Monthly Archives: October 2008

That should do it for this afternoon. Have a great Halloween.

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If you can’t move, improve your present situation
It’s all very well for me to suggest, as I do below, that this is the perfect time to take advantage of our economic mess and the uncertainty it’s created by buying a house cheap but what if you can’t do that? What if, for example, you’d have to sell your current home to buy a new one and you’re not looking forward to some smart ass heeding my advice and showing up on your doorstep with a ridiculously low offer? Well, there’s another way to take advantage of these bad times: stay put, and improve your existing house – all the things you wanted in your next house? Maybe you can add them to what you own and stay put, quite contentedly, for the next few years while you enjoy them.

My fishing buddy, Lou Van Leeuwen, recently sat down with his subcontractors and basically proposed that they all (including Lou himself) cut their prices and offer to do renovation and new construction projects for 20% – 30% less than they’d have charged last year (building material suppliers, alas, are immune from Lou’s gentle persuasive powers, for the moment, or costs could drop even further). The theory is, naturally, that it’s better to be working and making a little money than not working at all. Lou ran an advertisement last week announcing this offer – I haven’t spoken with him to find out how it played but it makes sense. Here’s Lou’s contact information and a list of the sub contractors who are participating – top quality people, every one:
Louis Van Leeuwen,CEO, Greenwich Construction, LLC Office: 203.698.9428 Cell: 203.223.0634 Home: 203.637.3619
Braga Flooring
Complete Carpentry
CTX Concrete & Foundations
Greenwich Drywall
Interstate Lumber
Janeczek Contracting
Mathews Roofing
Pinho Landscaping
Quezada Painting
Roger Arnow & Sons Excavating
Sottile HVAC
Stamford Plumbing Supply
Summer Rain
Vartuli Electric
VPI Contracting

I mention Van Leeuwen because I know he’s specifically offering this. But any contractor should be willing to bend, and bend considerably, to get work in this climate. Dig up Lou’s ad and beat your own contractor over the head with it, if you wish.

Other top people I know who would welcome work, including small jobs: Rick Hvolbeck 249-2297 and his partner, Al Oliveira (914) 273-7316. I’m not suggesting that you call them to build that rabbit hutch you’ve always wanted (but you might) but Rick and Al did an incredible job on our place recently replacing trim, a porch deck, insulating the foundation and replacing rotten windows and columns, all at a price I couldn’t have touched a few years ago. These guys are builders and carpenters, not the half-skilled handymen who were all you could get in years past.

There are more, but you get the picture. If you’re stuck where you are, put some money into addressing long-deferred maintainence issues, add a room or a deck or even completly renovate the entire house (rents are low now, too, so you’ll have a place to stay). You’ll get a good price, save a lot of money, improve your existing house and maybe even increase its value, all while keeping these ruffians off the streets. A good deal for everyone.

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The month is (almost) up
Absent a flurry of reporting in the next 45 minutes, we’ll have seen just ten contracts for single family houses this month. That compares to 33 last October, which was not a banner month itself. So sales activity is dormant. I think it may be an excellent time to buy, and here’s why: uncertainty.

No one knows what’s going to happen to our economy in the next year, although it’s a pretty good bet that we won’t like it. A year from now, the median price of a house in Greenwich may very well be below what it is today but it’s also possible that we’ll be beginning to see the start of a recovery. If so, sellers will be tempted to hang on awhile and resist truly low-ball offers. That’s not the situation today. I know of one buyer who waited until the close of business after that first horrendous market dump a few weeks ago and, after the markets had closed, raised his ridiculously low bid by a few hundred thousand and got the house he wanted. The seller, already unnerved by September’s goings on, just decided the Hell with it and took what he could get. If the economy had been showing signs of strength, rather than imminent collapse, that buyer’s bid would never have been considered, let alone accepted.

And you can do the same. There are certainly sellers out there determined to get their price and, if they don’t have to sell, they’ll be stubborn. But there are many more in whom I sense a great deal of trepidation and who, I think, would be greatly relieved to be shed of a house they don’t want and don’t need. And there are also, of course, the spec builders who have to get out of their projects or risk losing everything they own to their lenders. So, while the bottom may not have arrived, the peak of uncertainty may have – in which case, it’s a fine time to be out there making offers.

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Real estate pricing theory, high-end style

So let’s say that you paid $25.75 million for waterfront at 112 Field Point Circle in June of ’07 (the Old Victor Borge place, now missing his house). You decide that you may have made a slight miscalculation, or maybe you see better opportunities elsewhere, like horning in on that ever-growing AIG bailout, which started at $20 billion and is now, where? – $160 billion? Whatever, you want out – where do you price the land?

