NEW CANAAN, Conn.—The house is a perfect Colonial, white with green shutters, with five bedrooms, a pool, and a spacious lawn. A decade ago, it would have flown off the market. These days, Candace Blackwood isn’t sure she can sell it anytime soon.
“We have a glut of inventory,” Blackwood, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway, told me, guiding her Mercedes through the leafy roads of this Connecticut suburb. “The number of days homes stay on the market has increased, and people are getting so desperate they’re renting out their homes.”
This has little to do with the housing market broadly speaking: In cities like New York, San Francisco, and Boston, prices are rising and homes are sold within days of listing. Rather, it’s a sign that suburban neighborhoods straight out of Mad Men are no longer as in-demand as they once were. Around Boston, for example, 51 towns and suburbs started the year with price declines while the city’s prices skyrocketed. Indeed, as Blackwood drives me through this picturesque New England town just an hour from New York, we pass dozens of for-sale and for-rent signs outside home set back from the road. These are homes that, one day, might have been on any family’s dream list, back when suburbs were where everyone wanted to live and there were dozens of companies to work for nearby. Median home values in Fairfield County, where New Canaan is located, are down 21 percent from their peak in 2003, according to Zillow; for the state as a whole median home values are down 18 percent from their 2004 peak. By contrast, home values nationwide are down just 5 percent from their 2005 peak. In urban areas, they are up—often substantially; in Boston, Charlotte, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle, prices this year have set record highs.