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Ridgefield’s 2017 Year In Review

Ridgefield Market Snapshot
The Ridgefield Real Estate market for single-family homes once again rallied and came out ahead of last year’s market with respect to all key indicators. Overall, the number of homes sold was up 6.3% with 370 homes selling in 2017 as compared to 348 in 2016. The total sales volume also increased by 5.3% resulting in a total of $273,224,044 transacting as compared to $259,407,724 in 2016. The median sales price for a Ridgefield single-family home increased slightly ending the year at $642,500 as compared to $640,000 in 2016. However, the average sales price decreased one percent from $745,424 to $738,443. The sales-to-list price ratio remained the same with homes selling at an average of 96.5% of their listed price.

Condo Report
There were 70 condominium sales in Ridgefield in 2017 ranging in price from $100,500 for a studio apartment to $1,860,000 for a five bedroom, custom-built Main Street luxury condominium in The Elms. The average sales price was $384,920, while the median sales price was $250,000. This compares favorably to 2016 when the average price was $371,990 and the median price was $216,000.

When Are People Buying?
An interesting finding of 2017 is that the seasonality of real estate is becoming less applicable, while consumer confidence seems to be playing more of a factor. Based on the assumption that properties generally take 60 days to close, to have the number of properties closing in the spring (116 properties) equal those in the summer (117 properties) is unusual. The general take-away is that with increased online visibility and ‘arm-chair‘ real estate, no matter the season buyers are willing to purchase if they find what they like.

The Luxury Market
The luxury market in Ridgefield – defined as homes selling for $1.5 million and above – held firm this year with continued strong sales. Overall, 13 luxury homes and one luxury condominium sold in 2017, as compared to 19 homes in 2016. Of particular note, five homes sold between $2 and $3 million, while the $3 million plus segment saw three sales happen. The highest priced home to sell this year closed for $3,318,183. As a Christie’s International Real Estate Luxury Specialist, in 2017 I was proud to represent 9 buyers and sellers with homes or condos priced between $1.86 and $3.1 million. Down county towns such as Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and Westport have all seen an increase in luxury sales. Historically Ridgefield is not far behind.

Good News for Fairfield County
Overall, it was good news throughout most of Fairfield County. The number of homes sold was up, with median price not deviating too much from last year throughout most of the towns we evaluated. Darien recovered from 2016’s decreases, posting the largest year-over- year growth in median price. New Canaan rebounded nicely with a 39% increase in units sold when compared to 2016, which was 24% lower versus 2015. In Westport, the amount of speculative home building is also on the rise indicating a returning confidence in the market. Unfortunately, Redding and Wilton experienced an appreciable drop in median values, possibly due to a lack of high-end market sales. All other towns experienced a relatively flat market when compared to 2016.

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Karla’s Musings On A Snowy Day

Happy New Year!

And what a way to start 2018.

While watching the “bomb–cyclone” bury us in inches of snow yesterday, I started to make lists in my head about regular maintenance issues that are often overlooked until they present an issue. Things like: what is the condition of the systems in my house? When did I last get the chimney cleaned? Are the gutters susceptible to ice damming? And so on, and so forth.

It’s easy when we purchase a home to feel overwhelmed with all the maintenance and upkeep associated with it, and as such miss key milestones required to keep it in tip-top shape. And the same can be said for the complacency we project if we’ve been homeowners of the same property for quite some time without issue.

As a quick reminder, here are a few items you might want to schedule now and put in your calendar in order to keep you cool in the summer, warm in the winter and healthy throughout the year.

Furnace or Boiler
Ideally scheduled for September or October, before you really need to depend on it, a routine check-up is key to keeping things running smoothly. Think of it as an investment in the health of your heating system, much like a yearly physical.

Air Conditioning System
While AC is pretty far from your mind while the temperature sits in the teens outside, yearly maintenance slots for AC units book up fast. Call your provider now to lock in an ideal slot in April or May and keep your cool as the temperature heats up.

Septic System
Unless you live in town and are fortunate enough have a town sewer, you will definitely want to get on a plan to inspect and pump your septic every two years. Septic systems can be costly to replace, so finding small problems early – such as invading tree roots or cracks in tank lids – and correcting them early, can save you in the end.

