Daily Archives: September 14, 2008


Why do people screw good things up?
Starbucks has stopped selling Columbian beans. The kids behind the counter confirm that it was a huge seller (in fact, I believe Starbucks was the largest purchaser of Columbian coffee in the world, but I could be wrong on that). I don’t like what the store does to coffee once they try to brew it themselves but their beans, freshly ground and prepared in a French press, made a very good cup of coffee. And no, I’m not going to buy one of their even pricier blends, I’ll just have to find a new source for my morning brew.

Similarly, the idiots who ran the Sitemeter spot which runs on this blog and offered readership statistics to anyone curious to see them have now improved their product to require sign-in, extra clicking and God knows what else. I’ve always been lazy so “leave well enough alone” has been my life’s mantra. Others obviously have more energy.

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Does “green” equal $green?
Not as far as I can tell. A number of builders have gone to extraordinary lengths the past few years to incorporate sensible energy-saving features like super insulation, really sophisticated heating and cooling systems, “E-glass” windows and so forth. I think these houses are great so it disappoints me that the home buyers seem unwilling to pay anything extra for such features, even if they’ll save a lot of money in the long run. I know, I know, “in the long run we’ll all be dead” but this kind of construction makes a house immediately more comfortable to live in and payback should come in just a few years. But I’ve been informally keeping track of the selling price for these houses and it seems to me that they sell for just about what their less sophisticated brethren sell for. Location, number of bedrooms and all that still rule and buyers just aren’t interested in saving on heating and cooling costs. Maybe $4 a gallon fuel oil will educate them. In the meantime, if you are a buyer, keep your eye out for these homes – you can buy them for no more than a regular house so you’ll be getting a nice subsidy from the builder.

Update:
Here’s a thoughtful article asking whether “green” houses have to be ugly. The author is too kind to post actual photos of what she considers ugly brutes (a softness I don’t share) but she’s on to something. I like the looks of the green projects I’ve seen here in town, mostly, but ugliness is not going to help these things sell. I’ll go look for examples with which to embarrass some people.

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More good news!
According to some of my peers quoted in the Stamford Advocate, the federal bailout of Fannie Mae
will return sweetness and light to the housing market. I disagree, but never have I so wanted to be wrong.
Update:
Here’s someone in Arizona who’s being fed the same line and is similarly unimpressed.

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Sign of the times?
Greenwich doesn’t permit broker “for sale” signs but our Board of Realtors has just added a new category for listings: short sales, which are tedious, cumbersome proceedings that may permit a seller to sell his house for less than he owes. The new category serves as a heads up to buyers’ reps that this isn’t going to be an easy sale. For details on just how involved this is, see
this article from the Hartford Current.

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Bargains?
I checked out
Realtec.com this morning and its site claims that there are 29 properties in Greenwich in “pre-foreclosure” mode. Now this just means that a notice of intent to foreclose has been filed on the land records, which is mostly an attempt to cut off more creditors from getting ahead of the lender. It does not necessarily mean that the property will be foreclosed and, historically, few Greenwich properties go so far. But these may be new times and some of the addresses: Perkins Road, Stanwich, Taconic, Buckfield Lane and the like could all offer some value. Depends on either the seller’s willingness to get out early or the bank’s desire to unload once they take title.

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A ray of hope?
Maybe, but don’t hold your breath. I’ve heard of several sellers who have accepted offers in the past few weeks but have not reported their houses as “under contract” because mortgage contingencies are taking longer to be met. So it’s possible that last week’s dismal performance (3 contracts all week, compared to 8-10 a day this time of year) can be explained and that we’ll see the traditional surge of sales a few weeks later this year.
My personal feeling is that, while there are indeed buyers out there, they’ve been offering much less than the sellers are looking for and, so far, the sellers aren’t bending. If the financial world collapses tomorrow, as seems possible given the seeming lack of progress resolving the Lehman mess, these sellers may regret their intransigence.

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