Monthly Archives: June 2007

Has it really come to this?
An ad for a 15,000 sq.ft. McMansion describes it as “an aspirational compound for today’s lifestyle”. Geeze, how insecure are you if, having scraped together the wherewithal to buy this whopper, you still have unmet aspirations?

Shakespeare in Greenwich
From The Tempest: Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?
This quote struck me as apt when I read that Eric Clapton will be performing at a private soiree at Belle Haven this summer. He’ll be paid $1.5 million for an hour’s work, which is probably far less per hour than his employer, hedge fund owner Raymond Dalio makes but you never want to over-pay the help; like over-tipping in poor countries, it spoils the natives. So why would anyone pay that kind of money for a once- famous singer? I wouldn’t presume to plumb the motives of a particular person, especially when, as here, lots of money will be raised for charity, but as a general observation of this social phenomenon, I’d say it’s because one can. And what’s really cool is that, unlike poor Glendower, the spirits will indeed come when a Greenwich millionaire summons. Top Greenwich social life is about showing your friends up – you can do what they can’t. Own a Gulfstream II? Heck, even the mud-soiled builders in this town have those. Helicopter skiing in Banff? Swap tales with your gardener – he was there last April. But pull Clapton into town for your charity event and you’ll have topped your peers, at least until one of them manages a Beatles reunion. I’m sure someone’s working on that now.

19 Andrews Road
This is a beautiful 1928 five bedroom brick Georgian completely renovated and located close to town on an acre. Marc Robinson (New England Land) has listed it at $4,900,000 which I think is a fair price. It remains unsold because, I would guess, at just under 5,000, sq.ft., it’s smaller than today’s young customers feel they must have. Too bad, because it’s an absolute classic, with five bedrooms and a pool, that even the most upwardly mobile couple should be proud to live in. I realize I’m getting grumpy here, but the best quote I overheard at this showing was one agent to another: “If my clients had any taste, I’d tell them about this place.”

Cops at Greenwich High?
I was all set to blast the idea of posting a policeman at the high school because, I reasoned, today’s kids couldn’t possibly be any worse-behaved than we were in 1971. We didn’t need a cop to keep order back then so why should a police presence be necessary now? But speaking with people who actually know something about the situation, it turns out that our current crop of young folks is quite a bit nastier than they were in my day. Really? In Greenwich? Why? (I hate when facts interfere with my opinions).

Price it, sell it
A house came on the market a year ago at a price that, given the house’s tired condition, seemed a bit steep to me (okay, really steep). The listing expired and the owners have now re-listed it with another broker for even more money. Yeah, that’s the ticket: it’s not the price that’s wrong, it’s the marketing!

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Welcome to the digital age
The Greenwich Board of Realtors has elected to give Realtors a choice to drop their subscriptions to the bi-weekly multi-list book, which I think is a mistake. The cost of printing will now be split between just the few of us who still want the book and, I suspect, that cost will soon be unaffordable. I’ve found the book invaluable with clients because we can sit down and flip slowly through the entire inventory rather than be restricted to a computer search with arbitrarily imposed search parameters. But that’s how the world’s moving, so on we go.

Pricing
I recently prowled through that very same MLS book and was gratified to see that most of the houses I had originally pegged as over-priced, some as long as a year ago, are still out there, begging for buyers. I am not always right, of course: one house that was priced well over $10,000,000 should have, in my opinion, sold for about half its asking price but went for 75% and in just a few months. There’s no accounting for taste but, leaving the clueless, tasteless freaks aside, it’s usually pretty obvious when a house isn’t going anywhere.

A whiff of mortgage fraud?
It’s not too common here in Greenwich, but we occasionally encounter a listing that at least hints of nefarious things going on. Listings that, for instance, expire unsold and then sell immediately for more than their last asking price, suggesting that the seller is giving cash back and the buyer is gaining a mortgage far in excess of what the house is worth. I saw such a deal a few weeks ago and it certainly made me suspect that some out-of-town lender hadn’t bothered to check out the house’s location or its condition. The name “Greenwich” alone doesn’t justify a wild appraisal but I think some banks don’t know that, and don’t care. Or they won’t until they have to foreclose on the place.

26 Bramble Lane
I mentioned this new construction some time back, when it was just beginning to be built, and several readers took me to task for what they interpreted as a criticism of its construction technique, an innovative process using insulated concrete walls. In fact, I’m always interested in new construction methods and this one, with the potential for huge energy saving, struck me as particularly nifty. In any event, it’s almost finished so I stopped by the other day to meet the builder, (Rob?) Wahl, and offer him a chance to punch me in the nose in case he thought I’d said mean things about his house. Instead, he gave me a complete tour and I think the house lives up to its promise. Very efficient, draft-free, quiet and impervious to rot, plus very, very nice finishing details. Five bedrooms, four baths and a finished “lower level” (we don’t call them basements anymore). Pam Chiapetta and Fran Unrine have it listed for $3,850,000, thus supplying further evidence of Bramble’s ever-increasing appeal. If nothing else, keep an eye out for a public open house and stop by for an education on this insulated concrete business. To this non-builder, it seems quite promising.

What’s killing my marsh grass?
I have been trying, completely without success, to get someone in town interested in discovering why the marsh grass (we always called it eel grass but everyone assures me that that’s extinct) on Ole’s creek (betweenRiverside and Old Greenwich) is dying off. Something’s happening and the banks are eroding rapidly and dramatically but no one seems to care, other than the creek residents. I don’t know if there’s a solution but this devastation must be a symptom of something worse going on. I blame Bush, of course.

Attention dieters!
Darlene’s, that very tempting ice cream and chocolate shop has moved from Cos Cob to a far more visible location on Sound Beach Avenue in Old Greenwich. It’s very much a family business: wander in and you’ll probably meet Darlene’s mom, Darlene herself and often, Darlene’s husband, plus an assortment of friendly teenaged staff. Pretty nice way to finish off a trip to the beach, as it offers tons of flavors in both conventional and soft ice cream, plus a variety of good-looking chocolates. Because the store’s located right next door to our Raveis office, I fear for our waistlines.

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