Monthly Archives: November 2008

No wonder banks are in trouble

If this tale of bank ineptitude in California is typical of what’s going on around the country, the real estate market is in for a rough ride. Banks can’t get their act together to accept short sales – sales that are less than what is owed – and end up letting the property going to foreclosure and then selling for less than was offered originally. Everyone loses: the home owner has a bigger liability, the bank has a greater loss and housing inventory remains on the market far longer than is necessary. Will the situation improve? Not as long as people like this banker are in charge:

The investor asked for $24,000 credit for the repairs, essentially making the offer $401,000. Countrywide said no dice.

The house went through foreclosure in late August. The owners and a tenant in the second unit had to move. The bank put the home on the market a couple of weeks ago, after spending $7,500 for painting and new carpets, according to the new listing agent, George DeSalvo, a Realtor with Frank Howard Allen in Greenbrae.

The new price? $374,900 – about 6 percent less than the rejected short sale offer.

“I wish I could say this was unique, but I had three other properties with the same situation,” Harris said.

A Countrywide representative said it followed due process in weighing the short sale offer.

“At the time the offer was considered, the market value of that property was shown to be somewhere closer to $425,000,” said Rick Simon, a spokesman for Countrywide, which is owned by Bank of America. “The value is determined by appraisal.”

Unlike most of Marin County, Novato is an area where foreclosures are increasing and prices are on a downward spiral. Did Countrywide consider that the property’s value might be falling by $10,000 or more every month?

“We don’t try to engage in speculation as to where the market is going when considering the offers,” Simon said.

Maybe they should.

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He qualifies to sell real estate in Greenwich

Dublin truck driver strikes two bridges within a half hour. If you’ve ever watched Greenwich real estate agents attempt to maneuver at broker open houses, you might think this guy taught them, and you’d probably be right.

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Stop digging

Woman in Metrodome sex incident claims she was drugged, wants an investigation.

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Who Knew?

elephant-polo3 New York has an elephant polo team and it’s off to India to compete!

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Submitted with (almost) no comment


Returning home from the mall

Returning home from the mall

From today’s Greenwich Time:

Second Congregational Church to screen Christmas movie

“The Christmas Cottage,” a PG-rated family film inspired by the early life and art of painter Thomas Kinkade, will be shown on a theater-size screen at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Second Congregational Church, 139 E. Putnam Ave.

The screening is free. Runtime is one hour, 43 minutes.

I once stopped into a Kinkade store at the Stamford Mall with my young son John so that he could learn the meaning of kitsch. Your taste may differ, of course.

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Schadenfreude with a twist

The Yellowstone Club, gated enclave for the very, very rich, has filed for bankruptcy. Greg LeMond and a bunch of far richer types won’t be able to ski there this winter and, presumably, will lose out on the fun of keeping out trespassers – who wants to trespass where nothing’s happening? 

But what struck me is the attitude of the locals who were pushed out of the way to make way for this playground. They sound a lot like some folks in Greenwich witnessing the fall of Wall Street:

“It’s kind of like a double-edged sword for a lot of people around here,” said Greg Thomas, a 31-year-old construction worker from Bozeman. “It’s pretty grotesque and ridiculous, but at the same time, a lot of people depend on going up there for jobs.”

Bill Hopkins was more to the point.

“I can kind of gloat on one hand, but I’m not really happy about it.”

Maybe we Greenwichites can sell our hovels here for pennies and head west to take advantage of what’s sure to be a new Montana land rush.

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Tesla’s battery drain

From time to time, this blog likes to check in on the progress of the Tesla, a battery powered go-fast car that’s supposed to go 0-60 in under 4 seconds and have a range of 144 miles. The company sold a number of prototypes at $110,000 per and one of these days may actually deliver them. 

But maybe not – Tesla is now trying to grab a chunk of federal bailout money and says it can’t go forward without our money. As a taxpayer who is unlikely to receive one of these two seater sports cars and frankly has no use for one, I’m inclined to think that Tesla, like Chrysler and GM, should be left to power up, or down, without a forced contribution from me. Varoom!

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This may cut down on his popularity on campus

Dalai Lama says sex invariably spells trouble.

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Do no evil?

A reader from Beijing (probably my only reader in Beijing) writes:

“It’s interesting that Hong Kong can read your site because here in Beijing for some reason you can’t. Thats typical of many blogs though the ones on Google rarely seem to have a problem.”

I can’t say for sure, but I would think this easy access to Google sponsored blogs is due to Google’s acquiescence earlier this year to China’s censorship of Google’s search results and, presumably, Google – sponsored blogs.

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More on The Crown’s new bank

Greenwich Time has a cheerful article on Britains’ takeover of RBS and its subsidiary, Greenwich Capital. If I were the worrying type, I’d worry about this quote from Stamford’s mayor about the long term prospects of keeping the new RBS building occupied:

The facility will accommodate up to 3,000 employees; about 600 of them will come from Greenwich Capital’s current home on Steamboat Road in Greenwich, others will come from RBS operations in New York.

“They are moving into the building,” Malloy said. “Obviously, this is a tough time in the marketplace. We will see what happens to them after that.”

Given the proclivity of politicians to always keep on the sunny side, this doesn’t exactly sound like a vote of confidence to me.

