Kent real estate market:
KENT — For the second year in a row, Kent was named the best fall foliage town in New England by Yankee Magazine. And on Oct. 9, the New York Times ran an article about travel bargains in Litchfield County that prominently featured Kent. Does that kind of glowing media coverage bring more prospective clients into local real estate offices? The Lakeville Journal interviewed several Kent brokers to find the answer to that question — and in the process got an overview of the real estate market here as a whole.Christopher Garrity, partner in David Bain Real Estate, said that coverage in the regional magazine is unlikely to have much of an impact.“The Yankee Magazine foliage accolades have no direct bearing on bringing in new clients for our office,”he said. “However, such publicity does reinforce in people’s minds that Kent is a beautiful town.”On the other hand, he said, “The New York Times article is incredible in drawing new potential clients. It is the best kind of advertising for the real estate business.” Such articles have three benefits, he pointed out.“One, they reinforce to local homeowners that they live in the right place. Two, they reinforce the idea that this is the place to live on weekends for home shoppers. Three, they help people who are thinking about listing their homes for sale and give them a sense that they will attract potential purchasers.”He also believes that, “If I live in New York City and weekend in Kent, the article in the New York Times will help my city friends become more positive about where I spend my weekends. Some get tired of driving out to the Hamptons or the Poconos and see how much I enjoy my weekends in Kent. That helps our business.” Real estate agents interviewed for this article seemed to agree that as much as 80 percent of home sales in the Northwest Corner are to weekenders. In sales such as these, according to Paul Dooley, owner of Dooley Real Estate, “we are selling lifestyle and ambiance. And ‘what I can pay’ is less important than my need to pay a fair price.”The New York Times article gave a sense that Litchfield County offers some bargains and that perception can drive sales.He also indicated that those types of articles, even if they don’t get the phones ringing at his office, help cement the perception that this is a desirable place to live. “This kind of publicity validates Kent as a second home destination,” he said.Ira Goldspiel, a Realtor with Litchfield Hills Sotheby’s International Realty, was not particularly optimistic about chances that either article will help business. And, he noted, the market at this time is not particularly healthy.“In our area, the market is down about 15 percent in terms of number of units sold and about 25 percent in terms of dollars,” he said. “The number of sales are down dramatically from the peak,” Dooley agreed. “Prices are down maybe 30 percent from the peak. Very few prices are up.”The peak is considered to have occurred around 2005-06.Referring to Kent he added, “Some properties are dropping their price faster than others. For example, the basic entry-level ranch has not lost 30 percent of its value. On the other hand, I think the $500,000 to $900,000 second home may have dropped by that much. “Houses that are well-built and well-maintained hold their value better than those with deferred neglect,” he added. “And overpriced properties are just sitting unsold.”In this down market there was agreement on what sells. “The properties that sell are those that are priced fairly and properly prepped for sale,” Goldspiel said. “These days a good product, fairly priced, should sell within four months of being listed.”According to Garrity, consumers are beginning to feel more confident about investing in second homes. When asked why, he said, “Manhattan is now more confident. Not everyone is more confident, but enough are beginning to feel that way.” On the other hand, “Unfounded fear is part of what is holding some people back,” he said.Overall, Garrity said, the state of the real estate market in the Northwest Corner is fairly solid.“I’ll give you a specific example in the town of Sharon. According to our multiple listing service, at the height of the market from September 2005 through August 2006, there were 37 sales in Sharon. For the same time period in 2010 to 2011, there were also 37 sales in Sharon.” But in the 2005-2006 time frame, the average sale prices for those 37 homes was over $600,000, he said. The average sale price for the 2010 to 2011 period was under $600,000.Garrity also pointed out that in the earlier period, the 37 homes that sold were on the market for an average of 120 days, whereas in the 2010-11 time period, the 37 homes sold were on the market for an average of 250 days.