Daily Archives: October 19, 2008

Great minds think alike
Fromthe Instapundit himself, Professor Glenn Reynolds:

KNOXVILLE’S BOOMING DOWNTOWN REAL ESTATE MARKET IS SLOWING, and the problem seems to be a mixture of financing and difficulty selling homes in the ‘burbs. Looking around the neighborhoods, my sense is that a lot of people remain unrealistic in their pricing, thinking that by expecting “only” four percent appreciation over the past few years they’re pricing low. In fact, the Knoxville market has never really appreciated faster than that. If I were selling my house, I’d probably price it at 2005 levels or even below. And I notice that people who do cut the price seem to sell a lot faster.

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LIDAR comes to Greenwich. Whatever – if the cops want a new toy to trap speeders, fine: lots of speeders where I live and I wouldn’t mind seeing them slowed down. What bothers me about this is the mention in the OurGreenwich.com posting about the equipment is that they were paid for by a “grant”. There’s no explanation given as to what that grant is (nor is there an explanation of LIDAR, which is why I provided a separate link for readers, above – click on “LIDAR”) but who’s giving grants these days except Homeland Security? If that’s where the money came from (and it may not have – the state police dole out confiscated drug bust assets to local police) then it confirms what is already obvious: the Homeland Security program is just another governmental farce, a general give-away of taxpayers’ money to every town with a loud voice, all in the name of the war on terrorism. You tell me what issuing speeding tickets to local residents has to do with Muslim bombers and I’ll change my opinion.

Update: Greenwich has, since 2001, received $8,507,000 in Homeland Security grants all of which seemed to originate from HUD and were spent as community development block grants. What’s all this mean? I don’t know. As Drudge says, “developing”.

More updating: some sort of speeders rights page says that our cops are using this Lidar from the silver “DUI” Tahoe posted onWest Putnam Avenue. I’ve seen that car all around town at all hours and wondered what the cops were doing looking for drunks at, say, 10:00 AM – I’m sure drunks can drive at any time of day but I’d assume most of them were sleeping it off at 10. Now I know. But what makes the site amusing is that apparently it’s read by our local patrolmen and they post comments – one denies that he’s using Lidar, another says there are two vehicles at that location and only one is the Tahoe. Go at it, boys.

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Selling advice from Las Cruces, New Mexico. I like Las Cruces, even if my ancestor, Col. Albert Fountain was murdered out there, along with his 9-year-old son, Henry, back in 1896 (by Oliver Lee – the families still dislike each other). Here are some smart selling tips from a local realtor out there. Sounds like Las Cruces isn’t experiencing the same hurricane we are but then, it’s a long way from Wall Street.

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For years, Arthur, ” Little Pinch” Sulzberger, unworthy heir to the family heirloom, The New York Times, has strived to turn that paper into a highly partisan rag with dubious ethics and, many of us think, treasonous purposes. He has pretty much succeeded and his reward has been
declining circulation
and a declining stock price

In this time of trouble, when so many are losing their jobs, it’s probably too late to offer career advice, but if you must run a business into the ground, it is best to do so at a family owned company. You won’t see a foreclosure sign in front of Pinch’s manse.

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Something in the water out in Ohio?

Real estate death spiral? No way, “Everything is beautiful”according to this Ohioan. I wouldn’t dare contradict the CEO of a real estate firm, nor question his motives, but I will congratulate him on escaping what the rest of the country is experiencing.

(note: wrong link before – sorry)

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Should you pay to have your HVAC duct work cleaned?
Maybe yes, maybe no, according to this article.

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October Contracts
On Thursday I gave the statistics for single family houses going to contract through October 16 and compared them to last year: down 65%, 6 vs 17. A reader asked how many houses sold for all of October, 2007 and the answer is, 33 (I use contracts, because solds are a lagging indicator).

As of Friday, when we added one house for the week, we’ve seen 7 houses go to contract this month, vs 18 last year through the 18th. I know of one contract that will be reported Monday so we can safely assume that we’ll have at least 9 for the month and, if we keep at our torrid pace of one contract per week, we’ll see a total of 10. That would yield a 70% decline in sales, year-to-year. If I were Doug Fainelli, I’d start campaigning for that open Superintendent’s position.

