March 11, 2019
FOCUS: Greater Hartford Living

State policies could impact CT’s spring homebuying season

Rob Levine President, Greater Hartford Association of Realtors

Q&A talks with Rob Levine, a Realtor and 2019 president of the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors, about the region's housing market and the spring homebuying season.

Q. Home sale prices in Connecticut rose 3.2 percent in 2018 to $258,000, according to the Warren Group, while the number of homes that traded hands fell slightly by 2 percent. How is the Greater Hartford market faring?

A. According to Greater Hartford housing numbers, new listings and overall inventory have been on a gradual decline when compared to the year before. Prices, however, increased over the previous year. For all of 2018, Greater Hartford's home sales fell 2 percent to 12,303 units vs. 12,070 sold in 2017, while their median price climbed 5 percent to $230,000.

The Greater Hartford market has been relatively steady and I don't see that changing anytime in the near future. As we approach the spring selling season, I expect it to be an active market. It is still a great time to buy with interest rates at historically low levels.

Q. What will have the biggest impact on the spring homebuying season?

A. The spring market is usually a very busy time in real estate. Much of the housing trends could rely on what decisions are made regarding Gov. Ned Lamont's budget proposals. I am concerned for those looking to buy or sell homes in Connecticut. Creating a buyers' conveyance tax and increasing the sellers' conveyance tax could really handcuff the market for years to come.

In addition, I've also heard that a statewide property tax has been proposed. Realtors all over the state will be fighting any legislation that could directly affect homeownership and the real estate industry as a whole.

Q. Some economists are predicting a recession is likely to hit the U.S. economy by the end of 2019 or in 2020. What impact will that have on homebuyers in 2019?

A. Real estate is local so my first concern is how we navigate legislation, as mentioned earlier. The key for Greater Hartford will be to bring in businesses and keeping people in the state. A recent study by United Van Lines, a moving company that tracks customers' state-to-state migration patterns, found that 62 percent of Connecticut moves are outside the state. We need to work hard to make our state a desirable place to live and work. Not only do I have a family and a business that depends on it, keeping folks in the state will directly relate to the success of the housing market in 2019 and beyond.

Q. What types of homes are in the highest demand in Greater Hartford?

A. Greater Hartford has tremendous diversity with options for those looking to increase or decrease their living area. Downtown Hartford has seen a great revival with the popularity of the Yard Goats and Dunkin' Donuts Park. Buildings are being purchased for apartment living, which caters to a younger generation looking to be in the middle of the entertainment district.

On the other side of the spectrum, our population continues to age. Baby Boomers who don't move south could be looking for 55-and-over communities. Both of these dynamics create movement of inventory, creating great opportunities for first-time homebuyers. The bulk of sales activity in Greater Hartford last year was within the $215,000 to $230,000 price range.

Q. Many apartment projects are still in the project pipeline around Greater Hartford as renting continues to be popular in this state and around the country, particularly as debt-laden Millennials eschew homeownership. What's it going to take to convince more young adults to get off the sidelines and finally purchase that first home?

A. Connecticut Realtors (CTR), a 17,000-member trade association, is currently proposing legislation for First Time Buyer Savings Accounts, using other states as a framework. CTR is also addressing student debt by researching options for employers to give loans or grants to employees toward their student debt. So far, it's received bipartisan support.

I think that creating good job opportunities and advantages for our young adults will keep them in Connecticut and that will ultimately get them into the housing market.

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