Daily Archives: October 8, 2008

7 Orchard Drive

This is getting interesting
This property in Milbrook sold for $3.780 million in September 2004. The new owners returned it to the market in May of ’06 as land or residence and asked $4.895. That hasn’t worked so well and it’s gradually dropped in price until today it’s being offered for $3.295. I don’t know if, in this market, that will finally move the place, but if you’re looking for the difference between 2004’s market and 2008’s, this is the place to start.

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They’re fattened on human breast milk, so why is PETA in such an uproar over a simple Peruvian cat eating festival?

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This is becoming so boring
A black Congressman calls Governor Palin a racist. She’s married to an Eskimo, for gosh sakes! but she disagrees with the anointed one, and that moves her into the racist camp. I’m very much afraid that Obama will win and we’re in for years of this, every time someone balks at El Presidente’s plans for our future.

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Swedish Housewife Splitting a Walrus

Okay, the earlier posting was unfair
After brashly stating that there were no writers in Sweden, your author thought to check out Wikipedia to see if that was true. It was not. There are
144 writers in that blighted land ,out of a population of 9,192,088. There would be more, but the State Dispensary ran out of crayons.

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Better news?
Another link supplied by a reader: Home Sales up Sharply Nationwide. Any good news is welcome, of course, but a lot of these sales are generated because of drastic price cuts by the new owner (a bank) or a desperate seller. Still, a sale’s a sale and accomplishes at least two things: provides a house to someone who perhaps couldn’t afford one last year; and clears out inventory. If you wonder why Greenwich sales are dead dead dead, start by looking at pricing.

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Chewing Mukluks

It’s always something, eh?

Troubles flow across the frozen waters up north and now Iceland is on verge of collapse.
The country’s Prime Minister isn’t all that worried. “Okay, so international banking hasn’t worked so good,” said leader Geir Haarde. “We’ll just move to Sweden and turn out books. I understand there’s a shortage of writers there.”

Good for you, Geir – keep your spirits up and your gumption at full throttle.

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Ouch
A reader sent me this link to the WSJ 1 in 6 Homeowners “Under Water”. It’s true, as I noted a couple of weeks ago, that even the Greenwich MLS has seen fit to add the category, “short sale” to its listing forms, so we’re not going unscathed here in fair Greenwich. I’ll point out that the percentage of investors whose IRAs and pension plans are under water is probably greater than 1 in 6. And you can’t live under a bond certificate, so keep those mortgage payments current.

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Dead cats bouncing

Okay, you’ve been warned
Reader CEA warns of the “don’t try to catch a falling knife” adage and that brings to mind this one: even a dead cat will bounce if dropped from a sufficient height. So maybe you don’t want to buy stocks right now. But Warren Buffet does – selectively, to be sure – and he’s old enough and has experienced enough to have coined all these adages in the first place.

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Wounded Elk?
Says here that Hartford Insurance is next for the chopping block. Derivatives, apparently.

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Downtown Condos
A reader who is contemplating selling her home in the Back Country and relocating downtown asked about condominiums. No price range was specified so I ran a search for units between $1.5 million and $3.0 million, just to see what’s out there. It’s not too bad (below $1.5 doesn’t yield all that much; above $3.0, the choice expands considerably).

First, some personal prejudices and opinions: I don’t like units too far off Greenwich Avenue for older people. Idar Court, for instance, off of Field Point Road, has some nice, very large units, but it’s a hike if you’re of a certain age. Same goes for hills. And I’m wary of two-unit condo townhouses because, if one owner defaults – these days, it could happen – the other owner is left holding the bag. A larger complex spreads the risk around.

That out of the way, I think my favorite condominium project for older people is 40 West Elm Street. An easy walk (or jog, if the elder is spry) to the Avenue, plus a doorman, elevators and covered, secure parking, all with, depending on the unit’s location, a spectacular view across Long Island Sound. There’s one 2 bedroom there currently listed for $2.5 million, which reflects at least one price reduction. Great view, great unit. Others come on pretty regularly and they sell well – it’s a nice place.

One Milbank, that brick edifice at the intersection of Milbank and the Post Road, isn’t as close to Greenwich Avenue but it’s not too bad and the units are pretty nice inside. Right now, two bedrooms range from $1.9 to $2.9 (and maybe more – I limited my search, remember?).

20 Church Street’s a good location though the building isn’t in the same league as 40 W. Elm. But the prices reflect that: there’s a 2 bedroom listed now for $1.475.

