COLUMN | “They’re not making any more of it.” Will Rogers


“Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara, that land, doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”

That quote from Gone With the Wind inspired this week’s column. What’s going on with land listings in the area? Are land prices going up? Is land worth dying for?

Active Listings: There are 16 land listings in New Canaan, 0 in Darien, 3 in Wilton, 8 in Greenwich, 5 in Norwalk, 6 in Ridgefield, 3 in Westport and 18 in Stamford. Note, 13 of those 16 land listings in New Canaan are offered by builder Arnold Karp. They range from 2.00 to 13.09 acres at an average price per acre of

Beachfront land for sale in Westport, 100’ of beach on 1 acre

$731,760 and a median of $800,000. The other 3 listings include a short sale on River Street for $500,000 and 2 listings on Indian Rock Road, $1.450,000 and $2.2 million for 3.38 and 3.24 acres. What is surprising is that these 16 listings have been on the market for an average of 978 days, the oldest among them have been on the market since 2011.

Paper Listings: Often land is marketed two ways: a land listing and a paper listing (only exists on paper, hasn’t been started). It’s just a sketch. Typically, we see the proposed house is about 3 times the asking price of the land. 470 Frogtown is an example where there is a land listing for $1.475 million and a paper listing at the same address for $3.875 million. There are 8 paper listings in New Canaan, averaging $4.93 million (median $828 x 5,857 feet), 2 in Darien for $18 million and $7 million, 2 in Ridgefield averaging $1.56 million, 6 in Greenwich averaging $5.27 million (median: $980 x 5,400 feet), 13 in Westport averaging $4.6 million (median :$688 x 6003 feet) and 3 in Wilton ranging from $1.69 million to $2.09 million (average $404 x 4651 feet on 1.25 acres)

Sold Land Listings: In the last 365 days New Canaan recorded 8 land sales, Darien and Wilton each had 5. Westport, Stamford, Fairfield and Greenwich each had 10. Ridgefield had none. In New Canaan the least expensive was $750,000 on Benedict Hill (2.6 acres, sold in 8 days) followed by $925,000 on Briscoe Road (4 acres, sold in 46 days).  The most expensive sale was for 6.49 acres on West Road for $1.7 million followed by a $1.30 sale for 1.67 acres on Windrow Lane. The other 4 sales came in between $1 million and $1.15 million. Averaging the 8 sales we see 2.68 acres selling for 1.19 million or $595,300 per acre. The median sale was 2.27 acres for $1.063 million, or $451,320 per acre.

What have been the trends? First of all, land takes longer to sell than homes, on average 142 days, and for only 91% of their asking price, and for only 164% of their assessed value. This in a market where most homes sell in the first month, and within 5% of the asking price, and for over 200% of the (old) assessment. Only 2 of the 8 land sales occurred in their first month on the market. Second, these 8 sales compare to 7 the previous year ($650,000-$1.5 million) and 16 land sales in the final year of covid ($700,000 to $1.89 million). I had 4 of those sales: 1 sold to a neighbor, 1 to a spec builder, 1 to a custom builder, and 1 was lightly renovated.

Notes from the Monday Meeting: At the Board of Realtors meeting, they asked for a show of hands. Who’s bringing on a new listing this month? 3 hands went up. Who’s got 3 or 4 buyers looking for a house? 30 hands went up. The buying season has begun. Offers came in on 4 of my listings that have not seen offers in months. Three of them need major work, but with the scarce inventory their time has come. Three other calls came in for price opinions, sellers ready to list immediately. Two clients, on the fence over whether to build (a new house) or buy (existing), decided against building because building cost estimates came in too high. One got lucky and found their dream house in the first week while the other is waiting to sell the old house before moving forward. Coincidently, on another listing we received an offer with a “Hubbard clause”. That used to be a non-starter. It means “I have to sell my house before I buy yours.” In today’s environment the risk of not selling quickly is not a big risk. It seems every house finds a buyer.

We’ll end with the final line from Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

The East School Eagle, West School Whale, the Ram, South School South Paw, and the Saxe Hawk.

John Engel lives on the West side. His first house was in the South School zone, then East School, then West School. It makes him a better realtor to move around every so often. Unlike state lines these border lines can move slightly every September when the mood suits Roy Wolder as he sets the public school bus routes. Other towns have neighborhoods, New Canaan has school zones and they are periodically re-balanced. Each school has a mascot: South Paw, West Whale and East Eagle. In the 80’s on the West school bus we chanted “West is best, East is the least” because it rhymed and that’s how we talk smack in elementary school. Simpler times.

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