How’d we get into this mortgage mess? Hell if I know.
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Marking to Market, Redux
I innocently opined yesterday that this seemed like a good idea and was promptly straightened out by two well reasoned comments from “CEA”, who clearly is up on the subject (all while providing a neat, accurate comparison to real estate pricing in Greenwich). Now someone in the Wall Street Journal says, who knows what will happen – let’s try it and find out. So now I’m thoroughly confused. Thoughts, CEA?
It’s always something!
Okay, we got the carbon thing under control by shutting down our coal plants (too bad China’s building something like 1,200 of the pesky things a week, but hey, we tried. Now it turns out that a worse pollutant, methane, is rushing out from the ocean floor. What do I have to do to save this planet, give up my freaking boat, for Crissake? Sheesh!
If you blame this spate of non-real estate posts on a dearth of real estate news, you’d be right.
Reviewing the hot sheet, no new listings of note, a handful of mediocre price reductions (odd that cutting $500,000 from a listing price could be described as mediocre but if you start high enough, it is) and no contracts. I’ll be glad when Congress either does or does not pass the bailout bill because we might see people moving off the fence, one way or the other. Sellers might panic and cut their prices low enough to bestir buyers or buyers might gain confidence that it’s safe to come out of the bedroom. I’ll be cooling my heels until then – I just may have to send Amanda out on another mission (Oh no! Aaaaaaggghhh! – get over it).
This is sad, if expected news
We all knew that explorer/dare devil Steve Fossett was dead but now they’ve found his personal effects in the desert. While it’s possible it’s all a ruse designed to hide his escape to Cuba with Hank Paulson and the $700 billion, I think not. Too bad, because I always admired the guy. He did crazy stunts but at his expense, and was inspiring to this armchair wannabe.
Why hide your light under a bushel?
I’m told that certain Sotheby’s agents deny they’re any part of Realogy Corp, wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Management. While I can understand that no proper Greenwich agent would willingly admit association with the polyester, mustard-garbed horde at Century 21,the fact is, they’re peas in the same corporate pod , as this press release states:
Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. (www.siroffices.com) is part of NRT Incorporated, the nation’s largest residential real estate brokerage company. NRT, a subsidiary of Realogy Corporation (NYSE: H), operates Realogy’s company-owned real estate brokerage offices.
That’s a little snobbish, isn’t it? And what about Sotheby’s other sibling, Coldwell-Banker? Do Coldwell agents also get the cold shoulder? Harsh bud, dude.
Update: This article says that we can expect still more market consolidation as the real estate market tanks. GMAC Home Services, one of the largest brokerage firms in the U.S. was just taken over by a Canadian company and the deal lost one potential player:“Realogy was mentioned among the possible buyers of GMAC, but it has been saddled with debt in [its own] heavily leveraged buyout deal.”
Sotheby’s is doing just fine; if its Greenwich agents are lucky, maybe Realogy will sell off Century 21 and the Sotheby’s folks can ditch their shame.
Good bye, New York Sun
I was never one of this start-up paper’s subscribers and, living outside New York, rarely felt the need to see what it was saying about local politics. But the little I did read I liked and, as The New York Times used to say, you don’t have to read it all but it’s nice to know it’s there. That’s no longer true about the Times, of course, and now the Sun’s gone too. An obituary of the paper, written by a Manhattan resident, is linked here.
News Flash! Political corruption nothing new
My pal Bernie Yudain has an interesting column in Greenwich Time today on the building of the Merritt Parkway. Bernie touches on the corruption in Hartford that had the Governor and his cronies leaking information on the proposed route to their co-conspirators who then went and bought what was essentially worthless farmland and sold it to the state for a fortune. What Bernie doesn’t mention but what I think I recall from an oral history of this subject in Greenwich Library is that the pols weren’t content with a one-off deal: they kept buying cheap and selling dear as many as three times, changing the route so as to make it all possible. People finally got tired of no highway and lots of graft and the pols had to settle on one route, thus ending the show.
Bernie, because he’s a gentleman, also doesn’t mention the name of the “tycoon” who bribed his way to getting the Merritt designers to throw a huge, curving bend around his property. I’m under no such handicap so here’s a hint: the locals didn’t name that deadly detour “Rockefeller’s Loop” for nothing.
