The Helmsley Palace
Thanks to David Ogilvy’s impressive power of persuasion, he was permitted to open the doors of his Helmsley listing on Round Hill Road to all of us unwashed agents who are no more likely to have a buyer in its price range ($125,000,000, if you’re asking) than David is to list my $250,000 mobile home. Some house. I’ll confess that I expected to see a sadly run-down mansion – I don’t know why, except that I know Leona Helmsley was in ill health for a time and I assumed that she’d neglected the house in her final days. Ha! It’s in beautiful condition, maintained, I’m sure, as scrupulously as one of her hotels. This has to be the most famous house in Greenwich, and the view of Long Island Sound, the beautifully decorated rooms, two pools (one indoors) and, of course, 40 acres of lawns all justify that fame. As I am unlikely to be invited to dinner by the next owner, I jumped at the opportunity to see this fabulous mansion that I’ve admired during my fifty-plus years in town. If you’ve got the money, or can at least pretend to, call David for a tour. The wine cellar alone is worth the effort.

Pricing
There were twelve price reductions the other day, neatly balancing twelve new listings, but I believe that sellers still don’t understand our brave new market. I understand that some sellers feel no pressure to sell and for them, it makes sense, sort of, to refuse anything less than the asking price. But if you want to, or have to move, this is not the time to hold fast. Of every ten houses I see on the open house circuit, I’d guess that eight won’t sell at their current asking price. That’s discouraging. There are buyers out there, but they aren’t going to overpay. Right now, buyers and sellers are pretty far apart as to what constitutes overpaying. I think the buyers have the better side of the argument.

Simmons Lane Monstrosity?
A couple of readers have emailed me about this proposed project, a 30,000 sq.ft. replacement for what was, alas, a rather tired mansion. Not living on the street, its size doesn’t worry me as much as it does the neighbors, but it does seem a tad over-sized, even for Greenwich. What intrigues me most is that this eight – bedroom house intends to host twenty-six toilets. Is there something in the water?

Going Down?
If you believe the New York Times (an iffy supposition), the private management firm that took over a bunch of companies recently is preparing to shed them in bankruptcy. Linens and Things is the most likely victim but, according to the Times, so to is Realogy, the corporation that owns a slew of real estate firms like Coldwell Banker, Soetheby’s and Century 21. As I understand the matter, the firms themselves are okay but the new owners saddled them with huge debt obligations so that the private bankers could pay their investors fat dividends. My father, a Wall Street veteran since 1929, quit investing in the early 1980’s, saying that he no longer understood the business. I think he was on to something.

Ethanol, revisited
I’m delighted to see that my reservations about turning corn into alcohol are now being seconded by the main stream media. Turns out that palm oil and corn are not going to save the world from global warming and will instead lead to deforestation and a doubling of food prices. Duh. Just wait until reporters figure out that ethanol as an “oxygenator” that reduces air pollution is a hoax, and that it costs at least as much energy to produce a gallon of the stuff as it yields. Why, given time, they might even rethink the whole global warming scam itself.

New York Times
I spent the day recently with New York Times reporter Peter Applebome, who will presumably write a column about our tour of Greenwich. I just want to say now about any quotes he may attribute to me that: I never said it; it was taken out of context; and any reference to bitter, unemployed Greenwichites clinging to their mansions was entirely invented by the reporter. You just can’t trust these guys!

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  1. Anonymous

    I was shopping the condo market in Greenwich recently,primarily looking at prewar buildings close to downtown.

    What I found absolutely bears out what you wrote about “pricing”

    Apparently most sellers in Greenwich are slow or unwilling to recognize the fact that this is no longer the highly inflated market of past years and that these prices will not be seen again for a while. Serious sellers should listen to experienced realtors and accept reasonable offers from buyers willing to step up to the plate in this market.
    People who know the market best, experienced real estate professionals,admitted that current asking prices are unrealistic but that sellers do not want to hear that from them.

  2. claudette Rothman

    Just read the New York Times article, it was good. what do you think the Helmsley’s house is really worth? Like you, I don’t think I will be invited by the next owner for afternoon tea. But, from the outside my guess is that the house is worth about $60 million. I am basing this number on the Dunns house on John Street.

    Claudette Rothman
    http://www.greenwichdiva.com

  3. Anonymous

    I really enjoyed the ny times article as well and was so happy to come across the link to your blog which I find terrific.

    Question for you—have you seen 709 Lake Avenue—what are your thoughts about the house and its pricing?

    appreciate it.

  4. louis van leeuwen

    I will cancel my sub to the GREENWICH POST.

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    Riverside