We were actually doing pretty well this year in house sales: according to my friend John Cooke, at Prudential Ct, January 2008 showed a nice increase in sales from January 2007, but things have dramatically slacked off the past few months – I’ll have those statistics for you just as soon as John gets off his lazy butt and provides them – the reason for the decline, I’m guessing, is the collapse of the credit market. Right now, lenders are hugely reluctant to lend on anything that isn’t guaranteed by Freddi Mac or Fannie Mae which rules out many Greenwich mortgages. Never mind that Greenwich has seen a mere handful of foreclosures in the past decades, national lenders are running scared and can’t, or won’t distinguish Greenwich from, say, Miami Beach. If you need a $2,000,000 mortgage, these folks are insisting on a 60/40 loan-to-equity ratio, instead of the more typical 80-20. High-end folks tend to have tons of restricted stock available to pledge (unless, of course, it’s bear Stearns stock) so the very expensive houses are chugging along, but a young, highly successful young family that can afford a $3,000,000 house may have a hard time latching on to the $1,200,000 in cash that will permit their banker to sleep at night. I suspect that all this will sort itself out in the near future but, for now, there’s a squeeze on in what, for Greenwich, passes as its bread and butter sales area.
Of course, if you’re not worried about a mortgage…
Sally O’Brien has a great old (1907) Belle haven Mediterranean listed for a mere $11,400,000, and what a house it is. Walk in the front door and everything flows just the way it should: a beautiful winding stair leads to the two floors above, gracious public rooms spread out on either side and, once through the butler’s pantry, a brand new eat in kitchen/family room offers the privacy you want. I have never been able to fully adjust for the “Belle Haven premium” so I offer no opinion on price here, but if money were no object and I wanted to live in Belle Haven, I’d grab this one.
I occasionally get anonymous missives from readers who are somehow afraid that they’ll offend the real estate community if they complain. Are you kidding? We’d run over our grandmothers to get a listing – insult us, say any nasty thing you wish but, if you’ve got a listing, all is forgiven, believe me. In any event, one recent letter writer suggested that we adopt what she says is the European custom and split commissions in two, with the seller paying the listing agent and the buyer paying her own. While it was true, years ago, that both the buyer and the listing agent owed a duty to just the seller, that has changed and buyers’ brokers are now allowed and even required to exert their loyalties solely on behalf of the buyer. I have my objections to the buyer/broker contract as prepared by the mercenaries of my organization, the Connecticut Association of Realtors, and have written about those objections before, but the basic concept of a broker/agent representing a buyer is entirely sound. Sure, we’re ultimately being paid from the seller’s dime, but we’re out with the buyer for weeks on end, helping them find just the right house and our loyalties and often friendship rest with them, Beside, if we do a good job, we’ve got a nice referral who, unlike the seller, commonly, is staying in town. So if you’re a buyer, I wouldn’t worry about your agent having divided loyalties. And if you sense that he or she is primarily interested in selling you a house, any house, then perhaps you should consider finding another agent. Notwithstanding the recent downturn, there are still plenty of us to choose from.
I have written in support of this natural gas project before, all to the annoyance of those readers who insist that I restrict my comments strictly to real estate. It seems to me that creating energy shortages in this region does relate to real estate but rather than repeat my arguments I’ll just note this: the New York Times editorial board has just come out against it. I rest my case.