The houses range from 1,800 to 2,400 square feet, with prices running from about $400,000 to the low $600,000s. The development just began appearing on the Multiple Listing Service in recent weeks, and three potential buyers already have lined up, Nelson said.
"We hope and expect within the next 12 months that we will be closing a couple of units a month," Nelson said. "We haven't been able to say that for many years, since 2007 or 2008."
Fairfield County Stands Out
The brightest spot in the state's new home construction market is in Fairfield County, where permits for apartment units last year outnumbered single-family houses by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1. There appears there will be little letup in 2014.
In Stamford alone, 2,100 rental units were either approved recently by the city or are now going through the zoning process. Two major projects are downtown and one is on the waterfront, said Robert "Robin" Stein, the city's interim economic development chief.
"Stamford is red-hot for building rental right now," Stein said.
Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy at the Business Council of Fairfield County, said that the close proximity to New York City — and the high-paying jobs there — is a factor. But apartment dwellers in Stamford, for instance, work in diverse locations: The largest number — 50 percent — work in Stamford, followed by 20 percent in Manhattan, with the balance in Westchester County and elsewhere in Connecticut, McGee said, citing a recent survey.
There is no condominium development in Stamford and, at most, a dozen single-family houses under construction.
Apartment building, McGee said, is capitalizing on the broader national trend of young professionals moving back to urban areas, especially where there is close access to train stations. That's true in Stamford, but also in Fairfield, where developers are pursuing apartment proposals near the train station.
Rental construction also is surging in downtown Hartford as the city taps into the national trend of people seeking urban dwellings, and in the surrounding suburbs. But the surge also is a symptom of people putting off home purchases, experts say.
In downtown Stamford, renters are roughly 25 to 35 years old with an average income of $108,000. About 80 percent have college educations, McGee said.
"There is clearly a shift here," McGee said. "But it's not the end of the suburbs. It's just that there is a different group that is very attracted to the city."
Buyers In The Balance
The tentative recovery of single-family house construction is leaving some potential buyers frustrated as they search for a newly built home.
A year ago, Richard King and his wife, Betsy, were looking to move back to Connecticut from upstate New York. The couple had relocated from the state after the Fafnir Bearing Co. plant in New Britain, where Richard King worked as an engineer, was closed in the 1990s.
The Kings, now both retired, were looking to downsize from a 2,650-square-foot, contemporary-style house on 3 acres. They started looking in the Hartford area, mostly at older houses.
"One of the houses we looked at, it was nice," King recalled. "But my wife described it as a festering wound, there was always going to be something to do. The list goes on and on as you look at older homes."
A new home provided an attractive alternative, King said, "but the pickings were pretty slim." On top of that, they were looking in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range, he said.
"If you go to a place like Farmington, Unionville or Avon, you were looking at $600,000 or $700,000," King said.
One weekend, the couple saw a newspaper advertisement for Samuel's Crossing. They drove to Plainville and found Carrier, the developer, willing to customize house designs. For instance, the couple wanted a master bedroom suite on the first floor, anticipating the future when they might not be able to easily manage stairs.
The Kings rented an apartment while their three-bedroom colonial was built. They ended up paying $390,000, and moved into the house in January.
"We've gone through the fixer-upper stage," King said. "We don't want to do that anymore."