Daily Archives: November 25, 2008

How can this be?

Cancer rates decline in U.S. This simply can’t be true – we’re living in a toxic waste pile where every day Ralph Nader and his ilk discover new, ever-more threatening hazards like plastic water bottles, cellphones and latex paint. Cancer going down? Pshaw, I say -it’s just another hoax foisted on the American public by the chemical industry which would also have you believe that Americans are living longer these days. Oh, the humanity!

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Mortgage rates fall on Fed intervention

Government guarantees “good” mortgages, Rates fall. That’s nice, but I worry at the seeming nonchalance with which our country is watching what’s left of our free market system turn into a centrally planned and run socialist scheme. When our cars are made according to federal (and political) mandate, our mortgages and investments are run by those wonderful, well meaning folks in Washington and our medical care is entrusted to the same bunch, I don’t think good things will ensue. But it seems we’re about to find out and, just like the introduction of wage and price controls, it’s getting started by a Republican administration.

Which is why I vote Libertarian.

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Well it’s media coverage at its disgusting worst

But some news crew made it out to Greenwich to Dickie Fuld’s house. Long tape with lots of boo-hooing by employees who seem to resent the bonuses Fuld and his cronies got but there’s a brief, amusing snippet at the end showing a scruffy reporter and Greenwich’s finest rousting him. If you know how to fast forward one of these video things, go for it. Otherwise, probably not worth your time.I waste mine so you don’t have to!

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Oh, won’t you please just shut up?

California school bans kindergartners from dressing as Indians at Thanksgiving pageant.

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From the “Letters you don’t want to receive” department

Reader Robert Fiala passes along this tidbit from a 1031 stakes holder. As he says, you can lose your money in a 1031 exchange – who’d have thought it? As an aside, the excuse they give for folding: the auction rate securities freeze took me by surprise. I thought these were cleared up under pressure from various state’s attorneys and the SEC but apparently not. UBS sold a ton of them, just as a by the way. The carnage continues.

1031-letter

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More on Conyers (no ‘) Farm

From reader John Martin, elberonstation1975@yahoo.com

 

CONYERS Manor was named after E. C. Converse, who elected to use the Old English spelling and pronunciation of his family name to give a more baronial title to his 1551 acre estate in the back country of Greenwich CT. He was one of our country’s greatest industrialists and financiers, having helped found US Steel and Bankers Trust and serving on the board of dozens of other companies. Conyers Manor was the 53 room stone mansion he erected in 1902. Conyers Farm was the name used for the rest of his estate, which was a very profitable enterprise that shipped fruit and vegetables all over the Eastern Seaboard. Mr. Converse died in 1921. His estate was maintained by Bankers Trust until 1927, when F. Sansome bought it. He defaulted on his payments due to Depression. It was purchased by my boss’s father Lewis S. Rosenstiel in 1935. He lived on it and owned it until his death in 1976. His daughter retained 10% of the property and the rest was sold in 1980. The new owner kept the name Conyers Farm. Any questions email me.

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Pricing

I saw a house today which, because I don’t want to embarrass  the owner I won’t identify, that was recently built on spec and put up for sale in the $7-$8 million range. The house is very nicely built: antique brick, leaded copper gutters, beautiful trim work inside, but as I walked around and concluded that it wasn’t worth showing to my client I wondered, who will buy this place? It’s on a very busy street, and close to it at that; its backyard is okay, except where it drops off into a swamp and, now that the leaves are down, you can see the neighbors looming on each side. Just to round out the picture, the yard backs up to a house on another street that looks (the house, not the street) as though it were built in the late 60’s or early 70’s. You know the type: a pseudo-colonial, shingled and possibly  split-level. Not exactly a house that you want yours adjacent to if your house just cost you a bundle.

So okay; no one’s likely to buy this house at its current price – what price will move it? I suppose it would be a heck of a deal at $4.5 million, although even then I know my own client wouldn’t touch it, but what about closer to its asking price. What about, say, $6.5? $5.5? It’s a lot of money for a lot of house in on a crappy lot, and I’m not sure there’s a market for that combination. Certainly a lot of spec builders and their lenders thought there was, judging from what’s on the market now and about to come on but I wonder if a sign of an imploding bubble is people making very unwise decisions about value. If so, we all should have seen this coming when lots like this were selling 2-3 years ago at prices that guaranteed the resulting houses would be priced in the stratosphere.

