Wilton housing market is hot
WILTON — The Wilton real estate market is hot. Very hot. And it all signs point to it getting even hotter.
Multiple offers, offers within an hour of listing — all are possible in what has turned on a dime to a seller’s market, driven almost entirely by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pipleline that indicates binder transactions and housing deals in contract shows a nearly 100-percent increase from June 2019 to June 2020. Only the Westport market is significantly hotter among 10 towns and cities tracked by Halstead Real Estate: Darien, Easton, Fairfield, New Canaan, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton. (Weston had a higher percentage increase, but with much smaller numbers.)
“In May, the numbers were starting to hit,” said John DiCenzo, executive director for sales in Westport and Wilton at Halstead. “Sales take 60 to 90 days to incubate. We expect July to be an enormous month.”
“It’s a whole new world,” said Dianne DeWitt, Realtor with Bershire Hathaway HomeServices. “June and July are going to be ‘wow’ because that’s when people started coming in in March and April.”
In Wilton, the first five months of the year showed little significant change between single-family home sales between this year and last. The 2019/2020 breakdown is as follows:
But June begins to tell the tale with 34 single-family homes sold this year compared to 23 last year. Numbers provided by DiCenzo for the pipeline show that as of June 30, there are 119 homes that either have a binder or are in contract, compared to 60 as of June 30, 2019.
Taking a broader view, for the towns DiCenzo tracks, the June pipeline went from 843 a year ago to 1,420 this year, a 68.4-percent increase. It’s a trend he called “stunning.”
With 60 homes in Wilton’s pipeline as of June 30, 2019, there were 32 single-family home sales in July 2019.
Always conservative when looking to the future, with 119 homes in the pipeline as of June 30, 2020, 41 of which are under contract, DiCenzo said he would not be surprised to see 40 sales this month.
“That would be only the third time in 15 years we had that many,” he said.
The best July in recent memory was 2004, when 58 homes were sold. That was one of the strongest years Wilton ever had, he said.
Sales in the 30s is more typical: 31 in each of July 2002 and 2003, 34 in July 2005. July 2006 ended with 43 sales.
“Forties are rare,” DiCenzo said of the number of homes typically sold in July, which is sandwiched between June and August, usually the most prolific months for sales.
As of July 2, DiCenzo did not have information on sale prices but said, “the increased sales volume will produce upward pressure.”
However, he warned, not all price ranges are reacting the same.
“You can’t assume that $500,000 to $1 million and $2 million and up will have the same strength,” he said. “The high end has been weak for a decade.” While there should be some improvement, “we don’t expect it to be as strong as the lower end.”
Also adding to pressure is a reduced inventory. There were 264 houses on the market at some point in June, compared to 335 last year, a decrease of 21.2 percent.
Last year, the 60 houses in the pipeline represented 18 percent of the inventory. This year, 45 percent of the inventory is in the pipeline, meaning houses are coming off the market at a faster rate.
“We are clearly in a seller’s market,” he said.
Buyers want pools
DeWitt of Berkshire Hathaway agrees.
“There are multiple offers on some houses,” she said. “They are abundant.”
All the talk of city dwellers escaping crowded conditions is finally coming to fruition, she said, as there is an increase in the number of interested buyers coming from New York City — particularly Brooklyn — as well as New Jersey.
“Pools are a key feature that these buyers are looking for,” she said. “There’s been an ongoing desire to look at properties with pools or planned pool sites,” she said.
Susan Larsen of William Raveis agreed that pools are a much in-demand amenity, as well as a flat backyard.
“What people are looking for has not changed — location and a flat yard — and a pool is highly desirable,” she said, in a home that has been updated.
Also important are work spaces or home offices and privacy with land around the house.
“If a property is well-priced and presented well on the market, it is fulfilling a buyer’s need and getting multiple offers,” De Wiltt said.
She said up to now, the sale-price ratio is about 4 percent, meaning sellers who do not receive multiple offers will reap about 96 percent of their asking price.
“That’s going to change to the better as we see more sales from July to August,” she said.
A casual look at six houses that closed last month — all priced under $1 million — showed each sold at full asking price.
Both DeWitt and DiCenzo warned that a seller who prices too high, even in this market, may see their house sit unsold.
Well-priced houses are going fast.
“I put on four houses in the past two weeks,” Larsen said. “The offers have been within a day or two and they’ve been very strong.
“I had one house that had an offer within an hour,” she said. “It’s great. I’ve never seen a market like this. I believe it is going to continue strong into the summer.”
The 30-year fixed rate for mortgages, which just dropped to an average of 3.07 percent according to Freddie Mac, is also helping, DeWitt said. Taxes come up, “but are not of great importance,” she said, pointing to the drop in the mill rate reflected in July tax bills.
Neither is commuting. As companies become more flexible with people telecommuting, “commuting into the city is not as essential as it used to be,” Larsen said.
One challenge in dealing with buyers from the city, Larsen said, is educating people who have never owned a home before. “People get nervous about the unknown and the magnitude of what it takes to run a house,” she said.
Many people she is working with are looking at Wilton as a location for a second home. There are also many renters — “we’ve had 55 renters in the past 90 days,” Larson said — who might be dipping a toe in to see what living in a house, rather than an apartment, is like.
DeWitt said she and her colleagues are seeing young couples and young families who are looking to have their children in school.
“There’s anecdotal information they grew up here or have friends here. They get recommendations of friends or family,” she said.
“It is bringing to the forefront the virtues of Wilton and what the town has to offer,” she said.