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HARTFORD — High hopes for renovations to the historic Elisha Wadsworth House have been matched by architecturally accurate work outside and what amounts to a brand new, upscale home inside. But the oldest house in the city's West End fell short in one area: sale price.The Prospect Avenue house sold Oct. 31 for $550,000, just a little over a third of the original listing price of $1.49 million in July 2013. The listing price for the four-bedroom, two-bath house was cut seven times, according to zillow.com.

"Unfortunately, there are multiple properties on that street in this price range," said Frank J. Cotrona owner of Cameo Builders in Wallingford, which renovated the house. "They aren't as new as ours, but they aren't selling either." Cotrona said he took a $200,000 loss on the project, but it was time for him to move on, after trying to sell the brick, Federal-style home for more than a year. By most accounts, new owners Michael and Lynn Herlihy paid a fair price for the well-appointed 5,000-square-foot home, built in 1828 as a tavern. Veterans of at least two home renovations — the latest, at their current West Hartford house — the Herlihys could see Cotrona's attention to detail, right down to decorative flourishes on baseboards. "We're just amazed at the great work done in here," Michael Herlihy, president of an investment advisory firm in West Hartford, said during a walk-through with a visitor this week. " He took what was probably a fragmented and chopped up floor plan, and now it's a great fit." Prospect Avenue divides Hartford from West Hartford. The Wadsworth House is on the Hartford side. For all the stately appearance of the street, sales in the area north of the Governor's Residence to Albany Avenue have mostly ranged between $500,000 and $900,000 in the past five years, an analysis of Multiple Listing Service data shows. One notable exception was the French chateau-style mansion at 1060 Prospect Ave. that sold for $2.2 million in 2012.

 Rob Giuffria, President of Prudential Premier Homes in Farmington, said the initial asking price was too high, given the property is on the busy corner of Prospect and Albany avenues. "Think of the million-dollar property owner," Giuffria said. "They are not going to buy on a busy street, unless the house is set far back from the road." The recovery in the market for homes $800,000 and above in the Hartford area generally remains slow, Giuffria said. Prices are relatively stable but not making any significant gains, he said. Cotrona took a gamble on the house. Though historic, it had suffered through two unsuccessful renovations since 2006. At one point, a burst water pipe damaged much of the interior woodwork that dated from the initial construction.

 Old-home admirers, the Herlihys had driven by the Wadsworth House several times in recent years during Sunday drives around the city's West End. Even in its deteriorated condition, the Herlihys saw potential and, as the price for the renovated property came down, they decided to make an offer. The Herlihys plan to move into the house before Christmas, becoming the newest stewards of a home with a storied history. First, it was an inn facing Albany Avenue. Then, in the early 1900s, it was turned to face Prospect and converted into a house. A front veranda and a real ell were demolished, and a new addition and third-story dormers were added, along with modern plumbing and heating.

 In the latest renovation, workers restored the exterior, repointed the brick, replaced the slate, and refurbished the copper gutter system. Inside, spaces have been reconfigured for 2014, but not in a cookie-cutter kind of way. The living room was fashioned by combining two smaller sitting rooms, giving it two fireplaces. "It could be kind of an awkward space," Michael Herlihy said. "But we have a piano and we're going to put it in here. It will take up a lot of the space." The house's interior still retains some sense of what makes it 186 years old. On the second floor, Lynn Herlihy walks through the master bedroom with its new hardwood floor. "You can still feel how uneven the floors are," she said. The floors, Michael Herlihy said, are evidence the house still retains the feel of its 186 years. "That's part of the charm of an old house," he says. Giuffria said Cotrona could have fared better in the sale if he had chosen to make the house a commercial property, perfect for a doctor's office. It would have capitalized on its location on a busy corner. But the Herlihys said they couldn't be happier with their purchase. Lynn Herlihy said she has already bought 40 Christmas candles to illuminate each window in the house. Michael Herlihy is conscious that his new home is at a busy intersection. Back downstairs he stops in the formal dining room, which may instead be used as a more modern great room. He said the new windows block out most of the noise. "You can't even tell there is traffic out there," he said.

Rob Giuffria, GMS | President, Prudential Premier Homes

Farmington, CT – Prudential Premier Homes will remain a Prudential Real Estate affiliate and not convert to the Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Brand. We will continue to offer our clients one of the best brands in real estate and to offer realty services throughout the state.  According to the most recent performance metrics provided by Prudential Real Estate, Prudential Premier Homes Executive Relocation Team was #1 ranked in both volume AND units of homes sold of all Prudential Real Estate teams statewide!

This success has been enabled by creating a brokerage model that is client centric versus office centric. Historically, real estate companies opened bricks and mortar offices in the towns they served. This model is outdated, archaic, and is simply 20thcentury real estate. It focuses on the office, not the agent. Ironically, according to a recent Inman study, the more successful the agent, the less time they spend in a physical office. While this sounds intuitive, traditional real estate brokerage companies continue their office centric model. Our success over the past 7 years has been primarily due to this new client centric model.

The future of real estate will continue to change and we believe it will involve leveraging more technology while decreasing bricks and mortar real estate offices.  Established real estate brands, Prudential/Coldwell Banker/ReMax/Century21, will continue to win against lesser known names in the market, provided that they are client centric, leverage technology and continue to reduce their bricks and mortar footprint.

