Nothing encouraging here. 154 single family homes sold in Greenwich in the second quarter of 2008 (134 of which were multi-list, the balance for sale by owner, I believe). This compares to 230 in the same quarter last year, 225 in 2006, 266 in 2005 and 296 in 2004. Average and median prices were $2.874 and $2.012 this year compared to $2.780 and $2.067 in 2007. If you really want to get depressed, my former employer, Greenwich Post, says just 84 single family homes sold in the second quarter. They credit Bob Fossum with those statistics and he’s always right, so it’s a puzzle but not great news for sellers in either case.
Speaking of The Post, I just learned that they downsized their real estate reporter, Jane Dove. I got fired for ticking off a couple of advertisers but Jane’s demise was caused by budget cuts at the paper. Both firings raise the question, however, of how little content can you leave in a newspaper before your readers leave you?
Update: My friends at Shore & Country Real Estate have more data comparing the first half of 2008 to 2007. Same sort of stuff, but note their caution at the bottom of the page that many of the transactions reported as sold in 2008 were contracted for in a better market, 2007.
A commentator below asks why certain Old Greenwich waterfront properties are lingering, if these properties are so hot. I answered him in the comment section but here it is again:
It’s true that there are five waterfront houses currently for sale in Old Greenwich, but I blame price for their availability more than anything else. Old Greenwich saw some very quick sales of better waterfront – better priced or better location or better condition – in the past two years. 19 Meadow Place, for instance, basically land, came on in April this year for $7.950 and sold immediately for $8.500. 35 Cove Road asked $8.2 and got $8.2 in 22 days. 200 Shore Road, new construction with an incredible view, asked $8,000,000 and went to contract almost immediately for what I’d guess was asking or close-to-asking price.
Etc. The houses that are lingering are doing so, I think, because the sellers paid too much attention to the prices other waterfront fetched and not enough attention to the particular drawbacks of their own land. Nothing that can’t be remedied by a price cut. 164 Sore Road, for instance, came on at $8.4 but the sellers quickly realized they were too high, cut the price $500,000 and had it sold for $7.4 within 28 days of first listing it. That’s a smart buyer – why prolong the agony? Besides, they pocketed a very nice sum.
And if you’re looking for impressive sales of waterfront and are willing to look a bit past Old Greenwich into Riverside, Lowther Point sold this spring for $22,000,000. That one did take a few years to find its buyer, but the original price was er, “aggressive” and put many buyers off.
So I still like the stuff.
Zillow reports (see link above) that the majority of Americans think that their house increased in value last year while the reality is, few did. This is very much like the reaction we agents get when, giving a price opinion, we show the seller a list of comparable house sale prices and are met with, “but my house is special”. So is your wife, and so are your kids, but they’re all a drag on the market. Get real (and yes, I’m just kidding about your wife and kids – I’m sure they’re just adorable).
If you Google “windmill opposition” as I did in the link above, you’ll find 230,00 entries. Wherever these projects are proposed, opposition immediately swarms up to defeat them, whether in Bovina, New York, anywhere else in the Catskills, California, Nevada, or anywhere within sight of those eco-champions, the Kennedys. The same phenomenon can be observed for a power line transmission wires (893,000 hits)coal powered fuel plants (1,990,000)or nuclear energy (12,100,000) I’d guess that this fierce nimbyism will severely curtail the amount of energy generated from wind and certainly delay massive projects for at least a decade. So how are we going to run our economy? The best, or most revealing answer, comes from a European environmentalist – we don’t – our western economy must be destroyed.
So the next time Mr. Obama says that our economy must be transformed, you might ask, “transformed how?”. Nancy Pelosi isn’t concerned. As she recently stated, “this whole wind power thing is a hoax – it will take ten years for wind power to make any appreciable contribution to our energy needs and we need a solution now. That’s what the Democrats have come up with: we’re going to release 10% of our Strategic Oil reserve right now, right away. That will give the country a four-day supply of fuel, which will allow AlGore, Barack and me to gas up our jetsand get the hell out of here to Bali. The rest of you chumps can just freeze in the dark. See ya!”
