The challenges of Stamford’s hot housing market

The explosion of house sales in Stamford has created a “logjam” in the chain of supply and demand, says Houlihan Lawrence’s Libby Matson.

If there’s one person who knows Stamford,it’s real estate agent Libby Matson.

She grew up in the city, where her parents built one of the first houses on Dolphin Cove. There Matson attended King School — formerly King Low Heywood Thomas, a private, coeducational day school — from kindergarten through high school and later taught there. And while her educational career — she holds a degree in that subject from Rollins College — would take her to private admissions at Ridgefield Academy before she segued to real estate, she says, “I feel I never really left Stamford.” Indeed, she lives there today.

“It really has a great diversity of people and houses,” she adds.

So who better to depict the residential real estate landscape in her hometown than this 11-year veteran, who was the top broker in Houlihan Lawrence’s New Canaan office last year for dollar volume and unit sales, totaling $60 million. The picture she paints is one of success creating challenges.

Last year was a banner one for Stamford homeowners, with some 1,000 houses being sold, she says:

“Our sales alone were ones for the history books….We had the highest number of single-family homes sold in Stamford, with an average price of $835,000.” (To put this in context, the average home price in Stamford pre-Covid was $640,000. That $200,000 jump last year meant that homes approached 2006 prices, which represented the pinnacle of the housing market, Matson says, before the crash that gave way to the Great Recession.

She predicts prices will “continue to be strong, even 5 % higher.” But it’s not an entirely rosy picture.

Sales are expected to slump 30%. In January 2021, Houlihan Lawrence sold 71 homes in Stamford. In January 2022, that figure was 47. Why the drop?

The pandemic has created what Matson calls a “logjam.” “People don’t know where to go,” she says. “People want to sell. But they don’t have that next step in place.”

That’s because the inventory of places to buy or purchase is so low. Take New York City apartment dwellers looking to spread their wings in the suburbs — and take advantage of Connecticut’s more desirable property tax situation compared to neighboring New York state. Add millennials searching for places of their own and residents of neighboring communities looking for Stamford rentals. The result is a bidding war — even for houses seen only on the internet — that finds potential homeowners shut out before they can get a keystroke in, let alone a bid. (One potential buyer, beaten to the punch on several offers, told us he looked at Stamford, but the prices were just too high.)

New construction would seem to be a solution, especially, Matson says, as many buyers want turnkey properties. But here again the pandemic has wreaked havoc, this time with global supply chains that make every building material more expensive. A proposed home that once cost $1.4 million, she adds, now costs $1.6 million.

Still, Matson sees a silver lining in the creativity that is countering the challenge. She points to Building and Land Technology’s multipurpose developments at Harbor Point as an example of how to adapt to today’s residential and commercial needs. (See Page 34.)

“The development of these high rises is offering leasing opportunities that are helping sellers sell their homes,” she says.

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Former schoolmates join forces at Houlihan Lawrence

Libby Matson and Mia Schipani have known each other since they attended King School in Stamford. And while their early career paths diverged – Matson’s to education and school admissions; Schipani’s to public relations and hospitality — it turns out they share two professional passions, public service and real estate.

Now they’ve joined forces in the New Canaan office of Houlihan Lawrence, a 130-year-old firm with 1,450 agents in 30 locations serving Westchester, Fairfield, Putnam, Dutchess, Columbia, Orange and Ulster counties.

“The opportunity to work with a lifelong friend who shares the same drive, work ethic, professionalism and purpose is exciting,” says Schipani.

“I am excited to collaborate with Mia,” adds Mattson. “She brings great energy, integrity, her widespread network and valuable experience to our profession.”

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