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Housing issues affect everyone in Connecticut, from those who are searching for a safe place to live, to those who may find it increasingly difficult to afford a place they already call home.WNPR is covering Connecticut's housing and homelessness issues in a series that examines how residents are handling the challenges they face. We look at the trends that matter most right now, and tell stories that help bring the issues to light.

New York City's COVID Troubles Spell Real Estate Mini-Boom For Fairfield County

Ali Warshavsky
Connecticut Public Radio
Todd Auslander and Jeanine Kasindorf say Fairfield County's real estate market is hot once again.

Real estate agents say the fight over homes on the market in Fairfield County is heating up as millennials who lived in New York City want out due to COVID-19.

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Robert Gau and his fiancee, Charlotte Black, had two months left on their lease in Manhattan when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the city.

“Even just getting the groceries, walking our dog two, three times a day, we were basically living in ground zero of the outbreak,” Gau said.

It was Thursday, March 12, when they made the decision to pack up and stop calling the city home.

“We took everything we could, grabbed the dog, the rest of the food,” he said. “We didn’t head back [until] three weeks later when we started slowly moving things out.”

The two have been staying in Westport with family while looking in Fairfield County for a place to call home. Even though both believe they will be expected to return to their Manhattan offices by the fall, Gau says he’d rather commute close to 90 minutes than live in the city full time.

“We are putting that on the back burner for now and just kind of eating the fact that we will have a commute than live in the city,” he said.

And now that they’ve decided to leave Manhattan, they want more space.

Real estate partners Jeanine Kasindorf and Todd Auslander say that’s a common request from people buying homes in Fairfield County. Kasindorf says many of them anticipate working from home.

“Buyers are changing their needs,” she said. “They are looking for homes that if there is a mudroom, can I convert that into an office, is there a lower level? If there is a need for one home office, there is probably a need for two. We are seeing buyers looking for large backyards.”

Kasindorf said the last few months have been a perfect storm for real estate agents. As Connecticut reopened, sellers finally felt safe enough to put their homes on the market. Coupled with historically low interest rates and an influx of people who want to move out of New York City, they have never been busier.

“We put a house on the market in Norwalk for $450,000,” said Auslander. “By Sunday we had 70 requests to show and 10 offers … that was a record.”

The partners say millennials who once wanted apartments close to restaurants and bars are now looking to quieter areas like North Stamford instead of downtown. They want homes that have room for entertaining inside and in the yard.

Kasindorf says larger properties are also selling fast. It’s no longer about people being close to the experience, it’s about being able to create one if the area around them shuts down.

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