I’ll be interested to see where this house ends up.

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Flat lining

718 North Street
718 North Street

This place sold just after 9/11 for $3.583 million. Seven years later, after a price reduction, it’s offered for $3.595 and has no takers. Has every house in town dropped to its 2001 value? Nah – I’m just saying ….

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Wuxtra, wuxtra, read all about it! Home prices decline

Again. Case-Shiller index shows a 16.6% decline, and that was just the third quarter. The fourth is predicted to be even worse. Like politics, all real estate is local and I wouldn’t necessarily apply the percentage of decline experienced in, say, Las Vegas (31%) to Greenwich, but the more house values fall, the more mortgages are underwater and the more bonds default, eh? That can’t be good news for those of us hoping for a return to stability in the banking industry.

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Is RBS the next bank to be nationalized?

Bloomberg thinks so. The trouble with this wave of nationalization of the investment bank business, from a Greenwich real estate perspective, is that government jobs rarely pay the kind of out-sized bonuses that sustained our wonderful prices for so long. State employees are quite creative in milking their positions for every possible dollar but with the exception of a few governors and almost every U.S. senator, you don’t hear of them getting stupendously rich from the gig. So as Citi and its like disappear into the maw of the U.S. government and RBS and its fellows on the other side surrender to the British civil servants I wonder: who’s going to buy our houses now?

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Realogy – the squabbling of the vultures begins

The majority of Realogy’s bond holders have claimed that the company’s attempt to water down their holdings constitutes a breach of Realogy’s fiduciary duty owed to its investors. Realogy is the parent company, for now, of Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s, right here in town.

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Apples to Apples

30 Owenoke Road in Riverside sold for $2.950 million in June, 2006. Things have been slow around here (did you notice?) so when the buyers (Nokia) decided to resell it  in July of this year I thought it was a pretty smart move to price it as they did at $2.995. But the market has obviously done worse than just remain flat in the past two years and the house hasn’t sold. Today it was reduced to $2.895. I suspect it will go down further.

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Luxury homes in today’s market

A reader sent me this link to an article in Barrons “Sand Castles – Half-Price Mansions”. Nothing new to Greenwich residents but it discusses the disappearance of foreign buyers, the reluctance of buyers to pay anything close to asking price, and so on. Interesting read but the sub-heading probably says all you need to know:

Now that the boom in luxury housing has ended, sellers will have to cut prices even further to lure buyers. New York, look out below.

Yup – that about sums it up.

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Pedestrian Accident (changed) in Old Greenwich

(posted at 9:05 am). A pedestrian was struck by a car a few minutes ago as the pedestrian (a middle aged or younger woman, I believe) tried to cross Sound Beach Avenue. Like so many of us down here, she didn’t use the crosswalk but instead entered the street 30-45 feet north.

Emergency responders did not appear to cover her from the rain as she lay in the street – not a good sign and the ambulance that carried her off didn’t use its sirens – an even worse sign, I would think. 

On the other hand, they have, as I write, just reopened Sound Beach Avenue to traffic – I’d think that, were this a fatal accident, the street would remain closed to accommodate an accident investigation team. Who knows?

An awful sight, regardless, for sleepy Old Greenwich.

UPDATE: 9:15 A young cop told me “she should be okay”, so that’s good. I may start using the crosswalk here anyway.

UPDATE: 1:05 She’s ok, a friend who knows her says. Banged up and bruised but okay. That’s great news. be careful out there!

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Say, here’s an idea

Home builders frequently stop building when they have a too large an inventory of unsold homes, but until now I’ve never heard of a publisher just turning off the spigot of new books. But that’s just what Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is doing. I’m not a builder and even though I make a living selling their product, I can’t say their temporary withdrawing to the sidelines bothers me terribly. But, somehow, a major publisher announcing that it will buy no more manuscripts seems, to me, to be a harbinger of the lights going out around the world. That’s a little too melodramatic, I know, but sheesh – no more books? As my daughter Katie used to say when she was troubled at age three, “I don’t wike it!”

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