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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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Neumann Posts Largest Brokered Sale in Redding History

NEUMANN REAL ESTATE AND CHRISTIES INTERNATIONAL REAL ESTATE SELL
‘DEER RUN’ FOR $13.6 MILLION

Deer Run, located at 26 Giles Hill Road in Redding, CT, was sold for $13.6 million to a family from Manhattan, NY on March 17, 2016 by real estate agents Jane Tullo and Karla Murtaugh of boutique brokerage Neumann Real Estate in Ridgefield, CT. The property was listed for sale by Tullo and Murtaugh, in conjunction with David Ogilvy of David Ogilvy & Associates of Greenwich, CT, and offered a sprawling 16,000 square foot manor home and just over 300 acres of pristine contiguous land including a 7 acre lake, fishing pond, a boathouse, miles of riding and hiking trails, and lush fields. It is the largest contiguous parcel of privately-owned land in Fairfield County. Neumann Real Estate represents nine area towns as the exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, the world’s leading luxury real estate network

“Our company was honored to represent such an extraordinary property and I was pleased to assist our team and be an integral part of its sale. After months of negotiation, Deer Run now has a new owner, “ says Russ Neumann, broker and partner at Neumann Real Estate. “This deal represents the best in a real estate transaction and the commitment and cooperation amongst brokerages, agents and attorneys to bring it to completion was commendable. Jane Tullo and Karla Murtaugh did such a wonderful job of marketing the property both locally and nationally, and with Christie’s as our partner internationally, we knew we would attract the right buyer.”

“This was the perfect opportunity for someone who values privacy over all else,” says Tullo, “The scenic, unspoiled land is a nature lover’s paradise.”

“It is extremely rare to find such a spectacular, expansive setting in such close proximity to New York City. Deer Run offers a wonderfully sophisticated lifestyle for the family who has an appreciation of natural beauty, but prefers to live under the radar,” continued Murtaugh.

Located in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains just over an hour from Manhattan, the grand estate features a striking stone and shingle Manor house. With seven bedrooms and spanning 16,000 square feet, the home blends a relaxed ambience with grand architecture. A veritable outdoor paradise, seven trails lace the grounds, imparting abundant opportunities for hunting, fishing, bird-watching, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and hiking. On the northeastern side of the property, Mirror Lake is large enough to canoe or boat on, and its crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming. A boathouse with a 15-foot deck, a ramp, and a dock rests beside the lake. Miles of riding trails begin at the barn, while an apple orchard and bountiful fields framed by fieldstone walls also adorn the grounds. Indoor and outdoor heated pools, a tennis court, a gymnasium with an indoor basketball, and a billiards room, afford additional recreational diversions. Sequestered above the four-car garage, a private one-bedroom guest apartment is ideal as a caretaker’s wing or a studio.

About Neumann Real Estate

Founded in 1969 by Harry & Lorraine Neumann, the company has two locations, in Ridgefield and New Fairfield, CT. Today, the business is owned and operated by the second generation – Chip, Russ, Jeff, Bob & Shaylene Neumann. Neumann Real Estate’s service area includes all of mid/northern Fairfield County, southern Litchfield County and Westchester County, NY. The company represents both buyers and sellers, and tenants and landlords in all aspects of the real estate transaction and also handles much of the corporate relocation business for many area companies. With more than 30 active agents, Neumann Real Estate has excelled to become the dominant real estate firm in the area.

About Christie’s International Real Estate

Christie’s International Real Estate is an invitation-only affiliate network composed of the world’s most proven and qualified real estate specialists in the luxury residential sector. The company has offices in London, New York, Hong Kong, Beverly Hills, Chicago, and Palm Beach, and approximately 135 global affiliates with 25,000 real estate professionals in 45 countries. For additional information about Christie’s International Real Estate, please visit www.christiesrealestate.com.

4 Home-Related Tax Deductions You Shouldn’t Overlook

Tax season is upon us, and if you’re a homeowner, you can claim some sizable deductions that may help reduce the amount you’ll owe.

Mortgage interest, property taxes and mortgage insurance premiums are just some of the deductions you can take if you have a mortgage on your home. Together, they can add up to thousands of dollars in savings on your tax bill.

Mortgage interest

Home mortgages are structured so that a huge chunk of each payment you make in the initial years of ownership goes toward paying down the interest on your loan and only a little goes toward the principal. The good news is that you can deduct the interest payments on your primary (and sometimes a secondary) residence — up to $1 million (or $500,000 if you’re married and filing separately).

