Fairfield County housing sales off
Greenwich, New Canaan, Westport and Darien have the highest median housing prices in the state, but those $1 million-plus figures all declined between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008, according to CERC's report about single-family home sales.
CERC, a nonprofit public-private partnership that provides research data to its clients, uses information from The Warren Group, which publishes the Commercial Record, for its housing market analysis.
"We felt it was a useful adjunct to a lot of our data," Jeff Blodgett, CERC's vice president of research, said of the report, which CERC began publishing in mid-2007. The quarterly data, he added, removes some of the volatility from seasonal fluctuations.
"I think we're much less overexposed to any kind of serious correction" than Florida, California and Nevada are, Blodgett said when asked about the health of the state's housing market.
He hopes the price bust will hit bottom by the end of 2008, but added that local and national markets will probably never again see the amount of price appreciation that occurred in the last few years.
CERC also ranks the affordability of the state's cities and towns by dividing the median home price by their most recent median household income.
Greenwich topped the list of the least affordable, followed by Salisbury, New Canaan, Stamford, Westport, Washington, Norwalk, Darien, Sharon and Ridgefield.
Columbia was the most affordable.
Blodgett was surprised Greenwich registered as most unaffordable, because that's based on the incomes of those who already live there. But he said the median income includes only wages and salaries, so dividends, bonuses and capital gains were not factored in.
Barry Rosa, vice president of specialty services at Prudential Connecticut Realty, said an affordability index based on income vs. simple sales does tell part of the story. Rosa is responsible for the company's quarterly Connecticut Market Real Estate Report.
But "it's not just the price, it's the mortgage rate" that drives affordability, Rosa said.
By county, Fairfield County was least affordable, although the median sales price fell 8.5 percent between the first quarters of 2007 and 2008, to $507,800. This compares to a drop of 5.7 percent, to $266,000, for the state as a whole. New Haven County fell 4.6 percent, to $237,600.
On a year-by-year basis, the median sales price of 47 municipalities in Connecticut rose.
Danbury rose 2.6 percent, to $343,800. Median prices were up 20.9 percent in Easton, to $912,500, and 1.1 percent in Redding, to $665,000. They were up 14.4 percent in Ridgefield, to $835,000.
Brookfield fell 6.9 percent, to $432,500.
Danbury had eight fewer sales between the first quarters of 2007 and 2008, down to 88. In Brookfield, the number was down six, to 23, while in Ridgefield, it was off 19, to 45.
Single-family home sales also show a decline around the state, down 27.5 percent from the first quarter of 2007, to 4,892 in the first quarter of 2008.
The overall decline was not a surprise, Blodgett said, since homes are staying on the market longer, and other homeowners are waiting for the market to improve before even listing their properties.
Steve Stollman, of Steven A. Stollman Appraisals Co. in Trumbull, said his business has been off. However, he is seeing an increase in the number of relocation appraisals, which is when an employer hires a third-party company to sell or buy a relocating executive's home.
Stollman said he's also seeing more "short sales," when a homeowner who owes more than the house is worth gets bank approval to sell the property for a lower price. This, Stollman added, is keeping the number of foreclosures in Connecticut down.
Overall, Rosa said, CERC's numbers sounded right to him.
"Connecticut's prices are weaker this year than last," Rosa said, but the decline is no where near as severe as in other parts of the country.
He uses some of the same figures for his quarterly report, but Rosa said he also looks at the deposit data, because 70 to 80 percent of homes on deposit do close.
"It's how many sales against how much stuff is for sale" that's important, Rosa said, because a decline in number of sales plus an increase in inventory makes for a worsening market.
Rosa's waiting to get figures for the second quarter, but expects they will show the state is still better off than Florida, Nevada and other places where speculation drove prices up.
"Fundamentally, we're an owner-occupied market. We're not a speculative market," Rosa said. While "it is slower than one would like it to be "� it's not dead. It's not even close to dead."