Daily Archives: November 11, 2008

Trying new templates

Please be patient – will sort all this out eventually. And thank you, Google – my old blog is still locked up by their computers. These are the guys who are supposed to help stamp out the flu?

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Going down and staying down?

12-baldwin-farms-south3A friend just emailed me looking for information and mentioned that this house at 12 Baldwin Farms South is terminal. Unfinished, unsold, and underwater on its mortgage. Is he right? Probably – the guy knows his real estate (he listed some other candidates for failure that I may print if I can overcome my fear of libel suits). This one certainly looks like a dead duck. It was listed originally for the ridiculous sum of $12 million (plus change, I forget how much) and eventually expired in September of this year when it was asking (begging) for offers in the eights. Now it’s not listed at all which is a pretty good hint that someone other than the original owner has possession and is trying to figure out what to do with it. Stay tuned.

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We may not know much about the new President but now we know he’s a boor

Obama leaks details of “private” talk with President Bush.

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We’re living in interesting times

id74271_2_depression_applesAs of today, November 11th, we’ve had one contract reported for a single family house in Greenwich this month. That was 384 Round Hill Road, a 1745 Antique on 6 1/2 acres, asking $4.45 million and, one reader reports, rumored to have gone for somewhere in the low 3s. By contrast, Nov. 1 -11, 2007 saw 16 contracts. For the entire month of November last year we had 39 contracts, a record it wouldn’t appear that we’ll exceed this year.

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You spell tomato, I spell Tomahtoe

And you get your fruit less expensively. But how do you spell Conyer’s Farm? A reader says that there’s no apostrophe and by God, he’s right, at least as far as the denizens now occupying the place maintain. But how could that be? The original 1000 acres were assembled by a steel magnate, as they used to call such people, one something something Converse and the result was one large farm, named after him (or a corrupted version of his last name). The gentleman accomplished his assembling by buying out the small farmers who, until he’d come along, eked out a living up and down North Street. I’ll bet there’s a story or two there: what happens when Larry O’Toole, potato digger from the old country, decides he doesn’t want to sell his patch o’dirt to Mr. Converse? Is Larry heard from again?

I digress, and that’s a shame because I want to rush to my point: For probably the only time in our mutual history, The New York Times agrees with me, or it did in 1922 when they reported on the record inheritance tax foisted on poor Mr. Converse(‘s) heirs. They refer to “Conyer’s Manor Farm” as evidenced here:  converse-farm. Notice the apostrophe. Latter day Johnny-come-latelys may differ, but I’ll stick with the paper of record. So you want to argue, go find Pinch Schulzberger’s grandfather. By the way: while researching the farm, I came across a story about The lady who burned it. Allegedly, of course.

Update:here’s a little bit more or Araminta Sweeney, the lady accused of setting fire to Mr. Converse(‘s) farm. The article is a little sketchy on details because it covers a commitment hearing where the primary issue seemed to be the poor woman’s town of residence and hence which town: Darien or Greenwich, would be stuck with her maintenance at the asylum. Was she committed? Did she ever emerge? Who paid her bill? We may never know, unless Bernie Yudaine steps in. Bernie?

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At what price?

20-heronvueI liked this house at 20 Heronvue ( a made up name for a made up street off Cliffdale, way over in Northwestern Greenwich). It’s  a tad funky on the outside but the interior is very nice with lots of exotic woods and a very comfortable, informal floor plan. There’s a huge walk-out basement, the upstairs has lots of light and the backyard is fairly large and ends at the Byram River, not much more than a creek up here. originally asking $5.4 million, it’s recently been reduced to $4.875

But how do you price in the out-of-the-way location and the rather sketchy approach to the house itself? It appears that the builder has put up a couple of expensive homes at the end of a dead end that begins with more modest ones (I’m being nice). The house is 11,000 sq.ft., which I think includes that huge basement I mentioned. That computes to $443 per sq.ft., if you include the basement, which, nice as it is, I’m not sure you should. That would be an excellent price a couple of years ago but now? I don’t know.

