Bristol – Small Town Values At An Affordable Price

I mentioned in my blog last month that the housing economy in Bristol has a lot going for it. It’s been my experience in the last three years that if people are looking to buy in more mid- price towns in the area, they are looking at Bristol, Plainville and Plymouth as comparable areas. I’ve had quite a significant number of buyers using my services to find a home or condo, whether it be rental or purchase, in Bristol. There are a lot of reasons that it’s a great place to do so.

First, let’s talk about the smaller homes in the area. In real estate, we don’t like to call them “starter” homes. Ethically, that puts us in a bit of a quandary by presuming what a

“starter” buyer is looking for. But, let’s be honest, the small Cape Cod and ranch homes in Bristol are abundant. They have a reputation for being just right for a young buyer or family looking to get their feet wet in the real estate market.

This isn’t a coincidence. I hope to do a more in-depth piece about this in upcoming columns, but the gist of it is that, after the World Wars, a large manufacturing-based city like Bristol was the perfect place for developers to put up lots of small (when I say small I mean 1100 square feet or less,) tract housing for families starting out after the wars. This will give you a super simple explanation of why so many of the neighborhoods in Bristol have these identical small cape and ranch homes.

Generally, these homes will have three bedrooms, occasionally four, and one to two bathrooms (depending on whether people have updated/retrofitted the basements and attics with extra baths and bedrooms). They are a nice fit for either a small and growing family or perhaps a couple who needs that extra space for guests or to work from home, or even a single person just looking to put down roots and not have too much square footage and land to look after as they grow their career or travel. The ranches, in particular, are a hot ticket for those looking to retire or downsize and even more specifically a good fit for those with orthopedic issues wanting to avoid staircases.

The extension of Route 72 nearly a decade ago made Bristol more accessible to the surrounding highway systems and thus a good fit for commuters who didn’t want to pay the higher prices in Southington or Farmington. (Not to mention we have some pretty sweet attractions in Bristol with Lake Compounce, our updated parks, and the ever-famous ESPN.)

No matter what you call them, these smaller, starter homes end up being a great investment for a lot of first-time buyers in Bristol. It has NOT been my experience either that “millennials” (of which I am one by the numbers) are looking for turnkey, model homes. They DO want homes that are structurally safe and sound. But a lot of them welcome the challenge of buying one of these smaller homes for a great price that just needs a little updating.

Young, motivated, industrious buyers want to learn how to paint things themselves, rip out carpets, or refinish cabinets. That DIY elbow grease is a badge of pride of ownership and individuality. My friend and recently joined real estate teammate who’s in her late 20s just did this with her boyfriend and her father. A young couple I worked with a year-and-a-half ago taught themselves how to pull down a knee wall, rip out carpet, and put in hardwood. Another family bought a beautiful three-family house out near Route 69 which they made into a rental on the first floor and an enormous two-story house for themselves on the second and third floors.

The possibilities are really endless out there in a market like ours. It takes some focused visualization, some hours searching online and visiting homes, and a clear idea of what will work for one’s lifestyle, but the options are out there in our City. Come take a look!

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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