Daily Archives: October 9, 2008

Shiver me timbers!
By happenstance I discovered that the Stamford Advocate now runs a real estate blog. I checked it out out of curiosity and at first it seemed like a real blog and even covered, as you’ll see from the link, the price cutting going on over at Leona’s place.

But the more I poked around and noticed links to Georgia chiropractors and a comments section mostly taken up with ads from readers looking to sell in Texas, rent (to film makers) homes in California and so forth, I realized that it’s some generic, national “blog” generated by an anonymous writer (or writers) for the parent company of the Advocate, whoever the hell that is these days.

All of which tells me that traditional newspapers, doomed as they are, are hastening their demise by refusing to understand the internet. What could be more local than local news? And local real estate is part of that news. Instead of assigning some Stamford reporters to create blogs on various topics so that the paper could provide up-to-the-minute opinion, news and reader feedback, the parent company has done its best to shed its local reporters and turn as much of the operation of its local outlets over to some amorphous entity based in-I don’t know, Kansas?

By the time these dinosaurs succumb to meteor dust, will there be any readers left to mourn their demise?

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Greenwich Capital Markets
A reader points out that RBS bought Greenwich Capital Markets, the company Chip Kreuger founded and ran on Steamboat Road. His point is that not everyone involved in the sub-prime and derivative mess worked on Wall Street. I know that, and merely use Wall Street as a handy abbreviation, but I also gave our former Greenwich company a pass for a couple of reasons. Kreuger sold out to RBS several years ago and, at least according to the article I linked to in the original post, it’s the present CEO who lost his mind and drove the whole company off the cliff. Kreuger was obviously a master of good timing, though.

Second, Greenwich Capital was a great benefactor to the town. It supported lots of local charities and, nearest to my heart, stepped in to fund the Old Greenwich fireworks one year when local residents (I include myself in that category) were too cheap to support them. Greenwich Capital continued this largess for years and even expanded into Greenwich when that fireworks crowd put the touch on Kreuger.

So I suppose the latter isn’t a great excuse, but so what? And, in view of Greenwich Capital’s being folded into RBS and that company’s current fiscal woes, we townies had better be prepared to dig into our own pockets if we want to watch fireworks in the immediate future. Darn it, where’s Gandalf when we need him?

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They laughed when we called him “The Messiah”

From guest columnist Marge Robben at OurGreenwich.com

My worst nightmare is that fear will win out over change and that Barack Obama will lose the election and I will sadly be saying on the morning of November 5, 2008, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

I think we should sit back, take a deep breath, and relax our minds.

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Buying vs. Renting Calculator
I liked the calculator link a reader sent me so much that I’ve linked it permanently over on the right. Give it a try, if you’re interested.

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Hey, Milbank! Here’s how to move those $6 million condos! (Courtesy NYT)
Bring in $1,000 lap dancers

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Oh Geeze, now even PBS’s Ray Suarez is climbing onto the racism wagon.
And I used to like him, too.

Opinions about Obama’s inexperience, his childhood in Indonesia, and the persistent but untrue rumors of him being Muslim are stand-ins for something his detractors cannot admit, Suarez said.[emphasis added]

O.K. – questions about terrorist Bill Ayers, out. Inexperience, out. Political programs, out. Cronyism with Chicago pols, out. Campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and its CEOs, out. I got all that – is there anything we can question about this gifted, caring man without exposing ourselves as racists?

I didn’t think so.

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(Mr. and Mrs. Frank Gifford
dining at Mr. Fountain’s house)

If Kathie Lee Griffith didn’t exist, would the Greenwich Post?
Lord knows, we all adore Kathie Lee, and we certainly want to know if she’s spotted at CVS, McDonalds, or the Tobacconist of Greenwich, but is there nothing else to report on in this town? Budgets? Inflated police union contracts? School Board hi jinks? Nope, says the Post. No link, because the Post can’t link its articles, but here’s a quote:

Scene … Riverside resident and Today co-host Kathie Lee Gifford was seen having lunch at Terra Ristorante on Greenwich Avenue on Friday afternoon.

That’s nice to know, isn’t it?

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Spindletop
Wow! A contract! Sort of, maybe.
4 Old Round Hill Lane was reported today as under contract, which must be a relief to its builder who first placed it for sale in May, 2006 at $14.5 million. Last asking price was $10.995 million and I think we can guess it went for less than that. But, while the contract was officially posted today, it was signed on September 3rd, a long, long time ago, far, far away and in a deteriorating but still different market from the present.

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So much for that $25 billion, bar keep. Add it to my tab.
GM sales slump, stock price plummets

Update: Stock price is lowest since springtime, 1950. Would you lend money to a company like this? You just did.

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Harry Reid is boring – this is exciting, in a sick sort of way. Dow below 9000

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384 Round Hill Road
One good thing about a dead market
This 1745 house on 6 + acres of meadows and lawns is being marketed as land or residential at, naturally, the same price: $4,850,000. In a better market it might have been snapped up by a builder by now but it hasn’t. I don’t happen to have this kind of money around but if you do, and want to save this house, here’s your chance. And, because of current market conditions, you probably have some time to do so.

