Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Halloween Haul

Gideon Fountain writes….

We’ve had, oh, about 75-80 kids so far tonight.  Those lucky folks nearby on Greenwich’s Maher Avenue?  They tell me it’s usually 1,200-1,500 kids!  Think about that; I spent about $40 today on full-size KitKat, Hershey’s, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I’m almost out.  If I lived on Maher and was similarly generous, I’d be out $850-1,000!

Another interesting note is the observation that Port Chester and Stamford parents drive their kids over here for trick’r’treating because, well, the pickings are better and the car traffic is lighter. So, once again, Greenwich takes care of everybody!  Perhaps State Rep. Rosa DeLauro, presently demanding free diapers for Connecticut’s poor will next turn her government-expanding gaze towards candy!  It’s not fair that Greenwich has better candy, dammit, we need a new law, or at least a new tax!

Let's see, a bee, a baby, and..um..a Gypsy Princess? (75 more after this!)

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False Credentials

I always thought that people who didn’t exagerate their credentials were at a disadvantage because so many people do it that a little, or a lot of, of interviewers just expect it. If you tell the truth, perhaps the interviewer thinks you are even less than that. I don’t know, but it seems plausible.

Whats worse is when someone makes up their service from whole cloth . This website talks about people who like to say they have served in the military, when they in fact have not. The opening line says it all:

It starts off simple enough. A casual mention of military service. And, oh by the way, a Purple Heart and a few other honors earned. How can you not trust a man who served his country so gallantly?
From there, confidence builds, one story weaves into even more glorious tales until, at some point, the fabrication is woven so tightly you begin to suspect…
How can one person achieve so much in such a short time? It’s almost too good to be true.

I know the “stolen valor” law was declared unconstitutional, but people who delude themselves into thinking their made up high credentials make them someone they are not have no place in our public discourse. This happens in military, business and most assuredly politics. Fluffing up something you actually did is one thing, but stealing by association from those who deserve their honors is something entirely different.

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Really Big Shoe

Now that peace has been restored here in Blogy-blogy-blogy-stan-stan (Thanks, Herminator), I would like to make an observation about some comments made regarding Gideon’s photo. It was not Gideon making any bad gesture, au contraire. To quote that sage Dandy Don Meredith, Gideon was in fact saying to me, “Frank, you’re number one!”. Thanks Gid!

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The Frankie & Giddie Show

Gideon Fountain writes:

Well, Chris Fountain will be back soon (I swear) so none of this will matter, but I still regret getting his business parter mad at me.  And dammit, the whole thing still mystifies me!  I fully expected Frank to say something like, “Gid, it’s a bargaining ploy, you knuckle-head!”, in regard to the Greenwich Reform Synagogue/Stanwich School hullabaloo. Instead, he defends the idea of building condos high up on Stanwich Road!

The Planning & Zoning Board’s approval of a school is certainly different from approving what would quickly become many, many proposals to build condominiums, once zoning restrictions were abandoned, right?

In defense of Bill Grad, I’ve since been told by a few sources that he is not the instigator here, but my entire “research” on this subject consisted of reading the one and only article that Greenwich Time deigned to publish and Grad, identified as President of GRS, and the head of the committee handling this, naturally becomes the point man (hey, and the guy’s a real estate agent, how bad could he be??)

And one other mystery:  Why does Frank give a rodent’s-rear-end what Gideon Fountain, full-time real estate agent, part-time, substitute, co-blogger says about anything?  I’m flattered, of course, but honestly, aside from real estate (and Jaguars), I doubt I’m having much influence on popular opinion.

Meanwhile, Frank Farricker actually does have power and influence!  He can pick up the phone and be front-page news the next day! Unless I’m calling about a real estate ad, the Greenwich Time would send me into voice-mail faster than you can say “Jack Robinson”.

Gideon Fountain catching up on the Daily Farricker..er...that is, Greenwich Time!

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New House “Mandatory Requirements”

Spec(tor) house at 8 Baldwin Farms North...Gid likes.

Gideon Fountain writes:

My house has almost none of the features that I’ve now decided should be “mandatory” at all (expensive) new houses.  I developed this list while walking through 8 Baldwin Farms North (Wilson Alling, listing broker).  It’s just off Round Hill Road, south of the Merritt Parkway.  It’s a spec house built by Greenwich builder Marc Spector (not to be confused with James Bond arch-enemy “SPECTRE”), who seems to get it right every time.