Most homeowners count this as one of the largest deductions on their tax bill each year. It applies to home purchases and mortgage refinances, home equity lines of credit and home equity loans, sometimes called second mortgages. The deductible interest on home equity debt — regardless of how you used the money you pulled out — applies to loans of $100,000 or less throughout the year (or $50,000 if you are married and filing separately).
This deduction, filed with IRS Form 1098, can add up to thousands of dollars for most homeowners. The benefit: It reduces your taxable income so you don’t owe as much come tax time.

The key to taking advantage of the mortgage interest deduction is itemizing your deductions in meticulous detail, Poulos says. Your lender will send you a statement each year to let you know how much interest you paid; that will help you figure out if it’s worth your while to itemize.

Points

If you bought a home in 2015, there’s another deduction (score!) you get to include on your tax bill: mortgage points. Most borrowers pay for points, which come in two forms: discount points, which allow you to prepay some of your loan interest in exchange for a better mortgage rate; and the loan origination fee. One point is equal to 1% of your loan amount. Many homeowners completely overlook this deduction, Poulos says.
Let’s say you bought a home in New York using a $500,000 loan with a 1% origination fee. That’s $5,000 you can itemize as a deduction on your tax bill, and you want to get credit for each and every dollar you spent.

Your lender should provide you with a copy of your settlement statement, with the loan origination fee and discount points listed on it, in January. If you don’t receive a copy, ask for one and verify that this information is listed on it so you can take advantage of the deduction on Form 1098.

Property taxes

Another perk of homeownership is writing off your annual property taxes. You get to deduct these taxes in the year they’re paid, not the year they were due.

Your county’s property assessor’s office typically sends out a statement at the beginning of the year showing the amount of your property taxes. One more thing to keep in mind: If you bought a home and reimbursed the sellers for taxes they had already paid for the year, you’ll see that reflected on your settlement statement, not on your 1098.

Mortgage insurance

If your down payment was less than 20% of your home’s purchase price, you’re likely paying a mortgage insurance premium. Through the end of 2016, the mortgage insurance premium deduction includes policies provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Housing Administration and the Rural Housing Service, as well as private mortgage insurance from conventional lenders, issued after 2006.

The IRS treats your mortgage insurance premium payment as mortgage interest that you can deduct on Schedule A of Form 1040. Although the overall amount of your premium can be counted as an interest deduction, it phases out for high-income earners, Poulos says. For instance, you can’t deduct your mortgage insurance premium if you earn an adjusted gross income of more than $109,000 (or more than $54,500 for married couples filing separately).

Items you can’t deduct

Sure, you get some pretty sweet deductions as a member of the homeowners club, but there are some exceptions. Here are a few real-estate-related costs you can’t deduct:

Home and title insurance coverage (other than mortgage insurance premiums)
Depreciation
Utilities, such as gas, electricity and water
Most settlement costs (other than points)
Forfeited deposits, down payments or earnest money
Home improvements paid via a private loan, cash or credit card
Homeowners association fees
Transfer taxes (stamp taxes) in a personal home sale

Check out the IRS list of special situations and other nondeductible items related to homeownership.

Bottom line

One of the major benefits of owning your home has always been the tax write-offs that come with the package. Keep in mind, though, that if your itemized deductions don’t add up to as much as the standard deduction you’re eligible for, the standard deduction would be the better way to go.

If you have a complicated tax situation or you’re unsure about certain real-estate-related deductions, it’s a good idea to consult with a licensed tax professional for guidance. You don’t want to miss out on deductions that will lower your tax burden and keep more money in your pocket.

Homeownership can have some pain points along the way, but the tax benefits you reap help make the largest investment of your life pay off in the long run.

*This article has been edited. Original article appears on NerdWallet

Ridgefield Market Report : Year In Review 2015

Staying The Course

When reviewing the 2015 sales results, one can interpret that the real estate market is flat when compared to 2014. I think that is an accurate statement, but it is also safe to say that we are staying the course when it comes to market stabilization, avoiding the large swings in value or unit sales seen in previous years. Essentially, Ridgefield real estate sales showed 100 more homes sold than in 2009, and only 9 less than in 2014. In both 2014 and 2015 we did not experience a traditional spring market surge, partly due to the severe and extended winter weather, and consumer confidence still seems to be the driver in bringing buyers to the market. Observationally, when analyzing sales by price point, the typically consistent $1.5- $1.75 million struggled in 2015. Conversely, we had a nice uptick in the $2 million and higher category.

