Daily Archives: October 30, 2008


Well this isn’t going to pay for a house in Greenwich!
Laid off Wall Streeters turn to bartending.

On the other hand, this might: Wall Street execs say they won’t kill bonuses. I think that, politically, these guys are morons but since they’ve already demonstrated that they’re financial idiots, why not? If those with ability won’t stay without a bonus, is that a bad thing? Let them go on to better firms that aren’t tethered to the government teat and the losers can stay behind and take orders from the likes of Henry Waxman.

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Now that it’s too late,
CBS finally fact-checks Obama’s ass. And guess what? His numbers don’t add up.

If he closes every loophole as promised, saves every dime from Iraq, raises taxes on the rich and trims the federal budget as he’s promised to do “line by line,” he still doesn’t pay for his list. If he’s elected, the first fact hitting his desk will be the figure projecting how much less of a budget he has to work with – thanks to the recession. He gave us a very compelling vision with his ad buy tonight. What he did not give us was any hint of the cold reality he’s facing or a sense of how he might prioritize his promises if voters trust him with the White House.

With all respect to the main stream media, the time for this analysis was months ago, before the great unwashed was convinced by y’all that a free lunch was coming.

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Spec houses
A reader asked for an updated figure on the number of spec houses currently on the market and I’m happy to oblige. Without examining each and every listing, I can only estimate, but I ran a search for houses built in 2006 to date, on the assumption that most are being offered by their builder and, if not, they’re new enough to compete with other houses that have remained vacant – besides, I know of several 2004 and 2005 spec houses that remain unsold, so the numbers should work out about right.

Of the 795 single family and condominium units on the market today, 172 were built in 2006 or later. Fifty-eight of those are condos so we have 114 new single families for sale. Nine of the latter are priced between $10.9 million and $25 million, 61 are between $4 – $10 million. So 70 high-end spec houses, all looking for buyers. How fast are they moving? Seven sold in the past quarter and of those 7, only 1 sold in October: 16 Beechcroft, reduced 26% from $8.295 million and “dumped” for $6.150. If the market picks up, I suppose we have only ten quarters – 2 1/2 years, right? – before we’re through the inventory, assuming nothing else is completed and put up for sale until then. If this month’s activity is a harbinger of sales activity to come then, Houston, we have a (bigger) problem.

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Lower my price? Are you mad?

Saw a couple of houses on the open house tour today that will never attract offers, in my opinion. One seller, according to the listing agent, had rejected her pricing advice and insisted that buyers would realize how unique and special his run-down little cottage is. Fat chance.

The other seller – again, according to the agent – is content to sit on his property, floors sagging like a sway-backed mare’s, highway noise rushing in, until the market meets his price. That’s fine, and good luck to him, but why is he wasting our time? Call me when you get serious or, if the market ever does reach your price, I’ll call you – I’m confident the property will still be available.

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895 Lake Avenue

I mention below a new condo on Suburban Avenue that seems to have been disposed of at or near cost. Here’s another builder who is apparently having second thoughts. BSF Builders, a very successful firm in town with a great track record paid $3.1 million for this place on August 25. They’ve now put it back on the market for $3.495 million, although why someone else would pay $395,000 extra for the opportunity to pick up BSF’s discard is a bit of a poser.

This location has an interesting background. It was part of the Martin R. Frankel compound – he of the insurance fraud, diamonds, international manhunt and all that. Our police ignored many complaints about activities here – they did show up once when the nude body of one of Frankel’s Russian sweeties was discovered hanged but, as demanded by the Greenwich Police Manual, labelled the death a suicide and returned to headquarters. Only when Mr. Frankel set fire to the place in preparation for flight did anyone take official notice of the goings on here and even then it was the Fire Department, not the police.

Oh well. Someone bought the house, out of foreclosure, I believe, and did a very nice job renovating it. He listed it for sale in June, 2005 for $3.765 million and eventually sold it for $3.187 a year later. The next owner was not so fortunate and resold it to BSF this August for, as noted, $3.1 million.

And now it can be yours, for the seller’s cost and a wee finder’s fee.

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Here’s a sale
Always nice to see any activity, I suppose. 17 Suburban Avenue is a nice, brand new, free standing condo that was originally listed in May, 2007 for $1.695 million. It was reported sold today for $1.259 million. I doubt its builder made much money on it at that price, but at least he’s out of there.

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Twin Lakes Revisited
Well this was a disappointment. I mentioned this new listing yesterday and today got to see what’s been done to it in the past 35 years. Not much, it seems. Instead of the waterfront I remember, all that’s left is a view easement and a physical easement that will permit you to cart a Sunfish down to the water, when there is water. The 5 houses I remember being carved out of the original acreage are seven, at least, and they crowd in on this one on every side. The owner of this place was rumored to have money but if he did, he obviously preferred to spend it on legal fees suing his neighbors rather than improving the house – as a lawyer, I applaud such passion; as a real estate agent, I do wish he’d done a bit more than slap up some fresh wallpaper during his tenancy. The staff that ran the kitchen in 1928, for instance, is long gone and won’t be returning. Buyers today tend to do their own cooking, at least occasionally, and when they do, they want more than a ship’s galley to work in.

