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Top Outdoor Living Trends, According to Google

Summer is here! Even as the world reopens, homeowners and home buyers are putting more weight on outdoor spaces to enjoy at home. So, what’s trending in outdoor spaces? Living Spaces, a furniture retailer, recently spotlighted Google trends data to showcase what is seeing the highest uptick in interest as homeowners spruce up the outdoors.

Indoor-outdoor spaces: “Cozy, private, and shaded space outdoors” is trending—all through comfy couches, ambient lighting, and multifunctional, weather-resistant furniture, according to Daniela Lopez, a Living Spaces designer. Indoor-outdoor spaces have posted one of the largest increases for 2021, jumping about 156% over the last year, according to Google searches.

Backyard play sets: The kids are getting their own private spaces outside too, including backyard play sets, tree houses, and even giant sidewalk checkers games or outdoor reading nooks. The Google Trends report shows backyard play sets have risen about 7% over the past year.

Gardening: Container gardening is gaining popularity, which has increased spots all around outdoor space for pots of flowers or fruits or vegetables. Edible gardens have seen a 20% increase in searches over the past year and sustainable gardens a 9% increase.

Backyard basketball court: Sports and hobbies have gained popularity in the pandemic and half-court basketball courts don’t have to take up a ton of space. Google Trends notes “backyard basketball court” has seen a 42% interest over the past year.

Front porch: The front porch has become an extension of the indoor space and a place during the pandemic for drive-up parties or socially distanced gatherings, Lopez notes.

Hot tubs: In creating an entertainment getaway, hot tubs have grown in popularity too. Hot tub searches are up 4.11% over the past year.

View more outdoor trends, according to Google, at LivingSpaces.com.

Ridgefield High School Ranks Well in US News & School Report 2021

Every year the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings offer us a snapshot of the top-performing public high schools in the country. In the 2021 report, nearly 18,000 schools were ranked on six factors based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college. The 2021 rankings were based on data from the 2018-2019 school year and does not reflect issue arising from Covid-19 disruptions.

Darien took the top Connecticut honors and placed at #201 in the country. Overall, Fairfield County had stellar results with Weston High School placing #3 in CT and #354 nationally, Staples High School in Westport ranking #4 and #380 respectively, New Canaan High School #5 and #387, Greenwich High School #7 and #454; and Ridgefield High School #8 an #469.

U.S. News does not collect any information directly from high schools. The data used to produce the Best High Schools rankings and published on usnews.com came entirely from the following third-party sources:

1. The Common Core of Data is the U.S. Department of Education website, updated annually, that contains basic data on enrollment, student ethnicity and other profile information on all public high schools in the U.S. The department collects the data directly from the schools, school districts or state departments of education, which is reflected on usnews.com.

2. Statewide math and reading level assessment tests and high school graduation rates data used in the 2021 rankings in almost all cases is from the 2018-2019 school year. This data in most cases is from each state’s education agency website or directly from state education agencies.

3. The College Board was the source of the Advanced Placement examination data for each public high school, when applicable, that was used in rankings calculations. The AP exam data used in the analysis is for 12th grade students in the 2018-2019 school year.

4. International Baccalaureate was the source of the IB examination data for each public high school, when applicable, that was used to create calculated values. The IB exam data used in the analysis is for 12th grade students in the 2018-2019 school year.

The Benefits Of Using A Buyer’s Agent To Purchase Your Home

Buying a home is one of the major milestones in life and it shouldn’t be stressful! At Karla Murtaugh Homes, we offer a Platinum level of service to each and every client we work with – partnering with you in your home search and providing you with exceptional market knowledge, negotiating skills, and market insight at every stage of the process.

Signing a Buyer’s Agency agreement or an Exclusive Right To Represent Buyer agreement means you are protected – the agent has a fiduciary duty to represent you to the best of their ability, in confidence, and always acting in your best interest. These agreements are required in order for us to show you homes on the market and serve to benefit you throughout the buying process.

Using a buyer’s agent you always know you are truly being represented with only your interests in mind. A good buyer’s agent will counsel you on how to make the offer, what contingencies to waive, how best to negotiate, what inspection items to address/request and just generally what to expect in the current tumultuous real estate market.

A great buyer’s agent will provide:

1. UNSURPASSED MARKET KNOWLEDGE
Every quarter, we release our “Interpreting The Market” real estate report outlining how the market is doing and where we think it’s going. Based on sound analysis of trends, home sales and current values, as well as a wealth of anecdotal information from our representation of multiple buyers and sellers, we offer the most comprehensive analysis, resulting in your real estate success.

2. REAL TIME INFORMATION
Aligned with the latest search technology, we match our buyers quickly to relevant homes on the market. Priding ourselves on up-to-the-minute communication and familiarity with the inventory through agent previews, broker open houses and broker relations, our buyers are always ‘in-the know’ when it comes to the latest price changes, recent sales and new-to-market homes.

