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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.

Top 5 Reasons To Move To Wilton

Wilton is a rural residential town rich in New England history. Nestled in the Norwalk River Valley in southwestern Connecticut, Wilton is north of the City of Norwalk, west of the Town of Weston, and east of the Town of New Canaan. Winding roads, large lots and a generally rural feel lend Wilton a serene lifestyle. Bustling retail areas also abound with wonderful restaurants and all the modern amenities of an urban center.

Here are our top five reasons to move to Wilton:

1. The exceptional education system is often a key driver for many families searching for homes for sale in Wilton. Highly rated, Wilton’s Board of Education is responsible for the four public schools under their jurisdiction. Organized slightly differently than a traditional school progression, the Miller-Driscoll School serves pre-K to second grade, Cider Mill School grades 3-5, Middlebrook School grades 6-8, and Wilton High School grades 9 -12. For more information, use my comprehensive tool to research information about area schools. You can also look at the proximity of home listings to the school you’re exploring for your family.

2. Wilton has a strong arts community represented by the Wilton Arts Council and enjoys many festivities and community events each year. The Wilton Trackside Teen Center offers a multitude of opportunities for teens to get involved, while Wilton Children’s Theater offers a unique theatrical experience to the town’s children.

3. This beautiful town is home to beloved nature destinations like Woodcock Nature Center, situated on 179 acres of state-protected land with 3 miles of trails traversing a mixture of habitats, including woods with stands of maple, beech, oak and hickory trees, a pond and wetlands. A visit to the Weir Farm National Historic Site is always invigorating, a creative refuge for friends and fellow artists that still remains today. Hiking, biking and all manner of sports teams abound as does a rich shopping experience in many nearby neighborhoods.

4. Some well-traveled routes, such as Ridgefield and Belden Hill roads, are known for handsome historic homes and stone walls. Wilton has preserved much of its architectural heritage in five town-designated historic districts.

5. The commute to Stamford and New York City is totally do-able. If you’re looking for a home for sale conveniently located to New York City, I encourage you to consider Wilton, which is only 90 minutes from Grand Central Station from the Wilton, Cannondale or Branchville stations on the New Haven Line Danbury branch of Metro-North Railroad. Depending on where you live in Wilton, you can travel to GCT via the Branchville, Wilton or Cannondale stations on the Danbury Branch of the Metro-North New Haven line.

Learn more about Wilton, including real estate market statistics, in our Town Profile:
https://karlamurtaugh.com/wilton-ct-real-estate/ .

Top Ten Summer Staycation Ideas to Enjoy Within Driving Distance of Ridgefield

School is OUT here in Ridgefield and after the past year we’ve all earned some rest and relaxation. With so many fabulous outing opportunities within driving distance of Ridgefield, why would you ever leave the area? Here are a few of our favorites!

1. Strawberry picking at Jones Family Farms. For over 150 years, the Jones family has been working the lands on their farm in Shelton, Connecticut. Today this 400-acre farm offers one of the finest harvest-your-own picking experiences due to the high quality crops and the knowledgeable, friendly farmers and staff. Click here for details: https://www.jonesfamilyfarms.com/farm.

2. Martin Park Beach right here in Ridgefield offers refreshing pond swimming and boating activities in a natural, spring-fed pond. With docks, kayaks, paddleboard rentals, playground, volleyball net, Wibit Slide, Zoom Floom, and Water Mat, Great Pond is one of the gems of Connecticut. Click here for details: https://www.ridgefieldparksandrec.org/martin-park-beach.

3. The Spray Bay at the Ridgefield Rec Center is a 2,800 square foot, zero-entry water playground beloved by kids of all ages. Spray Bay play time is included with a Family Recreation or Family All-Inclusive Membership; drop-in rate available for non-members, which also includes recreation swim. Click here for details: https://www.ridgefieldparksandrec.org/spray-bay

4. Yoga and trails at Woodcock Nature Center in Wilton. Trails are open to the public 365 days a year from dawn until dusk for family and individual use unless noted. Trails and grounds close at sunset. There is no cost to visit the grounds. Visitors are welcome to explore our grounds, visit our birds of prey and use our playground during daylight hours. Registered yoga teacher Jessica Outlaw will hold several outdoor classes throughout the summer. Click here for details: https://www.woodcocknaturecenter.org/yoga.