How about $35 million? You’ve owned it for over a year, for Chrissake, and no one’s built any more Belle Haven waterfront since then, have they? And aren’t you entitled to some kind of compensation for exhaling CO2 over the once-verdant lawns during that time? It works that way on Wall Street and it damn well ought to work that way here!

The difference between the original owner of this place and the current one? Victor Borge only played a clown.

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Did you hear the Happy News?

(From someone else’s column)

” For the nation, existing-home sales increased last month as buyers responded to improved housing affordability conditions”

A cynic might describe “improved affordability conditions” as the bottom dropping out of sales prices, but he’d run the very real risk of the NAR stripping him of his brass-colored Realtor’s pin.

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Sales since September 1, 2008
A reader asked what’s been happening to sales since Septemeber so I looked it up. Remember that some of these sales were contracted for as early as April so their price today might not match that agreed to six months ago. That said, here goes, all 43 of them. (address, original asking price, sell price and % to original – formatting in Blooger is a bitch, so bear with me)

11 Langhorne $28 million – $13.75 – 49%
11 Island Drive $15.75 – $15.5 – 98.4%
4 Old Round Hill $14.5 – $10.875 – 75%
16 Beechcroft $8.295 – $6.15 – 74%
101 Brookside $6.995 – $5.995 – 85.6%
268 Round Hill $5.6 – $4.6 – 82%
18 Sherwood $5.4 – $5.2 – 96%
752 North St. $4.9 – $3.9 – 80%
25 Birchwood $4.2 – $3.6 – 86%
70 Pecksland $3.7 – $3.0 – 81%
123 Shore Rd $3.2 – $2.8 – 87.5%
67 Hillside $2.8 – $2.325 – 83%
21 Wilshire $3.495 – $2.180 – 62%
10 Keofferam $2.940 – $2.415 – 82%
29 Irvine $2.585 – $2.150 – 83%
27 Dandy $2.549 – $2.349 – 92%
11 Hettiefred $3.375 – $2.349 – 69.6%
69 Rockwood $2.295 – $2.729 – 119%
49 Arcadia $2.495 – $2.075 – 83%
62 Cat Rock $2.25 – $1.9 – 84%
83 Circle $2.795 – $1.885 – 67%
18 Orchard Hill $1.895 – $2.0 – 105%
3 Old Farm Rd $1.995 – $1.525 – 76% [pd.$1.75, 2003]
29 Spring St. $1.950 – $1.6 – 82%
17 Suburban $1.995 – $1.695 – 85%
25 Ridge St. $1.695 – $1.650 97%
83 Rvsd. Ave. $1.750 – $1.50 86%
22 Bramble $1.575 – $1.525 97%
5 Lockwood Dr. $1.575 – $1.4425 92%
28 Lockwood Dr. $1.495 – $1.595 – 106.6% [April contract]
47 Will Merry $1.895 – $1.350 – 71%
4 Cross Ridge $1.340 – $1.210 – 90%
7 Ginko $1.150 – $1.275 – 111%
12 Deep Gorge $1.250 – $ 937 – 75%
37 Sachem $ 915 – $ 860 – 94%
29 Old Wagon $ 849 – $ 720 – 85%
5 Hollow Wood $ 699 – $ 650 – 93%
990 North St. $ 672 – $ 685 – 102%
279 Davis $ 899 – $ 550 – 61%
60 Gold $ 610 – $ 481 – 79% [paid $495, 2003]

So not nearly as bad as it has seemed. Of course, we’re way down on contracts this month and of the few we have (9? 10?) some are way off asking price but still, the sky isn’t falling (or hasn’t yet fallen, take your pick)

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With enemies like these, it must be a great idea
We voters have a choice next Tuesday to call for a Constitutional Convention – no agenda beyond that, but all hell is bound to break out if citizens meet to discuss what our state government should look like going forward. Support of a political position based solely on who’s against it isn’t fail-safe – Barbara Streisand was against the invasion of Iraq, for instance – but it’s a reasonable starting point and everyone who should be opposed by people like me is against this proposition: The Lady’s League of Women Voters, the UAW, the teachers’ union, political incumbents, Ed Krumeich, you name them, they don’t like it.

So I do. Besides, think of the theatre it will produce, to entertain us during the coming months of darkness.

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