Here’s a lousy idea
Some town workers are proposing a four day work week for employees. The proponents claim that it will boost employee morale and save our environment. I could care less about employee morale (attention, Amanda Von Stuckle fans – “I could care less” is a sarcastic expression used by writers when in fact they couldn’t care less. Ed.]. If someone with a lifetime job, big benefits and a generous retirement plan is dissatisfied, let them go to work in the private sector. And our own Peter Tesei says, “some of the virtues of helping the environment I find specious.” Good for you, Peter – so do the rest of us.
Here’s the real reason to oppose this plan: have you ever tried to use Town Hall during the five days it’s open now? Try to get a building permit or almost any other governmental document and you’ll encounter offices closed most of the day, with odd hours like 12:15 to 12:20, then 3:07 to 3: 32 [more sarcasm – Ed]. That’s how things are now – we want to create a full day of inaccessibility? I think not.
Another problem with the bailout
When our politicians are tossing around a figure like 700 kerbillion trillion dollars, a more modest sum like $25 billion can be slipped past taxpayer dupes with nary a peep. That’s what they’ve just done by “loaning car makers what would once have been a huge sum.
I’ve seen no discussion on why we’re doing this. No one doubts that if Chrysler (or Ford, or GM or all three) disappeared, other car makers would step in and provide all the cars we need. They’d probably be as nice and modern as my Honda and, like my car, made right here in the U.S. So other than bailing out some executives and preserving their jobs, why are we doing this? Because we can and, as noted, after $700 billion, what’s a mere $25?
Bill Clark, who writes sporadically on his blog (I’ve tried to add an RSS feed, Bill so I’ll be alerted to new postings) Greenwich Gossip took it upon himself to go down to Town Hall and demand a copy of the survey Greenwich conducted months ago on the performance of our schools. No wonder the authorities have tried to hide this thing: our Superintendent, Betty Sternberg, received dismal performance ratings from both parents and teachers alike. Sternberg’s two-year contract expires this year. First Selectman Peter Tesei has suggested that we select the best principal we have in our schools and make that person the next Superintendent. That makes sense to me but regardless of who’s chosen, can we really do any worse than Sternberg?
Thursday’s debate – how neutral the moderator?
Claudette, who writes as the Greenwich Diva, has expressed ambivalent feelings towards the appointment of PBS reporter Gwen Ifel as moderator of tomorrow night’s Palin-Biden debate. Claudette seems to fear that Ifel won’t be up to the task of dismembering that sly devil, Governor Palin (Claudette and I are fast friends but we’ve never agreed on politics and this issue is no exception). I don’t share her ambivalence because I think the debate organizers have purposefully selected an Obama partisan in the hope that she’ll do exactly what Claudette dreams of.
Michelle Malkin points out that Ifel has a pro-Obama book due out in January. The book’s a best seller if Obama wins; he loses, and it’s a historical curiosity (I speak from experience – my own book, “The New Millionaire’s Handbook” was written at the height of the dot.Com boom. Despite my urgings that the boom would bust and the people I’d described wouldn’t be as funny without money, publication was delayed until November 2000. Result? 20,000 copies sold instead of the predicted 500,000).
Can Ifel be objective? I don’t know, she’s a good journalist, but I do find her a dubious choice as moderator.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, no liberal he, says fuhgeddaboutit. Palin will stand or fall on her performance and nothing any moderator, even Gwen Ifell (two “l”s, my experts advise me) can bring her down. It’s all up to the candidate, Taranto says and, thinking about it, I believe he’s right. Which is a relief because I’ve always respected Ifell’s work. I’m still going to view her suspiciously tomorrow night but Taranto’s right: if Palin can’t stand up to a newscaster,let alone a schnook like Joe Biden, then she shouldn’t be our Vice President.
Well isn’t this boring!
I did some further digging and learned to my disappointment that there are two “Nuirkas” and only one of them takes off her clothes. This one doesn’t or at least her promotional material doesn’t mention it. From the description of what she does offer:
As a consultant, Niurka’s approach goes beyond an organization’s symptoms (low productivity, low morale, high turnover, etc.) and uncovers the core problems and attitudes creating those symptoms. Once the core problems have been identified, a strategy is formulated to align the organization’s systems, structure, practices and functions with a clearly defined mission, set of core values, and short/long-term performance objectives.
I figure she’s the one the real estate firm is sponsoring.
Speaking solely for myself, I’ve already seen the damn condo the broker’s plugging and I’d rather chew glass than sit through a lecture on aligning my auras. Bring on the stripper and even the condo’s price will seem more attractive.