Gutters
Truly an integral part of home maintenance, clean gutters prevent ice damming in the winter, and foundation and basement flooding in the spring rains by making sure water is directed away from the house. Many landscapers make gutter cleaning a part of their spring and fall clean-up, as well as additionally handling excess leaves according to your property. It’s also easy enough to get on a four time-a-year gutter cleaning program if you don’t have a landscaping company. With most companies, you don’t even need to be home – they just come and take care of it and then give you a heads up!

Chimney Clean Out or Gas Fireplace Servicing
Don’t ignore this – it can literally kill you. Carbon monoxide is an issue with an improperly functioning gas fireplace, and chimney fires caused by a build-up of creosote can be deadly. If you haven’t already, put this on the list of must-do’s immediately!

Stay safe and stay warm. Here’s to a great 2018!

Wishing You A Wonderful Holiday Season

GRAT·I·TUDE : the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

During the holiday season, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our progress possible. It is in this spirit that we say thank you. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Karla Murtaugh Homes
Karla, Jana & Sally

Who’s Buying and Selling Homes in 2017?

The National Association of Realtors just released the  2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey which provides demographic insights into the real estate market nationally. For most home buyers, the purchase of real estate is one of the largest financial transactions they will make. Buyers purchase a home not only for the desire to own a home of their own, but also because of changes in jobs, family situations, and the need for a smaller or larger living area. This annual survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors® of recent home buyers and sellers provides insight into detailed information about their experiences with this important transaction. Here are highlights from the latest report.

  • First-time buyers made up 34 percent of all home buyers, a decrease from last year’s 35 percent.
  • Age for first-time buyers remains flat, but the age of repeat buyers continues to climb—now at an all-time high of 54.
  • Married couples continue at 3-year decline, while single females increased for the 3rd year.
    Buyer and seller use of agent remains at historical highs, 87% and 89% respectively. FSBOs remain at an all-time low of 8%.
  • Drop in those who stalled their sale of the home because they were underwater to 10%, but it is still common among those who purchased 8-10 years ago at 26%.
  • Tenure (holding on to the same property)  remains at an all-time high of 10 years.

In Ridgefield, we are seeing young families make the move to the suburbs, while empty-nesters are starting to downsize. While we may not have seen the gains in value that some of the country is experiencing, 2017 has been a strong year for both single-family unit sales and median home values.  We hope to see this trend continue through the end of the year.

 

Source: “2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” National Association of REALTORS® (Oct. 30, 2017)

5 Tips To Help Lower Your Heating Bills

You wouldn’t know it given the 75-80 degree weather we’ve been experiencing over the last week, but winter is just around the corner! while heating your home is a cost we all expect, there may be ways to reduce how much you pay. Here are some tips from Fixr.com, which provides “Cost Guides” of estimates to common household remodeling projects, highlights five projects to help increase a home’s energy efficiency and keep utility bills lower.

1. Find unorthodox heat sources. More efficient sources of heat are available, particularly if the home is in a milder climate or if the home can be broken into zones.

A heat pump can help lower your electric bills by 50 percent if you currently use electricity to heat your home. Heat pumps cost about $7,500, but will pay for themselves with reduced energy costs. Switching to a geothermal heat pump will save you even more. According to Money Crashers, geothermal heat pumps qualify for a tax credit equal to 30 percent of equipment and installation costs, with no upper limit. Pumps are also frequently paired with things like radiant heat flooring in specific areas of the home, as they are more effective at using energy than either baseboards or radiators and can help supplement the heat in smaller spaces.

Radiant heat costs between $6,000 and $14,000 if covering your whole home, but you can often install it in a single room for around $700. Paired with a heat pump, this will keep your home warm while significantly lowering your energy bills.

2. Add extra insulation. The amount of insulation that your home needs is directly tied to the type of heat source you have. Many homes are actually underinsulated for their climate and their heat source, resulting in their furnaces or radiators having to work harder than they need to and causing a spike in energy bills.