It’s always interesting to see the advance and retreat of high-end housing in Greenwich as the market fluctuates. This area was originally just a couple of huge estates. When things were good in the 60s some builder/pioneers ventured out here and put up some simple ranches and capes and probably did okay with them. Not much happened until the past decade when new builders appeared and started erecting some very large, very expensive homes. They sold, just like the first big ones on Richmond Hill, even further north. But that was then, this is now, and I suspect that builders who came late to the party rue the day they first set pen to paper to buy some of these lots. Someone will sell their projects, eventually, but that seller may bot be the original builder.

None of which   question of what this house is worth. It already is lower than comparable  houses are priced in more convenient locations but those aren’t selling either, so their prices will probably fall. As they do, like any ebb tide, they’ll lower all boats. Will this one end up stranded on a mudflat? Stay tuned.

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Oh my Lords, look who’s going to be rehabilitated and by whom!

Yep – George McChimpy Pretzlechoker himself. And his savior? Obama himself. But then again, will this come as any surprise to Obama supporters who have always said he was the Savior?  Frankly, the whole thing is beginning to look like the return of Deng Xiaoping – you think all this was just an orchestrated fraud on the American voter?

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Oops!

3-quintardI mistakenly referred to a certain builder buying land on Keofferam this summer and then changing his mind and returning it to the market for a lot more than he paid for it. A reader pointed out that there was no such land for sale now and, sure enough, the lot I was referring to is at 3 Quintard and not on Keofferam. This was purchased for $2.840 million on July 16, 2008 and placed back on the market September 5 at $3.750. I am not alone in wondering how the land could have appreciated $910,000 in a month-and-a-half, and the place remains unsold. I can fix my mistake by going back and doing a bit of editing – the builder, with unsold spec houses on Keofferam and Sound Beach Avenue is in for a harder time.

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Conyer’s Farm

I drove up to Hurlingham this morning and sure enough, it is the former home of David Coyne, just as readers said. He’s no longer there but the house is, asking $13,750,000, or $1,350,000 more than the current owner paid for it just last year. Why the increase? According to the listing agent, Joe Barbeiri, the seller’s trying to break even after transaction costs (that’s not an exact quote – Joe is much too professional to just come out and say something so blunt, but I’m reporting the bottom line). I do agree with Joe about this: lakefront lots on Conyer’s behind the gates are rare and valuable – the land value of this lot is easily $10,000,000, any day including today and the owner would be foolish to bail out at anything less than that – the market will return and unlike lesser locations which had, you should pardon the expression, a derivitive value based on better lots soaring in value, lakefront at Conyer’s is valuable in its own right.

It was funny to notice how quickly a house becomes dated, though. This was built in 1986 and, to this writer, that was just yesterday. But pseudo-castle mixed with barnboard is as out of fashion as the projection tv system still lingering in this house’s basement. In short, someone is going to basically have to start over here. If I , the  sartorial model of Old Greenwich may be permitted a comment, it’s that my few suits, cut to a conservative (naturally) design, have never been at the cutting edge of fashion but have never gone entirely out of fashion, either. So when I have to appear before a judge, a very rare experience these days, thank you Lord, or do a funeral, no one notices my appearance. Were I to wear the Neru jacket I so unfortunately bought back in 1968, I’d experience something worse than the benign indifference of judges or fellow mourners. I’ve long since forgiven myself for the sartorial sins of my teens but forgiveness may be harder when it involves millions of dollars in questionable architectural taste.

Other things of note about this place: although it is on a beautiful lake, the designer put the master bedroom facing the front of the house and gave the dressing room the view. Not how I’d have done it. You could reverse this decision by yanking out the built-in drawers in the dressing room but that will leave you with a fireplace in the closet – not a particularly handy feature.

What the broker calls a dock is what I’d call a stone groin, just wide enough to walk a kayak out to deeper water, but I suppose that’s all you need. Before Conyer’s was developed, when we kids snuck in here to swim in the “lake” we made do with no dock whatsoever and seemingly came to no harm. But we weren’t paying $13 million for the privelege, either.

