WILTON — It’s a “wait and see” mindset for real estate sales in Wilton during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wilton real estate market was making strides at the beginning of the year. But the first quarter of 2020 is now lagging.

The numbers for the period of January, February and March 2020, are slightly lower than they were in 2019.

According to a quarterly market report by Halstead Real Estate, Wilton single-family home closings were down 4.9 percent for the first quarter of 2020, a difference of two closings — 39 in 2020 compared to 41 for the same period in 2019.

The total sales volume for single-family homes for the first quarter of 2020 was $28,832,900, compared to $31,269,000 in 2019, a 7.79-percent decrease.

The three-month average closing price for single-family homes for the first quarter of 2020 was $739,305, which was lower than $762,512 from the same time last year, a 3-percent decrease.

Of the 39 homes sold so far in 2020, there was one sale in the $1.5 to $2 million range, six in the $900,000 to $1.2 million range, 15 in the $700,000 to $900,000 range, and 17 sales under $700,000.

Condos

Condominium sales were up just slightly in the first quarter of 2020.

There were four condos sold from January through March 2020, up just one from last year, when three condos sold in the same period. The average condo price was $278,875, up 12.9 percent compared to $241,633 from last year.

The total sales volume for condos for the first quarter was $1,090,500, compared to $724,900 for the same period in 2019.

Uptick

Several neighboring Fairfield County towns saw an increase in sales for the first quarter of 2020.

Darien is up 42 percent from this same time last year, Easton is up 28.6 percent, Norwalk is up 46.1 percent, Redding is up 76.5 percent, Ridgefield is up 43.8 percent, and Westport is up 60.6 percent.

However, New Canaan and Weston are flat at 0-percent increase, and Fairfield is down 14.5 percent.

“COVID has had an impact on the market, but despite that, there is still activity and transactions,” according to John DiCenzo, executive director of sales for Westport and Wilton for Halstead.

As of March 31, there were 175 active house listings in Wilton.

DiCenzo said most sellers are “hanging in there,” with only 9 percent over 12 towns in lower Fairfield County withdrawing their listings temporarily during the pandemic. When it is over, those listings will be reactivated.

There are also a number of positives in the market for potential buyers. “Banks are well capitalized, interest rates are low, ultimately the market rate should be restored,” DiCenzo said.

Variables

But the unpredictability of the coronavirus, and how it is affecting the economy, is provoking a “wait-and-see” attitude. “A lot of variables have not played out yet,” DiCenzo said.

Real estate sales could increase like they did in 2001 after the events of 9/11, he said. At that time, a number of people left the urban atmosphere of New York City to settle in more rural Fairfield County.

DiCenzo said that scenario could happen now during the pandemic when people are being quarantined and are sheltering in place. “A certain segment of that population will seek more space because of this,” he said.

Another variable is the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. The timing of that could also play a part in the migration from New York City to Fairfield County, DiCenzo said. “If there is no vaccine in three years, a bump in sales could be expected. If a vaccine is developed sooner, we would not expect as much of a bump,” he said.

For the past decade, he said, people were choosing to live “in town” and not in “the back country.” But there is speculation, he said, that people are gravitating toward open space again.

“This has been a catalytic event for all of us. It tends to change behavior. People rethink their lives and what is important to them,” he said.

Another variable is unemployment among potential buyers. “If unemployment goes back to pre-COVID numbers, I think the market will respond favorably. But if it doesn respond post-COVID, it could suppress the market. This whole situation is embryonic, it’s hard to know how it is going to play out,” he said.

New Yorkers are showing interest in renting properties in Fairfield County, but it is uncertain if rental interest will lead to home sales.

“We have seen a rush to the rental market, primarily the short-term rental market in Wilton, Westport, and all over,” said Patrick Filley, Realtor at Compass Connecticut, LLC on Wilton Road in Westport.

“Will this drive people out of New York City? We really don’t know. But people coming out here looking for rentals are also looking at the lifestyle and what they can get here. It seems like a better deal. As we see lifestyles and workstyles changing, this may well become a very real alternative for people coming out of the city,” he said.

He also noted that before February when the virus swung into full force, millenials from Stamford and Norwalk were also looking at this area to raise their families.

“People are doing a lot of diligence through electronics,” Filley said.

Agents have adjusted to social distancing, and instead of holding open houses are now showing homes through virtual tours and walking through homes with cameras in tow.

“There’s a lot of value in the Wilton market in certain price ranges and I believe there will continue to be sales,” Filley said.

For now, he is more concerned about the community. He said he is calling people just to make sure they are all right. He is also concerned about businesses and restaurants.

“I’m hoping there will be restaurants when this is all over. It is so hard to tell until we know when it is finished,” he said.

pgay@wiltonbulletin.com