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Scarcer then hen’s teeth Himes a millionaire, Shays is not. In fact, according to the Greenwich Citizen, Congressman Shays has about $32,000 in savings. I point this out not to knock Mr. Himes – he worked for Goldman Sachs and earned, or at least, received, his fortune from private individuals. But I am impressed that our Congressman has spent as much time as he has in Washington and did not find it an enriching experience. It seems to me that most pols who go to our capital emerge far wealthier than when they came in and that’s rather surprising when one considers the rather modest salary they’re paid. Color me skeptical, if you must, but I’ve always attributed that phenomenon to cash paid for services rendered.

I once served on the governing body of a local club, where it was announced, with great fanfare, that we would pay our new manager 2X as much as his predecessor because then he, unlike that former employee, wouldn’t steal from us. I suggested that we hire an honest man to begin with but I was ignored (they ignored me a lot on that board – could it have had anything to do with my assertive/obnoxious personality?)and, lo and behold, the new manager not only proved a crook, he improved on his predecessor’s system of siphoning off funds.

So I’m hugely impressed that Shays, agree with his politics or not, hasn’t spent his years with his snout buried in the public trough. Send a multi-millionaire to Congress in the hope that his wealth will shield him from temptation? It certainly hasn’t worked in the past – look at Joe Biden, who’s shoveled more than $2,000,000 recently to family members – and I don’t think it will work in the future. Mr. Himes may indeed be honest – we know that Mr. Shays is.

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The Headline reads, Officials to look locally for Superintendent but the text doesn’t support that claim, at least when it comes to officials who run the School Board. Apparently no School Board members would speak to the Greenwich Time Reporter so we learn only that Peter Tessei (First Selectman) Frank Farricker (P&Z) and Ed Krumeich (BET) think it’s a good idea. None of these men has any control over the School Board so the latter’s silence is ominous. The Board has a splendid record of scouring the country to find and hire the least competent candidate available and its members may well have a strong determination to continue that practice. Demonstrated incompetence sometimes feels threatened by ability.

If some miracle occurs and the Board does look locally (and not, as in the past, merely to pay lip service to its critics) I like the idea of one name floating around, Doug Fainelli. Doug was a great principal at Old Greenwich School (and before that, Vice-Principal at Riverside, where I first met him) and was so well liked that he was shifted to Dundee when that school opened to console those Old Greenwich parents who were upset at seeing their kids transferred. It worked, too – as soon as his appointment was announced, opposition ceased.

He went on to do a great job at Dundee before retiring and entered the real estate business, where he’s done very well. I understand that that particular business has slowed down a bit these days so perhaps the man can be persuaded to un-retire. If not then heck, Doug, you can have my office and I’ll try it out – I do know where all the schools are, which gives me a leg up on our past Superintendents.

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WSJ: 5 Hints that your job’s on the way out the door
The article offers some pretty unsurprising tips – I can think of some more.
1. Your boss replaces the fixed widows in his office with openable ones.
2. China coffee cups disappear and are replaced by styrofoam.
3. Coffee disappears.
4. Contractors start measuring to build a new trading floor, 1/4 the size of your current one, and your desk straddles the line.
5. Conversation stops when you walk into the executive kitchen.
6. Pallets of knocked-down cardboard boxes are stacked on the loading dock.
7. Did I mention the openable windows?

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Chrysler – GM Merger: Does it Make Sense?

Who cares? the Banks love it.. The snippet of the article available without subscribing to the WSJ doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that potential bank fees are a driving force in this merger. I am told, but can’t confirm, that Lehman Brothers dumped $200 million into the Antares Byram condo fiasco (the next best bid was $100 million) despite being warned by a young staffer that the numbers simply didn’t add up. What the kid didn’t understand, naive waif that he was, was that the Lehman division running the deal stood to “earn” $14 million for itself by syndicating the loan. The young kid was probably fired long ago, when his prescience must have proved embarrassing – his superiors have now joined him on the street, so there is some justice after all.

But if that’s how dumb real estate deals got hatched: banker greed, then I suspect that this car maker merger, which makes no sense to many observers (except Chrysler and GM, who are desperate just to survive another day), is inspired by the same motive.

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Why won’t my house sell?

According to the Wall Street Journal, foreclosure auctions aren’t clearing out much inventory.
Why?

Many investors, who make up the bulk of active bidders at auctions, say the banks are asking too much for the homes.

I wonder if these banks are all owned by Greenwich residents?

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