The “Visit”I’m writing this just a few hours before the arrival of our President and the excitement here in Old Greenwich is high; helicopters overhead, cops on every corner, motorcycle cops and state troopers behind the firehouse, all parking barricaded, and Secret Service agents with a bomb-sniffing dog checking the entire route, including Tig Smith’s port-a-potty. But my excitement was tempered when I learned that, while the President expected to raise $500,000 at the Franz house in Riverside, Greenwich’s tab for police overtime will be $250,000. Add in the costs of those state troopers, a couple of Presidential jets, a squad of secret service agents, lost income by shop owners who lost their customer parking and just general inconvenience and it seems to me we taxpayers could have effected an economy by sending the RNC a check for, say, $10,000,000 and asking that the President stay home. By the way, it’s sort of amusing that everyone in Riverside knew days in advance that the fundraiser was to be held at Scott Frantz’s place while at least two patrolmen I spoke with did not. Odd sort of security when you don’t tell the protectors what they’re protecting, no?
Back to Real Estate
There is a house in Riverside that was for sale by its owner seemingly forever. Many months, if not more than a year – my memory fades. The owner finally gave up and listed it with Maureen Fox of ReMax. She priced it right (sellers tend to over-price their own homes) and had it under contract in a week. So the poor guy ended up paying a 5% commission he didn’t want to, but he also sold his house, which I assume was the ultimate objective. Sometimes, you do get what you pay for.
And Sometimes You Don’t
I saw the strangest house on the open house tour last week. Hugely expensive new construction it held, to my eye, every architectural mistake one could make. It almost seems to have been built as two, separate wings, with most of the bedrooms contained in a odd, warren-like setting that another agent said reminded her of a dentists’ suite. That’s about right. I’d give further details but then you might identify it and I really don’t want to embarrass the owner. Besides if I’m right, and he never finds a buyer at the price he’s asking, he’ll be embarrassed enough. I think my message here is that, if you’re building spec houses in Greenwich be creative but not too much so: most buyers expect a Colonial with a traditional floor layout and you depart from that at your peril.
Apples to Apples
A house on Nearwater Lane sold in April 2004 for $1,285,000 and just resold this month for $1,560,000. It’s often hard to get a grip on price appreciation because so many houses are renovated between sales but this one, if not untouched by its owners, wasn’t changed dramatically. So $275,000 in a year-and-a-half. Not too shabby.
A building lot at 56 Husted Lane sold for $3,500,000 in August of 2005 and, after its buyers changed their minds, resold last week for $3,250,000. That’s a haircut but probably more indicative of what happens when you try to flip real estate too quickly. I still think no one’s ever lost money on Greenwich houses when they hold for a reasonable period of years (3-4, say) and the Nearwater Lane example shows that you can sometimes get away sooner, but there’s a risk.
Two Good Riverside Houses
Barbie Jackson (Cleveland, Duble & Arnold) has just listed 45 Breezemont for $1,695,000. This is an impeccably maintained house (I’m friends with the owner and boy is he er, retentive) with a decent yard and a huge basement. The current owners converted one of the original four bedrooms to a master bath, which was a smart move but I suspect there’s plenty of expansion space if you care to add on.
Jim Foote (Greenwich Custom Realty) has listed 25 Bayside Terrace for $1,565,000. I’m no fan of split-levels even if, as this one is, they’re called a “colonial ranch” but this has a huge amount of space and feels very livable. Bayside’s a traffic-free dead end street with some highway noise, compensated for deeded access to the water. I liked this house very much.
You tell me, but our bi-weekly listing book has exceeded its printer’s binding capacity and arrived last Friday as two volumes. I don’t believe that’s happened before. Agents I talk to agree that there are plenty of buyers out there making offers but there’s a big gap between what they’re offering and what sellers are demanding. The sellers have history on their side; the buyers the media. We’ll see.