Unchanging Sharon, the long view. Real estate in the Town of Sharon, Connecticut

Main Street published our first and only to date article about the Sharon, CT, real estate market exactly six years ago in 2013 just as home prices everywhere were making an unsteady recovery. We look way back to 2003 to see what had happened and where we are now. (You can check for yourself by going online to the August 2013 issue at www.mainstreetmag.com and select “past issues”).

Sharon’s historic Green runs through the center of town surrounded by historic homes, Robin Hood Radio, churches, a legal office, the town hall, and doctor’s offices. The Green has been the center of Sharon since it was incorporated in 1739. What’s new is Standard Space, a contemporary art gallery, Lambertson Truex’s studio (see article on their activities on page 11 in this issue), and just off the Green, JP Gifford’s for morning coffee and The Edward for an evening glass of wine or a craft beer.

Outside of the center of Sharon, Sharon Hospital remains open, although under new management, and Paley’s Market thrives in the summer.
Retail activity – grocery shopping, the pharmacy and the wine store – remains confined to the shopping area just north of the center.

Sought-after, but quiet

Sharon has the comfortable, stability of a long sought-after place. “It’s a town where everyone knows one another but is ‘consistently quiet’,” observed realtor Chris Garrity of Bain Real Estate six years ago. Nothing has changed.

Fred and Alexandar Peters bought their house on Sharon Mountain Road in 2004 and echo that sentiment. “We owned a house in Northern Westchester for many years. As time went by, the area became less a country suburb and more a suburb; we needed to find some place wilder, some place which was really the country. Lower taxes across the state line were also appealing when we found our 1790s house in Sharon, at the top of Sharon Mountain. Inside, it has wonderful detailing and the widest imaginable pine and chestnut board floors. Outside, it has a completely dark sky, old trees, a beaver pond, and abundant birds. The extraordinary conviviality of the town and our neighbors made us feel quickly like part of the community and we find ourselves spending more and more time in Sharon. It’s a magical place.”

Statistically how does Sharon compare?

Demographically, Sharon is richer and older than its neighboring towns. Sharon has the highest household income – over $80,000, the oldest population with a median age of 60, and the highest owner occupancy of any of its neighbors – Salisbury, Kent, Cornwall, and Canaan according to recent state research (see Chart 1).

Given those statistics it’s not surprising that Sharon has slightly more registered Republicans and fewer Democrats than surrounding towns.
Sharon is projected to continue to experience negative population growth over the next few years similar to most towns in the northwest corner of Connecticut. It also enjoys relatively low property taxes, but not as low as neighboring Salisbury.
Sharon’s June twelve month rolling median housing price of $330,000 is about the same as Cornwall, but much lower than the $550,000 median sold price in Salisbury. In terms of dollar volume of single-family residences sold in Sharon, it is similar to Kent, far above that of Cornwall and Canaan, but only 60% as large as Salisbury. Some of the difference is attributable to the population of each town and Salisbury’s higher home prices driven by lake front property. With the exception of Canaan, sales volumes across the region have decreased 20% to 30% in the last 12 months.

Surprising long view

The recovery and recent performance in the Sharon real estate market, and others in our area, is surprising. Looking back 16 years to 2003 at total market sales of single-family residences in Sharon, the dollar volume of all closed houses spiked in 2006, and 2007 (see Chart 2 below).
The market retreated from that activity level until 2015 when it rose to sales volumes well above the “bubble” years – almost $50 million in annual sales, only to plummet in 2016 and recover in 2017 and 2018, although still below 2006, 2007, and 2015.
Volumes in the luxury segment of $850,000 and above, which reached a low in 2013 to 2014, have not reached the level of 2006 and 2007, and are far below the activity in 2015. Maybe 2015 was a mini bubble?

Median Sharon prices have declined

Median sales prices show a slightly different picture from the overall market activity. (Median is the mid point between the highest and lowest sale, which in markets like Sharon will be lower than the average price, see Chart 3). While sales volumes were low in 2010, the median price rose to over $600,000 – maybe only wealthy people were buying?
Median prices rose again in 2014 and 2015, but dropped dramatically along with volumes in 2016. In the last thee years both volumes and median prices have risen BUT the median sale price is still below 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2014. This suggests that the Sharon single-family residence market has not climbed back to previous highs and may be in fact in another soft spot. This could be attributable to rising interest rates in 2018, the new federal income tax law limiting property tax deductions to $10,000, or the recent fall in consumer confidence to its lowest level since September 2017, in part due to international tensions, trade wars, and economic uncertainty despite a record high stock market.

Price per square foot lingers around $200 on average

Most telling of all may be the price per square foot paid since 2003 in various price segments of the market (see Chart 4). This analysis shows that houses in the lowest priced segment, which during the bubble peaked at over $200 a square foot, have not risen and are now around $150 a square foot. The highest priced red line segment, over $850,000, is now around $300 a square foot – lower than the $550 in the bubble, and $500 in 2016 and 2017. The purple line reflecting the overall market remains stable at around $200 a square foot since 2010. (See photo of Sharon Mountain Road house listed at less than $100 a square foot).
In short, the median price per square foot in every price segment has not regained its previous high. Will median prices and prices per square foot continue to decline or level out? Real estate sales volumes on a 12-month rolling basis at the end of June are down 28.6% in Sharon and for all of its neighbors – Salisbury off 25.5%, and Kent -32.4%.

All is not well in the million dollar plus market

About one third of the 62 houses currently listed for sale in Sharon are priced over a million dollars. Over half of these 19 million dollar Sharon homes have been on the market for over 300 days. Four $1,000,000+ homes have closed so far this year; all are below two million dollars.
The highest sale was $1,600,000 for a Sharon house originally listed for $4.75 million in 2015. Another sale was for a home purchased in 2007 for $2.1 million dollars, re-listed at $2.4 million in 2009, and, after various times on and off the market and price decreases, sold for $1,230,000. It is the lack of activity in higher priced home market that is affecting the market overall.

The market right now

An example of a median-priced listed single family residential property is located on Upper Main Street at $649,000 (see photo on page 17) on the Green in Sharon. The asking price contrasts to the $320,750 median price of homes actually sold in the last 12 months. Total inventory is low despite sellers feeling that it’s a good time to put a house on the market.
The trends we identified six years ago are even truer today. Buyers are looking for value and less exposure. Increasingly they are younger, come from Brooklyn, and expect to pay less. Antique houses have become even less alluring and few are looking for a renovation project.
Long-time Sharon realtor Chris Garrity has seen the cycles in the northwest corner real estate market. He finds it challenging in a market dominated by second home buyers to make sellers and buyers understand that buying a second home is not a financial investment with a certain return, but a purchase to enjoy over many years. Garrity and other experienced brokers take the long view.
They don’t see much change in the Sharon market despite its gyrations. Buyers remain cautious, financially prudent and better informed because of the internet. Sharon will always be an attractive place to own a weekend or full-time home.
“For a small town, Sharon has some amazing attractions,” according to Pat Best of Best & Cavallaro Real Estate. “The Sharon Playhouse offers top quality entertainment; the Sharon Country Club has golf, tennis, great dining and children’s activities; and there’s the impressive Hotchkiss Library of Sharon and Sharon Historical Society and Museum on the Green. Sharon’s proximity to the Metro North train and it’s bucolic atmosphere make it a very appealing destination for all ages.” •

For historic information on Sharon go to www.sharonhis.org or visit the town’s website at www.sharonct.org.
Christine Bates has written about real estate since Main Street’s first issue. She is a licensed real estate professional, licensed in Connecticut and New York.

By Christine Bates | christine@mainstreetmag.com