Daily Archives: December 10, 2008

Is there any reason to appoint Caroline Kennedy a Senator

None that I can think of, and neither can The Atlantic.

I don’t know about Jesse Ventura, but I find Schwarzenegger and Sonny Bono’s pre-political careers as self-made showbiz entrepreneurs – to say nothing of Jon Corzine’s career in finance – much more impressive than anything Caroline Kennedy has ever done. Her life has been dedicated to worthy pursuits, by and large, but most of her accomplishments (fundraising for New York public schools, editing essay collections in honor of her father, etc.) are classic “born on third base” endeavors – laudable enough without being terribly impressive. And all of the names on Marcus’s list actually submitted themselves to the democratic process on their way to the Senate, the House, and the California’s Governor’s Mansion; for an appointment to fill a vacant seat (especially a safe vacant seat), the bar ought to be set a bit higher than “she’s more qualified than Sonny Bono.”

Here’s a more provocative way of thinking about it. Caroline Kennedy is no doubt more prepared – in terms of her base of knowledge about national politics, her comfort with the ways of Washington, etc. – to be a United States Senator than Sarah Palin was to be Vice President. But if you consider where the two women started and stack their subsequent accomplishments against one another, Palin’s Alaskan career is roughly six times more impressive than Kennedy’s years as a high-minded Manhattan socialite and custodian of her family’s good name. That doesn’t mean that McCain was wise to pick Palin as his running mate. But if you think he wasn’t, then you should definitely hope that the Democratic Party of New York hunts a little longer through its ranks before handing a Senate seat to the editor of The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.


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Here’s one to watch

20 Hidden Brook Rd., Rvsd
20 Hidden Brook Rd., Rvsd

This new listing should provide a pretty good gauge of what’s happening in our strongest market, Riverside. Built new in 2005 it was first priced at $3.350. That proved too high but when it dropped to $2.995 in April 2006 two different buyers appeared and it sold for $3.0 million. Now it’s back, essentially unchanged, for 10% more: $3.295. Four bedrooms, 5,300 sf (a good portion of which is basement, I’d guess), three fireplaces, okay yard, kind of, on a very nice, quiet street. All in all, a typical newer Riverside house, I’d say, on an above-average street. So will it prove to have increased in value? Dropped? Let’s watch and see.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Neighborhoods, Riverside

Dreaming of a dark Christmas

Alerted by CEA, I just Googled “layoffs” and the news isn’t encouraging. Credit Suisse is laying off 11% of its workforce and the rest of the industry’s doing no better:

The majority of Credit Suisse’s planned reduction of 11% of its entire workforce, or 5,300 jobs, will target investment banking. That’s a division that includes stock and bond trading, and advisory services such as mergers and initial public offering issuance. Japan’s Nomura Holdings Inc. plans to lay off nearly a quarter of its 4,500 London staffers, in part due to overlap from its purchase of Lehman Brothers’ European equity and investment banking operations.

On Wednesday, Jefferies Group Inc. said it would reduce 13% of its workforce by the end of the year, or about 300 people, with cuts heavier on the investment banking side. Deutsche Bank began handing out pink slips to about 900 workers the same day – about 15% of its global workforce – concentrating on downsizing its global markets division, which includes sales and trading operations.

Last month, Morgan Stanley (MS) announced plans to lay off 2,000 employees globally by year end, or about 5% of its staff, focusing on its institutional securities business, which includes proprietary trading. Those cuts came on top of 4,500 layoffs that have occurred since 2007. Citigroup Inc. (C) made a pre- Thanksgiving announcement that it would shed 50,000 jobs worldwide by early 2009, including 25,000 that have not been laid off yet; combined with an earlier round of layoffs, the financial services giant will have 20% fewer employees than at its peak near the end of 2007.

UBS AG said in October it is exiting its commodities business and cutting back in real estate and securitization, as well as in proprietary trading, a move that will result in 2,000 fewer jobs by the end of the year – on top of nearly 4,000 jobs that have been cut since the firm’s hiring peak in the third quarter of 2007.

Even Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s (GS) employees haven’t been spared; the firm should end the year with 10% fewer employees.

