Working on a real estate story in the dead of February would be easy, I thought. With the market deep in winter slumber, Realtors would be sitting by the phone, just waiting to take my call. As it turns out, not so. Warmer temperatures in the Northeast have caused the market to unthaw earlier than ever, as buyers and sellers are hot to get a jump on spring.
That said, not every listing is an immediate sell. Today’s buyer, Realtors say, is more discerning than ever. “I’ve noticed millennials specifically are preapproved for over half a million dollars, but they’re really very financially smart, and they’re looking for something that is smaller,” notes Holli Shanbrom of Shanbrom Real Estate Group with Coldwell Banker Realty in Orange. “They don’t want to pay [a lot] for utilities; they travel a lot. And they’re well aware that it’s their first home and don’t plan on staying there forever.”
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Some first-time buyers are even willing to redo a kitchen or take on some minor renovations for the right price. Older consumers, meanwhile, are downsizing and expect a turnkey, move-in-ready condition. Across the board, however, buyers can agree on one thing: “The single most important element to buyers today is natural light,” says Robin Kencel, a licensed real estate broker with Greenwich-based Compass Real Estate.
With those characteristics in mind, these are the most popular architectural styles in the state today.
It’s the most quintessential New England home style, so it’s no surprise Colonials are always hot in Connecticut. Dating back to the late 1870s, these homes are defined by their multiple levels and brick or wood facades. Quite literally, there’s room to grow. “Colonials are the most desirable, and I would attribute that to the space that they provide and the price point,” Shanbrom says. “Even if it’s just a 1,300-square-foot Colonial, it will feel bigger than, say, a 1,300-square-foot ranch because you have different levels to work with.”
Though they’re harder to come by than Colonials in Connecticut, Tudors have a unique style that makes the ones that do go up for sale quite desirable. Common features include a steeply pitched roof, decorative timbering, prominent cross gables and narrow windows. “For those who can afford to update and preserve their architecture, everyone likes the cool factor of a Tudor,” says Andrea Viscuso, a Realtor with the Fairfield County-based Higgins Group. Due to their higher price bracket, these homes are most often found in wealthier corners of the state. Kencel adds that Tudors are a hot ticket in Greenwich, “so long as they aren’t dark with small windows.”
3. Modern barn/farmhouse
What’s old is new. Though not technically an architectural type, today’s buyer is loving the concept of the modern barn or farmhouse. “In the fashion and interior-design worlds, there’s a focus on organic and natural materials,” Kencel says. This is leading to a strong desire for the modern barn, characterized by natural materials, lots of natural light, barn doors separating a room, and wide-board or antique plank flooring.
This popular aesthetic can drive up the price of an antique house, and Viscuso says buyers are willing to spend extra on heating and cooling, as well as replacing hard-to-find parts. “A lot of Colonials can be classified as farmhouses. Farmhouse has become an adjective, but it can be subjective,” she notes. “We’re seeing a rise in this style, but it might not technically be an original farmhouse.” A Colonial with a front porch and white siding, for example, might be described as a farmhouse.
Ranch-style homes will always be popular due to their affordability. These homes feature long, close-to-the-ground profiles and an open layout. They are one story with a long, low-pitch roofline. Some styles can have two floors, like raised ranches, which feature a finished basement, or the similar split-level style (though not technically a ranch). “Raised ranches are popular among first-time homeowners because they’re cheaper,” Shanbrom says. “They’re typically 100 percent finished, but there’s limited storage. Families start having kids and move out rather quickly.” Ranch-style homes have large foundations, Viscuso notes, so you can always build up if you’d like to stay put.
For those who don’t favor the aesthetic of traditional New England architecture, contemporary-style homes are popular in the state, as well. Viscuso notes they are most prevalent in north-of-the-Merritt towns where there is a bit more space to build. These custom designs can range in style, but they often feature lots of glass and open space. “There’s an overall uniqueness to contemporaries in the dimensions and the windows,” Shanbrom says. “They typically let in a lot of sunlight, which is desirable, and feature an open plan.”
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