Insulating even a single room in your home can dramatically increase comfort and help you lower your thermostat, resulting in smaller bills. Adding insulation to your attic can also help you prevent costly and damaging ice dams as well, saving you even more. The cost to insulate a single room in your home is around $1,200 to $1,800, and will recoup about 107 percent of the cost at time of resale, making this one of the best improvements you can do for your home.

3. Take care of your furnace. Furnaces are one of the most commonly used ways to heat large homes. Unfortunately, they often have a wide range of efficiency that could be costing you more in monthly bills than they need to.

If your furnace is less than 10 years old, make sure to schedule regular maintenance to keep it running at peak efficiency. This involves changing the filter and making repairs as necessary. The most common furnace repair involves replacing the heat exchange, for around $1,000 to $1,700.

If your furnace is older than 10 years, replacing it can dramatically increase its efficiency. Older furnaces only run at around 50 percent efficiency, while newer models can reach rates of 90 percent, making them a much better choice for keeping monthly bills down. A new furnace costs around $3,000 to $5,000, but will pay for itself in lowered bills over time.

4. Make the switch to gas. If you’re currently heating your home with electricity or oil, you’re likely spending more each month than you would if you switched to natural gas. Gas furnaces are much more efficient than oil or electric heaters, which can save as much as 30 percent on energy bills each month.

The cost to install a new gas system in your home is around $6,000 to $8,000, assuming you have ducts already in place. This upgrade makes the most sense if your current heating system is over 10 years old, as you’ll see the largest gains. The typical ROI of a new gas furnace system is around 15 percent, which means that it will pay for itself in just 6 years.

5. Complete an energy audit. Your home may be losing a great deal of the energy you use to heat it, without you even realizing it. An energy audit—or a comprehensive look at how your home uses and loses energy—will help you find ways to make your home more efficient overall.

An energy audit costs about $150, and many times this cost will be rolled into any upgrades you may choose to make, allowing you to save more. Conducting an energy audit before you have any other work or upgrades done on your home can help you make better informed decisions about the space, maximizing your potential efficiency and savings.

Ridgefield’s 2017 Mid-Year Market Report

The first half of 2017 had sellers chomping at the bit to get their homes on the market early and take advantage of the relatively mild weather. Buyers were also out in full force looking to move when the school year ended and take advantage of the increased inventory. A very wet spring curtailed some of the action but unit sales have still surpassed 2016 by 17%, which is encouraging for steady growth. While home values have not risen, we have seen a competitive marketplace with multiple offers and homes selling for more than the asking price on numerous occasions. Also interesting is the segmentation that seems to be occurring in the market with the greatest gains seen in the $500,000-$600,000 and the $800,000-$900,000 categories. This is encouraging for middle-class families who are looking to upsize, downsize or move to the area for our wonderful schools, low crime, superb cultural offerings, family-friendly lifestyle, and proximity to major commerce centers.

Ridgefield Market Snapshot
Overall, the first half of 2017 has been a success for the Ridgefield Real Estate market. Unit sales increased 17.1% from January to June 2017 with 178 parcels selling compared to 152 in the first half of 2016. Total sales volume was also up 6.1% from $118,218,854 last year to $125,453,815 in 2017. The majority of home sales were priced under $1 million. If the market continues at its current pace, we are on track to match or exceed last year’s results.

Sellers Or Buyers Market
Inventory hit a record low in June 2017 with only six months worth of housing available for purchase. While this would suggest a sellers market, it does not yet seem to be playing out that way. The mid-year Sales-to-List Price Ratio held steady at 96.8%, slightly up from 2016’s 96.2%. However, pricing and the condition of the home still seem to be the key to selling with buyers using technology to assess for themselves what they think a property is worth. Sellers are also becoming increasingly savvy by staging and upgrading their homes for a quicker, more profitable sale.

Prices Holding Steady
The Median Sales Price for a single-family home in Ridgefield decreased by 5.0% from $660,000 in the first half of 2016 to $627,000 during the same time period in 2017. The average sales price also decreased from $772,672 to $704,797. Most of the growth in the first half of 2017 was seen in the $500,000 to $900,000 sector with 101 homes sold as compared to only 71 last year.

