Joseph Barbieri has been among the top Realtors in Greenwich for nearly 30 years, with a portfolio that includes $75 million Hillandale and the $21.5 million Oldfield Equestrian Farm, both featured in WAG’s April issue. His largest sale to date is the $39.5 million Point of View waterfront property, complete with a catwalk that resembles the Brooklyn Bridge.
“It is an incredible sight,” he says of the estate. “It has a floor that drops to become an indoor pool called a natatorium. It’s extraordinary.”
Through the decades, Barbieri has seen the market rise and fall and struggle to rise again. But one thing has remained constant: Greenwich continues to be one of the most attractive places to live.
“When I came to Greenwich, the price range wasn’t in increments of $50,000, but increments of half a million,” says Barbieri, who moved to Greenwich after leaving Wall Street in 1987, cut his real estate teeth in Norwalk and joined Sotheby’s International in 1989. “It was a little bit of a learning curve, but I did it quickly. I just found myself trying to seek out the properties that were really special. Greenwich has a tremendous variety of real estate from the simplest condo to the most elaborate back-country or waterfront estate. It’s like a jewelry store.”
And in that store, the buyers have become choosier. They are looking primarily for ready-to-move-in homes and are less interested in construction and renovations. And they are more cost-conscious.
“Years ago people used to talk about location, location, location, and that’s still kind of true, but it has become now price, price, price,” he says. “Value is what moves properties. It is asking prices.”
Though the Great Recession is fading, the Greenwich housing market is still in recovery mode, Barbieri says.
Even prior to the recession, in 2006 and ’07, housing prices were down by nearly 10 percent – dropping “almost overnight” another 10 percent once the housing crash hit, he adds.
“We have not recovered. Statistically, most of the appraisers say the prices in Greenwich are essentially where they were in 2003 and 2004 before the highs. We might have recovered 5 percent of the 20 percent that we dropped.”
While prices have stayed flat with little to no appreciation, buyers are returning to the market, he says, particularly international buyers from Europe who became somewhat of an endangered species during the immediate post-recession years. And the perfect waterfront retreat is still in high demand, with buyers sometimes waiting years.
A consolation: Buyers are getting more for their money than they did in the past.
Through the market’s ups and downs, Barbieri retains a loyal client base, which he attributes to his honesty.
“I think overall people are being more thoughtful than ever,” he says. “You don’t make up stuff. … If you’re not the best at what you do, they shouldn’t be working with you.”
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