New prices, but will it matter?

398 Stanwich

398 Stanwich

398 Stanwich has dropped its price to $5.495 and I suppose its owners think that’s a concession, but I’m not so sure. This Jordan Saper house sold new for $5.5 million in 2004, tried for $6.345 in 2009 and finally sold to these owners for $5.350 in 2010. They, in turn, listed it last February for $5.695 but as they’ve discovered, we aren’t back to 2004 prices yet, let alone above them.

As an aside, if based on this listing’s description you expect to find an “Exceptional Gated Stone Georgian Estate” behind this home’s rather modest driveway fence, you may be disappointed.  Many people, if not New Yorkers, don’t associate “estate” with two-acres, even if that land does include a colonial era graveyard.

918 North Street

918 North Street

And speaking of wannabe estates, 918 North Street, 4 acres, is back again, now asking $13.999 million – that represents a $1 million reduction for each of the past three years this has been for sale but I’m not convinced it’s there yet. In fact, I wonder if there is still a market for 10,000 sq.ft. (above ground -there’s also a 4,000 sq.ft. basement) back country homes these days. The back country used to be aspirational – a young family would move into Greenwich in a more affordable neighborhood and when the breadwinner rose to the top of the heap he’d drag his brood north, where his peers and the serfs could note his accomplishment.

But that was when there were real estates in the Back Country – 50 acres, 100 acres, and even larger. Ownership of a dark, gloomy 1920′s pile of stone and timber signaled an important person inside. Now that those estates have been chopped into mere estatelets, four-acre patches of marginal swampland with, maybe, an acre of grass, what’s the point of living in such an inconvenient location?

Apparently none, which explains why the back country is so dead these days. I don’t think it’s coming back, either, until the really rich show up and reassemble the ranchettes into large parcels again. When that happens, when it’s again possible to impress the lesser classes with an estate, the truly rich will spend their money on big mansions. A big mansion on an insignificant scrap of dirt will remain, I predict, what it is now:  bulldozer fodder.

35 Comments

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35 responses to “New prices, but will it matter?

  1. Anonymous

    You often speak of the Back Country as this collection of 10,000 square foot homes owned only by the ultra rich. The reality is that the area is much more diverse than you make it sound. There are a lot of modest homes north of the Merritt, and many people in the lower price ranges like the privacy and quiet that four acres affords. I for one, gladly put up with the 10 minute drive (oh the horror!) down to the Post Road in exchange for that separation. But I realize that I may be in the minority.

    • No, my point is that the maxipads built in the past decade on the carved up remains of once great estates are a drag on the market; few people are still willing to pay, say $9 million for such a thing. Four acres and a modest house is not only my own idea of perfection, there is still a viable market for such privacy. Enjoy your home.

    • Anonymous

      I would love a servicable 60s style ranch on 4 acres 15 minutes from town, especially if I could buy it for land value, whatever that is in back country.

      • $2 – $2.5 should get you a decent lot, with a house thrown in for free. Or heck, check out 90 Buckfield, discussed early today. Just two acres in the 4 acre zone, but what looks to be a perfectly good house and asking just $1.395. That’s not bad.

  2. InfoDiva

    918 North is the most overwrought, tasteless pile of bricks I have seen in a long time.

  3. Anonymous

    I don’t disagree with your comments on back country at all, but you could say the same of 90% of Bedford. (Maxipads, ahahahahah…)

  4. anonymous

    I agree with InfoDiva on 918. Are the tasteless Russian oligarchs still buying up those places? And step outside to a few inches of lawn surrounding a pool crammed up against all those furbelows.

  5. Guest

    We were walking on Hunting Ridge and Sky Ridge. They are not that far north, and very nice. Some expensive homes there and some modest. Some you can hear the highway, but a lot not. If you want the privacy of 4 acres, this area is a very good area. A lot of 1950s or 1960s houses that in real estate parlance are tear downs, but for us old folks who grew up back then are very nice houses. I think you could buy a house there for well under $2 million not in earshot of the highway if you get lucky

    • There’s that house on the pond on Hunting Ridge priced under $2. No objectionable traffic noise to my ears, pretty yard and a house that is perfectly livable. And that’s on the lower end of the road, so not so inconvenient. If you’re willing to forego “new”, there are plenty of homes available for land value only.

  6. Anonymous

    Right up against Brants property.
    Someday he’ll have to sell it all… Show is almost over Peter
    The print biz is bye bye!

    • another stb 4 me

      What are you on about?? He’s still worth $300m to $500m in land, Warhols, Koons, and Basquiats… Still in White Birch along with his secondary market partners for family namesake.

      • Anonymous

        His business filed for chapter 11.
        And he hasn’t played polo in palm beach in 3 years.
        (Bc he can’t afford it anymore)
        Sounds like a bit of trouble to me.

  7. Guest

    Honestly, wetlands or rocks, or whatever other stuff this blog does not like do matter if you have a half acre of flat usable land or so in that area. So who cares if the rest is wetlands or rocks?

    • Because swampland and tangled, overgrown woods and rock piles don’t impress the way fifty acres of sheep grazing lawn do. And few people will spend $10 million on an unimpressive house. Spec builders, like you, assumed it wouldn’t matter if they carved an estate into fifteen parcels, so long as the houses they crammed in were large enough. They were wrong.

      • Guest

        I am talking about the 1950s ranch on 4 acres. Who cares what the 4 acres have on them, as long as a little bit is usable? Who wants to mow 4 acres anyway?

