Daily Archives: October 2, 2008

This probably won’t be the last dumb assumption I make today but it was the first
“CEA” whose comments on marking to market, real estate and other matters I have praised, has no wife, she is a wife. If you’d like to see a picture of the idiot in command of this keyboard, look to your right.

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What fun is this?
Credit crisis spreads a pall over Silicon Valley

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This should be interesting
A reader brought to my attention this monster on Round Hill Road which has been on the market since May at $25 million. The land it sits on has a history. It was originally offered for sale in 2003 as 9.9 acres at $9.5 million. It sold for $8.1 million (so much for $9.5, but a man’s grasp should exceed his reach and all that)in August 2005 and 4.3 acres were split off and sold that year to this builder for $7.25 million. He must have had second thoughts because in November 2006 he tried to resell it for $7.45 million but finding no takers, he proceeded to build this 22,185 sq. foot mansion. He finished in May, put it on the market, and there it sits.

I hold no malice toward this builder. To the contrary, he’s built a succession of beautiful, extremely well crafted houses over the years and sold each of them in the $6 million range. I don’t know what possessed him to pay $7.25 for a parcel of land, however, because at that price he either has to sell the house he built on it for over $20 million or lose his shirt. So I hope, for his sake, he finds a buyer, quickly. But in this market, I also hope he has a second shirt.

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Update!
My brother Gideon points out that the Helmsley price reduction of $30 million now holds the record for the largest price reduction in Greenwich real estate history. I declined a reader’s request to identify the “King of Over Pricing” earlier this week but it’s now a matter of public record that David Ogilvy can claim the title of “King of Price Cuts”. Imagine that client meeting. “We’re going to require a price cut.” “Okay,sure – how much? 100 thousand?” “Er, no, a little more than that; let’s say, …. 30 million?”

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Time out?
One of the most successful builders in town, Jordan Saper, bought 29 Calhoun Drive this past for July for $2.375. Even though the market was declining then, the property, listed at $2.495, moved in just 13 days. But July ’08 is not October ’08 and today Saper returned the place to the market, asking $2.450. I doubt he’ll get that, but here’s my point: if a builder like Saper has developed cold feet on proceeding with a project, what does that say about the prospects for other land deals? Nothing good, I suspect.

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Hurry, hurry, hurry!
The Helmsley estate has been dropped from $125 million to $95 million, a saving of a full $30 million. If you’ve been waiting, now’s your chance. I once hazarded a guess, when the Queen of Bedford Hills Women’s Prison was still alive, that the place might be worth $45-$50 million. The listing broker was obviously far more optimistic than I and remains so even today – but that optimism is dipping.

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Oh, come on!
Greenwich Post reports today yet another assault on our coffers: a “Victim” sues town for sewer back-up . Look – I certainly regret that this poor lady had raw sewage sloshed around her basement and that foul odors permeated her home but without more – an allegation as to how, exactly, the town was negligent, I don’t want her reaching into my pocket. Sewers back up for all sorts of reasons but most of those: tree roots invading lines, too much stuff entering through the toilet, you name it; are the responsibility of the homeowner, not her fellow citizens. “Emotional harm? “Punitive damages?” ‘Attorney’s fees?”. Somebody hand this lady a bucket of bleach and a mop and tell her to get over it.

I may be being unfair here and the lack of specificity may be due to lousy reporting by the Greenwich Post rather than lousy lawyering (on the subject of reporting, it adds nothing to learn that the litigant’s a single mother and unemployed – irrelevant!) I’m not reassured however, by this quote from our former First Selectman, Roger Peterson, who represents the woman and who is demanding that his former constituents pay his fees:

“What happened to her is extraordinarily egregious that the town has not stepped in to remedy this situation and to compensate her for the damages she has suffered.”

“What happened to her is extraordinarily egregious that the town”? Did Roger screw up the English language like this when he was in government? All I remember of the guy was him running around Greenwich in his (town-supplied) car, trying to arrest people by showing them his phony Police Commissioner badge.