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I don’t think is going to do it

Park Avenue in Greenwich is a great street and this house at 135 is a nice antique. It’s been on since summer at $4.3 million and today it was reduced $100,000. In this market, a 2.5% reduction isn’t much good; I wonder if it ever was. As has been discussed on these pages and in the comments, would any buyer be stopped from placing an offer by a 2.5% difference of opinion? I think not.

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The long and winding road

154 Conewaugh Road came on as land in 2006 and the current owner snapped it up at full price, $1.4 million. He must have had second thoughts about the market’s direction because a few months later in November he listed it for $1.750. This is typical of builders: they buy land, they change their mind and they try to get someone else to buy their mistake for a premium. It doesn’t work – see Keofferam Road Quintard Avenue in Old Greenwich, for example, where the builder put a $700,000 $910,000 premium on his error and surprise (!) can’t get rid of it.

In any event, this builder decided that if no one wanted raw land he might have better luck building a new home, and he went ahead with his plans. The result was put up for sale this past July for $4.895 million. “Too high”, said the market, so a series of price cuts was initiated. As of today it’s down 30%, to $3.495 and there it sits. Cognewaugh is always going to be a tough sell and overpricing on that particular street is a particularly dumb move.

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Something for both sides to chew on

5 myths about recycling, from Popular Science. Whether you’re for or against recycling (here’s a surprise: I’m against it) there’s an argument here for you.

Left undiscussed, because I’m sure it never ocurred to PS editors that such a thing could exist, is Greenwich’s practice of using earth movers and trailer trucks to collect our leaves and haul them off to oblivion (or out of sight, anyway).

Off to broker open houses – Caludette, I’ll let you know how David Coyne’s house is making out.

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Hey, guess what? Spec homes aren’t selling!

antares-houseI was out of town when the October 24th edition of the New York Times came out and I missed this article on spec homes in Greenwich and New Canaan. Turns out, we have a whole bunch of them, all unsold. I don’t disagree with Russ Pruner, Chief Honcho of Surf & Turf Realty here in Riverside:

For the most part, conspicuously large reductions don’t represent discounts so much as they do reality adjustments, agents say. ‘We’ve had owners and Realtors who have been willing to put houses on at any price,’ Mr. Pruner said. ‘When they’re marked down, it’s not necessarily true that buyers are getting a deep discount. The properties were just priced incorrectly.’

But that said, I know of several houses for sale at prices that will guarantee a loss for their builders. These houses should never have been built, perhaps, and a loss for the seller does not necessarily mean a bargain for the buyer, but we’re getting there.

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Okay, then how about this price?

717-riversville-rd 717 Riversville Road came on a year ago this past September asking $14.7 million. I won’t say what I thought the proper price was then, but the house is a long, long way from town and the building style, while okay if you like this sort of thing, is available for less money at any number of locations throughout Greenwich. In any event, the price keeps getting lopped in million dollar increments and today, two brokers later, it’s down to $11.5 million, 22% off its original price. Is that enough? To be honest, I wouldn’t even have started here, but I will defer to the seller, as always, even though his opinion is as irrelevant as mine; it’s the buyer’s that counts.

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Apples to apples

228-stanwich2228 Stanwich Road was first listed for sale in February 2007 for $2.125 million and eventually sold that August for $1.7 million. The new owners returned it to the market this past July at $1.895 and I opined then that I doubted the market had improved so much since the summer of 2007 that a $195,000 bump was justified. Apparently not, because the property’s price has been dropping ever since and today it’s been cut again to $1.699 million. It used to be a rareity to see someone lose money in Greenwich real estate, although flipping after just one year has always been risky. I believe we’ll see a lot more people discovering that nothing, not even Greenwich, is bomb-proof.

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New Canaan Update

My old law school classmate, Peter Lathouris, attended that auction for the “Chateau” and reports that it was a bust. I’ve posted his remarks to the comments section of that post but essentially, the highest bid was $3.5 million (minimum was supposed to be $6.5) and that bidder’s check was no good. Peter also has gloomy tidings on the New Canaan real estate market in general so, as they say, read the whole thing.

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