Marion Filley's Closing Comments: March

March gave us the second month in a row with a slight (one sale) increase over 2014. However, like January, this was substantially below the 21-year average for the month (over 30%). As can be expected with sales at this level, the median and average sale points vary wildly month to month. In March the median leapt over $176,000 (27%). The average sale rose more than $230,000, or more than 30%, from March 2014. Inventory rose to 146 homes, ahead of recent years with the exception of 2009 and 2011.
With the first quarter in the rearview mirror, we find sales volume down more than 14% from last year. If the winter of 2014 had been mild, it would be tempting to blame this drop on weather alone. However, both winters have strained the marketplace to the point where it feels like everything is starting almost six weeks late. On the positive side, the median sale is now up more than 25% from 2014. Average sale has risen almost 5%. These numbers should be tempered by closer scrutiny of the transactions. For instance, in the first quarter of 2014, there were 12 sales over $1 million, or roughly 35%. This compares to the same period in 2015 which saw eight sales over a million, or 27.5% of the total. Worth noting are several examples of properties that sold this quarter: 552 Belden Hill sold for $114,000 less than in 2007, 9 Mountain Road sold for $110,000 less than in 2009 and 35 Chessor Lane sold for $395,000 less than in 2007 (this does not take into consideration the many upgrades, including a swimming pool). The total revenue for single-family houses is down almost 11%.
The first quarter is rarely a clear indicator of the whole year. For example, while Ridgefield sales are up more than 6%, the median sale is down close to 8%, but the average has risen exactly 8%. Westport is down less than 2% in sales and down more than 5% in median price, but the average has jumped close to 18%. Both towns have had over 15% increases in total single-family revenue.
The mortgage rate issue seems to change with every new jobs report, but lower gas prices and some indications of increased consumer confidence may be what finally pushes the Fed to raise rates higher. We continue to see week-to-week change, often slightly downward in mortgage rates. It is surprising there are not more buyers jumping on these rates, but it appears some feel they will be able to call the bottom or live with the first jump upward. If you are thinking of buying or selling, now is the time to sharpen your pencil (or consult your mortgage broker) on just how much of a difference a half-point or point could mean to you.