Daily Archives: February 20, 2008

School Vacation
As a parent of school-aged kids I was all for them. As a Realtor, I’m not such a fan, because half the town empties out: good for those of us stuck here in the ice, but bad for people trying to sell their house. Ah well, we’ll get by this week (and next week, when the private school kids, safely segregated from their public school peers, disappear to St. Barts) and the market will resume.

Watch out!
I understand that an old practice has reappeared on our real estate scene: listings that are held “in-house” rather than being placed on the MLS. It’s easy to understand why a broker would like this arrangement, as a full loaf is always better than half, but what’s in it for you, the homeowner? Houses in Greenwich sell via the multiple listing exchange. The more exposure your house has to agents, the more likely a buyer will be found, so limiting that exposure to just the agents of one particular brokerage firm only hurts you: I can see no possible advantage. Here’s a suggestion: if a firm makes this pitch ask what’s in it for you? I suppose that, if they’re willing to cut the commission in half, you might want to risk a 30 day trial and see if you can save some money. But if there’s no discount, you’d be a chump to agree.

I heard about these recycled plastic/cellulose substitutes for cedar shingles on NPR not long ago and, after researching them (Google Eco-Shake) and they seem to make sense. By using them you’ll get a product with a 50 year warranty (real cedar has a lifespan of around 20 years), a fire-resistant surface that will probably earn a reduction in your fire insurance costs, fewer problems with mold and fungus and the feel-good effect occasioned by reusing materials that would otherwise end up in a land fill. My guess is that, like the synthetic slate roofing I wrote about last year, the cost of product will probably be about the same but long term, you’ll have a better product. The builder/expert interviewed on NPR said that the finest home builder he knew (and the speaker was editor of Fine Home Building) uses these and “if they’re good enough for him …”. Worth looking into, I think.

Eco-Mommies and our town
Greenwich is all aflutter to end global warming by proposing eliminating plastic bags in supermarkets and converting the town’s fleet to hybrid vehicles. Before we rush around like headless chickens, could we please just take a deep breath and consider this? First, modern landfills are anaerobic – anything placed there, plastic or “recyclable” paper, stays there, forever; it doesn’t decompose. So no gain there. Second, hybrids use, duh, big lead batteries. That lead is mined in Canada, causing a huge toxic mess, shipped to China, converted to batteries and then shipped back here for installation in cars. There may be a net gain to our environment in all this, but I’d like to see some studies proving it.

As for eco-mommies, did you read about them in the New York Times? These are groups of unemployed ladies in Marin County (for now, but you know they’re coming our way soon) who gather in each others’ mansions, sip expensive wine and criticize each other for using wall-to-wall carpeting, paint (?!) and SUVs, all while discussing how to save the planet by switching lightbulbs and eschewing brown paper lunch bags for their kids. A recent study in Japan calculated how much of the US economy would have to be sacrificed if we were to cut our carbon emissions in half by 2050. Turns out, the study calculates it at 88%. The economists who reached this conclusion thought that was just fine (“ I like riding a bicycle”, says one) but I wonder what the ladies of Marin County will think about walking over the Golden Gate Bridge to reach their masseuse? In short, if global warming is as dire as Al Gore says it is, and we care to do something about it, we have to stop growing food, stop driving or flying or heating our homes and revert to a mediaeval standard of living. Good for Breugel, I suppose, bad for us.

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