Ducking one’s head as one passes along a dark corridor to what serves as the master bedroom “suite” feels awkward for someone of my gigantic height. Sure, few people grew to my 5’10 stature eighty years ago but today, many men are approaching 6 full feet, and they’ll bang their heads on these low ceilings.

Etc. I’m a little surprised at the $15 million price tag on what is essentially an obsolete house with a view of the water (or mudflats, depending on the tide) but heck, you won’t know if you don’t try. Or something.

Update: reader ACF says, “Funny, I don’t remember having to duck my head but then again, the last time I went upstairs in that house the Teicherts still owned it, so I was probably around three feet tall.”

And I also heard from this group:Well, we don’t have to duck our heads!

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Aaaghhh! The Gore effect strikes again!
Snow blankets London during global warming debate

Snow fell as the House of Commons debated Global Warming yesterday – the first October fall in the metropolis since 1922. The Mother of Parliaments was discussing the Mother of All Bills for the last time, in a marathon six hour session.

In order to combat a projected two degree centigrade rise in global temperature, the Climate Change Bill pledges the UK to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The bill was receiving a third reading, which means both the last chance for both democratic scrutiny and consent….

Recently the American media has begun to notice the odd incongruity of saturation media coverage here which insists that global warming is both man-made and urgent, and a British public which increasingly doubts either to be true. 60 per cent of the British population now doubt the influence of humans on climate change, and more people than not think Global Warming won’t be as bad “as people say”.

Both figures are higher than a year ago – and the poll was taken before the non-summer of 2008, and the (latest) credit crisis.

Sounds like some people are wising up – but I thought the debate was over?
Update:
Record snows in Switzerland!
Record cold in Florida!

I’d read that OwlGore would be in Florida campaigning for the Messiah, but how’d he get there from Switzerland – private jet?

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So, how’s the rental market?
I’ve heard it said that the town’s just buzzing with young New Yorkers, snapping up our listings in preparation for buying next year. That’s nice. I also see this in today’s open house listings:

$5,000/MO
6 YEAR YOUNG COLONIAL, 5 BEDROOM, DUNDEE SCHOOL, MINT. WILL ENTERTAIN ALL OFFERS.

As I like to say, your results may differ.

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More on Joe
State investigation of Joe the Plumber more extensive than first admitted

A state agency has revealed that its checks of computer systems for potential information on “Joe the Plumber” were more extensive than it first acknowledged.

Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, disclosed today that computer inquiries on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher were not restricted to a child-support system.

The agency also checked Wurzelbacher in its computer systems to determine whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes, she wrote.

This should anger people of any political persuasion. The fact that it is instead justified and defended by Obama supporters lends a frightening foretaste of what’s to come.

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21 Lia Fail, Cos Cob

Want your own, 500 seat marble amphitheatre? Here’s your chance. I’ve been intrigued by this property ever since Aimee Liu walked me through it on our one date (and only date – Aimee was a really sharp girl) back when we both attended Eastern. Aimee went on to much better things, including Yale and, later, a successful writing career but the amphitheatre is still there, along with a small residence built in 1940 or so from material salvaged from the Havemeyer mansion over in Old Greenwich. First sold in 2004 for $2.2 million (after languishing at $2.8 million for a year – I told the seller not to price it there but she went with the broker who promised more and delivered well, less), the new owners have tried since 2006 to sell it again. They first listed all of its 5 acres (two building lots) for $3.5 million, which, even though they’d updated the original house a bit, didn’t strike buyers as much of a bargain. They eventually dropped the price to $2.795 and now offer just the house and amphitheatre on 2 acres for $1.6 million – no mention of what’s to be done with the second lot across the driveway.

This is a magical place,set far off of Valley Road and at the right place, would be a wonderful buy. If I were in a buying mood, I might offer the asking price for the full 5 acres and see how badly the sellers wanted to move.

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Is this a “Georgian”?

According to the listing agent it is, and who am I to argue? It’s at 14 Martin Dale, if you care to drive by and see for yourself. Its builder has been asking $5.995 million since April, so far without takers. Now he offers an “Aspen vacation” to the selling agent. I suppose, if that perk were disclosed to the client, a buyer’s rep could take advantage of that deal but if I were the potential buyer I think I’d wonder if the advice I was receiving to buy the place was tempered by the desire of my agent to go skiing. And once I started wondering about that, I think I’d start wondering about lots of things about our relationship. The best way to keep a deal clean, in my opinion, is to forgo offering selling agents any extra bonuses and cut your price, instead.

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If he won’t help his family, why should I? Obama’s aunt, uncle living in Boston slum
Just asking.
Update: Here’s a good point:

His campaign obviously found her. It shouldn’t have been hard, in spite of being an apparent illegal immigrant, she and her husband have been cited in several newspapers over the years. But once they found her, rather than help her, the Obama campaign shut her up.

Spread the wealth indeed.

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