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Conference examines state's housing market
May 4, 1998

Connecticut's housing market continued its upward surge during the first quarter of 1998 but even after a full year of growth, prices still lag their 1989 high by more than 20 percent, says John Clapp, a finance professor in the School of Business Administration.

Clapp, who has tracked the state's housing market for more than a decade, says sales prices on Connecticut homes increased nearly 3 percent during the first quarter of 1998, following a surge of nearly 4 percent during the fourth quarter of 1997.

He discussed his findings during the 1998 Connecticut Housing Conference, sponsored by UConn's Center for Real Estate and Urban Economic Studies, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Cromwell on April 30.

The conference also featured a keynote address by David Berson, vice president and chief economist for Fannie Mae, who discussed the national outlook for the economy and housing; an overview of the state's economy, delivered by Nicholas S. Perna, chief economist for Fleet Bank; and panels on apartment prices, new laws affecting housing in Connecticut, a session on housing trends and issues, and more.

Clapp, who also produces a quarterly house pricing index for more than 30 towns, says the outlook for prices in Connecticut as a whole is bright.

"The number of transactions being reported is up strongly, even in areas that have yet to see solid price increases. People are out there buying homes, and when that happens, price increases tend to follow. It's not a perfect predictor, but it's usually on target," he says.

During the first quarter of 1998, Clapp says, housing prices are up in most of the state's labor market areas, including a 5.4 percent increase in the Bridgeport area; a 4.7 percent increase in the Danbury area; and a 4.2 percent increase in New Haven. Prices in Hartford inched up only 0.2 percent for the period, compared to the same quarter in 1997, but, he says, the number of transactions reported in Hartford increased sharply, portending more rapid price acceleration there as well.

"Things are accelerating," he says. "It appears that the price increases are spreading up the interstate corridors, toward central Connecticut."

Overall, Clapp says, prices in Connecticut have increased about 3 percent compared to last year, following three years of stable prices. Between 1989 and 1995, however, housing prices declined about 25 percent, leaving the housing market well below its peak years.

Richard Veilleux