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Will the bailout work?
Assuming it passes the House, which I think it will. But I tried emailing my Congressman Chris Shays last night to urge him to vote against the damn thing (fat chance) and received a message that “the mailbox is full”. The alternative contact site took about 4 minutes to load so I guess the man was hearing from (lots) of constituents. I assume Shay’s no different than other members of Congress in this regard, and I also assume constituents don’t want to see the bailout pass, so today should be interesting.
The wife of reader “CEA” (hey – this is a family blog, silhouettes of strippers notwithstanding, and her email proves it) has sent me a link to this article that predicts the bailout won’t work. Good points made, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to find out, beginning today. If so, let’s pray that Warren Buffet’s sceptical optimism is justified.

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When did they move from Nigeria to South Africa?
Received the following from a Mr. Francis Khoumommo – I can’t take advantage of this opportunity now but if you’re feeling flush from the recent surge in Greenwich real estate values, perhaps you’ll be interested. Call me if so – we’ll do lunch.

ATTENTION, Mr Christ

financial consultant in South Africa and believe that this finds you and your family well as I would like to work together with you if you deem it necessary and rewarding to assist my client realize his personal investment plan.

My client, Dr. Irvin Khoza, the Vice President of South African Football Association and also the Chairperson Local Organizing Committee for the 2010 world cup tournament in South Africa.

I am consulting you on his instruction for his personal investment plan which I would like to discuss with you and know the possibility of how we can co-operate and work together to carry it out, which I believe will benefit both parties if handled with honesty.

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A Rush to judgment?
Yale researchers have taken a closer look at those energy saving light bulbs our Congress has mandated. Their conclusion?
Mercury pollution will increase in many states and countries.

“Compact fluorescent lighting is an area where we’re really pushing this alternative and all these policies are being enacted, but we’re not looking at the potential unintended consequences of what we’re doing,” said study author Julie Beth Zimmerman, an assistant professor in Yale’s Department of Chemical Engineering and its School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

I know I annoy my Green friends when I disparage efforts to save our planet tomorrow but we’re seeing so much of this foolishness – Congress, desperate to appear to be doing something about whatever crisis of the day has captured the media’s attention, scurries around, comes up with a cosmetic solution, adds a whole bunch of unrelated pork barrel projects if the public frenzy permits that subterfuge and presto! Problem solved, let’s move on to something else. A little deep breathing and a pause for reflection would only improve this process.

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OK, I’m a naive chump
Earlier this week I commented on the bailout bill having swelled from 3 to 107 pages and asked, “how large will it grow before final passage?” I predicted 350 pages and I’ll say right here, I’m a fool. The present bill the Senate’s having fun with is already 400 pages long and growing fatter by the minute. And oh, the presents they’re piling under the Christmas tree! Ya want mental health care free from insurance companies? You got it – they’ve screwed consumers long enough. No tariff on wooden arrows so Oregonian kids parents can afford toys? Hey, that’s what we’re here for. A bridge – ya wanna bridge? Go ahead, take one.

If these charlatans won’t act like there’s a crisis why on earth should we believe that one exists? I’ve been leaning in this direction and now I’m sure: we should stop this bill in its tracks and pray to God that Congress will finally recess and go home, where they can do less harm.

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You will not steal this house!

I keep hearing tales from my colleagues about sellers who, upon receiving offers, acknowledge that in the present market they should probably accept it but decide they’ll “hold out until the market recovers”. This is a wonderful strategy if you have the resources and time to employ it but what none of us know is when the market will recover. Some of us think that we’ve just seen a market correction of 20% and think that the correction is not over and in fact probably has still more to go. If so, then we’re in a new world where houses will not be worth what they were worth last year any time soon. Like, for the next 5 years. Others are more optimistic and predict a full recovery by this coming summer.
So you have a choice: accept the fact that the market has just shifted downward and plans to stay there for a long time or hang on and wait 9 months. If we come roaring back, lucky you. If prices keep dropping, you won’t be happy.

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Update: The Black Knight flinches
Our Somali pirates’ ransom demand has dropped from $30M to $20M to, today, $5 million. When they resolve their difficulties over there, maybe they should come to Greenwich and advise certain spec builders on house pricing strategies.

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