Kathy Suhoza was installed as the president of the Newtown Board of Realtors in January, a task she called “daunting.” Although one of the top selling realtors for eight of the ten years she has worked as a real estate professional with Coldwell Banker, and confident of her ability to lead local realtors out of a sluggish period, the Newtown resident was unsure what kind of situation she was stepping into, following 12/14.
“I felt a responsibility to see that our town was taken care of, to make sure our agents were okay [after the shootings at Sandy Hook School], and that the town could get the support it needed from the agents,” Ms Suhoza said.
“Everyone was afraid of what was going to happen,” said Karen Alpi, office manager for Coldwell Banker.
Ms Suhoza and local realtors had been warned by area colleagues that the Newtown/Sandy Hook real estate situation could expect to stagnate or take a loss. Instead, Ms Suhoza said on Tuesday, April 16, Newtown realtors have seen the resilience and courage portrayed by the town result in a positive response. They are, she said, cautiously optimistic, based on improving numbers in offer acceptances and closings that have taken place in the first quarter. Those sales include properties all across Newtown, including the Sandy Hook School district, and encompass sales in all price levels.
Anecdotally, people were talking about offers in Sandy Hook that had been withdrawn following 12/14, or people looking to move out of Newtown. While there may have been one or two such occurrences, Ms Suhoza said, it was far more common to hear from people seeking to move to Newtown because they were so impressed by the spirit of the town.
“Overall, Newtown real estate has not been affected by 12/14. This has supported our beliefs about the community,” Ms Suhoza said.
The Connecticut real estate industry was lagging behind the rest of the nation as of November 2012, “due to our own economic issues,” Ms Suhoza said, “but that’s when we started to turn upward. We weren’t going in reverse anymore, and we were seeing a stir.”
The Greater Fairfield Multiple Listing Source (MLS) for single-family homes in Newtown/Sandy Hook shows 20 offers accepted in December 2012 vs 11 acceptances a year earlier. Nineteen homes closed in March 2013, compared to 15 in March 2012. Closings, however, are staggered, Ms Suhoza stressed, so the number of closings will never exactly follow the number of acceptances in any particular month. For a variety of reasons, closings take place anywhere from weeks to months after the offer is accepted.
“[The real estate situation in Newtown] started to look like the perfect storm [by the beginning of 2013],” she said, but a storm that was stirring up good things for the town. “Inventory was down, offers were up, and we had mortgage interest rates that were still way down. We started seeing multiple offers early in 2013. Houses that are priced right,” she said, “were taking a week to sell.”
“People seem to have finally accepted the market,” Ms Alpi said, a challenge that realtors have had to guide sellers through in recent years. Many sellers continued to see their homes as valued at what they were when the market was very high and not usual.
“Our new challenge,” Ms Suhoza said, “is getting people to understand that prices are not going up, but that houses are selling in a stable market.”
“It’s the perfect time for buyers and for sellers,” said Ms Alpi. “Money is so cheap and our buyers are well educated. They know what is out there.”
For sellers, having a lot of buyers and not a lot of inventory makes for a good situation, said Ms Suhoza. More buyers will have a chance to see a property that is for sale, and buyers are less apt to wait to make an offer on a home that fits their criteria.
Realtors in Newtown like to see the inventory number in the mid-200s, Ms Suhoza said. Currently, the inventory of single-family homes for sale is 253, whereas in April 2012, the inventory was at 307 homes, down only a bit from its peak of 319 during the winter of 2012.
Still, cautioned Ms Suhoza and Ms Alpi, sellers must be proactive in order to present their homes in the best light possible.
“Listen to your realtor, and understand the market,” Ms Suhoza said. Be aware of what is selling and what is going under deposit, and get comparable sales from the realtor.
“The appraisers use the same information as agents when determining value,” she said.
Staging a home is still very important, and that can be as simple as decluttering and fresh paint. “Use your senses,” Ms Suhoza said, to ensure a home is at its best.
Exterior as well as interior upkeep sells a home, said Ms Alpi.
“Curb appeal remains very important,” she said.
Buyers should remember that buying a home is a process, said Ms Alpi. “Buyers should educate themselves and be prepared for when he or she is ready to buy.” Create a relationship with a lender, get qualified, and have a budget, she recommended.
“Remember that if a property is priced right, it will sell, and there are other buyers looking at that property, too,” said Ms Suhoza. Depend on the realtor to lead the way without instilling a sense of urgency to make an offer, she added.
Finding a good experienced and successful agent, who knows the market in which a buyer is interested, she suggested.
Looking to the near future, Ms Suhoza expressed her pleasure at seeing sales improving in Newtown, and her belief that the upward trend was a stable one.
“Homes in the $200,000 to $700,000 range are doing really well, and we didn’t see that for a long time,” she said, and the market remains excellent for first-time homebuyers.
Still, realtors are looking for more stability in world events that trickle down to the local level, Ms Suhoza said. “We need to see more employment statewide, as well, and when we see builders building again, then it’s truly a stable market.”
“People need the assurance they’ll have a job to pay for these mortgages, even at low rates,” said Ms Alpi.
“I’m hoping this upward trend continues,” Ms Suhoza said. “I’m feeling relieved and excited to see the market come back. It’s been a wonderful market this spring. There were initial signs of concern, but the numbers tell us what’s really happening.”
Ms Suhoza is happy to answer questions from consumers at any time. She can be reached at 203-426-5679 or Kathy.Suhoza@coldwellbankermoves.com.