Greenwich Mansions Are in Demand Again — as Short-Term Rentals

The era of coronavirus has brought a new must-have asset to the wealthy suburb of Greenwich: a short-term home rental.

Manhattanites seeking an immediateescape from the outbreak’s epicenter are bidding up leases in the Connecticut town, which for years contended with flagging sales of mansions that few younger Wall Street executives wanted to buy. Now Greenwich is suddenly a competitive hot spot for those with the means to pay up for a temporary refuge.

“It kind of builds,” saidJoanne Mancuso, an agent at Houlihan Lawrence. “You got a couple of calls, and then all of sudden, the flurry came in.”

One of her listings — a furnished 9,261-square-foot house on North Street with a pool — was priced at $32,000 a month when it was offered in January. By the end of March, it had a tenant who agreed to pay 56% more.

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In March, 53 single-family homes in Greenwich were leased out, almost double the 27 from a year earlier, data compiled by Houlihan Lawrence show. Tenants agreed to pay above the asking rents in about a quarter of last month’s deals.

The trend is accelerating: The first half of April saw 32 lease agreements, compared with just 14 last year. The homes are being rented for a monthly average of $15,172, up from $8,817.

Five of the deals this month are for above the asking price. Included in those is a 3,200-square-foot ranch home on Cutler Road that had been listed since before Thanksgiving at $8,000. It found a tenant last week -- a family from Manhattan -- for $8,700.

The higher price was negotiated to compensate the owner for a shorter, six-month lease, said the broker,Blake Delany of Houlihan Lawrence.

Owners across town are sensing opportunity. One listing inOld Greenwich, which in January was seeking a tenant at $7,500, is now listed for $12,000, according to Zillow. Anewly developed home on 2 acres with a private stone bridge is up for rent at $50,000 after attempting a sale, most recently for $6.299 million.

The surge in leasing might actually help sales later this year as it reduces what’s available to buy and promotes first-hand the experience of living in town, Delany said.

“Interest in the Greenwich market will have increased,” he said. “A lot of tenants are going to see that living in the suburbs is quite nice.”

The owners of the home on North Street, who live overseas now, were seeking a yearlong tenant when they put the property -- with a wine cellar and exercise room -- on the market in January. Six potential takers took a look, but there were no commitments.

Then came the week of March 16, when New York City declared a state of emergency and shuttered schools. Interest in the home surged. Within 48 hours, there were three offers, all from bidders seeking short-term arrangements, Mancuso said.

The owners picked the bidder who wanted to stay the longest -- 10 weeks. The tenants, a Manhattan family with kids and their grandparents, agreed to pay the equivalent of $50,000 a month and moved in the last week of March.

“They wanted to get out here as soon as possible,” Mancuso said.

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