The Bubble, Again

As is its want, the New York Times buried a rather encouraging story about real estate bubbles in its business section. Fear and speculation about housing bubbles receives front page placement; actual facts debunking the original speculation go elsewhere. In any event, the article looks at what’s happening in Australia, which has been enjoying its own real estate boom. Turns out, prices are leveling off. No bursting bubble, no panic, except in the disappointment experienced by the Times editors. There has been a ten percent reduction in the prices of investment (non-owner-occupied) houses but otherwise, they’re seeing a correction down under and not a disaster. As I’ve noted before in this column, Greenwich is not South Florida; we don’t have seventy thousand new condominium units under construction nor do we have speculators standing in line all night to buy, and flip, new units. Greenwich simply doesn’t have the land to support huge new projects that would appeal to speculators and has always been, and will continue to be, a solid place in which to buy a home and house your family. And, as I have also noted, we have market discipline: over-priced houses refuse to sell, and that’s good. My advice: ignore the Time’s front page hysteria (this goes for its articles on all subjects) and prowl the back pages for more substantive, useful news.

Speaking of All the News That’s Fit to Print

The NYT’s Styles section ran this note last week: “An article on May 29 about the latest sex manuals from mainstream publishers included a topic erroneously among the covered subjects. They do not include bestiality.”–correction, New York Times, June 26. Isn’t that a relief!

549 North Street

Shelly Tretter just listed this house for $12,500,000 and I toured it last week. Very impressive. I’m pretty sure it was designed by Alex Kaali-Nagy, one of the few architects working in town who somehow combines the huge size his customers want (15,000 square feet, in this instance) with a sense of proportion and even charm. I don’t know how he does it but a Kaali-Nagy house is never boring and predictable, something that very much cannot be said about most of the big-box monsters afflicting Greenwich. Top of the line finishes throughout, including blue (!) and silver granite in the kitchen- it works, really – and very nice grounds. 549 North is set way off the street down what is in effect is a private lane, so noise isn’t an issue. Worth its price? I’m not (particularly) ashamed to say, who knows? At this price level a buyer expects to get just about exactly what he or she wants so if this house works for them, they’ll buy it. If not, not. But Tretter doesn’t usually stick silly prices on her listings and, when I ran some comparisons on recent sales in the $10,000,000 – $15,000,000 range, I concluded that this house is their equal or better. Not quite in my budget but then, that kind of negative thinking is what keeps me living in my pup tent.

And on Tomac

Joyce Somm has held the listing for 28 Tomac since late April but her previous open houses coincided with one of my own and I only got to see it last week. What a nice house. Built in 1891 and set far back from Tomac on a huge front yard, the house has been renovated over the years without destroying the features that make this house so special. Four bedrooms, three baths and three working fireplaces on a half-acre, asking $3,250,000. My only quibble, and it’s entirely personal, is the pool in the back yard. It seems to have built in the 60’s and, together with its dowdy concrete apron, consumes more of the yard (okay, all of the yard) than I like. T’were me, I’d either scrap the thing entirely or redesign it to free up more lawn. But again, that’s just my taste. A family with lots of kids will probably like the pool exactly the way it is.

Shhsh – Buyers Sleeping!

Only eighteen listings – single family, condos and rentals- went to contract last week, while sixty-seven listings came on and forty-four lowered their prices. Some of that lack of activity is probably attributable to the Fourth of July holiday but, clearly, summer is here. On the other hand, well-priced houses are still being snapped up. Of the seventy-one houses that sold last week, fifteen went to contract within three weeks of being listed.

Moving On

Callers looking for me at Round Hill Partners won’t find me; I have moved up the street to William Raveis’s Milbank Avenue location (869-7800). As for those multiple-office Realtors who so often complained when I described their offices as “chain-store Realtors”, I can only concede that those who laugh last ….

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