The end of 2012 was hectic for David Godden, director of “distinctive home” sales at Randall Realtors in Westerly, and traffic at the shopping malls wasn’t the issue.
His calendar was filled with closings of expensive houses, which sold in southern Rhode Island last year at a pace unseen since the recession.
In the days after Christmas, Godden saw two Westerly sales of more than $3 million completed after listings of $5 million and $12 million were finalized just before the holiday.
Other up-market Realtors were similarly busy as the recovering market and fear of “fiscal cliff” tax increases drove a flurry of major sales before the end of the year.
In the first 11 months of 2012, there were 155 Rhode Island residential sales of $1 million or more, 46 percent more than the same period in 2011, when there were 106, according to figures from the Rhode Island Association of Realtors.
The trend continued even higher up the price ladder as sales of properties for $5 million or more climbed from five in 2011 to nine last year.
“I think a lot of it is pent-up demand, because the high-end market, until the end of 2011, was sporadic and all of a sudden, people started coming out of the woodwork and showing interest in these homes,” Godden said. “And I think the fiscal cliff lit a fire under sellers. If you closed for $3.3 million, you could be savings a couple hundred thousand dollars in taxes by not doing it in 2013.”
In addition to capital-gains tax implications, Godden said some homeowners were concerned that mortgage-interest deductions for second homes would be eliminated.
According to Multiple Listing Service statistics from Lila Delman Real Estate in Narragansett, with five days in December still to go, there had been 165 sales of $1 million or more in 2012 compared with 111 for all of 2011.
“I think it is about opportunity and value, as some of these properties that sold have been on the market for years,” said Lila Delman President Melanie Delman. “It’s also about confidence in the economy.”
Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty closed three sales of more than $3 million in the last days of the year, including Truesdale Farm (which straddles Little Compton and Westport) for $9 million and Cedar Point in Jamestown for $7.2 million.
Like the broader real estate market in 2012, luxury sales showed buyers taking advantage of lower prices, with the higher volume of transactions pushing down median values for all but the most exclusive estates.