Column: Mid-Country vs. Backcountry


Backcountry Greenwich gets a lot of attention in town for its 4-acre zoning and some very high sales prices, but there is another area in town that is similar, has more sales and for the moment a higher average price, and that is the 2-acre zone. The RA-2 zone runs along the south side of the Merritt Parkway about halfway down to the Post Road. It also includes three small areas; a section just west of the Merritt Parkway on the NY border, the area around Field Point Circle and Mead Point. These last two areas account for some high-end sales, but in any given year only contribute a handful of sales. So, for most purposes the 2-acre zone is a stand-in for upper mid-country.

With one notable exception the average sales price in backcountry and mid-country have fought each other for pre-eminence from 2000 to the present. Some years mid-country had a higher average price other times it was backcountry. The one exception is the period from 2006 to 2010 when the average sales price in backcountry exceeded mid-country’s average sales price by as much as $1.78 million in 2009.

Mid-country had the honor of the highest average sale price in 2015 (and by over $1 million) and also in 2016. In 2017 unless we see some high-end sales in mid-country it looks like backcountry will get bragging rights for highest average price this year which is $3,317,192 to mid-country’s $3,158,622.

Not everything in the RA-2 zone is expensive. The least expensive house sold so far this year was a house for $935,000 on a 3-acre lot, while the highest sale was for $13,065,000 for a house on an 8.1 acre lot on Meadowcroft Lane.

What clearly is not in dispute for most years is the sales in mid-country exceed those in backcountry. For 2012 we had 54 more sales in mid-country and for the last three years we have been averaging around 30 more sales in mid-country. (At the same time, I’m guessing there are more houses in mid-country than backcountry so this doesn’t directly say anything about relative demand.)

What clearly does show demand is days on market and there mid-country has had fewer days on market every year for the last 17 years. In the last four years, houses in mid-country have sold for anywhere from 30 days to 144 days quicker than backcountry. Mid-country however is still looking at a relatively long 9 months plus to sell a house in that area.

As for new spec construction, from 2000 to 2007 we averaged 10 new houses a year in the RA-2 zone sold through the Greenwich MLS. From 2011 to 2017 we have averaged only 3 new houses a year in the RA-2 zone. In 2013 not a single new house was built for speculative sale in all of the RA-2 zone. Now this only counts the house that were publicly listed, so called “spec” houses, while at the same time there were dozens of custom houses built for individual owners.

The problem was not a lack of demand for new spec homes. New houses in the RA-2 zone sold for an average of $90/s.f. more than previously occupied houses in that zone so people were willing to pay a premium for new homes. The problem has been financing. Getting financing for owner-occupied housing has not been a problem, but it has been for speculative houses.

UPDATE: Realtors beat Auction – Last week the four condos at 151 Milbank went to auction at the Hyatt Regency. Ultimately, the court-ordered auction could not come with a higher bid than the buyer’s and seller’s realtors did before the auction. With a couple of auctions canceled a lot of folks will be interested in seeing what comes out of the next auction.

Mark Pruner is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway. He can be reached at mark@bhhsne.com and 203-969-7900.

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