Here then is my list of things that new houses oughtta have:

  • Huge kitchen with huge center-island.
  • Large “mud-room” (Spector’s had two)
  • 3-car, over-size garage
  • Big laundry room with 4 machines, and places to fold stuff
  • Loads and loads of closets, on all floors, with built-in shelves
  • 2nd floor “study area” with cork-board  walls
  • Lower level that is pleasant and has decent ceiling height
  • Big, rubber-floored exercise room, glass walls are a plus
  • Media room, doesn’t have to be gi-mungous
  • Generator

Of course, this house had plenty of other features, like a perfectly sited pool, attractive wine-cellar, truly beautiful bathrooms (not done in the usual “spec-house beige”!), and on and on.  Obviously, the master bedroom/bath needs to be well-designed, with plenty of closets, fireplace, etc., as this one was. They’re asking $7.9M and, for that, you should get all the good stuff.  But there are brand-new houses out there, some cheaper, some more expensive, that are missing quite a few of my “mandatory 10″.  Not acceptable.

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Let It Snow

Just in time to cool off the passions of Greenwich, snow is in the air for this Saturday. On such day, I am out looking at homes with a client and their 1 year old child. Personally, I can’t stand October snow, but then again it reminds me of Christmas in New Zealand, where you go to the beach and have a barbie instead of snowball fights, but the stores still have snowmen and painted winter in the windows. Its just plain odd, like October snow. At least Uncle Mike has early business

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Gideon Couldn’t Have Been More Wrong

OK, enough with the give and take.

Gideon’s post misses one quite large issue which was mentioned by the newspaper, but isn’t so important to Gideon’s worldview/narrative. That is that there was NEVER A CONTRACT between the two parties! Stanwich and GRS entered into a letter of intent four years ago. Four years without a contract. Would Gideon let his clients do that? I suspect he would want to posture or tell his client to find another property. Nonetheless, when GRS got tired of waiting, Stanwich still wouldn’t do the deal from what I can see. Yes, it is a good deal for both, but don’t both parties have to agree for a deal to be a deal? So cut the boo-hooing.

Another case of boo-hooing on gideon’s part is his sudden and unequivocal love and adoration of the Greenwich zoning code. Lest we forget that on the exact same site, the Planning and Zoning Commission – including yours truly – approved the construction of one of the largest single use buildings ever proposed in the Town of Greenwich. Now, to Gideon who conflates the GRS proposal with a Dunkin Donuts or a gas station, no mention of this monster building which to my reckoning, is not in conformity with the RA-2 zone. So what is it, Gid? Zoning should permitted for uses you like, but not for those you do not?

Finally, Gideon had to throw Bill Grad under the bus in his campaign for Tax Collector because of the reprehensibly bad information he was working under. I understand the knee-jerk desire to drive a shiv into those on the other side, can’t say that I haven’t felt that in my time, but to malign a friend in that manner is not something I can accept. Bill Grad is a hard-working, dedicated man who will serve the Town with dignity and skill when he is elected. Run him down for anything he may have done, but don’t construct a non-existent narrative to push your side.

Still, sorry about the deletion

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Bill Grad:TaxCollector/Real Estate Developer?

Gideon Fountain writes:

After a series of moderately testy  e-mails last night and this morning, Fudrucker and I have, um,  buried the hatchet, as they say.  Here is that “controversial”  post and, as always

Stanwich School (artist's rendering of building planned)

, I welcome comment from readers who disagree, or can perhaps shed more light on this issue…

My post:

I thought it was kind of “cheesy” when the North Greenwich Congregational Church allowed its beautiful old, 1827  building and steeple to be absolutely stuffed with cell-phone transmission equipment, but I’m even more revolted, or at least perplexed, that the  Greenwich Reform Synagoue’s President, Bill Grad, has decided to pull out of a what appeared to be a highly mutually beneficial agreement with The Stanwich School.

The most astounding part is Mr. Grad’s announcement that they’re  pursuing a plan to build condominiums on the 11-acre site!  That part of Stanwich Road is in Greenwich’s 2-acre zone.  The road itself is a narrow, 2-lane “country road”, and all property up there is septic and well. 

Obviously it is not zoned for condos, so Mr. Grad will presumably be involved in a future lawsuit with the Town of Greenwich Planning and Zoning Department? Oh, and he’s also running for the office of Tax Collector for the Town of Greenwich!

