Daily Archives: November 13, 2008

Match picture with description, win prize

round2

508 Round Hill Road

“Once in a lifetime will you see such unparalleled beauty as 508 Round Hill Road. This totally breathtaking 5 acre estate sits atop a knoll, over looking the sweeping lawns which lead you to two of Greenwich’s most expensive residences. This six-thousand square foot stone Georgian colonial redefines excellence in Greenwich. The interior has been lovingly restored preserving the charm and integrity of the home. As you walk out and enter the rear yard, you are greeted by a new gunite pool with state of the art pool equipment. Pass the pool and enormous blue stone patio, you will find horse accommodations so charming, one would only find something similar in a Thomas Kinkade painting. When you add the mature trees and the long approach, you are left totally speechless. 508 Round Hill is a property of distinction meant to be handed down through generations. if you’d like to preview the home please contact our office for a private and confidential showing.”

“A Thomas Kinkade painting”? Gag me with a pitchfork. It’s horrible writing like this that probably got the owner of this place, DFT LLC, in trouble. Their website is stuffed with copies of press releases crowing about their latest tear-downs, their purchases of “prestige property” on Round Hill Road and Vineyard Lane and on and on but now Vineyard Lane is back up for sale, as is, 516 Round Hill Road is languishing and 518 Round Hill is under threat of foreclosure with a $6,000,000 mortgage against it. I dunno, it all seems eerily reminiscent of the Antares boys and, going back a few decades, the wonder boy of the 80’s, Kurt Wittek, who must surely be out of prison by now.

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Useful Idiots

useful-idiotsHollywood to back new Michael Moore movie on economy. And, most assuredly, attacking free market capitalism.

Disney gets them when they’re young, Hollywood when their pathetic minds have been softened up in our public schools, and we all wonder why the center will not hold.

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P.J. O’Rourke

As always, O’Rourke sums things up neatly: “We blew it”. 

None of this is the fault of the left. After the events of the 20th century–national socialism, international socialism, inter-species socialism from Earth First–anyone who is still on the left is obviously insane and not responsible for his or her actions. No, we on the right did it. The financial crisis that is hoisting us on our own petard is only the latest (if the last) of the petard hoistings that have issued from the hindquarters of our movement. We’ve had nearly three decades to educate the electorate about freedom, responsibility, and the evils of collectivism, and we responded by creating a big-city-public-school-system of a learning environment.

…..

What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That’s not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. “Jeeze, 230 pounds!” But you can’t pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters–all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs–think so too.

We, the conservatives, who do understand the free market, had the responsibility to–as it were–foreclose upon this mess. The market is a measurement, but that measuring does not work to the advantage of a nation or its citizens unless the assessments of volume, circumference, and weight are conducted with transparency and under the rule of law. We’ve had the rule of law largely in our hands since 1980. Where is the transparency? It’s one more job we botched.

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Instapundit: is being a politican a personality disorder?

Why the question?

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Hillside(s)

Reader CEA asked about the spec house on Hillside Road but while I was checking the MLS data I came across another house, also unsold, on Hillside Drive (it may be confusing to remember which street is which but my brother Gideon pointed out that both roads are near schools – the one facing our public High Skool is the “road”; the other, facing Greenwich Academy is swankier and hence, “Drive”. Works for me).

So anyway: 49 Hillside Drive was built by Quaker Hill Builders on land they purchased for $2.0 million in April ’07. They have been trying to sell their new house ever since, for $5.975 million and dropped it to $4.999 million, so far without results. It looks like a nice house and I know the builders have a good reputation so, unless readers teach me otherwise, I’ll believe it’s the price with something wrong with it, not the house itself or its location.

53 Hillside Road (no link because the broker doesn’t want Internet exposure?) was built on land bought for $1.695 way back in June, 2004. In September 2006 it was brought to market at $6.495 million and, a couple of brokers later, it’s down to $5.385 million and still hasn’t moved. I notice from the pictures that the place has been “staged” – rental furniture brought in for the benefit of buyers too dull to imagine what a house might look like with furnishings. I’ve never thought much of staging and, in this case at least, it would seem that sofas and chairs and framed pictures of strangers aren’t enough to overcome the fact that there’s a high school across the street and traffic that comes with it. But at some price ….

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Do you ever wonder?

601-lakeThis perfectly nice, albeit still-unsold, house at 601 Lake Avenue was built on land (which had a nice older house on it at the time) sold in 2005 and again in 2007. Both times, the listing described the lot size as 1.66 acres and the 2007 listing mentioned that the seller had a survey and had calculated the allowable FAR as 6,468 sq.ft.

The current listing says the lot is 1.89 acres and the sq. footage is 8,500. I understand where the extra square footage is hidden: in the basement, but where did they dig up the extra acreage?

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Hey, what do I know?

