Shaw’s Landing, a 50-unit luxury waterfront condominium development, is being developed in New London.

Despite the gloomy predictions of 2003, no housing bubble burst and interest rates didn’t go up too much in 2004, giving many Realtors the second-best year they’ve had.

“2004 was, by any standard – except by 2003 standards – a good year,” said Barbara Pearce, president and chief executive officer of North Haven-based H. Pearce Real Estate Co.

Geri Guzinski, a Realtor with William Raveis in Stamford and the incoming president of the Stamford Board of Realtors, agreed.

“It was very busy [this year],” she said.

Sales this year were brisk and anything priced right sold almost immediately at or above asking price, Guzinski said. Also, sales did not follow the usual seasonal cycles, she noted. During most years there is a slowdown in late spring and early summer, but Realtors in the Stamford area did not see that this year, she said. That could be because homebuyers were afraid interest rates would rise and wanted to buy quickly. Realtors usually experience a slowdown around the holiday season as well, Guzinski added, but homes are still selling.

“Things are still moving along,” she said.

Homes in lower price ranges became more and more scarce this year, Guzinski said. This year, her firm sold 67 homes that cost $400,000 or less, compared to 147 in that range in 2003.

“It’s the fact that prices have gone up,” she said.

At the same time, homes priced at more than $2 million have increased. A newly constructed home on about an acre used to go for between $1 million and $1.7 million, but now can’t be touched for less than $2 million.

Another trend in 2004 was the immediate renovation of newly purchased homes, Pearce said. Many homebuyers over the past year have been negotiating with renovations in mind, rather than living in a house for several years and saving up to make changes, she said. They will make an offer, but first bring in architects and contractors to get an idea of how much the renovations will cost.

“That used to be the buyer’s problem,” Pearce said. “That, I think, has changed.”

A Westport Realtor reached a milestone earlier this year with a record-breaking sale. Michelle Genovesi, sales vice president and managing director of William Raveis Real Estate’s International Division, brokered the sale of a waterfront home for $9.2 million in September. The sale broke the previous record for the most expensive single-family sale in Westport by nearly $2 million.

The five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom home at 9 Pier Way Landing was sold on Sept. 21, according to a press release from William Raveis. The home, which is on the Long Island Sound, also has a deep-water dock and a pool. Its asking price was $9.5 million.

The 7,068-square-foot property was on the market for 52 days before the sale, Genovesi said in November. Although there were not a lot of buyers in the price range, the interested parties were either people from out of town looking for a second home or local people seeking to move closer to the water, she said. Genovesi did not name the buyers, but said they were from New York.

Another Trend

A continuing trend this year was the construction of over-55 developments across the state and New England. The developments are usually subdivisions made up of condominiums or single-family homes with amenities like master bedrooms on the first floor and which are restricted to people over 55 years old. They are a favorite of town governments, because they bring in tax money while not putting much of a strain on town services like schools do. They have grown in popularity as baby boomers have aged.

“It’s picked up quickly in the Northeast,” said William Kane, an appraiser with Cheshire-based Wellspeak Dugas & Kane who focuses on age-restricted housing, in November.

About 20 percent to 30 percent of older homeowners – 80 percent of those 65 and older own homes – will move into age-restricted housing, Kane said.

New London this year saw the beginning of construction on a luxury waterfront condominium development, which will be the first of its kind for the small city.

Oaktree Green, a Cambridge, Mass.-based consortium of architects and finance experts, is developing Shaw’s Landing, a 50-unit condominium development. The condos will be on the shore of Shaw’s Cove, off the Thames River, and right across the street from the city’s downtown.

Although New London has apartment buildings and some condominiums near the outskirts of town, Shaw’s Landing will be the first luxury condominium development downtown, said attorney Lee Cole-Chu of New London-based Cole-Chu & Co., who represents the developer, in September.

By then, buyers had claimed 40 percent of the units. The first phase of the project is scheduled to open in mid-2005.

The condos include one-, two- and three-bedroom units and are priced between $175,000 and $420,000.

Cole-Chu expects the condos will be popular with people who are already loyal to New London. The state-of-the-art units likely will attract highly educated people who work for Pfizer, he said in a previous interview with The Commercial Record. The complex is about a 15-minute walk away from Pfizer’s New London site and the company runs a bus between its New London and Groton locations that passes by the complex, Cole-Chu said.