Daily Archives: October 12, 2008

Oh, the humanity!
Judge denies terrorist internet access at Gitmo

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More on ACORN voter fraud
Let ACORN bring it on, we have computers that will screen out their phony registrants. So who’s worried?

Maybe we in Connecticut should be: 7 year old Bridgeport girl gets an ACORN vote. Her family doesn’t know who forged her name but ACORN filed it.

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Palmer Hill Condos – yeah or nay?
A reader writes,
“You seem to know a thing or two about the whole business of real estate. How remarkable is this?….
“Palmer Hill Marks 50 Sale…this community of Stamford homes has sold one quarter of its offerings with over 50 sales since September 2007, and 10 sales in August alone.”

I dunno. I’ve been waiting for this project to move closer to finish – right now, it’s mostly piles of dirt, and original completion date was supposed to be 2002 – before making up my mind. But I saw that same press release last month and it’s pretty encouraging; with the warning, of course, that there’s often a large gap between press releases and fact. That’s shocking, I know, but I refer you to some of the Antares PR of last year. I mean, does this sound like the words of an actual buyer or something dreamed up by a flack?

Tom Ferris is one of the first to purchase and move into a Palmer Hill home: “I looked all over Fairfield County, and couldn’t find anything like Palmer Hill,” Ferris said. “There are very few new town homes in the area so convenient and welcoming.”
He noted the thoughtfulness in the planning of his Avon model; the two car garage, the patio and attention to detail and design, all caught his attention. “The New England and Nantucket inspired style is lovely; it embraces the location of the homes.”
Ferris even chose to include an elevator as an added option in his town home.The location of the Connecticut homes is another benefit for buyers. “I’m right between 95 and the Merritt, so everything is very accessible. My family in New York City and New Jersey can visit too,” Ferris said.

Still Edgehill, right next door, has done well so there’s clearly a market for this neighborhood, right on the Stamford line. I’m sure there’s a large number of older buyers who’d like to downsize yet don’t need, or want the care services provided by Edgehill (and those services don’t come cheap). I liked the layout of these units when I first saw hem on paper two years ago and it looks like it will be a nice community when finished. So, if there’s an advantage to buying in this pre-construction stage (I don’t know either way) then it probably makes sense to at least look into the place. If their funding is secure and they can finish the job, it should all work out well.
Update: I’ve been Googling these guys and haven’t found much, but according to this previous press release, they’d sold 33 units by January of this year, so if they’ve sold 50 now, that, by my math, means 17 sales in the past 10 months. I might expect sales to increase as the buildings draw nearer to completion but I’m no developer; nor am I a public relations writer.
Update IIThe original completion date of 2002 was derailed by years of litigation brought by opponents of the project – I should have remembered that because Greenwich was one of the most vocal of those opponents. For the builder, Sun Homes, this will be the largest project they’ve tackled – apparently the partner, Buckingham Partners, is a New Jersey-based investment company. I don’t have access to financial data that would be useful here but if you do, go delve in and report back!

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Say, here’s an idea!.
Secretary Paulson, admitting that his first, $750 billion plan didn’t work and his second, nationalizing our banks, is drawing criticism from conservatives, has reached deep and come up with a third alternative (announced by Dick Cheney, who abandoned his usual mufti for the occasion): Replace capitalism with Islamic financial system

“The Western system has collapsed and we need a new, complete economic philosophy as well as spiritual strength,” Cheney pointed out. “Under this plan, all riches would be ours; the Islamic nation has all or nearly all the oil, so if we take them over, we’ll have an advantage and an economic philosophy that no one else has. Bombing starts in half an hour.”

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What, again?
posted by Amanda Von Stuckle

So I was having lunch at Baang! with Kathy Lee and Carlos Santana and naturally, talk got around to this economic thing (Kathy Lee told me it’s really bad). Carlos came up with that saying he’s so famous for, “those who repeat history are doomed to forget it” – gee, I remember learning that one all the way back in Miss Porter’s School!

Anyway, George, Major dee to the stars, gave me a copy of this article from The New York Times. At least I think it’s the Times – sure doesn’t look like Variety or the Hollywood Reporter to me! I’ll leave you with a quote from it. Chow!

The New York Times, Oct. 26, 1929:

“Cautioning against hysterical selling, brokerage houses in their market letters this morning will strike a note of optimism, advising the purchase of seasoned stocks at the present low levels. The public is strongly urged not to liquidate stocks in the present market.”

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Byram Condos
A readers asks about the recent contracts on two units here. His questions and my answers:

“How long is it between contract and closing? Months?”
1-3, usually closer to 1
“What attracted buyers to those particular middle units?”
Who knows?
“Is the school district the “magnet”?”
No

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Canadian discord explained
No wonder they’re fighting about politics north of the border, turns out that their own real estate market’s got them all aflutter. The situation up there’s no clearer than down here, and that puts folks on edge.

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The Russians aren’t coming! The Russians aren’t coming!
For now, anyway. Moscow market is tanking.

Moscow
In the Russian capital, wealthy oligarchs have long propped up the high-end real estate market. But agents are now getting nervous. The Russian stock market has plummeted since June and in August the rouble suffered its worst monthly decline for more than nine years.

Would-be billionaires are too busy covering their professional concerns to consider property purchases. And yet, even as developers cancel projects, the supply of new housing units continues to grow, by 2.1 per cent in September to about 27,400 listings, with many more new high-end condos still set to open.

