Connecticut’s Charms are Winning Over New York Homebuyers
Large yards, isolation, peace and quiet: these are not the usual “must-haves” for New York homebuyers. However, the surge of coronavirus cases in New York City has these urban natives rethinking exactly what it is they want in a home. For many, Connecticut has just what they need, and home sellers in The Constitution State are reaping the benefits.
As offices closed and New York’s nightlife became virtually non-existent in early March, many packed up and headed for the suburbs – at least temporarily. With an expected temporary closing of many of NYC’s office buildings, residents sought refuge along Connecticut’s shoreline in places like Litchfield County. The Hartford Courant notes, the areas around Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk tied for third with Philadelphia as a top destination for New Yorkers fleeing the city during the pandemic.
When offices didn’t open back up as quickly as expected, these short-term rentals turned into long-term rentals and those long-term rentals started converting into purchases. With the average price of rentals in Manhattan hovering around $4,000, Tammy Felenstein, a REALTOR® in Stamford, Connecticut told the Hartford Courant, these clients are “realizing that for that kind of money, they can get something really, really nice in Fairfield county.” She said, “As the weeks went on, we started seeing a conversion from rental requests to purchase requests, which is what we’re dealing with now.”
This rush of activity may revitalize some of Connecticut’s more affluent suburbs. Towns like North Stamford, New Canaan, and Greenwich were previously considered tough markets. These towns, full of traditional estates, mansions, and high property taxes were having trouble attracting retiring baby boomers (who are looking to downsize) and millennials (who value walkability). But now, wealthy New Yorkers are snatching these properties up at a frantic pace.
Paul Breunich, President and CEO of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, told Fox 61, “I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and I’ve seen a market I’ve never seen before from a demand standpoint. The buyer and rental activity coming out of New York City is unprecedented.”
This is great news for Connecticut homeowners who may have put their plans to sell on hold due to the pandemic. Their patience will likely pay off. Robert Russon, a REALTOR® with Russo & Rizio, LLC, told Fox 61 that “real estate prices right now are the best we’ve seen in 13, 14, years.” He says home prices in Southport are comparable to the market peak in 2007.
For Connecticut homeowners wondering how the pandemic will affect the housing market, experts suggest listing now while inventory remains low. “It is definitely a sellers’ market,” said Lynne Boehm, the Ridgefield Board of REALTORS® president, who works for Weichert, REALTORS®. “Due to the softness in inventory many properties have multiple offers, driving prices up slightly.”
An article in The Ridgefield Press notes the median price for single-family homes is up 1.6 percent in May 2020, from May 2019. The median sale price for the first five months of 2020, compared to the first five months of 2019, is up 3.7 percent.
While prices and closed sales are up as potential homebuyers take advantage of low-interest rates, homeowners looking to sell may need to consider some slight deviations from the traditional home sale timeline. Boehm notes that some out-of-town buyers are looking to rent before buying in order to get a feel for the area before they commit.
Connecticut and New York REALTORS® have seen this kind of exodus before. After 9/11 many New Yorkers fled the city causing a temporary shift in the market. However, this time the professionals think the rebound will be slower if it happens at all. That is due not only to the lengthy timeline surrounding the development of a coronavirus vaccine, but also because the rise in remote work has eliminated much of the need to be in the city’s center.
Larger homes are trending again because, as Berkshire Hathaway Jeff Serouya says, “It allows working couples to have two home offices in addition to bedrooms with the possibility that shelter [in place] will happen again,” Stagnant properties, like a four-bedroom home on 28 acres in Kent, Connecticut, which sat on the market for nearly eight years, sold in April, not long after shelter-in-place orders were issued.
In Connecticut, where the housing market never fully recovered from the last recession, the influx of buyers from New York may be just the jump start it needs.