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Weston real estate market: Has the tide finally turned?

Like a wave on the beach, the real estate market in Weston has had its share of ebbs and flows. But while things have been on a general economic decline in Weston since the nationwide financial crisis of 2007, there is a sense of optimism by some that things are looking up in 2012.

Vickie Kelley, broker, principal, and owner of Camelot Real Estate in Weston, said things have picked up for the town housing market in the third quarter of 2012.

“The tide seems to be changing,” Ms. Kelley said.

With low interest rates and new lending instruments available, she said more buyers have the capacity to purchase large scale homes in Weston. “There is tremendous value here and we are value driven right now,” she said.

Out of 134 homes currently listed for sale in Weston, Ms. Kelley said there are 19 pending sales and 10 others that have offers. “That is huge for this time of year,” she said.

Weston is a big draw with home buyers because of its reputation for top quality schools and quality of life, Ms. Kelley said. Buyers are looking for quality architecture and mid century modern homes in Weston are selling very well.

Weston is lagging behind its neighbors Westport and Wilton, where the economic recovery is reportedly better. Ms. Kelley believes some buyers are seeking out those towns because they have more amenities and services.

People who are choosing Weston prefer living in a small town with country charm and privacy. And again, like the tide, sometimes small towns ride the crest of popularity, and sometimes they are caught up in the undertow. “The trends can change,” Ms. Kelley said.

Economic recovery

Economically, there are still many challenges for some families in Weston. As of 2011, the population of Weston was 10,224. The unemployment rate in Weston in 2011 was 5.9%, with 290 members of the town’s work force unemployed. As of August 2012, the town’s unemployment rate was 5.7%.

The number of home foreclosures remains high. According to the Weston town clerk, in 2012 there are 40 homes in Weston either in pending or final foreclosure. Last year, the town clerk reported 11 foreclosures, and in 2010 there were 17 foreclosures and 25 short sales, where the home was sold for less than the amount of the mortgage.

An additional 15 homes this year were classified as “equity loss” transfers based on the difference between their purchase price and selling price. Records show a home on Ridge Road sold for $700,000 less than the original purchase price. A home on Valley Forge Road sold for $370,000 less than the purchase price.

Ms. Kelley said while there are still foreclosures in the works there is also much better “morale in the marketplace” and she is not getting as many last ditch calls about foreclosures as she did in the past. “I think we have turned the corner now,” she said.

Permits

Building permits are down. Building inspector Rack Gleason said as of June 2012, there were just three permit applications for new home construction.

On the upside, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said at a recent selectmen’s meeting that home sales are up from last year and conveyance fees — the amount collected by the town clerk when a property is sold — are also on the rise.

In 2010, 134 homes were sold in Weston and $109,000 was collected in conveyance fees. In 2011, 104 homes were sold and $92,000 was collected in conveyance fees. So far, in 2012, there have been 115 homes sold and $119,000 collected in conveyance fees, higher than last year with several months still to go.

Social services

Although the number of home sales is on the rise, so is the demand for social services. Town Social Worker Charlene Chiang Hillman reported to the Commission on Aging in September that from January to June 2012, her caseload had increased by 23 households, mostly seniors. In 2011, she was assisting 117 households.

She has seen an increase in seniors remaining in Weston or “aging in place” and has also seen an increase in seniors moving in with other family members in town. Earlier this year, she reported that more adult children and grandchildren were moving in with seniors in town.

The town’s food pantry is serving more families too. Volunteer Betsy Peyreigne has requested additional food drives because the pantry is running low on canned goods due to high demand.

As the town and schools begin the process of preparing their budgets for next year, Weston’s economic and social health and recovery will be factors officials take into account.

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