The “Nantucket” on Church Street isn’t a huge project but the location’s convenient and its units relatively new. Renovated units fetch more than the untouched ones, obviously, but I’ve always thought the prices reflected a pretty good value.

Putnam Park can be alright, especially if you’re looking at a renovated unit. I worry about the age of the complex, however (perhaps unnecessarily; I have no knowledge of what the management has done to renovate and upgrade the infrastructure) but it has very attractive prices, generally well below a million.

So those are some possibilities. If readers have specific price ranges in mind, send them along and I’ll do my best to opine on them. If you prefer to keep the specifics of your request private alert me to that and I’ll post a general reply or email you directly, your choice.

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Time to buy stocks?

There’s an adage on Wall Street that says, more or less, “when your mother in law is selling stocks, it’s time to buy”. This article in the Times today suggests that that time may have come. I witnessed the inverse of this adage when, at the height of the tech boom, my girl friend and I stopped in a deli for coffee after a day of X-Country skiing at Pound Ridge. There in rural Pound Ridge we noticed the counterman, a fellow who barely spoke English, glued to the CNN Business channel, monitoring his investments. “If you own any tech stocks,” I warned my friend,”it’s time to sell.” When coffee dispensers know that the stock market is going to make them rich, you don’t want to share that dream.

Which is all a long way of pointing out that when everyone in the market is convinced of one thing, a smart investor might consider the contrarian view (I’d say something about Global Warming here, but I think I’ll give that a rest). When this Kramer guy is screaming “sell!” on national television, when the Time’s reporter finds people whose mothers in law are fleeing stocks, when “everyone” is convinced that worse is coming, the “irrational exuberance” may have been wrung out of the market and prices may finally be getting real. I haven’t noticed that phenomenon among Greenwich real estate sellers, yet, but perhaps it’s on the horizon. In which case, be ready.

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Attack of the Booboise

I’m late to the story, but apparently some Swede in charge of handing out literary prizes just dissed America and its writers.

Horace Engdahl is permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, the body which chooses the Nobel Prize for literature. In an interview with an American journalist this week, he dismissed the writing of the US – the land of Melville, Hemingway and Fitzgerald – as “too isolated, too insular”. “They don’t translate [foreign books] enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature,” he said. “That ignorance is restraining.”

A Swede said that? A Swede?! Has anyone in the history of the world ever heard of a Swedish writer? Can they write? That’s one attempting the act in the upper left hand corner; he’s not doing so well. Have they done anything notable in the past 1,000 years except rape, pillage and plunder the English Isles and invade Russia, where they discovered the use of booze and took (all of) it back with them? Their cars rust, their music reached no higher than Abba before quickly degenerating back to sing alongs with Laplanders, and their national cuisine is limited to skimpy little pancakes smothered in sour Lingonberries. Nobel himself had to hie off to Miami to be tutored by Thomas Edison and Eli Whitney on the fine art of making dynamite and barely made it back to the frozen tundra without blowing himself and his raft to pieces.

And what’s all this about no great American writers? Has this fellow never heard of Zayne Grey? Tom Clancy? Harold Eff’in Robbins? Jerk.

My image of a Swede is a large, blocky lout, sprawled idly in an igloo while his dirty little brood of ragamuffins chews his frozen mukluks into usable form so that he can stumble over to Sven’s for a night of debauchery. If he writes at all it’s during the annual appeal for pardons from the King, which requires only, I am informed, an X from the miscreant himself and a hoof print signifying assent from the violated reindeer. Picture the aspiring pardonee now, struggling to see by the dim, flickering light of a seal blubber lamp, asking his brutish wife how to draw a picture of the aquavit bottle that caused all the trouble to begin with. How sad.

Look – God love’em, who can resist a s Swede choking down a lump of lye-soaked lutefisk? Who wouldn’t find the little square heads adorable in a retarded, goofy kind of way? But a Swede pretending to be a literary critic? Sounds very much like Samuel Johnson’s observation so long ago: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Gimme a break.

Update: And who needs the Nobel prize anyway, when ig-Nobel Awards are here?

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Just how bad is this housing market?

A reader writes:
“Thought you would like an interesting statistic from a friend who is a mortgage broker. In September he and his partner closed 6 loans between them. Their best months of 2005 they were closing 120-130…EACH. It is tough slogging for a lot of people these days.”

Speaking with real estate attorneys and title searchers, I’d say they’re not having any fun either.

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