These figures are for world-wide operations but New York is bound to be hit hard. And as New York goes, so goes Greenwich.

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Filed under Right wing nut rantings

Who’s going to buy these?

The NY Times profiles three homes in out-of-the-way locations, each asking around $350,000. I don’t know anything much about South Carolina, where one of the houses is located, but Liberty Maine and Alpine Wyoming are far, far away from much of anything. Of the two, I’d say Alpine is at least within shouting distance of the Rockies and Yellowstone, so that’s nice. Liberty Maine is between Augusta and the coast. The nearest grocery store is 40 miles away in Belfast, says the Times, and Belfast, unless it’s improved in the last 20 years, isn’t all that much of a town to visit (although I hear they shut down the chicken slaughtering factories that added so much to its charm).

$350,000? Even for someone used to (the old) Greenwich prices, these seem steep. And today? forget it. But for those of us priced out long ago from nifty rural retreats, our time may soon come again.

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Ummm good!

Guess which bonds it costs more to buy protection from default on, U.S. Treasuries or Campbell Soup?

If you guessed U.S. Treasuries, you’re right! Things are getting absurd.

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Who’d a thunk it?

GMAC is on the road to an early bankruptcy. I don’t know why but I find this more shocking than GM’s own upcoming date with bankruptcy. Tough on mortgage seekers but I guess they haven’t been a source of funds for awhile now. And if I’m surprised, imagine the surprise of Cerberus, those Wall Street geniuses who now own Chrysler and this dog. No bonuses for you guys!

Did you know that Dan Quayle is a spokesman for Cerberus and runs one of their divisions? True fact. And did you know that the debt swap that GMAC asked its creditors for and failed to get is the same sort of deal being offered its own creditors by Realogy? Wonder if that one will fare better.

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Cough cough sputter cough

Tesla, the battery powered sportscar maker for the rich ($109,000 and up) wants us taxpayers to fork over $650 million so it can figure out how to make batteries that will run the darn things. Don’t pay and they won’t produce their next model, a sedan, which, at an estimated $90,000, is going to be a car for the rest of us. I say we leave them by the side of the road.


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Here’s what’s selling

139 Havemeyer Place
139 Havemeyer Place

This 1911 2 -family went to contract today. Asked $949,000 and eventually dropped 25% to $699. My guess is it sold for even less than that. A brave builder or a low-end buyer who saw a chance to get into Greenwich cheap? We’ll find out, eventually.

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Contracts, Downtown Greenwich

Don’t tell that gossip columnist

38-meeting-houseA famous television personality was recently seen at Valbella’s trying to rent his house – it hasn’t sold since July, despite being dropped down to the low 5’s. Here’s your chance to rent from what passes for royalty in America, for only $8,500 per month. Such a deal.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate

What are these builders going to do?

I was showing some properties to a buyer and neither of us liked what we saw, at least at the price the builder was asking – $1.5ish. Two decent houses, side-by-side, one a renovated older home the other brand new but both overlooked the Cos Cob Foot  Food Mart parking lot which is not nearly as attractive as, say, a view of the ocean. These houses are by far the most expensive on the street and that sends a cautionary note as well.

The builder, if memory serves, paid $1.3 for the two lots, so he’s got $650 into each one. A sale for much less than $1.4 million is almost certain to cause him to lose money and that’s assuming he built the houses for $680,000 or less – I doubt he did.

But I don’t think he will get $1.4 million for these. If I’m right, he’s going to be losing money sooner or later; the question is, when will he acknowledge that?

Maybe I’m wrong, and perhaps there are buyers out there willing and able to pay the asking price. My point is, even if these two work out, there are a lot of houses currently for sale that aren’t going to. Their builders paid too much for marginal building lots back in the land rush, spent too much on building and now are going to have to take a bath. I’m seeing a lot of price cuts but, so far, few deep enough to move undesired houses. I think that’s going to change soon but, for now, it’s keeping a lot of buyers on the ssidelines, waiting. It occurs to me that the builder who cuts his losses now and gets out from under a failed project will be far ahead of his competitors when their building loans come due in February.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Cos Cob, current market conditions, pricing, spec houses

Well isn’t this cheerful

S&P dropping to 400? This guy thinks so.

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