Pools and housing starts off this year in Wilton

Those looking for evidence of a recovering economy and housing market in Wilton will need to look further than the local housing starts and permits issued for backyard swimming pools, because those economic indicators are off compared with the year before.

A total of 11 swimming pool permits were issued between September 2015 and July 2016, down from 17 the previous year, according to data at the town Building Department.

Housing starts, permits for new houses being built, suffered an even steeper drop, from 17 in 2015 to 9 in 2016.

Overall, Wilton has a stagnant housing market, with sales of homes at the same level they were last year, for the first six months of the year. In other nearby towns like Ridgefield there has been sales growth.

It could be that Wilton is an anomaly, because in general Connecticut housing starts are in good shape, said economics professor Steve Glazer of Norwalk Community College.

There could be a number of reasons as to the decrease in the new housing starts and decreased number of swimming pools being built this year. I’m not sure if Wilton is an anomaly in the larger scope of the area, because if you look at the data for the Northeast, it recently saw a spike in groundbreaking on new home construction,” Glazer said in an email response to a question about the pattern.

The data provided only shows the number of permits for Wilton for last year and this year, indicating a decrease for the first half of the year, but without additional data, it is hard to grasp if any trends truly exist, Glazer said.

Nicholas Perna, economics adviser to Webster Bank, said Wilton is probably reeling from a strong sense of uncertainty that stops people from spending on new houses and pools.

There is uncertainty about the presidential election, because many people believe the outcome will have a serious impact on the higher earning Americans, like those in Wilton. “Clinton and Trump is the most bizarre election I’ve ever seen in my life. It hints at a lot of uncertainty,” Perna said, particularly regarding policies toward banks.

There is also uncertainty about Connecticut’s tax stability, with several years of huge budget deficits and uncertainty about the international struggle with terrorism.

It does not help that General Electric is leaving Fairfield, taking  corporate jobs that fuel the Fairfield County real estate market.

“The headlines of the GE move send a chill to the Connecticut economy,” Perna said. “One thing for sure is that the state is not growing like gangbusters.”

Another factor in Wilton, where many people work in the financial industry, is that Wall Street bonuses have been less than spectacular this year, Perna said.

“If you live in Wilton you worry about that stuff,” he said.

So it appears many would-be home and pool buyers are waiting it out.

“Even if you are not a real worry wart, you will wait it out until next year and see if the state budget and federal budget are any different. It makes a difference who gets in,” Perna said. “Hillary is talking about higher taxes on very wealthy people, so I think there’s more of a wait-and-see attitude. People are cringing, waiting for the tornado to come.”

When it comes to holding off on major expenses, “if you want to procrastinate, you could build a bulletproof case to procrastinate right now,” Perna said.