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Greenwich mansion listings pulled to wait for a better day

[NEW YORK] Listings of mansions in Greenwich have dropped for the past four quarters. But this time it wasn't because sales were brisk.

Luxury-home listings in the Connecticut town plunged 31 per cent from a year earlier, according to a report on Thursday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. That's largely because sellers who failed to get their hoped-for price quit trying to find buyers and took their properties off the market to wait for a better day.

"Inventory is declining but sales aren't rising," Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said in an interview. "It's mostly listings being pulled off the market." Tastes are changing in Greenwich, home to many Wall Street executives who take the 50-minute train ride to Manhattan. Lavish mansions on several acres have languished, while smaller homes closer to downtown get scooped up. In the third quarter, sales of luxury homes - the top 10 per cent of deals by price - fell 13 per cent from a year earlier to 21, the firms said. Condo purchases, meanwhile, jumped 35 per cent to 58 transactions, the most for a quarter in data going back to 1999.

"Small is the new big," said Scott Durkin, chief operating officer of Douglas Elliman. "Millennial buyers, they want to be in town, they want to be close to services, they don't need 5,000 to 10,000 square feet - they're OK with 1,600 to 2,200." "We really don't have enough of those listings to sell," he said. "We need more." The closer that homes are to Greenwich's commercial district or waterfront, the faster they're selling. At the current pace of deals, it would take 7.8 months to sell all the listed properties south of Post Road, an area that includes the train station and tony shops of Greenwich Avenue, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. In the Back Country section - north of the Merritt Parkway, featuring oversized estates set back from winding, two-lane roads - it would take more than three years to clear the listed inventory.

One listing that struggled to find a buyer was 16 Old Mill Road, a 10,881-square-foot home that had three price reductions in its more than two years on the market, according to listing records. The property, on 5.3 acres that include a 2,329-square-foot guest house, was first listed in May 2015 for US$17.35 million, and eventually whittled to US$11.45 million before it was pulled in September. Brokers shifted tactics, relisting the home under a different address - 781 Lake Ave. - and with an additional discount, to US$10.95 million.

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High-end sales had picked up earlier this year, largely because of price cuts, helping to clear some of the backlog. Sellers were still discounting this quarter, offering an average of 6.7 per cent off the last listed price. The reductions drew in buyers for some costlier homes, pushing the median sale price in the luxury category up 34 per cent to US$6.5 million, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said.

That's the upside to having so many fatigued sellers giving up, according to Mr Durkin. It clears the distractions and boosts confidence for those who want to commit to a high-end purchase in town.

"When there's too much to choose from it takes off the intensity of the buying process," Mr Durkin said. "It doesn't give you any sense of urgency and it doesn't get you off the fence." Brokerage Houlihan Lawrence, in its own Greenwich report, said that luxury sales did best at the top, with homes priced at US$5 million and above. There were 18 such deals in the quarter, compared with 11 a year earlier. Two were for more than US$10 million.


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