B.K. Bates recently listed a Belle Haven waterfront property for sale at $15,750,000. The property was listed on July 23rd but the first broker open house wasn’t scheduled until early September, no doubt because BK wanted to give her fellow agents time to return from vacation. She herself was clearly not taking it easy because yesterday she reported that she had a contract on the place – both sides of the deal which is nice work if you can get it.
I didn’t see this place before it went but, at 1.6 acres and its construction date of 1933 I hope I’ll be forgiven if I suggest that this represents a very healthy price for waterfront building lots. It might be renovated (which was last done in 1980) but, given the relatively large size of the lot and the age of the building, it might easily be destined for the dustbin of history. Regardless, it’s nice to know that not everyone has lost their pocket change.
Greenwich Time reports today (link above) that the Byram Library expansion project is behind schedule and, worse, has soared from a $2.7 million budget to $4.8, a figure which is presumably still climbing. How in Hell do you miss a cost estimate by this much? I can only guess that the same folks who have dealt so well with our Hamilton Avenue and Glenville schools turned their attention to storing books, but maybe they should retire. “Only” $1.3 million of Greenwich taxpayer money is sunk in this mire, but it’s still appalling. Sheesh!
One area of disagreement my instructor and I had yesterday was the proper role of lawyers in real estate transactions. She, like most agents I know, hates lawyers and thinks they should be eliminated from the entire process, as they are in California and many other states. I think that, given my instructor’s own estimation that 97% of all agents don’t know what they’re doing, why would anyone entrust a $3,000,000 transaction, “the most important investment decision you’ll make in your life” if you believe the flacks from the National Association of Realtors (I don’t, but never mind, to anyone except a trained, experienced real estate lawyer? I heard more misinformation about real estate law yesterday than I usually encounter all year. “Time is of the essence is just a standard term,” for instance. Wrong! And, as I pointed out to no effect, if you don’t know the legal implications of a term, don’t write it into a contract. Buyers and sellers in Greenwich are spared the doubtful assistance of well meaning but ignorant wanna be lawyer/real estate agents because we don’t use binders and all transactions are done via contracts prepared by attorneys. Yes, there are some lawyers in town who know as little about real estate law as the agent who sold the house, and there are some out sized egos around ready to screw up deals by imposing ridiculous terms and conditions solely because they can, but a good attorney, together with his or her paralegal, will protect your interests and ensure a seamless, smooth transaction far better than most agents. No, I longer practice real estate law but I remember when I did and I certainly can appreciate watching a good one at work today. Money well spent, I think.
I usually avoid these things like the plague because, in my experience, the instructor usually tries to impart neat tricks that are supposed to bamboozle the customer and get them to buy what they don’t want and don’t need. The whole concept reminds me of why I hang onto my cars for ten years – I hate, absolutely hate, enduring the agony of dealing with an uneducated car salesman practicing Cheap Tricks 101, like “what will your neighbors think when they see this new car in your driveway?” I don’t care what my neighbors think and I don’t need to visualize owning the car, no matter what you were taught. Give me a good price and let me out of here.
But yesterday’s meeting was refreshingly different. The instructor,a woman with 35 years experience, emphasized treating people decently and well, developing a rational schedule to select, view and eliminate houses for showing and bringing value to the transaction by knowing real estate – inventory, neighborhoods, the cost of improvements – cold. I’m not sure I learned all that much because I already try to employ those skills to the best of my ability but I left feeling much better about the firm I’m associated with and the training it’s imparting to its agents. The best agents, by the way, are often exactly this type, regardless of where they park their shingle. The instructor claimed that 97% of all real estate is sold by 3% of all agents and suggested that that meant that 97% of all agents don’t know what the hell they’re doing. I think she was a bit harsh there, but I won’t disagree that there are a lot of licensed agents who don’t put much effort into keeping up with this business. Perhaps they’re too busy writing blogs about non-real estate related matters!