So…..Why Do We Stay in Bristol?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to start up a real estate blog for the City of Bristol and our All Heart initiative. One of the people in charge of the website remembered me from my newspaper column in the Observer over the years and wondered if we’d be a good fit… hoping I could shine a little light (and some sunshine) on the Bristol real estate beat. There’s no spin here. I only write the truth, and there’s no need to embellish. Bristol’s real estate market is healthy. In the first quarter of 2017, our market was up almost two percent year over year for single-family homes and a staggering 48% for condos. By volume, sales were also up 20% and number of days that homes sat on the market went down some. But, it can be hard to hear the success stories through the white noise and sometimes-unfriendly press that any small city gets.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak before Mayor Ken Cockayne in a small focus group with other young professionals from The Central CT Chambers of Commerce’s Professional Young Visionaries of Tomorrow (PYVOT.) Being part of PYVOT entails us “millennial” types to help brainstorm and give perspective to existing boards and committees in the Chamber’s area (Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Burlington, Farmington, Bloomfield and Wolcott.)

As a group, we aimed to make suggestions – non-political recommendations to help draw and retain more young professional residents to Bristol… to position it as a more attractive place for young professionals to buy homes, work and spend their discretionary income. We wanted to hear what the Mayor’s vision was in this area as well. Our conversation focused on arts, dining and culture in the city and how we would LOVE to help foster that, by joining boards, helping further the development of the theater at Memorial Boulevard School and hopefully work toward some sort of commission or department for cultural affairs in the Central CT area. Wow! The meeting was eye opening. All of us living and working in the surrounding towns really want to see these changes. To stay here. Grow families. Foster small businesses and the arts.

In addition to the general feel-good tone of the night, lots of the young professionals I associate with as a 30-something REALTOR® have already purchased homes in Bristol. This was very evident two months ago when I led a seminar for first time-buyers through a joint effort with PYVOT and Young Professionals for United Way.  The under-40 set really wants to stick to their roots, raise their families and grow their businesses where they were raised. It was enlightening and uplifting. I work as a buyers’ agent often in the Bristol area. One of the things I do regularly is have my buyers write a letter to the seller explaining why they would love to be in that particular home and neighborhood. Several this past year alone won bids in multiple offer situations by expressing their deep love and pride in the neighborhoods where they grew up and now seek to own a home.

So why do we stay in Bristol? Why is there a trope about how we always come back, even after going far and wide for work and school? Because there’s something here that’s not always tangible. There’s a current running through this city that brings people home. There are ideas and passions bubbling underneath the noise and occasional turmoil that any small town goes through. As one fellow meeting attendee last night put it, agreeing with Mayor Cockayne… “I want my teenage kids to go away for college and see the value in coming back here.”

I myself went away to Florida for four years of college. And I returned. I opened Bare Bones with friends, an art space that operated for nearly 4 years in the West End of town. I joined various young professional groups. I am a member of the West End Association. I wrote for the newspaper. There’s a lot to love here. I can’t wait to see what develops next.

Sarah Johnson is a writer, marketing consultant and REALTOR® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties in Farmington. She works with buyers, sellers and renters in Bristol and all over Central Connecticut. She is a 2002 graduate of Bristol Eastern High School and has volunteered on various boards and task forces in Bristol since 2011. Sarah can be reached at or 860-462-3196. Follow her on Facebook at @SarahBJohnsonRealtor

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