3. EXPERT NEGOTIATING SKILLS
Using skills honed in almost two decades in the business, Karla Murtaugh Homes has seen it all. It’s a challenging, fast-paced market right now, and if you’re lucky enough to find a home you want, you’ll need a seasoned agent to get you to the closing table. From the initial offer to the repair requests, it’s important to balance the seller’s market with your best interest.

Connecticut Ranks 1st In The Nation for AP Exam Performance

According to the AP Cohort Data Report released by the College Board, for the first time ever Connecticut ranks best in the nation on student performance of advanced placement (AP) exams with 34.5 percent of 2020 high school graduates in Connecticut earning a score of 3 or more on an AP exam.

The report offers a measure of participation and performance that shows success on the Advanced Placement® (AP®) Exam in the overall context of equity and access. It represents only U.S. public school students because no central source of enrollment and demographic data is available for nonpublic schools for all states. Compared to the national average, Connecticut saw noticeable increases in the class of 2020 with respect to exam participation and performance among students from low-income families, and Black and Hispanic students. The total number of the state’s graduating class who took an AP exam in high school increased by over five percent in the last five years.

Graduating seniors use AP to get a head start in college. They use AP to:
1. Stand out in college admission
2. Earn college credits
3. Build college skills, and
4. Advance into higher-level courses

Because most colleges in the United States award credit and placement for qualifying AP Exam scores, the 2021 AP Exams will cover the full course content so that students are accurately placed into higher-level courses where they will succeed when they arrive on campus.

College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success—including the
SAT® and the Advanced Placement® Program. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and schools.

Connecticut Realtors Launch Home Safe Home Campaign

Covid-19 has definitely created a pause for all of us and made us take a hard look at ourselves and how we live. Living rooms and kitchen islands are now classrooms, dining rooms are offices and bedrooms are a place to get away for a little bit of solace and quiet at the end of unusually hectic days. Now more than ever, many are realizing the importance of having a home that truly meets their needs. And for some, real estate plans cannot be put on hold, even in these trying times.

As such, Connecticut Realtors®, WTNH News 8, and iHeartMedia are teaming up for the Home Safe Home campaign – a reminder that Connecticut Realtors are still here, working for the residents of our state, with your safety in mind. ​Karla Murtaugh Homes is no exception.

Utilizing all the technology available to us we are here to help people achieve their housing dreams. For buyers, video, floorplans, limited in-person showings or tours via FaceTime or Zoom are available to give you a better idea of what homes are currently on the market. For sellers, all documentation can be done remotely via electronic transaction management and document collection from public sources, to listing creation and putting the property live where potential buyers are looking on social media, consumer search platforms such as Zillow and Realtor.com and more. From listing to closing, most of the Real Estate process can be done virtually to give our clients a safe and secure experience. ​

We like to think of ourselves as more than just Realtors. We’re your neighbors and your friends, and we’re on the frontlines working to give everyone the security of having a place to call Home Safe Home. Check out the campaign video below and contact Karla Murtaugh Homes if you need help relocating, selling or want know how the market is doing.

Ridgefield’s 2019 Year In Review Market Report

Ridgefield Market Snapshot
2019 was an interesting year in Ridgefield Real Estate as we didn’t see the typical buying cycle emerge as in previous years. Summer – which is usually fairly busy – slowed slightly, while the fall and winter months have seen increased activity. Across the board sales of Single Family Homes in Ridgefield have been flat with the number of Closed Sales remaining steady at 327 versus 329 in 2018, and the Overall Sales Volume ending the year only $3-million less than 2018 at $233,379,725.

Median Sales Price also remained relatively constant at $628,250 – a difference of 2 percent compared to $641,260 last year. Average Sales Price is down half a percentage point over 2018 to $713,699. As in previous years, homes continue to sell at approximately 96.5% of ask, while the Days On Market rose slightly to 167 from 142. Moving into 2020, there are already double the number of homes under contract as compared to the same time in 2019.

The Luxury Market
18 luxury homes sold this past year, compared to 9 in 2018. Six of these sales were over $2-million. Proper pricing is critical to achieve maximum results in a reasonable time period. Sellers are advised to make sure their home is move-in ready and incorporate the additional features buyers are looking for such as mudrooms, Smart Home connectivity, generators, and updated kitchens and baths.