The Luxury Market
The luxury market – generally defined as homes selling for $1.5 million and above – saw a marked decrease in activity over the first half of 2017. Only two homes sold in this price range – one for $2.9 million and one for $3.1 million. There were no home sales between $1.5 and $2 million, which is unusual. Currently, as of July 1st there are four additional homes in this price range that are either under deposit or under contract to close by Labor Day, and anecdotally activity has picked up with more showings occurring in this price point. Sales were strong in the $1 million to $1.5 million category mimicking 2016 with 21 sales as compared to 22 last year.

Where Are People Buying?
Using Town Hall as the center of the Village, 37% of all sales occurred within a 2 mile radius in what would be considered “in-town” properties. Additionally, these in-town properties commanded a Median Sales Price of $739,000 and an Average Sales Price of $807,288, which is well above the town as a whole. The results support a continuing trend towards more walkable residences. We expect to see in-town properties remain desirable as both younger families escape the city and empty-nesters downsize. Upper end condominiums were also in high demand with five sold that were priced over $700,000, including one priced at $1,860,000.

Sales Up Across The Board
All Fairfield County towns experienced significant growth in the number of homes sold during the first half of 2017, reiterating the fact that individuals and families still consider Fairfield County a great place to live. However, it was a mixed message when it came to median home values with some towns showing double-digit increases, while others saw prices remain relatively flat or somewhat decreased. Traditionally more affordable towns like Stamford and Norwalk saw gains in pricing, while Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding saw values slip. Surprisingly, Westport experienced an almost 10% increase in median home value after seeing decreases during the past two years. Overall, slow but steady growth seems to be what we can expect throughout the county in the upcoming year.

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Fairfield County High Schools Among Best In Connecticut in 2017

The annual Niche.com ranking has been released and Fairfield County public high schools have done well.
Niche, a website for researching schools, used a variety of factors, including SAT/ACT scores, student-teacher ratio, the quality of colleges students consider and reviews from students and parents for its ranking.

In the number 1 position was New Canaan High School, followed by Staples High School in Westport, Greenwich High School and Weston High School. Wilton High School ranked number 7, Joel Barlow in Redding at 8, Darien High School at 9, and Ridgefield High School number 12.

The ranking also took into account how parents and students responded to surveys about their school, cultural diversity on campus, school absenteeism, teachers salary, state test scores, facilities, and the availability of clubs and activities, to name a few.

To see the full ranking list and to read more about the methodology, see the Full Report.

Happy Holidays To All

During the Holiday Season, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our progress possible. It is in that spirit that we say thank you. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year from all of us at Karla Murtaugh Homes.

Ridgefield Market Report : Mid Year Review 2016

Holding Steady

Coming off a mild winter, we were anticipating a better than average Spring Market and unit sales were actually up 9% over the same period last year. While the median sales price remained somewhat flat, the average price for a single family home experienced a 4.3% increase.

News of GE moving its headquarters out of nearby Fairfield, CT was disappointing, but has not had a negative effect on the property values here in Ridgefield. Fairfield County continues to be one of the most desirable regions in the tri-state area to live, and Ridgefield in particular continues to offer great value with the award-winning schools, vibrant downtown, numerous cultural destinations, strong community presence, beautiful landscapes, amazing quality of life and a reputation as of being one of the safest towns in the US.

Supply and demand will continue to drive the market. Most of our growth occurred in the under $1 million segment, but we did experience a small increase in units sold in the upper segments as well. We saw more demand in the $600,000- $800,000 segment outpacing the inventory available during the spring market. At the same time, inventory grew in the luxury segment, where demand was not as high. It remains a buyers market, which keeps raising the bar in terms of expectations. Buyers respond favorably to properties that reflect the latest design trends, are in “turn-key” condition and are priced properly, therefore portraying good value.

Looking Ahead

Another strong indicator of a healthy market is the number and value of pending sales. As of July 1st – based on the number of properties already in contract and under deposit – we have the potential to sell an additional 100 properties before Labor Day. This should keep us on track until the end of the year – and at a minimum – it will keep us on par with 2015. The fourth quarter is a bit tricky to predict considering the upcoming Presidential Election and the mitigating economic factors such as Brexit and other international influences. With interest rates still historically low, we should see serious buyers strongly seeking out the best value.

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