An Imperfect World

I don’t lecture my clients; it’s both patronizing and ineffective. And, as Oscar
Wilde observed,”I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and
besides, the pig likes it.” The rest of you aren’t so lucky, however, so if you happen to be one of my clients who just blew a great house deal in Old Greenwich, stop reading here and come back next week.

For those still with me, know that in real estate, as in the rest of life, finding a suitable outcome is founded upon compromise. There is no perfect house out there, waiting to be discovered (go back and read Plato for similar sentiments- nothing’s changed in the past 2,300 years). Field Point Circle, considered by many to be the best address in Greenwich, is approached via the Grass Island sewer plant and, when the wind’s from the north, afflicted with the roar of trucks on I-95. Conyer’s Farm will seem ideal until you discover that you forgot the cream and you face either a drive of ten miles or a breakfast of black coffee.

And so it goes, through all price ranges. The house you want will always have something wrong with it: price, layout, yard, neighborhood. The best advice I can give is to lay out your priorities and go for the house that meets most of them. For families with young children, I think neighborhood trumps everything else. Get that right, and whatever else may be wrong with the house itself becomes insignificant. Those who are older and who no longer need to cart their children around to play dates might well prefer no neighborhood at all and instead choose to live in a small cottage down a long, long road away from everyone else. It’s all personal, and you shouldn’t let your agent pressure you into something that doesn’t feel right. But don’t pass up a house just because it doesn’t meet every single one of your criteria to perfection – nothing ever will.


We agents in town often felt we were getting a raw deal on or malpractice insurance. Rates are based on state-wide incidents while in Greenwich we don’t write contracts or engage in much of anything that could even approach what might be the practice of law. We dump all that on the lawyers and let their errors and omissions policies cover things. Accordingly, Greenwich sees very, very few claims for malpractice.

But two recent incidents make me think we may be soon catch up to our peers in the rest of the state, thanks to our FAR regulations. Twice now, I’ve had agents tell me that their two acre listing could accommodate a house of some 7,500 sq. feet. Nice, but inaccurate, because each lot was on a two acre lot in the four acre zone. As I’ve written here before, while logic suggests that one would apply the two acre FAR formula to such a lot, in fact the P&Z insists that the house be smaller than even a one acre lot allows. There’s a big difference in value between a 7,500 sq.ft. house and a 5,400 sq.ft. one; a difference that any expert will happily testify to in a malpractice suit. Personally, I think the FAR is so convoluted-what percentage of the basement is included, how about the garage with half walls, the attic, etc. – that I would never consider stating with certainty what the FAR allows on any particular house. Rough guidelines, sure; but for anything more precise you’ll want an architect to come over with an accurate measuring tape and an up-to-date knowledge of all the FAR rules. Just another expense for our town’s happy homeowners, courtesy of the P&Z.

Time for Price Reductions

I do enjoy representing buyers this time of year, because bargains start appearing, in all price ranges. Lisa Gabriele has knocked $1.2 million (from $9,695,000 to $8,495,000) from her listing at 99 Richmond Hill and, while I don’t have anyone in that price range, it looks pretty attractive at its new price. Nancy Healy’s listing at 2 Sylvan Lane was a very nice house at $2,650,000; it’s now a screaming bargain at $2,300,000.

Of course, this being the silly season, there’s always someone out there who concludes that his house isn’t selling because it’s priced too low, so he jacks it up. A house in Old Greenwich, for instance, just bulked up to $4,295,000 from $3,995,000 and its owner is presumably awaiting a flood of renewed interest. Somehow, I don’t think so. Price cures everything in this market but I have never known a higher price to be part of that process. But good luck, fella, and see you in September.

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