In hot real estate market, CT brokers adapt to COVID-specific demands: ‘Home offices with all the bells and whistles’

GREENWICH — Real estate brokers had a very busy year in Greenwich so far, with record sales.

And it might not be over yet, as strong demand for homes in Greenwich continues. The red-hot market might not last indefinitely, but real estate professionals say there could be a continued surge, based on recent home-sale statistics.

“Things are still very active,” said real estate broker Sheryl Morrison. “Homes are still going quickly. And inventory is very low.” She said her phone has been ringing continually, with prospective home-buyers looking to purchase in the Greenwich area. “I see demand still going into next year,” she said. “Those city buyers are still coming. With the (COVID-19) delta variant, people are still looking this way.”

Greenwich real estate commentator Mark Pruner agreed that the market has seen a surge in sales this past summer.

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“The demand is definitely there, it’s driving up prices, which should elicit more supply,” he observed in a recent assessment of the market conditions.

Pruner said of the recent market activity: “It’s been amazing, if we get more listings, it will continue to be that way.”

The real estate database used by local brokers indicates that 1,100 sales took place in the 12 months from July 2020 to June 2021, a long hot streak for the market. July of this year saw 173 sales alone, according to real estate agents.

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The previous monthly record for home sales in Greenwich was in June 2011, when 114 homes sold, according to Pruner, largely driven by a tax increase on sales. Homes in a the backcountry and midcountry saw the end of slumping sale prices and big rebounds.

Broker Roxana Bowgen said the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic had re-shaped the Greenwich real estate market, as well as drastically changed the ways people work and create a living space for themselves.

Greenwich has seen a surge of new buyers, she said, and the trend could still continue in coming months. “It’s premature to say things have slowed down, permanently. Time will tell,” Bowgen said.

At Sotheby’s, she said, the firm had a record year in 2020, and 2021 has already outperformed the previous year. Year-to-date sales were 803 compared to 536 last year at the same time, up almost 50 percent.

Many of Bowgen’s clients have been looking for homes that offer abundant office space, allowing them to work from home.

“Besides looking for fresh air and distance from neighbors, today’s buyers prefer lifestyle over commuting to high-paying jobs. Greenwich buyers want home offices with all the bells and whistles,” she said, as well as desirable schools and local amenities.

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“I look at these millennials, people in their 20’s and 30’s — they left the city during the pandemic and moved to places where they grew up, and they’re happy. It’s a whole new change we’re seeing,” she said.

Energy-efficient homes are particularly in demand. Bowgen said younger buyers in particular have idealistic motivations to lower their energy consumption, and they also like “smart homes” they can operate with their mobile devices.

Central Greenwich, Old Greenwich and Riverside are all in high demand, the Sotheby’s broker said. “People love central Greenwich,” she said, citing its appeal to empty-netters who can walk to Greenwich Avenue to shop and dine. “And old Greenwich and Riverside are always popular with young families, they have the neighborhood feel, you can walk your kids to schools.”

Bowgen said the market had been disrupted by the pandemic, and like everyone else, people who sell homes for a living had to learn new skills to adapt.

“Digital negotiations are the norm since the world was turned upside down,” she said. “The digital economy is here to stay. We’re not going back to closed and crowded office spaces any time soon.”

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