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Real Estate is Looking Up in Fairfield County

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Real estate markets are expected to be stronger this year in most lower Fairfield County towns, brokers say. In fact, some brokers are saying 2012 could be a great year.

"I've been in the industry for 25 years," Brenda Maher, manager of the Norwalk office of Prudential Connecticut Realty , told The Daily Norwalk . "I've never seen a January as strong as this year. It could be the weather – I mean think about last year at this time, we had about three feet of snow. Last year, basically we lost about three months of typical sales because of the weather – we almost lost a full quarter. But right now, the activity at our open houses is tremendous."

RE/MAX Heritage broker Judy Szablak is equally bullish about all markets except Norwalk and Stamford. “I do think 2012 is going to be a great year, but the cities are going to suffer a little bit,” said Szablak, a real estate researcher who also writes for The CT Realty Blog . She said in the urban communities she is seeing an increase in “shadow inventory,” property that is bank-owned or foreclosed, and that could be bad for the markets.

Fairfield seems to be the only town in the county that hasn’t had a good start to the year, Szablak said, adding that the first quarter will be important in determining the rest of the year for the town.

Overall, Szablak sees reason to be optimistic. “Historically, presidential elections have brought about increased real estate activity,” she wrote to The Daily Fairfield . “And coupled with low interest rates and increasing consumer confidence, I expect that 2012 will surpass last year’s sales in volume and pricing gains, and fully expect that we have a very good probability to gain more ground in value by the end of this year.”

Peg Koellmer, owner of Realty Seven in Wilton, is also upbeat. “I’m feeling like it’s going to be a little better this year than it was last year, and that’s the kind of growth that you need,” Koellmer told The Daily Wilton . She said that before the “hard years in 2009 and 2010,” housing prices were increasing 12 percent to 15 percent every year, which she said was unsustainable.

"I think prices will stay down, which is great for buyers," Westport broker Bunny Mostad of Coldwell Banker said.  The market will be especially attractive for first-time buyers, who have become the National Association of Realtors' biggest market, Mostad told The Daily Westport .

Reporters Greg Canuel, Nancy Guenther Chapman and Vanessa Inzitari contributed to this story.

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