According to local real estate professionals, the Bridgeport housing market is not as bad as it was a few years ago, but the market is also not bouncing back very rapidly.
“It’s getting better, but it’s getting better very slowly,” explained Mark Trojanowski of Trojanowski Real Estate, which is located on upper Main Street in the North End section of the city. “When the housing crisis first hit, I expected it would take at least two years to bounce back and it has taken all of that.”
Bridgeport resident Rich DeParle is the owner of DeParle Motors in Black Rock and president of the Greater Bridgeport Property Owner’s Association. DeParle believes the market is turning around, but only for a small percentage of Bridgeporters.
“The Bridgeport market is still in trouble, but there is starting to be some movement on the upper end,” he noted. “You are starting to see sales of houses at a million dollars or more. As far as medium priced or lower priced homes, there is very little movement. And that is mostly because the banks really are not lending money to potential buyers who have medium income levels.”
DeParle pointed out that, although houses that have been foreclosed on are relatively attractive because of their low price, buying a home in foreclosure can be a serious trap for a first-time home buyer.
“A lot of first time buyers don’t realize what they’re getting into,” said DeParle. “They have to pay the mortgage. I recently spoke with a woman and her daughter who were planning to purchase a triple decker that had been in foreclosure. I asked them how they planned to make the mortgage payments. They said from the rent they would collect. That’s crazy. First of all, you don’t know that you’re going to be able to rent it and secondly, you might get a tenant in there who doesn’t pay the rent and now you have to pay to evict him.
The next thing you know, you can’t pay your bills, you can’t pay the mortgage and the bank is foreclosing on you.”
Blaming the banks
Black Rocker Marge Laufer believes the banks are hindering the Bridgeport housing market for a simple reason: they are making the process exceptionally difficult for all parties involved.
“It’s the paperwork. They’ve completely screwed up the paperwork,” said Laufer, who owns Laufer Real Estate in Fairfield. “They’re taking deposits but mortgages are being sold off left and right because of the foreclosure situation. One mortgage can get sold three or four times and when that happens, the paperwork is bound to get lost in the shuffle. I’ve been waiting for one house to close since Nov. 11th. That’s ridiculous.”
As for the Bridgeport market, Laufer also holds the belief that it’s treading water, but not necessarily getting any better.
“It’s not going down the drain, but it’s not coming back either,” she said. “The prices are dropping because there is so much inventory. Another thing that is killing this market is Bridgeport taxes. I was showing a house on Ellsworth Street and the client was very interested in buying. Then he asked me, ‘Marge, what are the taxes of this house?’ I told him, $10,800. He absolutely could not believe it.”
DeParle agrees that the city’s extreme tax rate is severely hampering any type of sustained growth in the local real estate business.
“They are really hurting the little guy,” he said. “With so many houses in foreclosure, those are taxes that are no longer being collected. That impacts the city’s mill rate and that is a big problem. With this budget deficit we’ve got, that means they will have to raise taxes and that will make the situation even worse.”