5. At Silverman’s rustic animal farm in Easton, CT, you can see, pet, and feed all sorts of unusual animals, including buffalo, llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats, fallow deer, emus, and long-horn cattle. Picnic tables are available in the park area. Silverman’s also offers pick-your-own raspberries, blueberries, peaches, apples and much more! Click here for details: https://www.silvermansfarm.com/animal-farm/#farm-rules.

6. Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, CT is a great place to get your beach fix. Connecticut’s first state park is still one of its finest. Have a leisurely lunch in the shade of the picnic grove, swim in Long Island Sound, or view marsh life from the observation platform at Sherwood Island. Click here for details: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/State-Parks/Parks/Sherwood-Island-State-Park.

7. Ridgefield Golf Course is a public course offering memberships, clinics, special events and more. Click here for details: https://ridgefieldgc.com/.

8. Ridgefield Library offers an incredible variety of free programming from Summer Reading and STEAM programs to Storytime in the shade of the Ballard Park Gazebo. All programs are free and open to the public, though programs with limited space grant preference to Ridgefield residents. Click here for details: https://ridgefieldlibrary.org/.

9. At Weir Farm National Historical Park in Wilton, CT you can visit the home and studio of America’s most beloved Impressionist, J. Alden Weir, and walk in the footsteps of generations of world-class artists. Set amidst more than 60 acres of painterly woods, fields, and waterways, you’ll soon see why Weir described his home as the “Great Good Place.” Weir’s farm is a national legacy to American Impressionism, the creative spirit, and historic preservation. Click here for details: https://www.nps.gov/wefa/index.htm.

10. Lasdon Park, Arboretum, and Veterans Memorial, located in nearby Katonah, New York is Westchester’s Public Garden with 234 acres of landscape consisting of ornamental display gardens, containers, orchard, tree and shrub collections, conservatory with tropical plants and changing exhibitions, greenhouses, forests, meadows, and hiking trails. Click here for details: https://www.lasdonpark.org/.

And because we couldn’t pick just ten…!

11. Storm King Art Center is an incredible 500-acre outdoor museum located in New York’s Hudson Valley, where visitors experience large-scale sculpture and site-specific commissions under open sky. Since 1960, Storm King has been dedicated to stewarding the hills, meadows, and forests of its site and surrounding landscape. Click here for details: https://stormking.org/.

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.

Ridgefield 2020 Year In Review Real Estate Market Report

Ridgefield Market Snapshot

2020 started out strong, but the year came to a grinding halt in March as we all sheltered in place due to Covid-19. When real estate was allowed to resume towards the end of April, a torrent of buyers from NYC and other urban areas created unprecedented demand for homes in Westchester and Fairfield counties. The number of single-family home sales in Ridgefield increased by 70% year over year with 556 units selling this year as compared to 327 in 2019. In addition, the total sales volume increased 93.5% in 2020 with $451,684,839 in total sales compared to $233,379,725 last year.

Price gains were seen throughout the Ridgefield single family home market with the Median Sales Price increasing from $628,250 to $707,500, representing an overall increase of 12.6%. The Average Sales Price also increased by 14% from $713,699 to $812,383. The Days On Market decreased with homes spending 70 days on the market before selling, as compared to 167 in 2019. The List to Sales Price Ratio rose from 96.5% to 97.8% with many homes receiving offers above asking price or even multiple offers.

Demand for single-family homes increased at all price points, however, the greatest boost came in properties selling between $1-million and $1.5-million. Sluggish sales over the past few years were reversed with a 217% gain from 24 sales last year to 76 this year. The luxury market – defined as homes selling for more than $1.5-million – also saw appreciable gains with a 128% rise from 18 to 41 sales, and the under $1-million sales increased 54% from 285 to 439. In general, homes that had been updated were often selling at or above their listed price.

Trends In The Market

  • As people reevaluate their lifestyles in the wake of the pandemic, many are finding their home a sanctuary. People are moving out of cramped urban spaces to more residential neighborhoods in the suburbs.
  • While the market has transitioned to benefit the seller, buyers are still wary of creating a ‘bubble’ and will continue to be reasonable in their offer strategy.
  • A shortage of inventory will continue to place pressure on first-time and even ‘move-up’ buyers as continued demand outweighs supply.
  • It is increasingly important to understand how the market changes we are seeing breaks down by price and segment, as not all gains are the same across the board.

For more information, download the FULL REPORT.

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

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT

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