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.
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.
“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.
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.