Homebuyers gravitate to Groton

In mid-October 2021, Kimberly Drelich, staff writer at The Day, wrote an article with some encouraging economic news for Groton: "Housing study: Groton will face significant housing demand over next decade," the headline read. There was only one problem. Heightened homeowner demand needs a healthy supply of homes, but for Groton, that may be a challenge now and in the foreseeable future.

As Drelich explained in the article, the alarm bells rang when an economic development firm produced a study suggesting that the number of homes — and the range of housing types — are insufficient for growing demand. There are simply more people who'd like to relocate to or within Groton than there are houses for sale.

Senior Project Manager Daniel Stevens of Camoin Associates, which conducted the housing study on the town's behalf, told The Day, "Groton's housing market has the potential demand for about 5,260 new housing units over the next 10 years or so."

Welcome Home reached out to two local Realtors to learn about the state of the Groton housing market today and what they're expecting — or hoping for — in the months ahead.

"As expected, from around Thanksgiving until about New Year's, the market in the southeastern part of the state is quieter, as people's focus is more on family and enjoying the holiday season," Viviana Penson-Rodriquez said. She's the broker-owner of the Leaf Realty Group in Groton.

"After the new year, the market wakes up gradually; however, this year, the wake-up process has been very sharp," she reported.

Penson-Rodriguez describes the housing market in Groton — and Mystic, on the Groton side — as "competitive."

"The inventory — houses available for sale — is still very limited compared to housing needs, inventory," she explained. "Unless inventory increases significantly, buyers will continue to find themselves competing for real estate, with multiple-offer situations, which has become the norm. This will likely continue to raise prices in the area and maintain the trend of selling above the asking price."

It's not only challenging to find a home in Groton right now, lately, homes that do come to market may be beyond many buyers' budgets. There are very few options less than $350,000, Penson-Rodriguez added.

"It is our hope in the real estate industry that, perhaps, the springtime will bring more sellers and houses to this tight market," she said.

Homes across the region and in Groton continue to sell quickly and, often, for more than the seller's asking price.

"Even though I can't see what the future brings, I can assure sellers that we have not seen property appreciation of this magnitude in the last 15 years," Penson-Rodriguez noted. "Prices appear to be driven by a spike in demand, lack of inventory, an increase of employee hires, and lastly, out-of-towners, especially from New York and Boston, who have discovered their money goes further on our shoreline areas.

"Furthermore," she continued, "since the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures has been lifted, the courts have struggle to get through the backlog of cases, further exacerbating inventory issues. It's a perfect storm, increasing home value."

A need for more single-family homes, condos and apartments

Lian Obrey is a broker with RE/MAX Legends in Waterford. Residential properties in Groton move fast these days, she can attest. A number of listings she's had this past year were sold in record time, and she's worked with buyers from near and far who seek to settle in southeastern Connecticut.

She recently worked with buyers from Arizona who were looking for a home in Groton. They flew in once, saw a number of neighborhoods that interested them, flew back home, and ultimately negotiated and bought their new home — virtually, all via digital communications, Obrey remarked.

A little more than 53 square miles in area, Groton has distinctive regions and neighborhoods, with housing that can start in the low hundreds of thousands and soar to well over a million.

"We recently had two sales in Groton — one for almost a million dollars and the other one was around $350,000. Neither buyer had seen the house," Obrey said.

Virtual homebuying isn't the norm, but it has become more prevalent in the time of COVID-19.

The challenge Groton residents who may be considering selling their homes to capitalize on the sellers' market — especially those who may be downsizing — is that it's difficult to find right-sized homes and condos right now. There's the matter of low inventory and affordability. Home prices have ballooned in the pandemic economy, and for some regions of the country, prices may settle back down, but Obrey said that this slice of southeastern Connecticut has always been more even-keeled and less reactive than other markets, and credited the region's major employers for helping to keep demand steady. Prices here, including across Groton, didn't over-inflate, and they're not likely to dramatically decrease, either, she predicted.

"We need middle-class housing," Obrey said, hopeful that developers will come to Groton with vision and shovel-ready solutions.

There is a particular need for 55+ housing. Many of the local 55+ communities are so sought-after their wait lists grow impossibly long. If developers target Groton and build affordable apartment and condominium complexes, it would help, she suggested.

For Groton homeowners who may be watching what other properties in their neighborhood have sold for, and are thinking of selling, too, there are lots of compelling reasons to get in the market now, but Obrey offered one caution. If you decide to list your home for sale right now, be prepared for things to move quickly.

"Truly, I look into the same crystal ball as they do," she said. "But it's an excellent time to sell. I put a property on the market yesterday, and I will have it sold by tonight."

The day before she spoke with Welcome Home, Obrey had listed a condo in Groton and received a cash offer the very next day.

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