Real Estate Report: The Condo Market
By Mark Pruner
From a real estate view Greenwich is really more like a small city than a town. We have a variety of different types of housing from large single-family homes that everybody reads about in the national press to studio apartments for rent. As a result, we have something for just about everybody.
The Condo Market: One area that doesn’t always get a lot of attention is our condominium market. Right now, we have 89 condos and 17 co-ops listed for sale in Greenwich. This compares to 540 single family homes. These condos vary in price from $349,000 to $4.9 million. Our median price condo (including the co-ops) listing is $1.25 million. Most of our condominiums are located within a half mile of the Post Road with a major concentration in central Greenwich.
On the sales side we have sold 35 condos so far this year and we have 30 condos under contract. Under $1 million we have 48 condos for sale and 33 sales so far this year. It is a hot market. We only have 3.7 months of supply under $1 million. This means that if no more inventory work to come on the market at the present sales rate we would be out of condominiums by the middle of July.
Above $1 million we have a different market. We have 58 condominiums for sale and so far this year we’ve sold 10. This works out to about one year of supply. The same resistance is seen in the single family home market except instead of at $1 million as it is with the condominium market it is at the $1.5 million level.
Over $4 million months of supply for single-family homes take another jump up to over 2 years supply, but we don’t see this in the condominium market because there is practically no supply of condominiums above $3 million.
Condos come in a lot of different flavors. You have apartment style condominiums like 40 W. Elm St. in downtown Greenwich and you also have townhouse condominiums like at the Commons on the Post Road in Old Greenwich. You even have free standing houses like those at Lyon Farm, which are also condominiums due to the way the land is owned.
When buying a condominium, you need to be more careful to find out just what it is that you are buying into. Many condominium deeds only transfer the interior spaces to the buyer sometimes described as ownership from wallpaper to wallpaper. The structure itself as well as the driveways, roads and other common elements are jointly owned by all association members. Also the items that the buyers is getting may not be in the unit. Things such as parking spaces and storage units may be a good distance from the unit.
One thing that sellers may not know is that under the Connecticut Common Interest Ownership Act the buyer has a five day right of rescission until they are given the condominium resale certificate which includes rules, regulations and a balance sheet. So anyone selling a condominium should put in a phone call to the person who prepares the resale certificate and let them know that the request may be coming in soon. For this right of rescission to apply the association needs 13 or more lots, so buyers in associations with a small number of units don’t have this right though you still should take a look at the documents.
If you are a buyer you want to read over the documents to make sure there are adequate reserves and also to see what rules apply. Pet policies in particular may be a surprise to some prospective buyers who may or may not want pets.
Co-ops: While the structures themselves may look very similar to a condo, co-ops are an older and very different ownership model. When you buy a co-op you’re not buying a fee simple in land or more appropriately air space, you’re buying shares of stock in a corporation. Each set of shares is assigned to a particular unit and gives you the right to occupy that unit.
In a co-op, the individual shareholders don’t pay taxes. The corporation itself pays taxes since it’s the owner of all of the land and buildings. One of the issues with that is that you can’t go down to the tax assessors office and pull the field card for a particular unit, since there is only one field card for the entire property. As such, things that might normally be easy to find out such as the square footage of a particular unit or prior owners can be more difficult to ascertain.
Another unique thing about co-ops is their boards can decide whether or not a co-op owner/buyer can do the transaction. While we don’t have the epic struggles to get into a co-op as you hear about in New York City, the boards often meet with the prospective buyer and some co-ops want to see your balance sheet and references before they will let you in. Co-op financing in Connecticut may also be difficult since they’re only a couple of banks that will make loans on co-ops in Connecticut. For all these reasons condos are more populus here in Greenwich.
Overall condos and co-ops provide the right type of housing for a variety of people and different life stages. Our market is busy, so if you don’t see what you like now, it may get listed next month.
Mark Pruner was the #1 Connecticut agent for Douglas Elliman in 2015; firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-969-7900.