July home sales in Greater Hartford show a strong market
Home sales in greater Hartford jumped in July — typically a slow summer month for purchases — as sellers who sat the sidelines at the start of the pandemic put out the "for sale" sign and eager buyers snapped up properties, a new report shows.
Sales of single-family houses in greater Hartford rose nearly 8% in July compared with a year ago, pushing the median sale price — where half the sales are above, half below — up 7.5% to $285,000 from $265,000 for the same month a year ago, according to the monthly report from the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors, an industry group.
The association tracks 27 towns and cities stretching from Suffield to Rocky Hill and Canton to Willington.
John M. Zubretsky, president of Weichert Realtors-The Zubretsky Group in Wethersfield, said Monday the spring market got off to a slow start as coronavirus pandemic struck.
"It really stopped from March 15 maybe to about May 1 and then a lot of sellers just said, 'I think I'm good with this. Let's just do it.'" Zubretsky said. "The people are just getting to the point now where life goes on, if not COVID, it could be something else and inevitably it will be something else."
Few homes on the market — the inventory in July was down almost 32% compared with a year ago — is contributing to even more bidding wars than were already common before the pandemic as buyers sought out the most desirable properties.
Monday's report also suggests the heated up home sale market will continue into the fall. Pending sales — properties under deposit — soared 31% and more sellers are willing to take a shot at finding buyers, as new listings climbed more than 4% compared with a year ago.
Low mortgage rates are certainly helping, Zubretsky said. But he also sees a cultural shift tied to the pandemic, as big employers extend work from home timeframes. That has given homeowners a lot of time to assess where they are living and if they will need more space for designated work-at-home areas, whether they end up working at home full-time or not.
"It creates a lot of chaos where there are phone conversations with barking dogs and Zoom meetings with cats running across the monitor," Zubretsky said. "It's kind of comical in a way. Things are still getting done but in some instances, you need to have that professional, green screen studio."
Donald Klepper-Smith, an economist at DataCore Partners, said the housing market is not reacting with a drop-off as would be typical in a recession and COVID-19 may well be the wild card.
"I think people are beginning to say, 'If we are going to be stuck with all the dynamics of the COVID and not being here and there, let's make sure we're in a place that's comfortable and a place that we want to be,'" Klepper-Smith said.
In some cases, that might mean speeding up plans that may have been 5-10 years out, either for sellers or buyers, Klepper-Smith said, putting a higher premium on quality of life.
The greater Hartford home sale market — and overall, in Connecticut, has been struggling to regain ground since the last recession more than a decade ago. especially when it comes to sale price and home value.
If the direction of sales continues in the same direction deeper into 2020, it could affect the broader picture of greater Hartford's housing market. So far, however, sales are down nearly 3% through the first seven months of the year, compared with the same period a year ago.
The median sale price, which has shown strength this year on tight inventory and a dearth of the most desirable properties rose 6% through July, to $260,000 from $245,000 for the same period last year.
The smaller, condominium market also is showing momentum, with a 16% year-over-year increase for July for sales. The median sale price rose 5% to $179,000, compared with $170,500 in the same time period.