As you can imagine, there is absolutely nothing more tantalizing, more beckoning, more delicious to the Legislative and Judicial branches of Connecticut government than the prospect of breaking Greenwich zoning laws.  Finally, they’d be able to really show those “rich people”!  Oh sure, they love the (approximately) $1.3 BILLION that Greenwich sends annually to Hartford, but the actual citizens of Greenwich? Ehh..not so much.

So, thanks Mr. Grad!  And while you’re at it, why not a gas station? Or a
Dunkin’ Donuts!

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Blog Censors

Frank Farricker said:  Last night, Gideon posted about his opinion of the Greenwich Reform Synagogue/Stanwich School issue. The article further discussed a personal friend who is also running for office this year as a Democrat.

Chris and I began working together in May, 2009, and a large part of why I was eager to work with him was this blog. First, its fun. Second, it brings in some business and third, I have- and still have – enormous respect for Chris’ courage in speaking out on what he believes, whether it is real estate related, or in his politics. I always tell people that its easy to talk politics with Chris, as it is likely that we have diametrically opposed opinions on a given issue, we know it, no point in arguing. Simple and stress free.

We’ve always had just two guidelines. Guideline one is that he doesn’t hurt the business, and this usually means he doesn’t write about our clients. Guideline two is that he doesn’t write about my friends. No, I don’t stretch that to every registered Democrat and left-leaning independent, but personal friends. We don’t even talk about it, he generally just has placed that in his frontal lobe and all is well.

The article that Gideon wrote last night affected a friend. I don’t agree with the substance of the article, but that’s nothing new, he has a complete right to have that position. I tried to disable the article until I spoke to Gideon, but instead I deleted it. I apologize to him for that, because he really didn’t know the accomodation I have with his brother. So I welcome him to repost if he likes.

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The Greenwich “cheapies”

Gideon Fountain writes:

In the rest of America, $500,000 buys you plenty of house, especially these days.  But what does it get you in Greenwich?  How about $400,000?  Or $300,000??

I’m proud to say that, so far this year, I’ve sold two of these bargains; they were my listings, both were “co-ops”, and both sold pretty quickly.  As for actual houses, here are the 10 cheapest ones

446 Valley Road sold for $540,000 in September.

that have sold in the last 6 months….

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Will Someone Stop This Madness??

Gideon Fountain writes:

Well, this damn good news just keeps pouring in!  Despite all the efforts of local, state, and federal government to hobble American businesses, things are improving anyway! First General Electric and United Technologies, then today, the worst news yet: Caterpillar reported a 44% increase in quarterly profits* and the hiring of nearly 5,000 people!  What the hell are these people doing hiring workers when they should be out buying canned goods and gold bars in preparation for the next crash??

And then, just when you thought Monday could not get any worse, Greenwich home buyers had to chime in with their “good news”: Reported today…

7 accepted offers, with asking prices as follows…

$14,000,000

6,000,000

3,300,000

3,000,000

2,000,000

1,100,000

800,000

Those numbers have been disguised somewhat to protect these new, still “fragile” deals, but the properties are located throughout the town, from the northwest corner, all the way to the southeast.

This is only Greenwich, I know.  There’s a whole lot of hurtin’ real estate out there in places like Nevada and Florida, but it is often said that towns like Greenwich lead the rest of the country out of recession, so…we shall see, shan’t we?

 

 

* “Profits”…ewwww! Evil! Bad!

 

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Fun With Guns

A Viridian Green Laser attaches nicely to your Glock

Gideon Fountain writes:

Folks ask me all the time* (‘specially you ladies), “Gid”, they say, “I’m thinking of buying the little man a laser for his pistol; which one’s the best?” I always say that you certainly can’t go wrong with Crimson Trace   , but I’m intrigued by this new one, called the “Viridian Green Laser”.

There are several advantages to having a laser sighting device on your gun, the most important being accuracy, particularly at night, in a stressful situation.  But there is also the potential deterrent effect.  Everyone knows how criminals, who’ve made the mistake of invading your home, will make a quick exit when they hear the classic “CLICK-KA-SHINK!”  of a pump-action shotgun chambering a fresh round.  But I have read similar, credible reports of bad guys leaving just as fast when they look down to see a laser light shining on their chest.

