Daily Archives: December 9, 2008

Why bother?

It says here that the western world will have to cut emissions 80% and the undeveloped world 60% if we are to avoid catastrophic global warming in 2050. Then “they” (UN climate experts, or whatever) admit that there’s no way that the undeveloped world is going to do that. 

So then catastrophe it is. Instead of ruining the world’s economy in a futile attempt to lower temperatures 2 degrees, why not spend the time, effort and money on mitigating any effects such warming might cause?

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Everything’s coming up roses

The housing market is due to come roaring back, says this group. Of course, the issuer of the press release happens to be in the business of selling foreclosure information so maybe, just maybe, you’ll want to take their forecast with a grain of salt. That business, foreclosures.com, is run by this “nationally recognized expert”. Never heard of her.

foreclosure

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None so blind …etc.

Realtors praise  Efforts of Fair Housing Advocates for Ensuring Equality in Homeownership

WASHINGTON, Dec 09, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — The National Association of Realtors(R) commended the collaborative efforts of hundreds of fair housing advocates who participated in the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
Earlier this year, the commission conducted daylong hearings in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta and Houston and collected information and heard testimony about the nature and extent of illegal housing discrimination. The commission also gathered data on the origin of housing discrimination, its connection with government policy and practice, and its effect on foreclosures and segregation in the community.
I love it – I’m forced to pay dues to the very yokels who played such a large part in creating the current mess. Salt in the wound is that I’m represented by Senator Chris Dodd.

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What’s this going to do to my contango?

Global oil demand, prices, expected to plummet. Looks like a bad case of backwardation is on tap!

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Here’s another one

4 Chateau Ridge is reported as pending, which must be a relief to its owners. It’s been on the market since 2005, started at $3.795 and its most current price was $2.999. What will it actually sell for? We’ll find out, but at least it’s selling.

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Filed under Back Country, Neighborhoods

Where are the contracts of yesteryear?

A reader asks if, by November 2007 the market wasn’t already slowing down and wonders how many houses went to contract the year before. Here you go:

(Single family house contracts)

November 2008: 12

November 2007: 39

November 2006: 62

November 2005: 47

November 2004: 59

Any way you slice it, last month was pretty weak.

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Contracts

Time to get real

Courtesy of Greenwich Roundup (link to the right), I’ve learned that the Hamilton Avenue PTA mothers are opposed to any cuts whatsoever in the school budget:

We feel, that no school in town should have to be cutting anything, that our children’s education across the board is one of the most important if not the most important thing that the district gives. We as tax payers expect this.

We are in need of your assistance, it is our understanding that features of our Magnet Program may be on the chopping block for next years budget. Examples- such as the PE portion (swimming/skating), Spanish k-2 and Suzuki. We don’t want any of it cut, [emphasis added] our children deserve these magnet features. They enrich their daily lives, and the teacher’s [sic] are educating the whole child, not just the academic portion.

Sorry to break the news to these people but this taxpayer, for one, wants to see cuts across the board, and that includes our school budget. we can’t stop the nonsense in Washington or Hartford so let’s do it here.

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November Contracts

Twelve single family houses went to contract last month, compared to 39 in November 2007 (-70%). Worse, or better, if you’re a buyer, of the two large spec houses included in that tally one, 480 North Street, sold for $4.5 million instead of its first asking price of $9.5 and the other, 205 Clapboard Ridge, may have sold for about the same low percentage – what we do know is that it came on four years ago for $12.250  million and was last heard from at $7.950 million.

Just thought you’d want to know.

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

Sort of like sighting the first robin

25 Richmond Hill

25 Richmond Hill

We have cont(r)act! The late Jean Seward’s place, on the market since July 2007 has gone to contract today. Last asking price was $2.095 and someone was obviously in no hurry to move this because the price only recently budged from its original price of $2.195. Ms. Seward was a bird lover/protector/rescuer and by all accounts a remarkable person. She’ll forgive me, I hope, if I suggest that this was most likely a land sale than a residential one. But I’ll be curious to see what the final sale price turns out to be because it should provide a good insight into what a building lot will fetch in this market.

By the way, this marks the second contract reported this month, so it’s not quite the first robin – the other was that Davis Avenue property at (asking) $375,000. No mansions reported sold, as of yet.

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

But wait, there’s more!