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Confusing moments in advertising
Priced at $4.55 million in November of last year, this house has slowly drifted downward, changing agents as it sank. Today it’s back as a “new” listing (new after the original listing expired yesterday) at a “new” price (same as the last old price) of $3.6 million. Here’s the part I don’t get: the listing says,

UNBELIEVABLE VALUE, INVITATION TO BRING ALL OFFERS.

Isn’t “unbelievable value” undercut a bit by following with “bring all offers”? I say, make up your mind.

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Timber?
The Royal Bank of Scotland’s stock is down 82%. CEO Fred Goodwin, who got the bank into this disaster, is on his way out:

“His credibility is shot to bits,” said Ken Murray, CEO of Blue Planet Investment Management in Edinburgh, where RBS also is based. He has no holdings in any U.K. banks. “Acquisitions are a risky business and they cost a lot of chief executives their jobs. If you get it wrong, you’ve got to go.”

But what’s going to happen with RBS’s still uncompleted, 600,000 square foot headquarters in Stamford? The state piled a lot of our money into this deal in anticipation of 3,000 new jobs, $204 million in tax revenue over ten years and $1-2 million per year in City property taxes. Sure hope neither budget, state or municipal, was counting on that because if the stock’s worth nothing, I doubt the headquarters will be all that busy.
Update: It was a bit more than “a lot of our money” diverted to RBS. Connecticut gave them $100 million in tax credits . I hope they appreciate it.

Update (10/11/08): Britain to take control of RBS Monday. I wonder if the Queen will want an office building in Stamford?

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Harry Reid greets American public
Harry Reid says Radio Host is racist for tying Obama to Fannie Mae Exec., Franklin Raines
At least one of my readers thinks that there is a racist opposition to her candidate, Barack Obama. Who knows? She may be right. What I posted earlier is that it’s getting boring to hear, endlessly that McCain, Palin and anyone else who opposes the Messiah does so because of racist hatred. An ad against Obama’s friend and advisor, disgraced, fired and fined Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines? Racist. Another ad, released 12 hours later, against Obama friend and advisor, disgraced, fired and fined Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson? Silence on that one, because Johnson is white. This is stupid. And tiresome.
Obama only served 186 days in the US Senate before beginning his campaign yet he’s already second in campaign contributions received from Raines and Johnson’s personal piggy bank, Fannie Mae (our own Chris Dodd leads the hogs at the trough, but heck, he’s had years to stretch out his hand). Google Obama and contributions from Raines and you’ll see that Raines was doling out cash to Obama at least as early as 2004, when Obama was a lowly state senator in Illinois. So is it fair to assert a link between Raines and Obama? I think so. If you disagree, that doesn’t make me a racist.

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Open House Report
Nothing to report. A few retreads, still over-priced and …. I did see one last Tuesday that was of note because its price was so grossly off the mark. Everything conspired against it: wrong section of town, crowded in with its neighbors, parking on one side and the front entrance all the way around the house (technically, that would be half-way around the house, but you get my meaning) and then that price. I won’t blame the seller because it was her agent who crowed, “it’s priced to sell”. It certainly isn’t, and if the agent believes her own hype, the market has a rude surprise in store.

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Open House Tour Pet Peeves
Only two, actually. Number one is agents who schedule an open house for, say, 11:00 AM and fail to show up to open the place. In the past, my time was valuable and gas was cheap. Now that’s reversed but I still won’t loop back later in the day to see if the agent decided to work for a living.
Okay, that’s always the agent’s fault. Sellers can also set blood boiling by insisting that their agent schedule a broker open house on the wrong day. North Street and west: Tuesdays. East of North Street, Thursdays. We’re just not going to drive to, say, Sheephill Road in Old Greenwich when we’re in Byram, so the seller is annoying his agent by wasting her time and accomplishing nothing: no one will be there. If a particular day is inconvenient, hold your open house another week. Or don’t expect any agents to view your house, because it won’t happen.

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65 Patterson Ave.
At the risk of seeming downbeat
you’re looking at the only house to go to contract in all of Greenwich this week. This property has been on the market since November 2007 and was priced then at $3.595 million. It was dropped to $3.295 million in April and didn’t sell, so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it’s selling for less than that.

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19 Desiree
Big enough?
Price cut, that is. This house was purchased for $4.9 million back in April, 2004 and returned to market this April at $5.595. It hasn’t sold so today it was reduced to $5.375. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s enough of a slicing to attract buyers who were turned off by its original price. What I mean is, if someone liked the house and the area it’s in but didn’t like its price, an offer of $5.375 would seem expected. The fact that no one did make such an offer makes me suspect that dropping it to that level is futile. If the seller knows that, and is hoping for and will accept an offer below $5.375, now is the time to have the price reflect that.

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317 Stanwich Rd
Well now, here’s a price reduction
Original price, back in January, $3.850. Today, reduced to $2.650 million. This drop is not entirely due to current market conditions; in my own opinion, the back lot location, cheek-by-jowl with two half-developed building lots, and the quirky layout of the house itself might have suggested an original opening price closer to where it is now, but again, that’s my opinion. And I really liked the house, I just doubted that the typical Greenwich home buyer would share my taste. Regardless of all that, this price reduction is strong evidence that at least one owner “gets it”. Nice to see.

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Another rent vs. buy calculator
A reader sent me this link.
I tried it and it’s got a cool sliding calculation tool that let’s you change assumptions on the fly. I like it.

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