162 Cross Highway Westport--Photo MLS
162 Cross Highway will soon be on the market–Photo MLS

Sponsored by KMS Partners

WESTPORT–2021 was a remarkable year in Westport real estate. More houses traded hands–558–than ever before and prices rose dramatically. The median price of a home sold in Westport last year was $1.6 million. That is up 42% from 2019 (SmartMLS).

Coming up on the second anniversary of the COVID pandemic, young families continue to move to Westport, where they enjoy cleaner air, more space, great schools and lively neighborhoods.

These trends are slowing down, and for one simple reason: there simply aren’t that many homes to buy in Westport. 

Typically, there are 300 to 400 single-family homes listed in Westport. Today, there are currently only 70 Westport homes on the market (SmartMLS). Only 17 of these are listed below two million dollars. 

House listings have dropped well below pre-pandemic norms. Source: SmartMLS; data adjusted for seasonality.

This trend coincided with the beginning of COVID and it has lately accelerated. With so few houses on the market, the volume of homes sold is slowing down. Additionally, sales prices have flattened (SmartMLS). 

How do buyers cope with this situation? How can a buyer, looking to move to Westport (or a surrounding town) prepare themselves to make a compelling offer and “win” in a multiple-bid situation? We spoke to a recent buyer, an experienced mortgage broker and a realtor to find out their perspectives.

Dara and Darren Frank recently bought a property in Westport after renting for a period of time. Dara’s very proactive strategy worked: “We connected with a knowledgeable realtor to understand the neighborhoods, schools and narrowed down areas of interest so that when homes came to market, we could quickly see them and aggressively make an offer while leveraging our realtor’s town and market expertise to put a competitive bid forward while still being smart about the investment.”

Terry Hastings, a local mortgage broker, had this advice for buyers: “Buyers should speak with a mortgage banker about pre-approval. It should take no longer than 48 hours to complete. This way if they see a house they like, they can instantly act – in this market they need to be ready to pounce. Their mortgage banker needs to be ready as well – we work weekends and evenings just like the real estate agents. As we know, the market is still moving fast and the smartest buyers are prepared.”

Hastings added, “Having a true true pre-approval from a local bank puts a blank check in the buyers’ pocket, making them ready to win a bid. Just like they have a Realtor on call and prepared, they should have a banker on their call as well.”

From a realtors’ perspective, buyers “should be well informed about their financial situation and consider their risk tolerance,” said Kim Harizman, a Realtor & Partner at KMS Partners. 

Harizman added, “Assess whether to remove mortgage contingencies to present a stronger offer. Even if you are getting a mortgage, you can remove the contingency, making it comparable to a cash offer. Buyers need to be decisive, move quickly, and prioritize their wants/needs. Buyers shouldn’t be too picky and they should be ready to do some cosmetic updating if necessary. Understand the zoning restrictions surrounding each property to make a well-informed decision. Our town looks favorably on renovations over re-builds. Your realtor is a good source of information, utilize their expertise. For those people who are thinking about selling their house, now could not be a better time. There is a line of frustrated buyers out there hoping to call Westport home.”

(Note: KMS Partners has a business relationship with Westport Journal. KMS Partners at Compass Westport is an exclusive real estate partnership, serving Connecticut — Westport, Weston, Fairfield, Norwalk, Wilton and beyond. (203) 295-4375. www.kmspartners.com)