Hartford Courant | July 5, 2009

Dr. Shabnam Lainwala knew little about Connecticut when she and her husband, Vijay Murthy, began hunting for homes in June 2008. The neonatologist and her IT-executive spouse were relocating from the Boston area and wanted a community with a cosmopolitan feel, good schools and close proximity to Connecticut Children's Medical Center, where Lainwala, 43, would work.

West Hartford seemed a good fit, but the available homes then had small yards, needed too much work or exceeded the couple's $800,000 price cap.

Eventually, to their surprise, Lainwala and Murthy, 47, found the right house and neighborhood in Devonwood, a wooded subdivision in Farmington known for its million-dollar homes.

"Vijay saw it first and said, 'OK, you've got to see this house,'" Lainwala said of the 3,303-square-foot colonial.

Built in 1986, the home had the convenient location the couple wanted. It also featured an open floor plan they liked, updated fixtures, hardwood flooring and a redesigned kitchen. But with the $750,000 list price at the upper end of their budget, Lainwala and Murthy decided to keep looking.

Months later, when they looked at the house again and found the price had been reduced, they pounced. Their offer of $707,500 was accepted, plus a $1,500 credit.

"It was a phenomenal deal," said Rob Giuffria, a broker with Prudential Premier Homes and director of the firm's Farmington-based relocation service. "The median price in Devonwood is $950,000, and the range is $850,000 to $1 million. …This was exceptional."

The house is well suited for entertaining and can comfortably accommodate their parents, who visit annually from India, Lainwala said. Murthy's 10-year-old son also has plenty of room to grow, and subdivision regulations limit the number of trees owners can cut down.

"We like that," said Lainwala. "That was really a plus for us. It preserves the natural appearance."

There is traffic on Route 4, but coming from Boston, they are used to that, she said. Grocery stores are close, West Hartford isn't far and the commute to Hartford is 35 minutes in the morning and about 15 minutes on the return trip at night.

The house could easily fetch $800,000 or more once the market improves, Giuffria said. But Lainwala said she and her husband have no plans to sell any time soon. "We wanted to kind of settle," she said. "We hope to stay here for a long time."

— Loretta Waldman, Special to The Courant

FARMINGTON FACTS:

• Population (2008): 25,227

• Median single-family home sales price (Jan.-May 2009): $281,000

• Median condo sales price (Jan.-May 2009): $210,000

• Number of single-family home sales (2007): 235

Less than $100,000: 0

$100,000 - $199,999: 14

$200,000 - $299,999: 60

$300,000 - $399,999: 61

$400,000 or more: 100

• Number of new housing permits in:

2008: 28

2007: 48

2006: 103

2005: 104

2004: 126

• Housing stock (2007): 10,568 units; 74 percent single-family

• Owner-occupied dwellings: 73 percent

• Housing stock age, pre-1950: 15 percent

SOURCES: Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; Connecticut Economic Resource Center; The Warren Group