Stop the presses!
I’ve always wanted to send that message and finally had a chance to do so last week when, after reading on our MLS daily hot sheet of an astonishing sale for $7,400,000 on Thunder Mountain Road (off Riversville), I wrote all about it in a first draft of this column; I learned the next day that it was all a crock. In a message on the MLS Bulletin (something I and most agents rarely read) the selling agency, Greenwich Fine Properties, slipped in a note that the “property sold in unfinished condition. Builder estimates that budget for finished project would have created a finished value of $7,400,000”. Not reported was the actual sales price: $4,600,000. Well: I just sold two properties in Riverside for $3,800,000 apiece. If my builder had installed gold-plated fixtures and swimming pools, he might have sold them for $6,000,000. Should I adjust my sales reports accordingly? The point here is that Realtors rely on the honesty of their peers when reporting sold prices. We use that data to advise our clients on what to pay for a house and where to price it, if they’re selling. When a broker pollutes the well by inserting phony numbers, everyone loses. I fault my own real estate board for accepting and reporting this ridiculous subterfuge as much as I do the offending agency but neither comes out looking especially good. I understand the problem here: the builder has three new houses he’d like to sell and doesn’t want to depreciate the value of the remaining two by showing a sale millions less than his asking price for the houses next door, especially when the sale is for an unfinished house. But we live on real data in this business, not fantasized dreams. It took only one jerk of a lawyer (from Stamford, if you care) to stop payment on his attorney’s Trustee check to switch the entire real estate industry to a certified check-only basis. I fear that this duplicitous maneuver by this particular broker will have the same effect of eliminating the trust we otherwise place in each other. That shouldn’t happen.
No good deed goes unpunished
I recently wrote about Ed Mortimer’s waterfront property on Binney Lane in Old Greenwich, asking $17,000,000, in what I thought were positive terms. Back comes a complaint from Ed that I said the house would have to be torn down and rebuilt to Coastal Area Management codes if substantial improvements were sought. Ed says it ain’t so. I say, okay, but be sure to have your lawyer and surveyor examine the situation before you commit to the place. It’s still a grand piece of property and, frankly, if you have the money to buy the land, you’ll want to tear the place down anyway, in my opinion.
I’ve just finished up a deal with this lady and was reminded once again what I like about her. I told my clients when we began bidding that Jean is a fierce, tough negotiator but, if we got her on our side, she’d protect the deal like a tigress. That proved to be the case. Jean’s one of the top-selling agents in the country and usually dominates the Greenwich market (Tamar, David, don’t email me please) and for good reason: when you strike a deal with her, you know it’s going to happen. That’s the same reason, by the way, I recommend those Kaye boys, Joel and Jeremy, for real estate lawyering. I value folks who protect their client’s interest while remembering that their ego is of no importance compared to the deal itself.
I heard a BBC interview with some UN scientist who claims to have established a model for living within the confines of the earth’s resources (he himself acknowledged that he was living at 5 times that capacity, but never mind). Using some preposterously accurate measurements, he proclaimed that the perfect country we should emulate was Cuba, followed by “many other Caribbean nations”. Haven’t been to Cuba recently, and don’t want to, but I’ve witnessed Caribbean poverty and I’m not impressed. Dirt floors and spoiled bananas are our future? I hope not – at least one of beloved daughters probably thinks this is a great goa,l but I hope she’ll be disappointed.