New Canaan leads region in number of Realtors
In the small, affluent town of New Canaan, where house hunters pounce on the chance to snap up a home, about one in 50 people is a registered Realtor -- six times the national average. With 410 licensed Realtors and only 326 homes sold last year, there are more Realtors than there are places to move.
Of course, New Canaan isn't the only town with such a large number of Realtors. The entire state of Connecticut has the seventh-highest saturation of Realtors in the nation, with 42 Realtors for every 10,000 residents, compared to a national average of 33.
But here in southwest Connecticut, that rate is laughable: In New Canaan, it's 207 per 10,000 residents. In the No. 2 town, Westport, the ratio is 143 Realtors per 10,000 residents. In Darien, Wilton and Easton, it's 119, 105 and 97 per 10,000.
"I think it's not unusual for communities like New Canaan, Darien and Greenwich to have a very high Realtor population, because a lot of people do it as a hobby. But you'll find that those who are producing are not doing it part time," said New Canaan Board of Realtors President Arlene Bubbico, who added that about 20 percent of New Canaan's Realtors do 90 percent of the town's business.
"Homes are many people's biggest asset, and it's a big topic of conversation in town," New Canaan Realtor Jill Wippern said last month as she showed an antique home at 1293 Ponus Ridge, listed for $4.2 million.
Wippern came to the field a dozen years ago, after her daughter left to go to school, and she found herself with more time to use the skills she'd honed when she earned her MBA at Yale, she said as she showed off the home's master suite, which was flooded in sunlight from the house's southern exposure.
These days, she's a broker at Brotherhood & Higley, a small New Canaan-based firm, and through hard work and her philosophy that her business "is all about establishing a relationship with clients," she has become a member of a core group of Realtors in town who dedicate themselves to the business full time.
In a place where talk about home values often occurs on the sidelines of children's soccer or lacrosse games, casual conversation often can lead to a little bit more.
"When you're involved in your child's activities, you're standing at the sidelines, you become friends with the parents of your children's friends," Wippern said. "So that's a big source of referrals, clients."
And New Canaan has a high rate of well-educated women who do not work outside of the home, making the idea of starting up a real estate business on the side seem very attractive, and perhaps explaining why residential real estate is dominated by women across the nation.
In total, 71 percent of New Canaan women over 25 have at least a bachelor's degree, including 32 percent who have a master's degree and higher, yet the percentage of New Canaan's married women who are not in the workforce is 61 percent. But even among the most highly educated hobby Realtors, the ventures often don't last, said Bubbico.
"You really can't do this part time. It's a full-time profession, and the people who try to do it part time usually don't last very long," Bubbico said. But, of course, there is a contingent of real estate agents with goals of selling just a house or two -- maybe to save themselves from paying commission when they place their own home on the market.
In New Canaan, that can be a lot of money. Saving a 5 percent bite of the town's average listing price of $2.75 million figures out to about $138,000 back in the seller's pocket.
"You have a lot of agents that get their licenses so they can sell their own house, or maybe they know their parents are going to put their house on the market, or their best friend," Bubbico said.
A large number of Realtors in local towns can pose challenges for the men and women in the field who find a need to set themselves apart from the pack in what can be a very competitive and lucrative field.
Across the region, Stamford has the most total Realtors of any municipality, with 724 registered Realtors in the city's ranks. But since the city has such a large population, that works out to about 58.9 Realtors per 10,000 residents, a modest figure for the region. Stamford is followed by Fairfield with 445, New Canaan with 410 and Greenwich with 406 Realtors, according to the Connecticut Association of Realtors.
In some towns, the competition is fiercer than others. An analysis of data provided by Raveis.com on 2013 home sales, combined with information from the CAR about the number of Realtors in each town across southwestern Connecticut, shows that the battle is most significant in New Canaan, when the tally for homes sold per Realtor in 2013 figures out to 0.8.
Darien, Orange, Easton and Westport round out the top five towns in the area where the number of Realtors is most out-of-sync with the housing inventory. Bridgeport has the most balanced number in the entire region; with 1,041 homes sold in 2013 and 241 Realtors in action, the analysis shows the average Realtor sold 4.3 homes in 2013.
"I've always believed that you should just be yourself, never say anything you're not positive about and conduct yourself more or less with the greatest dignity that you can muster up and people respect you," Tims, who has been selling homes in the village of Rowayton in Norwalk for more than 30 years, said.
"If you've always done it the right way, they'll know when you're talking, you're telling them the truth," he said. "If you've ever pulled any punches, God help you."
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