At the end of 2013, all indications were that 2014 would be a strong year in Westport/Weston real estate.
Buyer activity was strong throughout the fourth quarter, even during December when the market usually goes to sleep and wakes up after the New Year. Pent-up demand is high, with ready, willing and able buyers -- many in short-term rentals or with signed contracts on their New York City condos burning holes in their pockets -- waiting for new inventory to manifest.
New sellers are out there too, eager to present their properties for sale. And from what I've seen, most of them are even more motivated to sell than owners were last year.
The problem is that it just won't seem to stop snowing.
The weather has a big effect on the real estate market. Sellers are not only concerned about slush and sand getting tracked into their homes, they also worry about icy steps and the potential liability associated with them. They wonder whether it's worth it to list when fewer buyers may be out shopping. Not to mention how difficult it is to take a decent exterior photograph of your home when there's snow on the ground. And since it's true that many realtors don't venture out to preview the new inventory on Tuesdays in Weston or Thursdays in Westport in bad weather, it's tempting to wait till the weather breaks before presenting your house for sale.
In a way, it's hard to argue this logic.
Except for the fact that, right now, there are hundreds of serious buyers are out there willing to look at homes regardless of how much snow is on the ground.
I'm working with four such parties who are qualified, educated about the market and eager to make a deal. Suffice it to say they are frustrated at having to wait.
But wait they will.
What usually happens in years with excessive snowfall is that the market stays quiet until mid-March or early April, and then inventory floods the market. This makes things more difficult for everyone, especially those in my line of work who must cram a three-month backlog of deals into our work weeks. Sellers will find their homes competing with more inventory than in a normal market. Buyers will run themselves ragged making sure they've seen everything. And getting a mortgage will be even more painful and irritating than it is now -- although that may be hard to imagine -- as the number of files on underwriters' desks grows larger.
Alas, that's what seems in store for us in 2014 residential real estate.
If you're a seller, I recommend listing now despite the weather. You'll have less competition and probably will make a deal quickly if you're priced right. If you're not buying this argument, at least make sure to use this "quiet time" to prepare your house for sale -- repairing and decluttering and staging -- so you can hit the ground running when the weather breaks. If you're a buyer, make sure you've seen the current inventory and are as educated as possible about what a dollar buys in Westport and Weston. Despite it being a buyer's market, you may have to act fast to snag the best of the new inventory.
Either way, please be understanding of your Realtor. She or he will be working harder than ever to keep up with the pace of the market once this weather delay is over.
Evi Coghlan's "The Real Deal" appears every other Friday. She is a licensed real estate agent with the Riverside Avenue office of Coldwell Banker and a former marketing consultant to Fortune 100 companies. She may be reached at 203-247-6691, by emailing her at email@example.com or visiting www.evicoghlan.com.