Exactly ten years ago Main Street Magazine looked at the real estate market in the “consistently quiet” town of Sharon, CT. Not very much has changed except for real estate prices, super-charged by COVID. The construction fence around Hotchkiss Library on the Sharon Green has been removed and the multi-year renovation is almost complete, with hopes to move back in July. The library is only one of Sharon’s established institutions along with the Sharon Historical Society, the Sharon Playhouse, the Audubon Society, the Sharon Land Trust, Sharon Hospital, and the Sharon Country Club, all of which contribute to Sharon’s character. Retail commerce remains largely limited to the small shopping plaza anchored by the Sharon Farm Market. JP Giffords Coffee Shop and When Pigs Fly South just off the Green and Le Gamin Cafe are the only restaurants in town.
Darren Winston closed his bookstore at the stop sign a few years ago, but Theodore Coulombe opened Standard Space, a contemporary art gallery on the Green. “Sharon was less stressful and less expensive than Brooklyn,” explained the artist who lives and works at the gallery he purchased in 2017 for $150,000. “I’m a landscape photographer, and this area is exceptionally beautiful with a huge number of artists per capita, and it’s easy to take the train or drive into New York City.”(See photo next page).
Putting it into context
Looking at Sharon in comparison to its neighbors puts the town in context. Official 2021 state profiles of the five towns that constitute the Northwest Corner of Connecticut estimate that Sharon is the wealthiest of the five, with an average household income of $81,919. Surprisingly, at the same time, 15% of Sharon residents are below the poverty line – higher than the statewide average of 10%. Similar to other NW towns, it is not densely populated and with an average age of 56.2 years, it is much older than the rest of the state. With a tax rate of 14.7 mils, only Salisbury pays lower property taxes than Sharon.
Steep increase in home values in ten years, especially the last three
Sharon offers a great mix of housing choices: apartments in the moderate-income affordable Sharon Ridge complex, condos just off the Green, the grand estates along Route 41 and Amenia Union Road, log cabins tucked in the woods, and working farms.
Ten years ago, national single-family residences were recovering slowly from the housing bubble and the great recession. In April of 2013, a median priced home in Sharon cost $405,000 compared to $632,500 in April of this year, according to statistics from Info Sparks – an increase of 156%. While Salisbury prices increased 210% over the decade, Canaan’s median price more than tripled, and Cornwall’s doubled. Ten years ago, Sharon had the highest single-family median price, but today its price increases have moderated compared to surrounding towns.
Three years of low interest rates and COVID buying account for much of the increase in median home prices in every town. In Sharon COVID accounted for almost all of its ten-year appreciation of 156%. Its median priced single-family home in March of 2020 was $420,000, only slightly more than $405,000 seven years before when Sharon homes sold for more than any of the other towns.
Why has Sharon seemed to have lost it allure relative to surrounding towns? One explanation real estate brokers have come up is millennials: younger buyers who find the patrician style of Sharon less appealing than their parents’ generation did. Or perhaps home prices in Canaan, Cornwall, and North Canaan rose the most because their pre-COVID levels were much lower than Salisbury’s or Sharon’s.
Even in the seven years before COVID, Salisbury median prices rose above Sharon’s, from $382,500 in 2013 to $500,000 in 2020. Perhaps Salisbury’s higher prices were caused by changing tax laws and low property taxes, or the appreciated lakefront prices in Lakeville and Twin Lakes.
What happened to the spring selling season?
Three years ago, the number of houses listed for sale in each of the five towns was approximately five times the number of houses listed right now (see chart). The high median listing price of houses in every town indicates that high-priced, and perhaps overpriced, homes are now moving slowly, while modest homes are snapped up quickly. There are still bidding wars for homes priced under $700,000. In Sharon in April of 2020, there were 57 homes for sale; today there are only nine. The median asking price of these properties is $1,395,000 –221% above the median price of $632,500 in the twelve months ending April 2023.
No houses are actively listed under $500,000 in Sharon; however, there are six houses ranging from $375,000 to $795,000 pending closing that went to contract quickly and two luxury properties listed at over $3,000,000 that are in the process of closing after million-dollar price reductions.
It’s not just Sharon. Luxury properties over $2 million in all of Litchfield County are taking longer to sell and closing at discounts of approximately 20% to original list price.
For sellers with attractive properties under $1 million, especially those that are staged and need no renovation, this remains an excellent time to sell because of high pent-up demand; but for sellers at the higher end of the market, expect an honest conversation about pricing with your real estate broker and a longer wait time. No one knows what will happen next. •
Christine Bates is a registered real estate agent in New York and Connecticut with William Pitt Sotheby’s. She has written about real estate and business since Main Street Magazine’s first issue in 2013.