When we look at the real estate market statistics from last year in Greater New Haven, we don't have much to crow about. All around, it was a blah year, made that way mainly after the tax credits expired in June. However, one thing that is surprising is that the prices didn't go down as much as you might think. Our Guilford office had a mean sales price only 1% or so down from 2009. Our market as a whole was down about 2.9%.
Those figures don't jibe with what the average person on the street thinks. Why is perception so different? One reason is that many things didn't sell at all, and, if they did, they had been reduced one or more times before they went under contract. Also, as we must always point out, these statistics are not the same as in other industries, because the same homes aren't selling every year. Therefore, the particular mix of homes could change, although that is less true when you look at numbers over a whole year. So it could have been that the home that sold for $330,000 in 2010 was as good or better than the average $340,000 one from the year before.
What the numbers do show is that people went for value. Properties that sold were in good to excellent condition, in established neighborhoods, and were priced to sell. Buyers tended to feel that they were in the driver's seat, and could choose among a broad range of options (which, as I've discussed before, was less true than they thought--another example of mistaken perceptions trumping reality).
What does it bode for this year? Value is still important. Basic conservatism will still prevail. Sellers who don't have to sell will still not sell unless and until they can avoid steep cuts. Buyers will continue to be fussy. But, finally, the market will improve. Maybe slowly, but clearly. And we can't wait!