  8. ShedLessToolMan

    I still think plenty of people love the privacy of back country.. Leona Helmsley and financial insider trading/fraud types.. you know, anyone looking to stay out of the spotlight.. and with the decay of moral fiber lately, i have to imagine the population of people demanding this feature in a location is healthy.. maybe even guys like your pay walt.. or even fake blogging walt..

    • But not on four acre lots! Dickie Fuld has 55 + acres on which to hide from disgruntled ex-employees, Leona had what, 55? Mel Gibson enjoyed 75, Joseph Verner Reed 125, and so on. Any house on four acres, no matter how large the house itself, is an admission that you can’t afford the good stuff. It’s the equivalent of wearing one of those Ralph Lauren polo jerseys – you know, the ones with a fat stripe running diagonally across the front? – from Costco. Save your money and just put a sign on your head, “I can’t afford a string of real polo ponies so my mommy bought me this shirt!” Loser togs.

      • Guest

        Leona’s house was not that private. Anyone walking on the front lawn could be seen from the road. No like that if I were Leona,

  9. Accolay

    Why are there such differences between backcountry Greenwich and other backcountry-like areas in other towns (upper Darien, Coleytown in Wspt and Greenfield Hill in Fairfield)? Those three areas seem to be doing a lot better than 06831, and more in line with the Riverside-like areas of their respective towns.

    • Guest

      As a long time Greenwich resident, I think the market will correct itself. Not being in the market for a large mansion on 4 acres, I cannot speak to that. Surely once the market in Greenwich corrects, the ranch on Hunting Ridge will go back to a reasonable price.

      I just bought for investment in Greenwich because the market is low relative to other places. I bought the cheapest thing in the whole area (including good Westchester towns, but excluding Darien and farther towns) in a good school district and good area. It cost less than it should have in an efficient market. The cost is easily $1,000 a month less than comparable places in good Westchester towns.

      The maket is inefficient, but that wil not last forever. Prices in Greenwich are lower than they should be, so buyers should be flocking in in due time – not predicting when, but this deeply discounted houses is going to end at least for the lower priced properties in town.

  10. Anonymous

    398 Stanwich looks to be a nice house on 2 acres reasonably close to town that can’t be given away for 5.5mm. 25 Lindsay is also a nice house on two acres that gets scooped up for over 8mm. What am I missing?

  11. ShedLessToolMan

    CF.. I loiter around this blog because I enjoy your writing and respect your opinions.. but, come on with the back country mumbo jumbo.. sometimes people see most in others that which is most present in themselves.. you wrote the a guide to contemporary social climbing.. but, not everybody is a social climber.. you are an attorney.. you must realize it is about intent and purpose.. people do not all have the same motive when purchasing a house.. some folks really do want 3 or 4 acres and would rather drive 15 minutes and have some privacy and peace and quiet.. not everyone wants to be next to the water (heck one more super storm like sandy and aimed at old greenwich/ belle haven and that can turn into breezy point 2).. moreover, if you are looking for greenwich pimples to pop than surely you would prefer to squeeze cos cob?.. I am rather new here, but, i just do not get it.. and as for the villains, there are also minor ones like Raj with only 6.4 acres or so on round hill..

    why such a low opinion of back country? it is not all swamp, airport and bad commutes.. I think of it as a westchester look-a-like with lower taxes. .

    • I think of it as a westchester look-a-like with lower taxes. .

      Talk about damning with faint praise! As for picking on Cos Cob, I’d never thought of that – I’ll give it a try.

  12. Guest

    Most of us think back country is very nice. We have a market that is discounting some of back country. My feeling is that some of back country is a good buy, especially not so far from town.

    I always dreamed of living in back country, but we worked on Wall Street when we bought and both had long hours. If we had had only one commuter, or we had worked in midtown, we might have considered back country.

  13. anonymous

    Westchester look-a-like with lower taxes? The Barbarians have stormed the gates. Give them back country.. I’m moving to Montana.

  14. AJ

    The Helmsley place, Dunnellen Hall, also know as the Topping Estate and former home of Lana Turner, had 300 acres; I believe Leona was the one who sold off most of the land.

  15. Anonymous

    yeah to anonymous at 2:52!!! So true!!

  16. anonymous

    Dunnellen Hall had been sub divided years before Leona, and in fact what is now Topping Road, and several lots off Close Road, were once part of the original parcel. In fact during her rein, Leona re-assembled some of the property, buying back a large parcel. This additional 27 acre piece behind the house, once part of the original estate, including the former dairy, barn and pond, has been on and off the market for several years.

    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/21-Topping-Rd-Greenwich-CT-06831/2139886709_zpid/

  17. Rivman

    Anyone remember the name of the former club or golf course that was on the north side of the Stanwich Club that Brandt bought?

  18. anonymous

    Good question, Rivman. There’s a brain teaser. It’s mostly now Lion’s Share farm. I do remember that the club house, like Brant’s barn and a couple other buildings on properties he was assembling, all mysteriously burned down during that period. The RTM’s Joan Caldwell was Brant’s paid town lobbyist/PR rep during that period. Whispers of “Gasoline Gomez” torching the buildings were rampant. Of course a few pages falling off the calendars, and a few big names on the polo fields, have somewhat cleaned up the image of the place and the developer.

  19. anonymous

    Scary. The ultimate source the the answer (Glen Hollow Country Club)? You and GPD Folk:

    http://christopherfountain.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/undersized-lot-for-sale-on-north-street/