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Norwalk Managers: Real Estate Market Perks Up

NORWALK, Conn. – Prospective house buyers and sellers alike are realizing that the housing market has hit the bottom, according to the managers of two Norwalk real estate offices.

The bottom line? That means activity in the single-family home market and deals on the boards.

"We're having between 15 to 20 parties at most of our open houses," said Brenda Maher, manager of the Norwalk office of Prudential Connecticut Realty . "That is a typical activity for a spring market. So what I'm seeing right now shows very, very good signs."

Kate Johnson, manager of Norwalk and Rowayton William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage and Insurance, agreed. "I'm hearing people who are having open houses they're seeing 10 to 15 parties come through and look at the property," said Johnson. "The buyers are definitely out there, and they're pretty well qualified."

For Johnson, that means things have "picked up a bit," with "more activity than we have seen recently."

Maher put it more strongly. "I've been in the industry for 25 years," she said. "I've never seen a January as strong as this year. It could be the weather – I mean think about last year at this time, we had about three feet of snow. Last year, basically we lost about three months of typical sales because of the weather; we almost lost a full quarter. But right now, the activity at our open houses is tremendous."

Johnson disagreed. "I've seen busier Januaries. ... I've been doing this for 37 years in Norwalk, and I would say seven or eight years ago, man, it was really busy when people were coming out of those companies with those bonuses."

But they agree on the motivations of buyers.

"I think No. 1 is rate, and also it's the pent-up demand," Maher said. "I think so many people just kept saying, 'Oh, it's not the bottom of the market.' They're trying to time the market because of what they hear from everybody else, and I think now they realize that guess what, we've been here for a bit, this is the market, so they might as well lock something in."

Johnson said, "From my perspective, we've sort of reached the bottom of the single-family housing market. Things that are well priced are moving, things that are overpriced, as far as the perception of the buyers are concerned, aren't selling. But it's only because they're overpriced."

The median price of housing is "pretty much the same in Norwalk," Johnson said. The Raveis website lists the median price in December 2010 as $400,000 and the median price in December 2011 as $427,250. Average sales price is down 13.9 percent from last year and the average list price is 0.8 percent lower.

Trulia.com says, "The median sales price for homes in Norwalk for October '11 to December '11 was $330,000 based on 107 home sales. Compared to the same period one year ago, the median home sales price decreased 2.9 percent, or $10,000, and the number of home sales decreased 34.8 percent. There are currently 525 resale and new homes in Norwalk on Trulia, including 31 open houses, as well as 88 homes in the pre-foreclosure, auction, or bank-owned stages of the foreclosure process. The average listing price for homes for sale in Norwalk was $574,924 for the week ending Jan. 11, which represents a decrease of 0.4 percent, or $2,556, compared to the prior week."

Johnson said condos are a different market than single-family homes. "There are so many short sales in the condo market that the short sale price is becoming the norm rather than the exception," she said.

Maher said that on Jan. 17, her office had 19 deals "on the board," which means they might still have contingencies. New buyers have also entered the market. "We have a lot of first-time home buyers who had been renting condominiums and now they are looking to purchase," she said. "We've seen the relocation market pick up, we've seen a lot of people come in from out of the area, which we hadn't seen quite a bit of that before. Again, not as strong as it had been, but it's a market that seems to be back."

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