Pricing, stock market fuel Greenwich's luxury home sales – Greenwich Time

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Since September, four Greenwich estates have fetched sale prices above $20 million.

That contrasts to zero homes sold above that benchmark last year, and just one closing for more than $20 million in 2015. Copper Beech Farm represented the only estate selling in excess of $20 million in 2014 when a buyer purchased the 51-acre waterfront property for $120 million.

What happened this fall to prompt the uptick in high-end home sales? According to some real estate professionals, the answer is simple: pricing and the economy.

“For the most part, sellers got realistic with pricing,” said Leslie McElwreath, senior global real estate adviser in Sotheby’s Greenwich office. “Then sophisticated buyers saw opportunities they couldn’t pass up.”

McElwreath recorded Greenwich’s most expensive home sale of the year as the listing agent for Sabine Farm, which closed for $25 million in November. Local brokerage David Ogilvy & Associates represented the buyer in that sale as well as clients in several of the other $20 million-plus closings.

According to Ogilvy, the second factor is positive signs in the economy.

“I definitely think that when the stock market is going well people feel better off and are more comfortable that things are moving ahead,” he said.

Drastic discounts

Within the last decade, 18 Greenwich homes have sold for $20 million or more, as tracked by the Greenwich Multiple Listing Service according to Jane Brash of Coldwell Banker. Of those, 16 were listed through the GMLS, which records how long homes sat on the market as well as the difference between homes’ list and closing prices.

On average, those 16 multimillion-dollar properties took roughly a year to sell. At one extreme, there’s a home on Lake Avenue listed for $26.5 million in September 2013 that was snapped up a few days later for $25 million. At the other end of the spectrum, a backcountry property on Old Mill Road languished for nearly three years before selling for $24 million, which was $15.5 million below its asking price.

Typically, the properties sold for millions, and in some cases many millions, less than their list price. The latest example is last month’s sale of Greenwich’s largest estate in the backcountry gated community of Conyers Farm. Originally listed in 2015 for $65 million, the price was reduced several times until it finally closed more than two years later for $21 million. The seller, billionaire Thomas Peterffy, had paid $45 million for it in 2004.

Overpricing skews market

Those steep discounts don’t necessarily mean the properties lost value, according to Jonathan Miller, a real estate appraiser and consultant who provides Greenwich market analysis for Douglas Elliman.

“The pricing of a lot of these properties reflects a different time. It’s not reflecting the current market,” he said. “The discounts are very large because they’re discounts from prices that were never close to what the market conditions actually were.”

Between the housing bubble and changing trends in real estate, many Greenwich homeowners haven’t been pricing their homes according to how the real estate market currently works, said Miller, who calls the tendency “aspirational pricing.” With so many overpricing their homes, sellers’ expectations can become skewed.

Overpricing also leads some to incorrectly believe homes selling for massive discounts means Greenwich’s housing market is weak, said Miller, who contends the pricing, and not the market, is mostly to blame.

The recent luxury sales probably don’t mean there’s suddenly more demand for those homes, according to Miller.

“The demand has always been there, but the sellers were disconnected,” he said. “Some of them are getting the message now.”

Contact the writer at mbennett@greenwichtime.com; Twitter @Macaela_