Fairfield County real estate is on a bumpy road, but a realtor here has seen a "fresh wave of interest" among buyers since the start of May.
"About half the home buyers in Fairfield County are on hold, "said Jeff Woda, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker, but the full picture, he continued, is not yet known. That will come in the second and third quarters to compare. Ridgefield, for example, had 25 sales in April, down 32.4 percent from 37 sales in April of 2019. The figure is 21.9 percent lower than the 32 sales in March.
"Buyers are starting to come back out and inventories are still low. Many are afraid of the virus and want to wait," added Woda. "Some want to do only virtual showings, so it depends if you can wait if you want to buy another house, (or) are you afraid of the virus (with showings)? There's not one good answer. If you're ready, willing and able, then just do it."
Woda closed two sales, pre-orders, from before the quarantine, has a home in contract, and currently working with three buyers.
The first quarter was very positive with interest rates low and buyer interest high. But now, according to Woda, some deals are falling apart from job furloughs and other such reasons.
So he cautions buyers and sellers, "The strong start is kind of meaningless currently. We will see worse numbers coming out next. Although activity is currently picking back up, it’s from a low level."
The mortgage market is being inundated with modification requests and conditions really tightened significantly. So even with super low rates, the hurdles are much tougher to get over, Woda explained.
He expects there could be a "flight" out of New York City among buyers to Fairfield County, with prices rising here.
"We were off for 12 years in a row on price levels while New York City (prices) were above 2008 highs. It will definitely reverse," Woda said.
But the luxury market floundering in recent years will continue to be troubled. "If (home prices) go up meaningfully, it will depend on the category. The market has been compressing now for many years with top-heavy (homes), but those in the affordable sector see good interest," he said.
According to Woda, $1 and $2 million houses have been struggling in the region for years, but homes priced below that in desirable markets are attractive for buyers, with some locations still fetching $2.5 million.
"That was the trend (before COVID-19) and I suspect it will still be a little like that. The right house at the right location a the right price will still have multiple offers in this market," said Woda.
Josh Garay, president of Garay Real Estate a Manhattan and Brooklyn boutique brokerage firm anticipates there "might be a slight exodus" out of the city, but he does not expect that to drive up prices of suburban homes. He agrees luxury real estate, in general, will be adversely impacted by the current economy.
"Peoples' 401Ks have taken a big hit. They might be on furlough. I think the luxury market is going to be hit hard for a long time. Wealthy people, poor people have lost a lot of money because of this crisis. Businesses have stopped. The city will always be the city where (real estate trends) are building by building, neighborhood by neighborhood," said Garay.
A new interest he's seen, moreover, is New Yorkers seeking work/home apartments. "People are realizing that working from home may be the new normal. Physical office visits may be a thing of the past. It is more important than ever to have a home office in your apartment and a space designed for the work environment."