Daily Archives: March 13, 2008

Smaller Houses
I receive a fair amount of email traffic from readers wondering why I devote so much attention to high priced houses when most of us poor slobs can only afford modest ones. The easy answer is, what passes for an “entry-level” house in this town is rarely interesting or new. But some great, small houses do occasionally come on the market and when they do, I write them up. Hendrie Lane in Riverside was a recent example: here are two more:

7 Osee Place
This is a 1927, 2,400 sq.ft. house off of Valleywood that was completely renovated about 4 years ago and is currently listed by Elizabeth Dagnino (Prudential) for $1,550,000. I really liked it. It’s been done up in what I suppose is Craftsman style but don’t rely on my skewed understanding of architectural styles- the point is, it’s absolutely beautiful, in mint condition, with a nice back yard on a great, quiet street that’s kiddie heaven. Wonderful neighborhood, really nice house, good price.

26 Spruce Street
Okay, you pay more for Riverside, but Pam Chiapetta’s new listing at $2,045,000 seemed well-priced for the quality offered. I liked this house when it was on the market a few years ago; the new owners have redone it and it’s even nicer now. I doubt there’s a scrap of extra FAR space to expand, but it has five bedrooms (I might want to sacrifice one to make an additional room) and a decent yard, all within walking distance of the schools and train. There’s good value here, in my opinion.

Apples to apples
Another complaint I get from readers is that we rarely compare actual sales of existing houses. It’s all well and good to learn that the average house price increased 7% last year, but that number is skewed by the many renovations and new construction projects: what’s happened to houses that have simply been lived in, with no new kitchens added? How have they fared? It’s hard to find such houses these days – as you know, we’re all living in a perpetual construction zone and it seems that every house is being added on to, every day. But Mandy Fry (David Ogilvy) has listed 4 Gisborne Place for $2,065,000 and this house offers a neat example of an unchanged property. It sold for $1,915,000 in August 2006 and, to the best of my memory, remains unchanged. If so, and assuming there’s some slippage between asking and selling price, then its value has remained flat for the past 18 months. That’s probably about right: I certainly wouldn’t counsel a seller to add much, if anything, to the price he paid a year or two ago. Not a disaster for the homeowner: rental value for this house would have been between $7,500 – $9,000 per month and the tax benefits accruing to mortgage payments should offset real estate commissions and other transaction costs, but the past few years were not a period in which to make a killing in real estate.

Changing Times
Average time to prepare dinner in 1930: 150 minutes; today, 15
Consumers prefer mixed, pre-washed lettuce 2:1 over conventional heads.
Pre-cooked, frozen meals and take-out sales at an all-time high.
Biggest consumer add-on to houses these days: the “gourmet” kitchen, replete with professional cooking ranges and commercial grade refrigerators.
We’re selling perception, not reality.

Plastic Bags, revisited
Did you catch that story in the Times of London reporting the consensus of a number of environmentalists that the banning of plastic shopping bags was a useless exercise in feel-good environmentalism? Turns out, we’re not choking 100,000 seabirds, whales, dolphins etc. on the things – the experts couldn’t come up with a single instance of a death occasioned by the bags- and, as usual with this kind of gesture, a ban only encourages people to think that they’re doing something significant to save the world while permitting them to ignore the truly harmful acts that we all engage in. The trouble with this sort of nonsense is, when it’s exposed as folly, it makes people like me even more cynical towards the entire environmental movement and depletes energy that might otherwise be expended on real change.

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