Shelton enjoying real estate boom

SHELTON — A small town feel with all the benefits of a large city — combined with rock bottom tax rates — has turned Shelton into one of the state’s top residential destination locations over the past year.

CBRE, a Dallas-based commercial real estate services and investment firm, recently released its analysis of change-of-address notifications filed with the U.S. Postal Service which shows that in 2020, Connecticut received a greater share of new arrivals than Long Island and New York towns and villages spanning the lower Hudson River Valley.

Lower Fairfield County landed eight of the top 10 slots — with one belonging to Shelton — for net gains in newcomers in 2020 in New York and Connecticut, according to the CBRE data.

So why Shelton?

“The price is right,” Ben McGorty, a state representative in the 122nd District and real estate agent, said. “Houses are cheaper and the taxes are lower.”

Shelton attracts newcomers because it is a city with more of a town atmosphere, according to Julie Blakeman, real estate agent with Carey and Guarrera Real Estate.

In the first four months of 2020, Carey and Guarrera Real Estate had 71 sales with a sales volume of $18,450,000. Patrick Carey of the company said that this year, his firm has had 131 sales in the first four months with a sales volume of $52,500,000. These numbers include Shelton as well as other communities, Carey said.

“Folks looking for a new home find the city to be attractive in that it has a little something to offer to everyone,” Blakeman said.

“The draw is that you can be in a corporate park one minute and on a secluded beautiful walking trail the next,” Blakeman added. “I have been told they like the feeling of living in the woods but being close to the highway, grocery stores.”

Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Virginia Harger said what immediately comes to mind when speaking of Shelton’s draw is the city’s property tax rate.

“By having an affordable and stable tax rate, our city is very attractive to those with proposals for new development and business opportunities, further strengthening and expanding our tax base,” she said.

Harger credited the tax rate - now at 22.42 mills - to Mayor Mark Lauretti’s oversight of city expenses over his tenure, which spans the past three decades.

“(Lauretti) expects taxpayer dollars to be spent appropriately, wisely and efficiently,” Harger said.

Blakeman also praised Lauretti for “keeping our taxes low and the community for giving the city the reputation of what I would describe a ‘small city, with a big heart.’”

Lauretti has stated that no other municipalities offer such an annual tax rate stability.

“Shelton is the best affordable city in Connecticut,” Lauretti said. “We’ve been consistent and predictable for the last 25 years ... people and businesses have gravitated to Shelton for those reasons. Those are just facts.

“We spent our money wisely, and we have had growth in every area of city government — and that has resulted in an affordable, safe, high quality of life here,” Lauretti said. “Businesses want to come here. Residents want to come here. That has led to the city’s continued growth.”

CBRE data shows that Shelton logged 3,531 move-ins in 2020, compared with 3,090 move-outs for a net positive of 441 in a city of 42,000 residents. Those numbers were far better than 2019, when 3,215 move-ins occurred, with 3,047 move-outs.

Carey, who has been in the real estate business nearly 40 years, called this a “once in a lifetime market.

“Everything has aligned to create this market — low (borrowing) rates, lowest that I can remember; low taxes, which here are consistently low, and COVID, which no one could ever consider -—and Shelton is benefiting, no doubt … Shelton is booming,” Carey said.

Carey said his firm has sold Shelton homes to those from New York City and to people from neighboring communities like Trumbull. The reason, he says, is because while Shelton sits in Fairfield County, it sits in a more reasonably priced area of Fairfield County.

The city is close to all major highways, has numerous restaurants and retail stores and brings stability with its tax rate, he said.

“Shelton is just attractive to buyers,” Carey said.

Carey said today’s real estate market is unprecedented, with sellers receiving offers, in some cases, a single day after the home has hit the market. In many cases, he has watched a buyer offer $20,000 to $50,000 over asking price, he said.

Carey recalled a recent open house held at a home in the Hawk’s Ridge development. He said the couple and their two children came from the Bronx, N.Y., and after touring the residence, immediately said they would buy it.

“They were willing to move here. Why? The taxes, and they wanted to get out of the Bronx, they wanted out of (New York) City,” Carey said.

McGorty said Shelton offers everything residents need and the commute to the city is “doable for the value.”

Blakeman said people moving into Shelton find it conveniently located between two major cities, New Haven and Bridgeport.

“Shelton also offers housing options in a variety of neighborhoods; a variety of grocery stores, restaurants and retailers for both shoppers and job seekers; public and private school options; and different recreational opportunities for all ages,” Harger said.

“Shelton’s location is also an attractive feature,” the P&Z commission chair said, “as we're no more than 15 minutes from Bridgeport, 30 minutes from New Haven, 60 minutes from Hartford (and) 90 minutes from New York and Rhode Island.”

McGorty said he has sold homes to people from North Carolina and New Hampshire as well as the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and upstate New York. He said that those coming from NYC said they left for “safety” reasons as crime continues to escalate in their neighborhoods.

On the downside, while the market is flooded with buyers, there is little stock. This has forced McGorty to not only make cold calls to homeowners but also knock on doors seeking the next potential seller.

Potential buyers are bidding anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 more than the asking price, McGorty said. He said in one case, he had buyers who offered $55,000 more than asking price, payment in cash, with closing in 15 days — and they still did not get the house.