Empty Nesters Cash In on Darien Real Estate Market Madness


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DARIEN — Like much of the state, Darien has experienced a massive growth in home sales since the pandemic swept the country four years ago. And now the hot real estate market has ignited an exodus of empty-nesters selling their homes and leaving town earlier than anticipated.

“It’s bananas right now. Everything sells,” said Allison Boeckmann, a local real estate agent with Brown Harris Stevens. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Everything is moving really quickly with multiple offers.”  

Sue Blenke, a long-time Darien resident with three children — two in college and one graduating from Darien High School in June — said she and her husband thought they would spend at least four more years in Darien. 

“We were thinking we would probably stay until the kids were finished with college. You want them to have a place to come back to,” she said.

But Blenke explained that families with children of similar age to hers were packing up and leaving town to take advantage of the market.  

“So many houses were going for sale and we were like, when is this bubble going to end?  Maybe we need to think about it,” she said.

The Blenkes recently sold their house and are moving to Shippan Point in Stamford next month.  

Former Darien residents Mary Canaday and her husband, Ed, also wanted to wait until their three children were out of college before looking for a smaller house. But fearful of “missing a huge opportunity,” the Canadays sold their Sunset Road house two years ago and moved to West Norwalk. 

“We didn’t need the school system or the neighborhood of Darien anymore,” Canaday said. “But it definitely happened sooner than we originally anticipated because things were so crazy.” 

Charlie Vinci, a real estate agent with Compass, said when looking at Darien’s market trends, it’s easy to understand the temptation for empty-nesters to sell now instead of waiting for a more convenient time.  

According to Vinci, Darien homes are taking less time to sell, selling at higher prices and receiving a greater percentage of the asking price compared to five years ago. It took an average of 139 days for homes in Darien to sell in January 2019, compared to 32 days now. And the median sale price has increased in the same five years from $945,000 to $1.9 million.

“It’s more slanted to the seller than I believe it ever has been. This is historical. There’s no argument that to have consistently low inventory, this low, for this long is nearly unheard of, really is unheard of,” he said.

Vinci said having many more buyers than potential listings has forced home prices to record high levels. 

“COVID was a sponge that absorbed all of the excess inventory … and the market has gotten to the point where the inventory is so low it’s barely able to meet the needs of the people who really need a home,” he said. “When you really need a home, you’re gonna pay an extra $100,000 if you have to.” 

Lois Willis had lived in Darien for 30 years when she and her husband, Greg, decided to sell their house in Tokeneke. Even though their children were grown and living on their own, the couple was reluctant to sell for sentimental reasons.  

“We raised our kids in that house,” she said.

But Willis noticed that houses in her neighborhood were receiving multiple bids over asking price, so they took a chance. After listing their house, it sold in under a week and for hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price. They now reside in West Norwalk.  

Willis said while selling their beloved home and moving out of Darien was not an easy decision, it was the right one.  

“We would have been kicking ourselves if we didn’t even try,” she said.