The details of Illinois Democrat Governor Blagojevich’s greed are too much fun to pass up. Here’s a sample:

Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being “stuck” as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office.

In the earliest intercepted conversation about the Senate seat described in the affidavit, Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on November 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: “if . . . they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.” Later that day, speaking to Advisor A, Blagojevich said: “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

Over the next couple of days – Election Day and the day after – Blagojevich was captured discussing with Deputy Governor A whether he could obtain a cabinet position, such as Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Department of Energy or various ambassadorships. In a conversation with Harris on November 4, Blagojevich analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to the highest bidder. The day after the election, Harris allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that the President-elect could make him the head of a private foundation.

The Federal Prosecutor who indicted the Governor said that “Lincoln would roll over in his grave”. Maybe so, but I’ll bet Mayor Daily would have been proud.

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All real estate is local but still…

No good news on the national level. Pending sales of existing homes dropped in September and are forecast to do still worse.

Next year “will still be a very tough year for housing,” said Adam York, economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina. “So much of the activity is distressed sales that it’s tough to say whether there is underlying support for the market.”

House prices, which have fallen more than a fifth so far, may drop by another 15 percent, and the danger is the decline will be “worse than that,” said Martin Feldstein, a Harvard University economics professor.

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

Nice House

3 M3-macpherson-driveacPherson Drive

is a 1929 charmer on that odd little street off lower North Street: the street has its own small green ringed by great old houses of which all but this one have been renovated. And this one has, in my opinion, the best, quietest, most private yard of them all. It could use a new kitchen and probably some updating of its mechanicals but it has 9′ ceilings, beautiful “bones”, to use that real estate cliche and, given its location, well worth the money and time you’d invest in bringing it up to date. Asking $5.0 million, or thereabouts. You can probably dicker a bit.

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Downtown Greenwich

Waterfront sells, regardless of market conditions

6 Point Road, Wilson Point

6 Point Road, Wilson Point

This Norwalk listing, direct waterfront, came on in October asking $5.5 million and today is reported as “contract pending”. That’s pretty impressive these days. My guess is that great waterfront property is so rare that people with cash are buying it when it appears and don’t care about what’s going on in our market.

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Just in case you thought hedge funders had a bad image

Here comes a lawyer to the rescue. Prominant lawyer arrested for massive hedge fund swindle.

We earned our title as lowest of the low through centuries of hard work and no slimy Wall Street denizen is going to wrest that from us!

In brazen and carefully choreographed scams here and in Canada, Mr. Dreier, who in 1996 founded a 250-lawyer firm that bears his name, is said to have tried to take advantage of the current financial crisis by selling phony debt to hungry hedge funds looking for deals.

But in an era when high-tech frauds and inside information seem to dominate the world of white-collar crime, the square-jawed lawyer, known for his forceful personality and his penchant for high living, apparently did it the old-fashioned way.

Using little more than his position, poise and a kind of reckless bravado, he cajoled his way into accounting, real estate and pension fund offices where he had no real business, according to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday.

Once there, seated in conference rooms that lent credibility to his charade, he peddled forged promissory notes — utterly worthless paper — linked in some way to his unwitting hosts, the complaint said. He backed up his claims with phony financial statements and bogus audit opinions from a reputable accounting firm, correspondence on the stationery of the New York real estate developer who supposedly issued the debt, and the help of a few confederates, the government said in court papers.

With these tools and little more, he allegedly took hedge fund executives for $100 million in one instance alone, money that the authorities say remains unaccounted for.

Mr. Dreier, 58, is charged with stealing $113 million since October, according to the complaint, although the case is continuing and a spokesman for the acting United States attorney in Manhattan, Lev. L. Dassin, whose office investigated the matter, would not say whether other alleged frauds are under scrutiny.

It probably goes without saying that the Governor of Illinois is also a lawyer.

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How come I never thought of that?

John Rowland enjoys a quiet moment of reflection

John Rowland enjoys a quiet moment of reflection

Illinois’ Governor arrested for trying to sell Obama’s vacant Senate seat

.

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Is Belle Haven immune from our market woes?

36 Walsh Lane

36 Walsh Lane

I guess we’ll find out. This house sold in August 2007 for $11,000,000. It’s back on the market today, unchanged, for 20% more than that: $13,250,000.