©Prudential Premier Homes

CTROB.COM|203.918.9180|860.796.4555|ROB@CTROB.COM

{An email to a prospective listing client.}

"This is my fifth home and I've worked with a different realtor each time. Quite simply, Rob is a superstar, far and away the best I've retained. He knows his craft and he's absolutely dogged -- one example of many, he actually brought potential buyers into the home of folks who had wanted to make an offer on my house but were having trouble getting theirs sold through their own realtor. Rob has also been extremely diligent and helpful with all the details, like getting repair folks in and out of the house, etc., that other realtors wouldn't do or would do badly. I credit entirely his tenacity with getting my house under contract in this very difficult market. I generally do not give endorsements, but I have no hesitation in recommending Rob to you. Good luck and feel free to call me tonight if you have additional questions. David."
David, Attorney in West Hartford 

August 22

 

Dear Rob:

 

Hope all is well with you. I wanted to take a few minutes to send a quick note of appreciation to you and summarize why I was so pleased with your representation of Stacy I in the sale of our house.

 

As you know, we had listed our house with a major regional firm here in West Hartford for over 5 months. Despite numerous showings and supposedly terrific feedback on what a great home we had, we were unable to get the house sold. When I came to you to discuss our situation, we were worn down by the countless showings (we have a two and four year old) and the disruption to our lives. With your guidance on selling process and how to position the house for sale (including the terrific staging report you had prepared for us), we had a bid in the first week of your listing agreement and we closed the sale exactly 30 days after your representation began. I fully believe that your analytic approach to real estate is substantially different from all of the other agents I interviewed to sell our house. I am 100% confident this was the major factor for why we had such a successful outcome in what was an otherwise very difficult market. Please know that both Stacy and I will forever be grateful for your work in helping us move on with our lives and enjoy our wonderful new home.

 

Please feel free to share this note on with potential clients and don’t hesitate to offer me up as a reference should the need arise.

 

Hope the summer is going well and please do stay in touch.


Best regards,

 

Lenny Mazlish

17 Chestnut Hill

West Hartford, CT 06107

Buying For Resale

By VALERIE FINHOLM | Special to The Courant | April 12, 2009

When Joseph Grabicki and his wife started looking for a house, they had a list of what they wanted. One of the most important things: How easy would it be to resell?

"We didn't know how long we were going to be here," said Grabicki, who is a physical therapist. "You never know."

The couple ended up buying a 2,100-square-foot four-bedroom colonial in the Buena Vista neighborhood of West Hartford. The house has four bedrooms, a den, 2 1/2 baths and an attached two-car garage.

In today's shaky economy and slow housing market, buying a house that can be sold easily and at a profit has taken on more importance than falling in love with a particular house, area real estate agents say.

Grabicki is confident that his new house would be easy to sell if the couple had to move within the next few years.

What makes a house marketable?

"Buy a house that appeals to everybody," said Karen Conniff, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Old Lyme.

"We call these mainstream homes," said Grabicki's agent, Rob Giuffria, a broker with Prudential Premier Homes who specializes in homes in Greater Hartford.

Grabicki's house fits the description of what Giuffria and Conniff say is the "safest" house to buy in Connecticut: A colonial-style house with three to four bedrooms, 2 to 2 1/2 baths, and 1,500 to 2,500 square feet.

"That's what 70 percent of the buyers want," Giuffria said.

Outside The Mainstream

Buyers unsure of how long they will stay in a house should steer away from homes outside the mainstream, agents say.

For instance, one- or two-bedroom houses are difficult to sell, because they appeal primarily to single people or couples without children. Also, houses with five or more bedrooms are often considered too big for an average-sized family and raise concerns about the costs of heating and cooling. Houses with bedrooms in the basement are also a hard sell because families tend to want bedrooms on the same floor.

Style makes a difference, too. In Connecticut, colonials rule, although ranches are popular with empty-nesters, agents say.

Location trumps everything else that makes a house highly marketable. Buyers often overlook negatives in a house if it has a great location, particularly if it is in a town with good schools.

"It's always safer for resale to buy a smaller house in a good location than a larger house in a bad location," Giuffria said.

It also is important for a house to be comparable to houses nearby, said Norman Kilcomons, owner of Property Consultants, an appraisal company based in Farmington.

"You never want to [have] the most expensive house in a neighborhood unless you want to die there," he said.

Garages Matter

Other characteristics that help with marketability, agents say, include a two-car garage, a level lot, a quiet street, a dry basement and energy efficiency.

Garages are important. Most home buyers want a two-car attached garage. For an older home, a two-car detached garage will do.

Houses with one-car garages or no garages sell for less, Giuffria said. Adds Conniff: "If a house doesn't have a garage, it's a big deal."

A house on a busy road will be harder to sell than a house on a quiet street.

"If you can hear the cars inside the house it devalues the property," Conniff said.

Conniff knows of a couple who fell in love with an antique house near the shoreline that is within 200 feet of a busy road.

"They did a beautiful job of restoring it," she said, but now they are having trouble selling the house because of its location. Despite price cuts, it has lingered on the market for 10 months without any offers.

If the same house were situated on a quiet, winding road, it would have been sold by now, Conniff said.


She advises buyers to think of a house as an investment as well as a home.

"You can't fool yourself and say, 'I don't hear the noise,' from a busy road, because everybody else does."

She also said that many people don't want to buy a house on a steep lot below a road. "They think of water running into their basement."

As for that basement, buyers want one, but they want it to be full-size and dry so they can use it for storage, she said.

Conniff has found that overall, buyers want "a relatively mainstream house they can upgrade."

She said most of her clients describe themselves as "colonial people." They're not interested in contemporary homes, she says.

But what if you're trying to sell a house outside the mainstream?

"The best thing you can do is make it really 'wow' inside," Conniff says. "Upgrade the kitchens and bathrooms, make it as appealing to everybody as possible. That includes landscaping. And don't paint it a weird color."

She said buyers today feel empowered - and they are picky. Landscaping should be mature and well thought-out. Everything down to the quality of the paving on the driveway is examined.

"If they have to think twice [about a house], they'll go for another," she said. "Buyers are not willing to compromise anymore. "There are lots of things to look at - they can get exactly what they want."

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