Photograph: Contributed by Houlihan Lawrence
Above: HOUSE HUNTING? This one at 396 Midlock Rd. is on the market for $1,849,000 (Linda Blackwell/Houlihan Lawrence)
Last year had some people threatening to move to Canada, but, as it turns out, plenty of folks are still making their home, and buying homes, here. Realtors expect Fairfield County to remain popular, with the great values and charm in Fairfield and Southport making them particular standouts.
1 MARKET OVERVIEW
“I’m pretty bullish on 2018 and I think my agents are too,” says Beverly Walsh at William Raveis. “A year with a new president is always a tenuous year in terms of real estate. We are past that now.”
The new tax law brought bad news on the mortgage interest deductibility front. Now new buyers can deduct interest on a total of $750,000 in mortgage debt, rather than $1 million. (Existing mortgages are not subject to the reduced limit.) Although the East and West Coasts, with more homes in the $1-million range, will be most affected by this change, realtors here do not expect major repercussions.
Michael Daversa, president of GuardHill Financial’s Connecticut division, says, “In Fairfield County, there are a lot of mortgages that are $750,000 or more. Before you could buy a house for $1.3 million, put $300,000 down, and still have maximum mortgage deductibility. The new law will force people to put more money down to get it to the $750,000 mark. I think that’s what you’ll see more of, rather than people buying lower price homes. It will affect the mortgage industry, as we’ll see much less refinancing.”
Michelle Genovesi of Michelle& Company says, “The market in general has been steady and moving. However, there’s more supply than demand, so that has caused some depreciation.”
Outlooks remain cheery though. “I’m more excited about 2018 than I have been for the past few years,” says Victoria Fingelly of William Pitt Sotheby’s. “The over $20-million market is moving now because the buyers are there and the pricing is realistic.”
2 LURING BUYERS
The chatter around the state tends to be negative: high tax rates, big corporations leaving, empty nesters relocating out of state. But many agents highlight the positive aspects that are underplayed: lower taxes than New York or New Jersey, companies moving in, unbeatable amenities. Rick Higgins of the Higgins Group predicts the area will become a “Silicon East, with Stamford as its vortex. Some tech companies are there, and it’s only a matter of time before more come. RBS and UBS are there. Charter’s new headquarters will bring 1,100 jobs,” he says. “It’s ideally located between the city and countryside. When I was living in New York City, Connecticut was the shining city on the hill people wanted to move to. I think that’s still true. We’re fortunate that Fairfield has so much to offer and we have a lot of diversity in price range. You can find a nice house for $500,000 to $600,000. The middle of the pack in Fairfield is not even a starter home in many nearby towns.”
Genovesi says, “I think lower Fairfield County will always be steady; there’s such an influx of the New York commuter. We’re finding a trend now toward lifestyles that are close to the beach or walking distance to town. People are looking for a sense of community. That’s because our lives today are so busy with the internet and technology—we are so connected, we are disconnected.” She adds that there is local movement into Southport. “Buyers are drawn to the walking village and community. It’s reminiscent of a quieter time.”
Linda Blackwell, at Houlihan Lawrence, comments: “There aren’t many places like Fairfield, with five beaches, a lake with a sprinkler park, the arts, Fairfield Theater Company, great schools and a vibrant down-town. Time has become such a valuable commodity that buyers don’t want to do work. It’s about the condition of the house now, not being on the best street. Buyers want houses that are updated and move-in ready.”
3 THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY
“You can go online to see amazing photos, videos, 3D renderings,” says Pam Foarde of Filippone Associates about house-hunting. “You can be living in England, looking in Fairfield, and you can almost put yourself in the house.” She warns about using house sites without an agent’s guidance, though. “Zillow will give an average of what’s sold in a one-mile radius, but they don’t know the story. One short sale can really throw off the average.”
Chris Raveis, president of residential sales for William Raveis, says, “Technology is accelerating the way brokers are able to organize and connect prospects to listings and greatly accelerate how transactions are facilitated. Data mining and marketing and sourcing buyer and seller prospects has also become more accessible as technology advances.”