Commute, economy contributing to decline in Westport home sales, Realtors say
WESTPORT — A near-decade low for single-family home sales in Westport this year represents a microcosm of issues faced in other Fairfield County towns, according to some local real estate agents.
When district demographers reported a decline in housing sales at a Board of Education meeting in November, some blamed it on the closure of Coleytown Middle School. But real estate agents are saying the year marks a culmination of factors outside of the town.
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Deb Alderson, a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties Realtor, said the temporary closure of a school could naturally affect a real estate market, but there are other trends at play.
“Yes it could have an impact, but in my opinion in the larger picture of things Westport is still a great school system,” Alderson said.
Currently the town is on pace to fall short of the number of houses sold in 2018. As of Dec. 4, 324 homes had sold in Westport, compared to 410 homes by the end of last year. The town’s peak in the past decade was 482 single-family homes sold in 2013.
However, the average sale price is flattening compared to this time last year.
“That’s good news,” Alderson noted. “We would want to see that for a couple months and hopefully by spring market we’ll start to see the pendulum swing back the other way.”
Neverthelesss, transportation — particularly to New York City — continues to be growing challenge for people looking to live in suburban Westport and neighboring towns.
A 2016 New York Times article titled “What’s Your Commute Time Worth?” reported a commute time of 74 minutes from Westport to Grand Central Station, when 12 years earlier it had taken just under an hour. Similarly in towns like Darien and New Canaan, commutes are 59 minutes and 68 minutes, respectively.
Alderson also attributed low home sales to the state’s economy, which she said never recovered from the 2008 housing crisis like other states.
“A lot of these states had another high and are leveling out again,” she said. “We unfortunately did not have a huge increase.”
The state additionally faces an out-migration problem. A 2018 National Movers study United Van Lines showed Connecticut had the third-highest rate of people moving out in the nation.
“To try and narrow in on Westport’s housing issues and lack of enrollment to the school closing I think is short-sighted,” Alderson said. “It goes so much beyond that. The school situation is temporary.”
Karen Scott, a Compass Concierge Realtor, echoed Alderson’s comments, noting the growth of the Metro-North commute time over the decade.
“I know the school is a concern to residents, but I don’t believe that has been the major impact in why we’ve had a reduction in homes sold this year,” she said, adding she’s represented clients moving into the Coleytown area this year.
Scott said Westport also offers a number of market segments, from waterfront properties and renovated homes to in-town homes and new construction.
“I believe the supply and demand continues to determine our market values,” Scott said. “For the last several years our supply of homes have been far greater than our demand.”
Locations close to commuting options, as well as beach areas, are some of the more popular markets.
While some towns are doing better than others, Scott said Westport’s year represented a pattern in Fairfield County.
“I think the towns that are doing better than others is because their seller’s market has adjusted more to the pricing,” she said.
Despite a lower number of sales this year, Scott said there are still positive attributes of the real estate market.
“I think Fairfield County — and Westport in particular — offers amazing amenities,” she said. “From our schools to the arts ... there are fabulous amenities that people in our area love.”