FAR and House Values
39 Edgewater Drive in Old Greenwich, a long-abandoned structure, has been placed on the market with an asking price of $895,000. The lot is a mere 0.15 of an acre in the R-12 zone yielding a permissible building size, by my calculation, of just over 2,000 feet. That’s a lot smaller than most people demand these days so I’ll be curious to see what happens to the place. Someone will certainly buy it – the question is, for what price? Regardless, I’m sure the neighbors who’ve watched this eyesore deteriorate for years will be glad when it disappears. By the way: while I’m no fan of the floor area ratio regulations, this lot is an argument in favor – it’s just too small to support a mega-mansion. I still think that set back rules and height restrictions would suffice to control what’s to be built here but, for once, FAR may be helpful.

Woodsman, Save that Tree! Or some of them, anyway.
We now have a new advocacy group in town, the Greenwich Tree Conservancy. Most of their goals, such as updating our inventory of town-owned trees and taking better care of them seem worthy but I worry about their push for a new ordinance that will regulate trees on private property (other than trees in danger of toppling over and damaging a neighbor’s property, which are already regulated via our nuisance ordinance). I share most people’s distaste for clear-cutting and, if builders knew better, they’d appreciate that mature trees add to, rather than subtract from a building’s value, but Greenwich, bastion of free enterprise and property rights, seems an odd place to champion yet another diminution of those rights. And I hate to see yet another layer of regulatory approvals added to the building process. When your neighbor wants to add on, I’m sure you’ll appreciate all the delays and hurdles now built into the building process but when you seek to build your own project, you opinion may change. It’s a jungle out there.

Still Crazy After all these years?
Prices of many new listings still seem out of whack to me and to other agents I respect. So much so that it’s become a steady source of conversation on the open house circuit, as in, “did you see that house on X Road? What are they thinking?!” We could all be wrong, of course, and sometimes are, but it won’t help your prospects for selling quickly if those of us who at least try to be professionals think you’ve been smoking dope. We won’t waste our clients’ time showing houses that are hugely over-priced and, by the time a seller accepts reality and drops his price, we’ve long since forgotten about the property and moved on. I point this out so often because (a) it’s true and (b) sellers just don’t seem to get it.

But Wait, There’s More!
Not every seller is nuts. Tamar Lurie has just listed 19 Lakewood Circle South for $7,745,000, a price ordinary mortals might deem a wee bit high but in fact, it’s a terrific value. A number of us who viewed this completely restored 1930’s house thought the owner could have added a couple of million to its asking price. Of course, that would have entailed months of disruption, keeping everything in showroom condition while buyers strolled through at all hours of the day and, eventually, some sort of negotiated price. Instead, the owners priced it just right and they should be able to get through the process fairly quickly and painlessly. “They want to sell it,” Tamar told me, when I complimented her on the price. What a concept.

Hedge Funds and Greenwich
A panel of financial types recently examined the hedge fund industry and determined that no further regulation was required. Our state’s Attorney General, Michael Blumenthal, crowed that this finding opened the door for people like him to do their own regulating. I sympathize with the man – he’s just watched Elliot Spitzer be promoted to Governor on the basis of whacking Wall Street regularly and no doubt wants to follow him upwards – but, while I’m no particular fan of our country’s financial industry, I have more confidence in the judgment of experts, including three Goldman Sachs alumni, than I do in an ambitious lawyer. I’m not worried about losing money in hedge funds – I have no money- but I do worry about an over-zealous politician driving these people from our state. Who else can afford to buy your house?

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