The One wants to give GM and Ford $50 billion, whether in addition to the previously granted $25 billion or in total, I don’t know. I’m all for opening our treasury to anyone who asks – I’d like one of them new-fangled 3% mortgages myself – but I’m confused about what this money for car makers will do. As I understand the matter, GM has been mismanaged for decades, saddled itself with the most expensive labor contracts in the world and makes, and has made, during those same decades, cars no one wants to buy. So giving them money will accomplish … what? At its stated burn rate of $2 billion a month GM will be back in Washington, hands out, in a year, and that’s assuming we let Chrysler go under and give GM a full half the money. Otherwise, sooner. And what will GM have done during this grace period to improve its lot? So far, all I hear is that GM is too big to fail – nothing about how to prevent it becoming our country’s equivalent to the British coal mines. Britain was lucky, and had Margaret Thatcher to extract them from that mess. We, on the other hand, have Obama.

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The good news: 2 contracts today. The bad news?

Spec builders aren’t going to find this reassuring. 480 North Street was built on land purchased at the height of the land rush (May ’05) for $2.995. A year later, the new house was listed for $9.5 million. I remember not being bowled over by the price-to-value ratio and apparently the market joined me in my indifference because the place wouldn’t sell for the next 2+ years despite eight price cuts. It’s final drop, to $5.495, seems to have done the trick. A full price contract? I wouldn’t think so in this market but with $3.0 million sunk into land cost alone, I imagine the builder was glad to grab what he could get and return to New York City. This was, if I recall, his first venture in Greenwich. Bad timing, eh?

205 Clapboard Ridge didn’t fare any better. This house, also new construction, was originally priced at $12.250 million in September 2004 and again I remember being underwhelmed. Five price cuts, three agents and four years later, at a final asking price of $7.975 million, it’s found a buyer. We’ll know what that buyer paid when the sale is reported but I’m guessing that, just like the guy on North Street, this builder took what he could get.

Look: these dismal figures are not necessarily due to the collapse of the Greenwich housing market – neither house was priced right to begin with and so they slumbered through the good times, shunned by buyers, until their builders finally got smart. But it’s like that saying, “he got married and discovered true happiness, but by then, of course, it was too late”.

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Exploring Realtytrac.com

This company offers, for a fee, information on foreclosures and the beginning of that process, lis pendens filings (notice of a “suit pending – in this case, a future foreclosure action). The idea is that this information can be useful when negotiating a purchase and of course, will alert a buyer to bank owned property that might be available cheap. This morning I signed up for their offer of a free 7 day trial (warning: they require credit card information and if you fail to affirmatively cancel within those seven days you will be automatically enrolled in a contract costing $50 a month. I’ve had trouble cancelling this sort of deal in the past – no, not porno sites – but professional curiosity moved me to try it). And there is some useful stuff here.

I found one property in Riverside (I’m not giving exact addresses here because some of the properties I’ll discuss are owned by friends and I’m uncomfortable revealing embarrassing information about them. And, if I’m uncomfortable doing that to friends, my conscience tells me that I should feel just as uncomfortable doing the same thing to strangers. I don’t, but my conscience tells me I should, and what’s the point of having a conscience if I ignore it?) – where were we? Oh yes, a Riverside mansion with a $3.0 million lis pendens filed against it. Because I could sell that house for $9.0 million in a heartbeat, I don’t think there’s a buyer’s advantage to be gained by knowing that the owner can’t or won’t pay his debts – if things get dicey, he can always bail out at a profit.

That’s not necessarily so for a Back Country home that also has a $3.0 million lis pendens in the land records. I don’t think this house will fetch more than that and, in this market, it might draw offers that are considerably less. It probably helps a buyer to know what the seller needs to get out from under, but if the house won’t support a price at that level, what good does it really do? This information may guide you away from the property, however, because you’ll probably be negotiating with a bank before long, and that’s a tough slog.

The knowledge of a $2.0 million lis pendens on another house may not be helpful in itself but RealtyTrac gives out the owners’ names and they happen to have a spec house up for sale that seems to be going nowhere. If a buyer were interested in either property, this knowledge might be good to know before negotiating.

So – worth $49.95 a month? I don’t think so because, if a client were interested in a particular house I could go to Town Hall and run the title for free. As a means of satisfying your curiosity about your neighbors’ finances it works well but at a price. But I’ll keep checking in on the free version, which doesn’t give more than the street and, sometimes, the amount of the lien. If things keep getting worse, there may be enough new listings on the site to justify RealtyTrac’s charge.

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(Not) Selling It

There’s a price reduction reported this morning, from $1.155 million to $1.100 million. The seller may think that this will signal his willingness to negotiate but I interpret it as a real turn-off, indicating a stubborn owner who is sticking to his price, come hell or bad market. Which is fine: if he doesn’t have to sell the place, if he’s one of the many property owners in Greenwich who say, “I’ll sell my house if I can get my price, otherwise, forget it”, then that’s okay, but he shouldn’t expect the real estate community to pay any attention to his supposed price signal. he might just as well have stuck to his original price, however, and I wonder who told him that a 4 1/2% price cut would accomplish anything?

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