COLUMN | The Real Estate Column by John Engel

By John Engel

John Engel, Real Estate Page Editor

The first question I have for you is, “Why do we need another newspaper in New Canaan?”

We already have a daily blog and a weekly paper. The answer: Look at The Greenwich Sentinel and now the new New Canaan Sentinel, and you’ll see a different approach—a more inclusive and hyper-local newspaper with no police blotter. Perhaps a few bear sightings, but mostly commentary by community leaders and influencers. It’s not just what happened but why and how we feel about it. If you miss The New Canaan Advertiser the way the Hersams ran it, then you probably answered, “Yes, we need a local newspaper.”

The second question is, “Why a weekly column on real estate?”

Real estate is by far the largest asset class in the United States, comprising over 40% of private assets held nationally, followed by bonds, stocks, and cash. It’s a major part of our wealth for most of us. At the beginning of 2023, there were 1,548,058 Realtors in the United States, 2 million licensed agents, down 2% from the peak in December 2022, and decreasing in 2023 as the housing market cools. That’s about three times as many Realtors as real estate listings. Here in Connecticut, we have 19,162 Realtors. There are over 800 in Greenwich and over 550 in New Canaan.

Housing Inventory Nationally: The Dead Cat Bounce? The housing shortage is a national problem and a local one, and is a decade in the making.

After the era of McMansions, we decided our zoning laws produced some unsightly homes. So, we rewrote the rules. Among other things, we exempted front porches from coverage and began paying attention to the loom factor. Planning and zoning says a lot about our community’s priorities. Those rules are among our most significant assets. My grandparents moved to New Canaan from Long Island in the 1960s, saying our strict zoning rules were a promise that property values would remain stable. And they have. I’ll use this space to reflect on how our policies, both in Hartford and in town hall, affect the real estate market.

And why me?
I volunteered.

I host a weekly podcast on real estate because I want to read about, talk about, and learn about it. But can I write about it? It’s been five years since I wrote a newspaper column (“The Chairman’s Corner”), and I am out of practice. There’s so much to say about real estate in New Canaan—how it has changed and where it’s headed.

Agents are tweeting and posting several times per week; a ton of real estate content being produced and consumed. (It’s too much!) I get updates from the Hamptons, New York and Florida. Now, Texas is muscling in, sending me listings. They want to be the new Florida. The market is so immediate. As agents we get feedback on what’s working immediately. And its at a massive scale. But, where is the analysis? Is it all just so much eye-candy?


There is a need for the long-form column; a place for analysis and commentary.

-This is a place to talk about New Canaan’s affordable housing problem and how to solve it. (I have some ideas.)
-Can we reflect on historic preservation and what we learned from the 1913 Library debate?
-Can we talk about why that gas station on the corner might be considering a sale, and what would replace it?
-Why does New Canaan still have its own Multiple Listing Service?
-Let’s talk about the impact of our zoning decisions. Are ADU’s part of our future?
-How are we and the towns around us responding to affordable housing pressures?
-And, of course what about our house values. I’ll not only give the data of the market reports, but I’ll explain and make my predictions.
-What about the town wide property revaluation? It starts next month.
-Can we talk about design trends? (what’s with all those black windows?)

There is a need for these conversations and I think the New Canaan Sentinel with its civil, centered approach might be just the place to do it.

A column on real estate that is interesting. Hmm, it’s a tall order but I’d am going to give it a shot. Let’s have a more substantial conversation on real estate in our town and across Fairfield County.

I’ll need your help. Tell me what you think and what subjects you want to hear more about.

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