The Power Of Proper Pricing

Pricing your home properly from the start is one of the key factors in achieving the best possible outcome for sale. Buyers are savvy and intuitive and can easily determine if they need to act quickly or wait to see if a price adjustment is imminent. We are not seeing many low ball offers, therefore do not feel like you need to build in a cushion. An equally important factor is making sure that your home is “turn-key”. Focus on a few important rooms. For example, if you are a few years away from listing your home for sale and feel that your kitchen is in need of some updating – don’t wait! If at all possible – do the updates now, and enjoy living with them until you are ready to sell.

No Longer A Wild Ride

Since 2013, the Ridgefield real estate market has been steady in both price and unit sales. Fairfield County as a whole has experienced that same stability. Moving into 2016, I see a trend of increasing consumer confidence that real estate is once again a stable investment.

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Ridgefield Market Report : Mid-Year Review 2015

Putting Things Into Perspective

Nationally, as a result of improved consumer confidence, unit home sales are up nearly 10% when compared to the first six months of 2014. Fairfield County overall is up 9% during the same period. Although Ridgefield sales results are lower than 2014, this can again be attributed to the long and treacherous winter. The eight week loss of valuable market time in the typically brisk Spring selling season certainly impacts our mid-year results. However, there still is time to meet – and possibly surpass – 2014 sales, as the second half of the year outperformed the first half in both 2013 and 2014. The looming threat of rising interest rates should also bring more buyers to the table this fall and banks have begun to loosen their financing practices, which also makes the outlook more positive. The Luxury Market, which can be realized as $1.5 million and higher, is on target with 2014 in terms of unit sales, but has experienced a slight drop in value due to higher inventory levels. In-town and walk-to- town locations continue to be particularly popular, and tend to sell more quickly and at a higher price per square foot.

The Value Factor

Based on the Months Supply Of Inventory, 2015 seems to indicate that the market is slowing. However, this is not necessarily accurate as there have been many examples this year, across a number of price points, where multiple offer situations existed. As the market continues to be driven by value, proper pricing is critical. Today’s buyers also measure value based on the condition of the home and are responding most positively to homes that are updated and in pristine condition. When examining the inventory, there seems to be a discrepancy between the amount and the quality of the inventory. Buyers are ready to purchase, but they are still in the driver’s seat and want homes that are turn-key, almost without exception.

Looking Ahead

With no housing bubble in sight, we can expect moderate, sustainable sales growth. If you are in the market for a change, there’s no better time to buy up. If you are thinking of selling now or in the not too distant future, take the time to get your home ready for market or to just enjoy.

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Ridgefield Schools Top Ranking Lists

Once again, the Ridgefield Public School system has proven to be one of the best in Connecticut, with the district’s high school earning a Gold Badge from U.S. News & World Report—the highest award possible. Another organization that ranks education systems, Niche, ranked Ridgefield High School as the 6th best in the state. The elementary and middle schools ranked similarly well: both middle schools are in Connecticut’s top 10 list, and all the elementary schools are in the top 30. Overall, the district was ranked the fourth best in Connecticut.

Ridgefield’s education system holds up on a national scale as well. Out of 8,738 school districts, Ridgefield was ranked 79th on Niche, putting it in the top 1% of districts nationally. On U.S. News & World Report, the high school was ranked #413 nationally out of 29,070 public schools.

Even more impressive, U.S. News & World Report says Ridgefield High School has one of the top 50 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs in the nation. Workers in these fields are in high demand, with higher average salaries than non-STEM majors; this makes the Ridgefield school system a good investment in terms of getting a job later on in life.

The top rated Connecticut district was New Canaan. Eight of the top ten school districts in the state were from Fairfield county, including Ridgefield, New Canaan, Westport, Darien, Wilton, Weston, Greenwich, and Newtown. The top public high school in Connecticut was in Weston, while the best middle and elementary schools were both in New Canaan.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Homes in areas with good education systems are lucrative, with 90% of homebuyers saying that school boundaries are a top concern when buying a home. Purchasing a house in an area with a good education system may equate to a higher selling price later down the line.

If you’re interested in moving to Ridgefield, sign up to receive the latest new home listings delivered right to your inbox, or contact me to see how I can work with you to find you a great home in Connecticut’s Number 1 ranked town.