A year or so ago I toured a bit of new construction that was so badly built I sought out the name of its builder, in order to ensure that I never steered a customer his way. The house sold in a heartbeat, of course, to a young family that will probably be regretting it any day now. In the meantime, our builder moved on to other projects and just last week offered his latest creation to the buying public. Same poor quality, including improper framing, cheap finishes and the like, and the same result: it received multiple offers, all over the asking price. I find this discouraging.
Neighborhood is very important in choosing a house, but it’s not the only element to consider (despite what I implied in a column a few weeks ago). A cheaply built new house ages much faster than a well built one and, three or four years after its purchase, it will begin showing its age. I won’t name specific houses, but there are a number of houses in town which were built in the past six years and which now are in need of renovation. They don’t command anything like the resale value of a better-built house and that hurts you if you’re trying to sell it. So don’t be blinded by flashy details; look instead for the substance that ought be behind those new cabinet doors and whirlpool tubs and, if there’s no there there, skip along to another house.
Speaking of Great Construction
I drove way up North Street the other day to see Brad Hvolbeck’s new $12,750,000 listing house and was impressed. This house is beautifully designed (by Hilton & Vanderhorn) and impressively made. Hand-made bricks that look antique, laid in a Flemish bond (thanks to Mat Matthews for teaching me the proper term), a convex mahogany front door that is easily the best looking door I’ve seen and, inside, a lay out that is perfectly proportioned for human beings. The trim work is amazing, including a room whose measurements were taken from an Italian palace and recreated here in American Walnut. The third floor is entirely devoted to a children’s’ play area, including a small stage and a “bed”, perhaps twenty feet wide, for sleep over parties. Cool. Finished just this year, its owner enjoyed the project so much that he’s already started another one.
Some great houses continue to show up on the market, even though everyone’s supposed to be out of town. Jackie Chamandy listed 1 Ford Lane for $2,380,000, which is a very smart price. Great location on a dead end lane, nicely renovated four bedroom house with a decent yard and a front porch that demands an Adirondack chair, an iced tea and a late summer afternoon. My guess is, to do that, you’ll have to become friends with the new owner because I think this will be gone in days.
Amanda Miller has listed 9 Stanwich Road for $2,395,000 and it, too is a very good buy. The current owners had intended to enjoy this renovation for themselves before their plans changed, and it shows. Unlike certain builder/spec renovations currently on the market, this one has no short cuts, no dubious compromises between quality and cost. There are certain builders out there who think that, as long as a property has a Greenwich address, buyers will pay any amount for any piece of junk. It’s not true, and when I see, for instance, a poorly designed renovation offering bad hardware, cheap plastic doors and Home Depot plumbing fixtures for the princely sum of $2,600,000, I’m insulted on behalf of myself and my buyers. We aren’t that dumb. So avoid that problem and go see 9 Stanwich.
Our First Selectman
Greenwich Time reports that First Selectman Jim Lash was out of town for 13 weeks last year. “First Selectman’s Many Travels Under Scrutiny”, the headline blared and I wondered, by whom? So far as I’m concerned, if the town is being well run, either directly by the man or by persons he’s delegated responsibilities to, he can go attend to his private business dealings to his heart’s content. Lash’s Democrat opponent claims that accessibility is an issue, but here’s my experience with that: my brother’s request for a zoning fee refund had been mired in the town’s bureaucracy for over a year before I wrote a polite note to Lash, someone I’ve never met, asking that he look into the problem and, if appropriate, sending a refund on its way. The check arrived five days later. That works for me.
Two weeks ago I mentioned a “tiger” appearing with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in “Bringing Up Baby”. Baby was a leopard, of course – I can’t believe no reader spotted this.