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Filed under Belle Haven, current market conditions, pricing

Here’s a question for Peter Tesei:

Some years ago, citing a need to catch up on paperwork, the town’s Building department curtailed the hours it was open to the public to about 3 hours a day on alternate weekdays. Now that building applications are down to almost nothing, why aren’t those hours restored? A builder I know who would never want his name disclosed tells me that when he does get into the department’s office half the staff is lounging around making personal calls on their cellphones. How about deep sixing half of them and if the need ever arises again, hiring them back? And in the meantime, put the remaining staff to work by assisting the public.

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California, R.I. P.?

California’s budget is busted, the state’s teetering on bankruptcy, unemployment is soaring and businesses are fleeing the state. The soloution? Enact a “clean energy” law that will send the cost of energy skyrocketing. That should help. The media and the Governor insist that this will create, a la Obama, thousands of new jobs and usher in a new era of prosperity. Others aren’t so sure of that. Even proponents of clean energy say that the plan will be a financial disaster but the press ignores them and the state is rushing ahead to hammer the final nails into its coffin. In a way, this is a good thing, if disaster strikes soon enough and spares the rest of the country from repeating California’s mistake. Worst case scenerio: Obama sets the nation on this path before California can serve its canary in the coal mine purpose and we’re all dragged down to ruin. That would be a bummer, dude.

In a normal state, the harsh criticism of … economists in the peer review would create a huge hullaballo. AB 32, after all, will have a profound effect on the economy. Isn’t that a big deal? Well, of course it is.

But in California, the media are so deeply in the tank on this issue that NOT ONLY IS STAVINS IGNORED, THE ARB’S LIES ARE ENCOURAGED!

On Sunday, Dan Weintraub, arguably the most respected journalist in Sacramento, had a 2,750-word piece in the Bee about AB 32. He didn’t mention Stavins or the other peer review economists’ scathing view of the ARB plan. Instead, he had this observation:

It is possible, as the board’s staff believes, that the benefits from its policies are understated.

Do you follow? The ARB’s claims have been pulverized by the outside authorities who looked at them closely: the LAO and the economists who did the peer review. But Dan instead lets the ARB assert that its claims might not be rosy enough!

What is going on here? What on Earth is going on here?

California is about to adopt a policy with profound implications for its future. And the most credible possible critics — the academic experts who share and admire AB 32’s goals, heavily credentialed people who are not whiny bloggers or global warming deniers or partisan nut jobs — are ignored and shut out of the media.

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Greenwich Time, R.I.P?

Greenwich Round Up says so. I have my issues with this particular blog’s antipathy toward the paper and its former editor, Joe Pisani,whom I like, but its editor seems to have a direct line into the organization and several former and current employees. His previous predications about the GT have proved accurate – his latest include a raise in the newsstand price from fifty to seventy-five cents, layoffs of still more staff (there aren’t many left so what are they going to do, fire the custodian?) and its ultimate folding ito a regional paper, based in Bridgeport, with a local news insert. 

You’d think that, if there were any business purpose still left for  paper newspapers it would be local news, and therefore Greenwich Time should be in a prime location. But a succession of editors has pushed the paper away from that kind of coverage and more toward national and international news, all provided (cheaply, no doubt) by AP.  Dreams of Pultizers dancing on dim brains or just cost-cutting bean counters taking control? It doesn’t matter, now.

An after thought: GT has enjoyed a near monopoly on local real estate advertising and charged prices that were onerous. With real estate in the tank and that other large advertiser, car dealers, just as low, who’s paying the bills? Not classified – Craig’s List took those years ago. So perhaps my first thoughts were wrong: perhaps there is no business purpose left for a local paper.

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Tesei wants to cut town’s budget

Our First Selectman wants to see some savings from our payroll and I say good for him. He has several tiny cuts in mind, such as these:

Tesei said he already is planning not to fill five of the 47 positions that are currently vacant, including a gardener and a horticulturist in the Parks department, a painter foreman in Public Works, an accounting clerk position in Finance and the town’s consumer affairs coordinator.

I can’t imagine what our “consumer affairs coordinator” did when we had one and I’m confident that we can survive without her services but we’re going to need to do more than this. For instance, Tesi  Tesei says he’ll continue paying overtime for leaf collection – I’d suggest we eliminate the program entirely.

And then turn our attention to the meat of our budget, education. We’re doing a lousy job there, so let’s start by firing every second administrator and see if we can’t do better, for less.

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