Home sale prices soared the highest during COVID-19 in these 7 Hartford County towns

Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant
·5 min read

Home sale prices in Hartford County soared as the pandemic deepened in Connecticut, with intensifying competition among buyers and the number of houses for sale dwindling in each of the county’s 29 towns and cities, a new report shows.

Between the time COVID-19 tightened its grip at the end of March 2020 and March 2021, the median sale price of a single-family house jumped 13% in Hartford County to $263,000, compared with $235,000 for the same period a year earlier, according to a report from real estate brokerage firm William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty.

The gains in sale prices were not contained to wealthier suburbs, but distributed among a broader, demographically diverse set of towns and cities. Hartford, for example, one of the state’s most distressed cities, was one of the top gainers, registering an 18% increase in the median sale price, in which half the sales are above, half below.

In the first three months of this year, sales of single-family houses slowed by 3% in Hartford County compared with the same period in 2020. But real estate agents say that decline is linked to the thinning inventory of homes for sale, down nearly 40% in the same period.

“If you had the actual inventory that you would need to satisfy the current demand, you would see the number of [houses sold] up dramatically,” Scott Glenney, a real estate agent at Sotheby’s in Avon, said.

New Yorkers fleeing to the Connecticut suburbs certainly took a bite out of inventory. But the once-novel, widespread working from home also is making homeowners think about larger spaces they might need now that it appears remote work is increasingly likely to become a regular part of working life, Glenney said.

A shift in interest toward smaller homes in recent years has also reversed, the report shows. The largest share of sales in Hartford County in the first three months of this year was still in homes priced at up to $300,000. But the number was nearly 20% lower than the same period a year ago, with strong gains registered across higher price ranges, including an 84% increase in homes priced between $700,000 and $1 million.

Sales had been slow for years in upper price ranges, and the stepped-up activity there also is contributing to the increase in the median price.

“You may have multiple people working from home, and they want a couple of different office spaces,” Glenney said. “Maybe we go back to the office and the kids go back to school, but I just think as part of our lifestyles, this remote experience has been ingrained. I don’t think that’s going away ... when the pandemic is over.”

As the number of houses for sale has dwindled, would-be sellers are becoming more hesitant about putting their properties on the market, worried they might not be successful in bidding on another house, further intensifying the decline in houses for sale.

When a house does come on the market, it is not unusual to have multiple bids, sometimes a dozen or more. Some bidders are getting edged out by buyers that are offering to purchase for cash, Glenney said.

“Of course, you can still overprice a home,” he said. “But if a home is priced appropriately, it’s going to go in multiple offers and over asking. If there are a dozen offers, you still have 11 buyers looking for homes.”

The competition is pushing buyers to take more risks than in the past to get the house they want, Glenney said.

“One of my buyers — they are still going to be getting a mortgage, but they waived the mortgage contingency,” he said. “That means if for any reason they get denied the loan, their deposit is at risk. They won’t be able to get that money back.”

Glenney said this is one of the strongest seller’s market in years, if not decades, and has crossed into what he calls “historic.” Glenney said he believes the market has “staying power” and price increases are reflecting a market not only in Hartford County but across the state that has struggled for more than a decade to recover from the last recession.

Here are the top towns and cities in Hartford County where the median sale price for single-family houses gained the most ground by percentage increase according to the Sotheby’s report. To be included in this list, the municipalities had to have at least 25 sales to account for the possibility that a large sale could skew the overall median price. That knocked two towns — East Windsor and East Granby, which had 28% and 17% increases in median sale price — off the list.

1. Rocky Hill

12-Month Median Sale Price: $327,000, up 21%

Quarterly Sales: 27, down 4%

Quarterly Inventory: 25, down 22%

Median Household Income: $79,421

Population: 21,280

Notable Attraction: Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry

2. Bristol

12-Month Median Sale Price: $220,000, up 20%

Quarterly Sales: 118, down 8%

Quarterly Inventory: 97, down 41%

Median Household Income: $64,586

Population: 59,535

Notable Attraction: American Clock & Watch Museum

3. Hartford

12-Month Median Sale Price: $177,000, up 18%

Quarterly Sales: 48, down 16%

Quarterly Inventory: 56, down 38%

Median Household Income: $33,841

Population: 126,443

Notable Attraction: Charter Oak Cultural Center

4. Suffield

12-Month Median Sale Price: $356,000, up 17%

Quarterly Sales: 31, down 16%

Quarterly Inventory: 49, down 38%

Median Household Income: $105,777

Population: 16,601

Notable Attraction: Lewis Farm Bird Sanctuary

5. Plainville

12-Month Median Sale Price: $235,000, up 16%

Quarterly Sales: 29, up 28%

Quarterly Inventory: 24, down 31%

Median Household Income: $62,459

Population: 17,694

Notable Attraction: Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum

6. Granby

12-Month Median Sale Price: $340,000, up 15%

Quarterly Sales: 38, down 17%

Quarterly Inventory: 30, down 50%

Median Household Income: $111,220

Population: 10,951

Notable Attraction: Tunxis State Forest

7. Bloomfield

12-Month Median Sale Price: $235,000, up 15%

Quarterly Sales: 43, down 4%

Quarterly Inventory: 35, down 52%

Median Household Income: $73,593

Population: 20,508

Notable Attraction: Gillette Ridge Golf Course

SOURCES: William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty; AdvanceCT; tripadvisor.com

Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at kgosselin@courant.com.