All things considered, it’s probably best if you can scare the guy out of the house. That way, the cops can dispose of him in the front yard.

So, are ya feeling lucky, punk?  Well, are ya? What’ll it be…red or green?

 

 

*Actually, never.

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What’d They Buy What’d They Get

Gideon Fountain writes:

Well, it’s happened again, as those Car Talk knuckle-heads would say.  More people have gone out and bought real estate, seemingly oblivious to the “real” crash that’s coming (according to doom’n’gloomers).  Yessir, just in the narrow range of $3,000,000-5,000,000, 32 properties have sold in Greenwich in the last 6 months, with 9 more under contract in that asking price range.

Here are the 32 sales. The selling price is revealed at the bottom of each listing.

Sold: $3M, September. Shore Road, in the "Belle Haven Peninsula"

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Where’s Chris?

Gideon Fountain writes:

Ok, everybody calm down back there or I swear I will turn this car around!

So the word is, Chris will be back next week. I know, I know, you’re sick of the Gid & Frank Show, but as you’ll recall, my “Mark Your Calendars” post from last week

Oh , stop being a big baby, especially YOU, "anonymous"! (What 's the plural...anonymeese?)

did include the word “maybe”. So let’s all just hang in there.  Thank you.

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“That House Is Garbage!”

Gideon Fountain writes:

The reason house sellers absolutely hate having their properties mentioned in Chris Fountain’s blog is made quite clear in the responses to my previous post.  The little band of nay-sayers is positively amazing, not just for their firmly held opinions, but the vehemence with which they are expressed.

Reminds me of the old Howard Stern Show, back when it was funny; you had this group of ugly guys acting somehow qualified to judge the pathetic, but definitely beautiful women who agreed to parade in front of them. Each woman had her “imperfections” carefully noted, mocked, and belittled.  Meanwhile, the judges themselves were such awful specimens that, well, you had to laugh.  But the truth about human bodies and real estate is, there are always imperfections.  And you can always find several really good reasons not to buy a particular piece of property.

“But wait”, you say, “Suppose I spent $39,500,000 for 84 Field Point Circle? Then the nay-sayers would have nothing to say!” Well, in fact, the new owner of that spectacular spot, I am told, plans to rip the entire second floor off the existing house and build a new second floor.  “Yes, but it’s beautiful, direct waterfront!” True, but that means you get to hear all those stupid “Cigarette” boats racing around all night with their powerful, un-muffled engines. Horrible! (And, incidentally, the neighbor on the left side?  Way too close!)

What about 124 Old Mill Road and its 75.07 acres?  That lucky buyer paid $24,000,000 in June, 2010.  What a shame he didn’t have the Chris Fountain nay-sayers to warn him, to implore him NOT to buy that property!  Why? Its entire southern border runs along the Merritt Parkway!  Oh, the horrors! The shame of it!

“Fine”, you say, “but consider 14 Meadow Lane“, where the buyer just shelled out $32, 500,000.  Now there’s the perfect property, right?  Wrong!  A “small” kitchen that overlooks the driveway! And worse still, no matter how you slice it, it was just a damn “builder spec house”!

Statler and Waldorf, two of Chris Fountain's loyal nay-sayers.

Yep, these poor suckers bought these obviously inferior properties why? Because they were bamboozled by fast-talking real estate agents. I sure feel sorry for them.

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Broker bonuses: Smart or Dumb?

Gideon Fountain writes:

Last week, broker Cate Keeney sent out a blast e-mail to all 1,007  Greenwich real estate agents offering a $100,000 bonus if you sell her listing at 6 Wyckham Hill Lane by Thanksgiving Day.  This certainly caught everyone’s attention!  Most of the time, bonuses take the form of a one-year car lease, vacation, fur coat, stuff like that.  Sometimes it’s money, but rarely an amount as enticing as $100,000 over and above your regular sales commission.

Selling real estate is the ultimate “eat what you kill” job. Unlike other self-employed professions (medicine, law, accounting, etc.) real estate agents can expect to make nothing from the majority of customer contacts.  They’re busy all week showing their listings and other brokers’ listings, doing research, working on brochures, answering customer calls and e-mails, and at the end of that week it’s entirely possible to have earned…nothing.

So we like to see “bonus to selling broker” on a listing*.  But does it help sell the house?  My brother and I would say to a client contemplating such a move  “Just lower the damned asking price!”, but not always. If the house is already priced “in the ball park” of where it should sell, and it has loads of competition, then maybe a bonus makes sense.