Condo Sales
Ridgefield continues to offer a wide selection of price points and availability to those looking for an alternative to a single-family home. This year, sales ranged from a one bedroom, one bath condo in Fox Hill for $150,000 to a $1.4 million, three bedroom, three bath luxury townhome in The Elms on Main Street. Overall, condo sales slowed with 55 units selling as compared to 70 last year. The Median Sales Price remained steady at $227,500 but the Average Sales Price decreased ending the year at $298,907

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Ridgefield’s 2019 Mid-Year Market Report

Ridgefield Market Snapshot
Ridgefield single family home sales are on par when compared to the same time last year. 150 homes sold during the first six months of the year, as compared to 147 in 2018. The median sales price stayed exactly the same at $625,000, while the total sales volume made modest gains ending the mid-year 4.5% higher than 2018 at $104,368,182. Even going back to 2017, we have seen the number of sales and the median sales price remain essentially flat, while the overall sales volume has fluctuated from a high in 2017 of $125,473,815 to a low in 2018 of $99,906,250.

While the median sales price remained the same year over year, we saw gains in the average sales price, which bodes well for the market as it indicates a general increase in what buyers are willing to pay. Year-to-date the average sales price was $695,788 – a 3.8% increase over the 2018 price of $670,512. This may sound modest, but considering 2017 had a high of $704,797, it indicates we are trending in the right direction. The months of inventory was slightly lower fluctuating between 8 and 15 months, while the list to closed price ratio was up over previous years at 96.7%.

The Luxury Market
Luxury market sales in Ridgefield – defined as homes selling for $1.5 million and above – have seen a huge uptick since this time last year, and in fact, are the strongest we’ve seen since 2016. There have been seven sales to date, compared to only one in 2018, two in 2017, and nine in 2016, while other Fairfield County towns, generally known for their luxury market, have flattened and reported less than stellar results so far this year. Traditionally, demand for these properties is strongest towards the end of the year so we hope to see this segment of the market continue to do well. There are currently an additional three homes under deposit set to close in the next few months and we’ve noticed that in the higher price points it is the motivated seller who is seeing the best results in the least amount of time.

Fairfield County Snapshot
The results are truly mixed for Fairfield County as a whole in the first half of 2019. Overall, median sales price was down throughout the county, as was total sales volume, but the number of unit sales increased in many towns. Traditionally strong commuter towns such as Darien and Greenwich had opposite results with Darien showing an increase in unit sales but the greatest decrease in median sales price in the county, and Greenwich showing an in increase in price but a decrease in the number of sales. Westchester County has also seen a decrease overall in the number of unit sales with median and average sales values down across the board. Looking ahead, we hope to see a more balanced market with supply and demand bringing prices back into alignment.

Looking Ahead
The spring market never seemed to materialize but we are seeing an increase in activity in the early summer months. Buyers continue to be in the driver’s seat in 2019 and sellers would be wise to make sure that their home is show ready before listing it for sale. Now, more than ever, it is important that these properties check off as many of the buyers’ boxes as possible. We continue to see in-town properties and those sporting the latest design trends garner top dollar. Inventory for small to medium-sized homes that are in turn key condition continues to be a challenge as baby boomers looking to downsize, and millennials looking to buy their first home, often overlap in what they desire. We are cautiously optimistic that Ridgefield Real Estate will remain steady. We are seeing 63% of sales coming from the purchase of homes under $700,000 indicating middle-class earners continue to find Ridgefield a desirable place to live with its access to great schools, major urban centers and exposure to a vibrant arts and leisure community.

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Ridgefield’s 2018 Year In Review

Ridgefield Market Snapshot
The Ridgefield Real Estate market for single-family homes faced an interesting year in 2018 with a tumultuous mid-term election and the challenge of attracting businesses to the state. Combined with the new tax structure – the effects of which have not yet come to pass – and a bear market, Ridgefield sales rallied remarkably well showing a drop in volume, but no appreciable drop in value. Overall, the number of homes sold was down 11 percent with 329 homes selling in 2018 as compared to 370 in 2017. The total sales volume also decreased by 13 percent resulting in a total of $236,085,651 transacting as compared to $273,224,044 in 2017. The median sales price decreased only slightly from $642,500 to $641,260 (a difference of 0.2 percent) and the average home price fell by only 2.8 percent from $738,443 in 2017 to $717,586. Homes also continued the trend of selling at 96.5 percent of their listed price as in previous years.

In Condo News
As in 2017, there was a total of 70 condominium sales in Ridgefield in 2018 ranging in price from $129,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in Fox Hill, to $865,000 for a 3,200 square foot condominium on Sunset Lane. The average sales price was $330,174, while the median sales price was $235,000. This is down slightly from last year when the average price was $384,920 and the median price was $250,000. Of note, 3 luxury condos on Main Street are also due to close in the $1.3 million range in the early part of 2019.

The Luxury Market
The luxury market in Ridgefield-defined as homes selling for $1.5 million and above-continued to show decent market activity with 9 luxury homes selling in 2018, as compared to 13 homes in 2017. Of note, we represent 4 additional properties priced over $1.5 million currently in contract to close in the first part of 2019. Overall, we have noticed buyers are taking longer to commit to luxury purchases and are instead searching for just the right home-one that includes all the features and amenities they are looking for. As a Christie’s International Real Estate Luxury Specialist, in 2018 I was proud to represent 10 out of the 18 buyers and sellers who purchased luxury homes priced between $1.525 and $2.55 million.

