Monthly Archives: April 2005

Lot splits. Because the P&Z has yet to enact its new rules governing lot splits a lot of savvy real estate types have made sure they received theirs before the deadline. The D’Andrea family carved out another piece of their Lockwood property, Bruce Cohen, the prominant land-use lawyer, split his lot on Perkley Lane. and so on. I don’t know whether there’s still time to emulate these people but if there is, and you you can do it, you probably should.

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Greenwich Time, which does a decent job covering our P&Z Commission’s frolics, has an editorial today on the subject (link below). There are some serious changes to our FAR regs on the horizon and the P&Z, if past history is a guide, intends to implement them as soon as the dust settles. One, for instance, would deduct from a lot’s FAR calculations any land underwater – a pond, for instance. So let’s say you own six acres in the Back Country, two acres of which are high and dry, the rest of which is a pond. If the pond doesn’t count, you will be restricted to a house size smaller than that allowed in the one acre zone. If the point of FAR was/is to limit houses to an “appropriate” size,then how does this result accomplish that goal? The P&Z won’t (can’t) say – but they’re going to do it nonetheless. Stop them before they sqeeze again.

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For What It’s Worth
April 29, 2005
Bidding Wars
Not everyone likes bidding wars. I usually do when I’m representing sellers because it ensures that they receive the best price. But sometimes these wars are counter-productive and here’s why: houses aren’t stocks, they come with all sorts of emotions attached. A family buying a house is seeking a particular neighborhood, a certain school, the right-sized yard, bedrooms and so forth. When they find a house that meets all their criteria they become attached to it and if they see it slipping away from them they can become bitter and resentful. Even if they win the house by paying more than they wanted to or can afford, the bitterness can linger and if, between the time of the successful bid and the closing difficulties crop up, there is no reservoir of good will to draw from to smooth things over. So sometimes it makes sense to just accept a good offer and not reach for the very last dollar. That depends on your own financial needs, of course, but the combination of a happy seller and happy buyer is not only a gratifying sight to behold, it can be a strong glue that holds the deal together. My advice, then, is to determine beforehand exactly what you want from the sale: maximum value, certainty or a specific closing date, for instance, and conduct the sale accordingly. Whatever you do, don’t change your mind halfway through. Nothing is guaranteed to stir up hard feelings more than accepting an offer, letting the buyer spend money on a house inspection, lawyer, and so forth and then accepting a higher bid. Decide beforehand how you will treat bids and stick to it.
Market Conditions
Of course, all of the above applies only in a strong sellers’ market, which seems to have disappeared for the moment. There are still bidding wars breaking out in perennially hot Old Greenwich and Riverside but not many, and certainly nothing like was seen in January. A combination of low inventory, high prices and stock market uncertainties has slowed the market considerably. Four houses priced over $7,000,000 went to contract this year and although three of those four entered contract this month, I think we’re seeing the end of the spring market and not its beginning. Of course, if I’m so smart, how come I sell real estate instead of own it?
New York vs. Connecticut
Lucy Krasnor, of Strategy Mortgage Corp (618-4444) has provided me with some interesting data. We’ll deal with average increase in house values next week (it’s all very reassuring) but for now, I thought I’d pass on the results of her comparison of closing costs in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. If you’re buying across the border, be prepared to take out you wallet and dump its contents on the desk—you’ll need a second mortgage just to cover closing expenses. On average, a modest little $1.3 million house will run you $51,656 in costs in New York, compared to $17,813 in Connecticut. The biggest contributor to this whopping discrepancy is, naturally, taxes: mortgage tax, “mansion tax”, school tax, county tax, etc. Of course, our legislature is busy working its mischief, all of it directed at Fairfield County residents, up in Hartford, so this advantage seems doomed. But for now, we’re a relative bargain.
Stop!
In my cruises up and down the Post Road I have noticed that an increasing number of drivers zoom by school buses stopped and signaling on the opposite side of the road. The offending drivers do so so cooly, with such breezy insouciance that I recently asked a police officer whether the law regarding school buses had changed since I got my license. Nope – the only exception to not honoring a bus’s signals is when the highway lanes are separated by a barrier as, for instance, on I-95. The Post Road is not I-95 regardless of how some people drive on it. The fine for passing a stopped bus is horrendous but I think the life-long burden of having a crushed school child on one’s conscience would be far, far worse. So don’t do that, eh?
Boycott
As you may know, the town Realtors conduct broker open houses twice a week. Tuesdays are for properties west of North Street, Thursdays for the east. On busy days, it’s a tough chore to get to everything on the list and some days, impossible. So I resent homeowners who, for their own scheduling convenience, insist that their house be shown on the wrong day. I do more than resent, in fact: I boycott the damn things. I refuse to drive way up Taconic Road, for instance, when the rest of the properties I’m trying to see are way to the west. I don’t believe I’m alone in this practice so, while it is perfectly understandable that some days just don’t work for you, you’re better off postponing your open house than holding a party to which nobody comes.

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9 Swan Terrace was just listed this morning for $1,299,000. I think that’s a good buy. Swan is in that duck heaven development between the Post Road and Milbrook. Mallard Drive is a busy cut-through, yet houses there have been selling quickly in the 9’s. Swan is removed from all that and should command a premium. A very large house (snuck in during the FAR hiatus) sold last fall there for a price, if I recall, in the high 2s. There’s an opportunity here.

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plastic litter Posted by Hello

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Well, darn – should have used the zoom lens for this one. Anyway, the Mobil station on the corner of US1 and Sheephill Road has decorated the place with plastic flowers. The white object in the background is a plastic milk bottle, which I thought was the perfect accessory decoration to their flowers.

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Two very nice properties on the open house tour today. 31 North Porchuck ($3,495,000) is a contemporary that needs (a lot of) work, but the views are incredible, as shown below. 18 Dingletown is just a nice family house – reasonably priced, I think, and with a great yard. Worth checking out.

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