So, if you’ve been wasting your broker’s time for a year or two, and the broker says “In addition to seeing the four houses you asked for, I’m taking you to see 6 Wyckham Hill because there’s a $100,000 bonus”, do your broker a favor and go look. 

6 Wyckham Hill Lane 

*For a broker, a bonus can be life-changing, as it was for me when, in 1997,  I got an accepted offer on a North Street mansion for $4.7M. Listing broker David O’gilvy called me up and said “Oh, by the way, the seller was offering a 10% bonus”.  I got an extra $47,000, and, even after paying big fat taxes, still had enough to put down $35,500 on my first house, a cute little dump on Lake Avenue!

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Owie, owie!

Gideon Fountain writes:

A drunken brawl at one of my favorite Port Chester, New York,

Don't try this at home.

watering holes* resulted in this slash across the ring finger and the 5 stitches you see here.  I took my finger to  Greenwich Convenient Medical Care (sometimes called “Doc-In-A-Box” by wags),  at 1200 East Putnam Avenue, across from Baang Restaurant, in Riverside, just before the Route 95 entrance/exit.

The doctor that fixed me up was great, he’s been doing this stuff for 25 years, so the stitches and the tetanus-shot took about 15 minutes, tops.  They had other doctors working as  assistants only, because they’re from other countries, and are in the process of completing their residencies at hospitals in the area.  

So, having experienced their work, I can now recommend this place completely.  The only slight fly in the ointment was the difference in the price I was quoted and the actual bill I was presented.  I pay my own medical expenses so I’m a teensy-bit sensitive to cost, don’t you know.  And no, Fudrucker, old chum, I do not  look forward to government-run health care!

*Actually, it was the lid of a dog-food can.

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What Were They Thinking?

Gideon Fountain writes:

Yep, it’s true.  Despite everything we know, crazy folks out there just keep insisting on buying real estate!  Don’t they know they should keep renting for 5 more years??

Anyway, a reader asked about recent Greenwich sales in the specific, fairly narrow price range of $1,000,000-1,350,000.  In the last 6 months, there have been 32 such sales town-wide, reported  (quite a few more are signed deals, but haven’t closed yet).  Here is the link to those 32 listings.

Of course, old Fudrucker will condemn me as a “cheerleader” just for reporting these sales because…well, because it doesn’t jibe with his constant refrain of “The market’s terrible, nobody’s buying”.

So now you know the definition of a real estate cheerleader; it’s a person who reports the fact that people are out there buying and selling real estate.

A Real Estate Cheerleader (shhhh...don't tell her the market's actually pretty good!)

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Foreign People

At the New York condo building today, with the new Israeli buyer. I flexed my incisive knowledge of Hebrew by saying “ken” over and over, and somehow I have committed my daughter to his son. Go figure.

In any event, the buyer had an interesting observation of real estate, considering he has business interests in LA, Canada, France and a few more places. His thought – the rich, or at least liquid, are more and more moving in together throughout the world. So, he posits, the wealthy will come to Greenwich, or the 16th arrondissement of Paris, or the Upper East or West Side of Manhattan, etc. etc., and will pay for that privilege. But to get them to buy in Stamford, or some other part of Paris or New York where there are no rich people, forget about it.

So, Gideon, hope for you yet. I, meanwhile, will close a short sale in Greenwich, a ranch in Monroe, and a fancy New York condo whose bathroom is more expensive than the other two combined to prove that point.

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Mark Your Calendars! (maybe)

Gideon Fountain writes:

A happy assemblage of Chris Fountain readers, greeting their hero's return! (That's Fudrucker in the little red jumper on the left)

Rumor has it that Christopher Fountain will return to For What It’s Worth sometime on the afternoon of Friday, October 21st.

If we are to believe any of various reader-guesses, by that date Chris will have

1.  Completed his prison sentence.

2.  Recovered from heart surgery.

3.  Recovered from plastic surgery.

4.  All of the above.

5.  None of the above, he just got tired of doing nothing.

As an added bonus, if he plays his cards right, he may be picked up and whisked back to Greenwich, CT in a brand-spanking-new Jaguar XJL!  Maybe there’ll even be a photo of the happy journey, who knows?

Stay, as they say, “tuned”.

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