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, current market conditions

I don’t know and I don’t care

“Where in the world is Joe Biden?”

As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about the election is that it removed Biden from the Senate, where he could continue to do harm and shuttled him off to the dark corner of obscurity that is the Vice President’s natural habitat. No one’s seen or heard from him since the election? Good.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate

Private schools “thriving”.

In New York City, at least. Applications up, money still flowing in, all is serene. That’s probably good news for Greenwich private schools as well. But there’s this:

Mr. Davison, who also heads the Guild of Independent Schools in New York, warned: “It’s Wall Street that worries us in New York City. If all these financial jobs move to London, we’re in trouble.”

Kinda my thinking as well.

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“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

John Lennon would have loved this one: Stampeding Christmas shoppers trample Wal-Mart worker to death . I hope the paramedics trying to save the poor bastard’s life didn’t interfere with anyone’s bargain shopping – I’d hate to see someone’s Christmas ruined.

UPDATE: Well I can see why! “Black Friday shoppers out in force, but cautious”.

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According to this poll, the public blames bankers, not real estate brokers, for the sorry mess we’re in. Of course, that may be because the public already had taken the measure of the ethics and knowledge of real estate brokers and is just disappointed to discover that bankers are moronic thieves, too. I’m okay with this – after all, I came from the legal field – moving to real estate was a step up in public esteem. Wait until I start my used car business and then I’ll finally get some respect.

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Real estate agents

In Singapore, down-sizers and bargain hunters are the market

Go halfway around the world and find that what’s true in Greenwich is true in Singapore. When they talk about a world-wide recession, they aren’t kidding.

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What’s an agent to do in troubled times?

Well, according to this article, real estate agents are quitting the business entirely (see ya – we’ll miss you) or abandoning large firms for smaller ones. I’m content where I am (although I’m glad I have a dusty law license in my back pocket – never too late to brush up on bankruptcy law and resume a career) but perhaps we’ll see that kind of shift here in Greenwich. We haven’t yet, but January may see lots of new things, like house listings from owners who have waited to see whether things would get better (they’ve gotten worse) and agents who have grown tired of conducting EBay sales to generate cash. All in all, it should be an interesting new year.

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Royal Bank of Scotland is now truly Royal

I don’t know how bad this news is (it was certainly expected) but it can’t be encouraging: Britain takes over the Royal Bank of Scotland. In case you’ve forgotten, that’s the bank that’s been building a huge tower next to UBS in Stamford with the intention of bringing in lots of home-buying, high;y-paid employees. The management keeps denying any intention to abandon that project but I’ve worried the past few months: what do you do with the place if everyone is back in the fens of Scotland? If they have fens, that is – ask a Scot.


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Realogy dissed by the Times

Realogy, parent company of Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s, is trying an end run around its creditors in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy. Will it work? Will Apollo Management, which owns Realogy, survive long enough to pay off its debts? This article suggests that Carl Ichan, among other debtors, doesn’t seem to think so. I certainly wouldn’t want to gainsay Mr. Ichan.


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

Sarah Palin and media hypocrites?

Our former Vice-Presidential candidate has been savagely criticized by her “gaffe” of pardoning one turkey while another bird was being slaughtered in the background. “Oh, the humanity!” “Oh, how could she be so stupid?” Here’s another take: Palin knows exactly where the turkey that will appear magically on your table this afternoon came from, and it’s not from a plastic wrapper. She was at the farm to “pardon” a turkey to save it from slaughter, you dimwits. Asked if she wanted to move away from the background of reality she said “no, it doesn’t bother me”. And it didn’t because she’s been there before and acknowledges that to eat meat, you have to kill it first. What a concept.

This woman hunts her own food and is honest enough to make the connection between killing and dining. Newscasters, political pundits and, I suspect, many Americans are not so honest: keep me in beef, pork, chicken and turkey but for God’s sake shield me from how it arrived in my supermarket. Kill it out of sight, gut it at the slaughter house and send it to the market in a neat, sanitary wrapper. 

Like Palins politics or despise them, she’s a lot more honest about how humans get their sustenance than any of the morons on national TV or UTube. I wonder what Joe Biden’s eating today?

Here’s Sarah’s gaffe.

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It’s Thanksgiving!


Which means, if you’re of a certain age, that it’s time to listen again to Arlo’s “Alice’s Restaurant”. WFUV (90.7) on your dial,, if you’re into internet streaming, will play all 18 (?) minutes of it beginning at noon today. For me, it brings back a couple of notable hippie Thanksgivings, one in Lowell, Vermont, a few miles below the Canadian border in an old, uninsulated farmhouse heated only by a potbelly stove that glowed cherry red and kept us all warm despite the snow outside. The other was in Fayetteville, Arkansas where we gathered in what was ordinarily a vegetarian restaurant turned carnivorous for the occasion. Hoyt Axton’s “I’ve never been to Spain” was on the record player and it’s possible that Lucinda Williams was there. She was friends with my own musician sister and brother-in-law, but who expected such great things from a sixteen year old girl named “Cindy” from Fayetteville, even if she could sing a bit?

Anyway, those are my memories; given the abuses of those days, I’m grateful to have any memories at all, let alone such good ones. I hope you’ll be making new, wonderful memories today and that you all have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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