Fairfield County News
Overall, Fairfield County experienced slight decreases in both the number of properties sold and median sales prices in 2018. Redding, Norwalk, Wilton and Fairfield showed an increase in values over last year, which is welcome news for homeowners in Wilton and Redding where home values had plummeted almost 10 percent back in 2017. Weston was able to rally back after being down 22% in mid-year unit sales. New Canaan continues to post double­ digit decreases in sales as a result of an increase in supply compared to demand especially in the upper price points.

Looking Ahead
In 2019, the buyer’s market will continue with the biggest discussions centered on mortgage rates and available inventory. In terms of inventory, we hope to see sellers continue to list their homes, attracting solidly qualified buyers who still see this market as a good time to buy. In 2018, Ridgefield lacked entry-level inventory in the under $600,000 range as well as the $800,000 – $1.2 million range. We are hoping to see that turn around in 2019. The two largest groups of buyers and sellers will continue to influence the market with Millennials moving to the better value of the suburbs and baby-boomers downsizing, thereby freeing up more inventory. Ridgefield continues to be a desirable place to live with its top-ranked schools, great cultural attractions, world-class dining and amazing sense of community.

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Ridgefield’s 2018 Mid Year Market Report

The Ridgefield Real Estate market continues to favor the buyer, but we have had a number of multiple bid situations on properties that are updated and priced correctly. Condition, along with location and proximity to Main Street, continue to be key drivers for sales across all price points. Buyers are becoming increasingly savvy about market conditions and trends due to the availability of data on public websites such as Zillow and Realtor.com. The threat of a mortgage rate increase does not seem to be affecting buyer decisions either as they bide their time and wait for the ‘right’ home.

The good news is that buyers are still willing to pay for properties they find desirable with properly priced homes selling at 96.5% of their listed price. As was the case last year, properties under $800,000 seem to hit the sweet spot in Ridgefield. The town continues to be a destination for families moving from areas within the metropolitan region, as well as relocating from other states due to our family-friendly environment, quality of life and access to major commerce centers. We also continue to see families move within Ridgefield, which is a testament to the ‘staying power’ of our town.

No Gain In Value
Overall, the Ridgefield real estate market continues to remain relatively flat across the board. A six-week weather delay created a sluggish spring market, resulting in lower unit sales and decreased overall volume sold. 147 homes were sold during the first six months of 2018, as opposed to 178 last year. The total sales volume registered a 21% decrease, ending the mid-year at $98,851,250. However, the median sales price remained on par with last year at $625,000 compared with $627,000 from January to June in 2017.

Where Are Buyer’s Buying?
As in previous years, during the first half of 2018 in-town properties are in demand with 42 percent of all sales occurring within a two-mile radius of Town Hall (considered Village center). The median sales price of these homes was $692,500, and the average sales price was $724,526 – both of which are above the town as a whole. Three of the four luxury condominiums valued at over $700,000 were also located in-town. These sales reflect the growing trend for more walkable properties close to restaurants, shopping and culture

Condo Report
There were 33 condominium sales in the first half of 2018 ranging in price from $135,000 for a one bedroom, one bath townhouse in Fox Hill to $865,000 for a three bedroom, two full and two half bath townhouse on Sunset Lane. The median sales price was $267,000, while the average sales price was $354,567. Compared to the first six months of 2017, the median sales price has risen by 14%, while the average sale price decreased by 12%. This discrepancy is due to a greater number of higher priced condominiums selling in the first half of 2017 compared to 2018.

The Luxury Market
Luxury market sales – defined as homes selling for $1.5 million and above – are comparable to the 2017 mid-year mark. So far we have seen one sale for $1,540,000 close, as compared to two during the same period last year. As of July 1st five luxury properties are either under deposit or in contract to close in the third quarter ranging in value from $1.745 million to $2.395 million. Historically, more luxury properties close in the third and fourth quarters. Anecdotally, interest in the upper price range remains strong with many homes experiencing a number of showings. Many luxury properties have also adjusted their pricing to attract the upper tier buyer looking for value and compelling offerings.

Activity Down In Fairfield County
After several years of growth, unit sales throughout Fairfield County slipped during the first half of 2018 with decreases noted across the board. Towns closer to Manhattan such as Greenwich, Darien and Norwalk saw modest increases in the median sales price, but still registered a decreased number of unit sales. While Fairfield County is still considered attractive for families due to the quality of life and great schools, the sense of urgency by buyers to make the move seems to have slowed. Looking ahead, market activity seems slightly higher than normal as we move into the summer months, which will hopefully equate to increased sales in the second half of the year.

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