attractive to New Yorkers and transferees from other parts of the country, Karen notes. We continue to attract global clients, with Chinese buyers new to the mix.

Like other buyers, they come for the schools, the proximity to New York and places like Yale, and the amenities.

Looking to enjoy the "Compo Beach lifestyle"? This house can be yours for $1,849,000.

“People love Compo and Longshore, the arts, the sports, everything for kids,” she says. Among the hot areas: the beach, and neighborhoods like Evergreen and Imperial Avenue that are close to town.

Saugatuck — with its new restaurants and other construction — is also drawing attention from buyers.

Tax rates too are very favorable — particularly in comparison with Westchester.

Sellers include empty nesters and homeowners downsizing, as well as the converse: young, growing families looking for bigger digs.

Westport has some foreclosures — though, Karen says, not on the scale of other places.

Prices have been fairly stable. Karen characterizes less-than-$1 million homes as “very hot.” The $1 million to $1.5 million range is “competitive.” Those between $2 million and $3 million are “tough sales.” The upper end — $5 million and up — has seen good recent action.

This "exquisitve Victorian farmhouse" recently sold for $2,495,000.

Despite the renewed interest, Karen is realistic. “Buying and selling in Westport is still a big financial transaction. People are cautious. They’re doing their due diligence more thoroughly than ever before.” Some good news: From a lending standpoint, Westport is considered a stable market.

Real estate is one of Westport’s favorite games. For several years, we’ve been on the losing end of that game.

Finally, it seems, buyers and sellers are playing ball again.

Small Is Big

All those big houses in Westport?

They’re so 2009.

At least, that’s what this Sunday’s New York Times real estate section says.

Lisa Prevost writes that Scott Buddenhagen — “a builder in this image-conscious shore town for 18 years” — 1st resisted the rush to 7,000-square foot “showplaces.”  He even “scoffed at the greed of those who joined in.”

Scott Buddenhagen built this 6,000-square foot home in Weston... (Photo by Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

But eventually, Prevost writes, “he, too, played along — doing very well in the process.”

She says:

Mr. Buddenhagen is still following the money, but these days it’s leading him in the other direction. Convinced that people with the financial means to buy ostentatious houses were humbled by the economy’s near-collapse, he has decided to size his newest speculative project for a more conservative and cautious mindset.

The house, going up on just under an acre on Long Lots Lane, will offer his usual architectural detailing and custom woodwork, but at a smaller scale: 4,400 square feet.

“I’m not trying to make a cheap house,” Mr. Buddenhagen said. “I’m trying to make a more affordable, quality house.”

...but is scaling back to 4,400 square feet. (Illustration by Tom McCartney/Howard Associates, in the New York Times)

Though, she notes, “a downsized house by Westport standards is still larger than the national average for new construction — about 2,480 square feet” — the trend is “notable in a community that has lost hundreds of older houses to the bulldozer over the past decade to allow for residences that sizewise often resemble hotels.”

Prevost says that some large homes here — 9,000 square feet and up — have sat on the market for more than a year. A 13,000-square foot, 20-room colonial on Clapboard Hill Road took 18 months to sell — “at a sharply reduced $6.85 million.”

She quotes Judy Michaelis of Coldwell Banker:  “People want to be a little cozier.”

This being the Times real estate section, there are caveats.  Prevost writes:

Not that builders expect the wealthy to turn their backs on the estate lifestyle. But younger buyers who might have gone to extremes on square footage several years ago seem to be placing a higher premium on pleasing design, superior construction and energy-efficient features.

High-end builder Michael Greenberg “thinks the market is slowly moving toward a time when ‘the new showplace will be, instead of about size, more like, “Look at my solar panels.”’ ”

Builder Buddenhagen “hopes to downsize himself, once he sells his Weston house,” Prevost says.  “He wistfully recalled the 2,300-square-foot antique house in Westport where his family of four lived while the larger house was being built.”

He said:

“We loved it.  Within a week of moving into the house in Weston, my wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘What are we doing?’ ”

But wait!  The Sunday Times real estate section is not through with Westport.  The page 4 “The Hunt” story — which each week features the often-elaborate twists and turns of an always-intriguing person, couple or family as they seek lodging in New York or environs — features Brian Reich, his wife Karen Dahl and their son Henry.

Brian is the son of Westporter Ann Sheffer.  His intriguing life includes 2 years working for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.  At that time, the Times wryly reports, he lived “mostly in Arlington, Va., and on Air Force Two.”

Karen Dahl, Henry and Brian Reich (Photo by Daniel Barry/The New York Times)

When The Times Talks

After months on the market, Adam Stolpen might have wondered what he had to do to create a buzz for his stunning 1928 Frazier Peters stone house on Spring Hill Road, off Wilton Road.

Then the New York Times came calling.

Before becoming a realtor, Stolpen’s agent — Dorothy Salisbury of Weichert — had done PR for Calvin Klein.  Twenty years ago she rolled out Obsession, so she knows something about publicity.

(Photo by Douglas Healey/The New York Times)

Intrigued by the house’s lineage — Peters’ unique stone houses are revered, for good reason — and its amenities like a sun porch, guest cottage and pond, Salisbury called the Times‘ real estate section.

A reporter spent several hours walking through the house, and interviewing Stolpen.  Three days later, photographer Douglas Healey arrived; he too spent nearly all day, taking shots.

That Saturday, Stolpen’s home appeared in the Sunday Times’ “On the Market in the Region” — in print and online.

The texts started immediately.  By the time Salisbury got to her snowy office on Sunday, she’d received 40 calls.  They kept coming.

A woman in New York was particularly fascinated by the house — and the town.  She said she’d be up as soon as she could — she wanted it for a weekend place.  She asked Salisbury not to show it to anyone else.  She said she’d pay the asking price:  $1,999,999.

(Photo by Douglas Healey/The New York Times)

Stolpen, meanwhile, was hearing from friends in California, Texas, Washington — all over the country.  A cousin from New Jersey asked:  “Is that your home in the Times?”

Stolpen wondered:  “Why do all these people look at the real estate section, when they’re never going to buy here?”

I have no idea.  But I do the same thing.

So was there any downside to having his house featured in the New York Times?

“None,” Stolpen said firmly.  “When you’re selling residential real estate, any publicity is good.”