Natia Ratishvili, an estate agent at Knight Frank in Moscow with nearly a dozen properties priced above $4m on her books, says enquiries have fallen considerably in the past few weeks.

“One buyer agreed to put an offer in on an $8.6m apartment and then pulled out as the stock market started falling,” she says. “He really panicked and changed his mind at the last second and we’re beginning to see more and more of this behaviour.”

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Staff meeting

I suppose this is a good idea, but what does it say about the Google geniuses who thought of it in the first place?
Google introduces eMail blocker for drunks

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Uh oh
What do they know about this week’s market that we don’t?

Golden Gate Bridge supervisors vote to install suicide nets.

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In Canada?!
Brakes sabotaged, telephone lines cut, politics in Canada get ugly and dangerous. Who in Canada has anything to fight about? What is there in Canada to fight about, other than whether to glop ketchup or gravy on your poutine?

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Mansion Sales over the years
I recently tossed off some sales figures for large houses and opined that it was my sense that they were way off. A reader questioned exactly how many high end houses had sold in recent years and today I checked the statistics; never as much fun as just making stuff up but it’s nice to do occasionally, if only to retain a shred of credibility.
So Here Goes:
2004: 122 houses sold over $4 million and of that number, 7 were over $8 million
2005: 130 houses sold over $4 million and of that number,28 were over $8 million
2006: 118 houses sold over $4 million and of that number,22 were over $8 million
2007: 139 houses sold over $4 million and of that number,34 were over $8 million
2008: 61 houses sold over $4 million and of that number, 16 were over $8 million
We’ve had 6 sales over $4 million since September 1 and 3 of those were over $8

It’s interesting to note that wildly over-pricing houses is not new in 2008. The winners of this category in 2004 were (drum roll, please) 460 North Street, asked $12.5 million, got $8.6 million, or 68%, and 209 Taconic, asked $15.750 million, got (671 days later) $9.750 million or 62%.

All time winner for the entire 4 year period must go to 66 Cherry Valley Road which asked $20 million and sold for $11.4, or 57% of the original price. Funny thing: I first saw some of these houses when I was pretty new to this business and thought, “that’ll be a cold day in Hell”. If I can figure it out, what’s wrong with the listing agents? You’d think they were doing it deliberately or something.

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Scraping the bottom of the barrel?

Here are some folks who think it’s time to invest in stocks. Makes sense to me, but what about Greenwich real estate? I remain cautious.

No doubt about it, Greenwich prices have softened but, with the exception of some spec houses and a few anxious owners, the price reductions so far aren’t stirring many buyers into action and I don’t believe they should. Even many of the massive cuts I’ve seen recently are simply lowering properties to where they should have been when they were first listed a year (or more) ago – they still don’t reflect current market conditions.

I do disagree with some of my readers, though, who think that, just as stocks are trading for ten cents on the dollar houses should too. That’s not going to happen or, if it does, you won’t want to live in Greenwich anyway. I’d be on the lookout for prices that are, and this really is just a top of the head guess, 20% off three years’ ago prices. There’s bound to be a floor out there somewhere and I do hope that we’d be approaching that floor at that level. If I’m wrong, as is so often the case, well hey – you’ll still be living in a great house that you wouldn’t have been able to afford in 2005, so you can enjoy your new digs, including that swimming pool and tennis court, while you wait the market out. How bad is that?

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South Sea Bubble

It won’t make you feel better, but here’s an interesting view of history
The NYT’s Joe Nocera ran a column yesterday on financial bubbles and panics of the past. It’s a nice stroll down Memory Lane but for the best history of this sort of nonsense, I recommend MacKay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. My father handed it to me when I was about 14 and it changed my view of investing (and investors) permanently. Great read and in print since 1841 so somebody else agrees (but I do wonder whether anyone currently gnawing their fingernails and packing survival kits has actually read it).

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(Two Greenwich residents, one named Lauer, who have absolutely nothing to do with this story)

7 Dwight Lane
Soon – to -be felon Michael Lauer may have lost his Greenwich house but he’s still got a fan following in the financial press. Nothing new here but it must be reassuring to Mr. Lauer that he hasn’t entirely disappeared into obscurity. Yet.

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Short sales, or scooping up bargains when the homeowner is screwed
A reader asked about short sales, which occur when a borrower’s house is worth less than what he owes the bank (picture that 6 year car lease in year 5, when the ol’ SUV’s worth $3,000 and you’re still in the hole to the bank $12 grand). Our GMLS has added the category “short sale” to listings in order to alert agents that they’re in for a long haul on that listing – these things are tough to negotiate because there are often multiple parties involved and none want to lose money, which they’ll have to do, if the sale is to go through.

I believe that the category was added proscriptively: everyone “knows” we’re about to see a flood of these sales but, so far, they’re still rare. May that continue.

This company claims to act as a go-between for buyers and sellers in short sales situations. I know nothing about them but one principal is coming to Raveis next Tuesday to tell us what she does and how she does it so I’ll have a better picture then, maybe. Details to follow, as they say. I note that their website has no Greenwich listings; that may be because we don’t have any short sales right now or, more likely, this company doesn’t. The latter would explain why they’re coming down to speak with us – they want business.

One thing that does set my teeth a little on edge is this quote from the company’s website:

CT Property Network
is a network of creative, friendly real estate investors, with heart.

Believing in tooth fairies is probably what got you into trouble with your sub-prime mortgage to begin with.

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Hmm – pretty small area for a riot – do you suppose they used wiffle ball bats? Riots resume in acre after lull

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I blame Bush

Record snowfall in Boise

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