Monthly Archives: December 2007

Another whopper
Not content with holding Mel Gibson’s 75 acre, $39,000,000 listing, Joe Barbieri (Sotheby’s), just in time for Christmas, has listed a New York/Stamford property of some 264 acres for $95,000,000. The main house has a disappointingly small number of bedrooms (8) and baths (10.4) but the “dependencies” include 5 guest/staff residences, so I suppose there’s enough room to put up guests during the holidays. Until now, I thought dependencies were those kids of mine in college – who knew? I was unable to reach Joe for confirmation but rumor has it that this was the former estate of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, owner of the New York Times and, of course, champion of the little people. It must be nice to be so rich and have such compassion for the poor.

6 Stanwich Lane
Tracy Vaccari (Round Hill Partners) recently listed this house for $2,350,000, which seems like a good price to me. Stanwich Lane is a quiet little road that loops off of and returns to lower Stanwich, very close to town. This is a nicely renovated 1929 Colonial with a decent yard and there are comparable sales up and down the street to support its price. The owner has, perhaps unwisely, filled the place with beautiful antiques that must have fit in wonderfully in their previous home on Round Hill Road but serve here mainly to make the house appear smaller than it is. Forget that: the antiques will leave with their owner and you’ll have a very nicely sized home, with lots of room, at what passes in Greenwich as an affordable price. Go see it.

Global Warming
If you weren’t one of the 10,000 swells invited to the beach party at Bali, cheer up – there’s plenty of opportunity to stay right here in the USA, preserving your carbon footprint, and make your own inane statements about our changing climate. I just heard some fool in Iowa, for instance, opine to NPR that Iowa had never had an ice storm before (in the history of the world, presumably) and that global warming was therefore to blame for her recent discomfort. For all I know, there may be some grain of truth in this global warming stuff (although it’s snowing outside my window as I write); blaming every single weather event on the supposed phenomenon, however, isn’t going to convince me.

Firewood
I’ve split and stacked wood since I was a young lad and made a specialty of it when I lived in Maine, where I bought 20’ logs, bucked them into stove-wood lengths, and stacked them in all sorts of exotic shapes (ask me about the beehive pile, perfectly designed to let air flow through the drying logs). I learned through the decades what a cord of wood – 4’X 8’X 4’ looks like, so I’ve disappointed since returning to town in 1983 by the short-changing that goes on here by our local dealers. They charge for full cords and deliver “face cords” which are, at best, 4’X 8’X 2. When wood was relatively cheap I just sighed, changed dealers and went on with life. But I just paid $200 a cord to have wood delivered to my pal Nancy and my mother and I’m mad as Hell to see that, even at that price, the dealer won’t deliver what he promised. They say that firewood burns you twice: once when you split it and again when it burns. I’m no longer splitting wood but I’m definitely doing a slow burn when I look at these pitiful piles of “cordwood”. I’ve called the dealer and, at this writing, am waiting to see whether he’ll accept my invitation to meet him at the scene of the crime with a tape measure (he tells me that his men delivered 236 pieces at each house-I told him I didn’t order pieces, I ordered cords). If that doesn’t work out, he’ll learn why he shouldn’t short-change a lawyer with time on his hands and a background in wood stacking. The lesson in all this, if there is one, is to watch out for the seeming ubiquitous practice around here of selling face cords at full cord prices. It’s too much to hope that you’ll get cured wood – they cut this stuff six months before, which doesn’t do the trick – but you should at least get the volume you paid for.

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Byram, Glenville
These two sections of town get absolutely no respect in the real estate community. I once lost a sale off Weaver Street when the buyers, Manhattanites, were told by their friends in the city that the area was no good. New Yorkers know the Greenwich real estate market? Give me a break. But that’s the reality of the current market – I think people are missing out on some great values on the western edge of town. The Rockefellers are busy selling off and developing their property, with houses going in the mid-5s, and neighborhoods like Balliwick, with its own community country club, are perking along quite nicely. I love Riverside and Old Greenwich, having grown up there, but, dollar-for-dollar, there’s a lot more room for profit if one’s willing to move west.

Wait til’ January?
Is it worthwhile to list a house in the last few weeks of December? I’m not sure, although I just did so (a very nice house on Cherry Valley Road, if you’re interested). I’m inclined to think that folks are too busy with holiday preparations to bother with house hunting and certainly the sellers don’t need their lives disrupted at this time of year, but, on the other hand, when is there less competition? Come January, a ton of new listings will come on the market, as well as many that were yanked for December, so now’s the time to have your house stand out. Will it work? I’ll let you know, but I already have a couple of showings scheduled so maybe …

113 Cat Rock
Pam Chiapetta (Coldwell Banker) has just listed this new construction for $3,795,000. I think that’s a good price. A “Victorian Farmhouse”, according to Pam, and who am I to disagree? I doubt that farmhouses were built out to 8,000 sq. ft. 100 years ago, but a rich farmer would no doubt have loved all this space. A really nice house and a surprisingly nice yard – when I saw the property a few years ago, I doubted that a builder could construct anything this nice while accommodating the pond and wetlands it contained but he’s done it, with room left over for a pool.Cat Rock’s a funny location: love it for its bucolic privacy, hate it for its winding inconvenience, it’s up to you. I happen to love it. Nice place, good price.

Tom Ward
My recent mention of those fabulous Kaye brothers, Joel and Jeremy, as two of the best real estate attorneys in town brought forth the modest admission from Joel that they have officially adopted Tom Ward, of Ivey, Barnum and O’Mara into the family and that he should therefore also be included in that category. Glad to acknowledge this and my apologies to Tom – missed the bris, fella, so who knew?

Brokers / Agents
I try to mention by name the many excellent agents in town but often neglect to mention the firms that employ them. That’s not due (I hope) to some anti-competitive streak but rather recognition that good agents do their work where they are comfortable and their place of employment is more or less irrelevant. Ann Simpson, for instance, works for Prudential, which is a fine company, but Ann would, I suspect, provide the same excellent service if she worked for anyone else. Ditto for Diddle Mcalister, of Round Hill Partners. Again, a great group of professionals, but you could, I think, take any of its agents (and its principals, Renee Gallagher and Joann Erb), stick them with the task of selling your house and they’d perform superbly, regardless of where there desks were parked. Are there bad, incompetent agents out there? You bet, and I hope you won’t see them mentioned here. But the good ones are scattered throughout our industry and you’ll do well with any of them: something to remember when you’re presented with a fat portfolio of glossy pictures and amazing statistics regarding one particular firm or another. My advice is to find an agent you like and trust and ignore the corporate trappings (please don’t send this column to my boss).

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