Daily Archives: August 19, 2008

How not to sell your house
Buy a house for $4.25 million in the Spring of 2006, change your mind and put it back up for sale three months later and ask $5.2 million – no one will notice the difference. Except in this case, they did, so today, 2 1/4 years after first being put up for sale, the price dropped to $3.95 million. I don’t know the particulars of the pricing decisions that went on here and it’s possible that gold-plated fixtures were added during the three months it was off the market but apparently would-be buyers in 2006 failed to see the increased value and balked. And now, of course, we’re in an entirely different market.

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Slow day for real estate news
In fact, I can find no real estate news, so instead I offer this story of riots planned for the Democratic convention. I don’t think this is going to help Obama – in fact, the Chicago riots in 1968 got Richard Nixon elected (or helped achieve that dubious result), but I suspect that the loonies planning all this don’t care. “Bring on the Revolution, man” or some such rot. Should be fun.

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Try this line out during your next traffic stop
I’ve been attempting to lighten the burden of a friend of mine who’s homeless. That’s a fruitless endeavor but I was struck by what he was told by a Greenwich cop last week while being rousted from a park bench: “Get a job, pay taxes and then you can be my boss.” I have my issues with our police force so I don’t dare use this but if you’re feeling brave, be my guest. Let me know how it works out.

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A view from the trenches

I just spent much of the morning listening to Nora King, owner and president of the appraisal company Nora King & Associates. She looks great but her news was ugly. 50% of her firm’s Greenwich case load is now devoted to pre-foreclosure or work-out notes, compared to zero last year, and 34 homes in town are now in foreclosure with, as her caseload suggests, more on the way.

This isn’t necessarily bad news for buyers, of course, because it means some sellers may finally get serious, and real, about their pricing, and your “low ball” offer might now be heard by a receptive ear. Or not, depending on the seller’s state of delusion.

Other tidbits: condo sales are not only way down, underwriters hate lending on them (which may be the cause of the effect). As King explained it, an underwriter in, say, Ohio, sees that 1/2 of its troubled loans, nationally, are arising from condos, and they don’t want to hear about what the condo market’s doing in Greenwich; they just don’t want anything to do with any of them. There are still loans available but King suggests, as I did here last week, that if you’re putting your unit on the market you take the last comparable unit sale for your compplex and price yours 10%less than that. This is not the time to stretch for a new price – your buyer won’t get a loan.

Nationally, 1/3 of all single family homes sold within the past few years are underwater, or worth less than their buyers paid for them. Greenwich hasn’t reached that stage, but it sure makes lenders nervous.

Appraisals are taking at least 7-10 days now – they one day turn-around time is gone, so make sure your mortgage contingency (yes, they’re back) is for at least 20 and preferably 30 days; you’ll need the extra time. Sellers, be aware of this new reality and don’t be inflexible.

Buyers, go out and get pre-qualified now if you’re even thinking of buying this Fall.

Sellers, know that the comparable sales your buyer’s lender wil look at are no older than 90 days (30 days in depressed and falling markets) instead of the 6 month window used before. So if your neighbor down the street sold his house for $X back in March, don’t count on your own house appraising out for the same amount.

Oh – “fixtures”: pools, new kitchens, great new master baths etc. are not considered to add value to your house these days. Your house will probably sell faster but, as far as the lenders are concerned, you might just as well have saved your money (that’s a bit of an overstatement, but generally true).

There’s more, but how depressed do you want to be? The upside is that buyers should start seeing some decent opportunities if they haven’t already. Sellers should start adjusting mentally to a down market, and hope that things get better next year. According to King and some other pundits there are some faint signs of a recovering market but I don’t anticipate much good news in the immediate future. Especially if, as rumored yesterday, Fannie Mae has to be bailed out by us taxpayers. Wall Street’s gonna hate that.

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They’re kidding, right?
Today’s Greenwich Time headline announces that the town will now more closely monitor the spending on the Hamilton Avenue School project. This after spending $31 million on an unfinished project that’s over-budget and way, way overdue? Now they’re going to watch how our money’s spent? I’m no financial wizard but prudence suggests that the time for monitoring this project should have started before the contractor was selected and certainly should have continued while the dollars were flying out the window. I think we need someone watching the watchers.

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