Daily Archives: April 21, 2006

Old, New, Cheap

No, not all three at once, sadly, but three nifty houses caught my eye last week, each different from the other and all three real standouts from the usual run of the mill offerings we usually see.

Joan Epand has listed 66 Cat Rock Road for $2,195,000, one acre in the R-2 zone, but how much land do you need? Part of this house was built in 1760 and, while it’s been added onto over the centuries, it’s still a terrific, rabbit-warrenty dwelling that meanders all over the place, from a real tap room to a airy master bedroom and so forth. Its owner is a noted author and screenwriter (“Summer of ‘42”, “The Great Santini”) and this place looks and feels exactly like what a writer’s home should be. Very much not a house for young Biff and Hillary, eager to impress their Wall Street friends with how much house they can by, but for more creative folks, a unique find. Comes with a pool.

6 Cliffdale Road, Diane Carnegie’s new listing, is an exact replica of another old house, again built in 1760 and added onto in the 1800’s. The present owners were three-quarters of the way through a renovation of the existing house in 2001 when it burned down. Undaunted (and armed with a great insurance policy from Chubb) they started anew but rebuilt the original structure, using old oak flooring, for example, and superb moldings. The result is outstanding: every bit of the grace and smooth flow of the original structure but with none of the worries and headaches antique buildings usually bring: termites, powder beetles, sloping floors – you get the picture. It’s set high up on a hill, with wonderful views, a free-form pool, beautiful gardens and lawns, and, as Diane says in her English accent, “garaging for six vehicles”. $5,695,000, this, too is probably not for Biff, but his boss will love it.

George Crossman’s house on 7 West End Court in Old Greenwich lacks garaging for even one vehicle but at $895,000 it’s definitely the best value in town. George built this for himself back in 1989 and he did a very nice job (my law office was around the corner at the time and I’m sure he owes me a huge debt of gratitude for my constant supervision). Three bedrooms, a huge eat-in kitchen with fireplace and a study with an curved ceiling, planked and varnished, that seems as snug and pleasing as a well-crafted ship’s saloon. Go for it. By the way: how whacky is the Greenwich real estate market? I commented to cop who was directing traffic for George’s open house that I’d just seen the last affordable house in Old Greenwich. “You call $900,000 affordable, sir?” he asked. Well in Greenwich, yes. From the perspective of the real world, the policeman was entirely right.

$500,000 too High?
Last Thursday’s open house circuit held three houses (at least) that were each, in my opinion and the opinion of a number of very experienced agents, priced a half-million dollars above what they were worth. That may not be an issue when the asking price is $20,000,000 but when you’re in the $2-3 million class, it is fatal. Time to adjust, owners.

Statistics
No good news here. Bob Fossum, curse him, neglected to do my homework for me this week so I had to search for myself. An on a holiday weekend –tch, tch. In any event, last year 303 houses went to contract between January 1st and April 15th. This year, for the same period, only 262 did (contracts, rather than sales, afford a better view of market activity because sales reflect what went on, say, three moths ago. Contracts show what’s happening now). A drop in sales activity by some 14% is not great news, for sellers, but it does allow buyers to be more choosey, and they are. Price accordingly.

One Owner Who Gets it
Saw a new Riverside listing come on the other day, priced (after deducting commissions and other expenses), to yield about 9% more than the owners paid for it two years ago. That, for the mathematically-challenged, is 4.5% a year. Ouch. Far different than past appreciation rates. My advice? If you’re in the market for new construction, call your agent (or me!) – there are some very nervous builders out there who would be pleased to exchange a large pre-construction discount for the ability to sleep at night.

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