Daily Archives: January 12, 2009

Bank of America – run by morons – and you trust them with your money?

 

Bite me!

Bite me!

In the middle of what some of us consider to be a banking crisis, BOA has taken the time to ban styrofoam cups for all employees.

 

“The negative effects of polystyrene foam products, more commonly known as Styrofoam, on our environment are well documented,” said Mark Nicholls, Corporate Workplace executive. “Styrofoam cups are designed to be thrown away immediately and can take hundreds of years to deteriorate in a landfill. Even then, the material will never fully degrade. By eliminating our continuous use of Styrofoam cups, the bank is helping to reduce unnecessary spend and its consumption of raw materials, which has a positive impact on the environment.”

As an added benefit, the new mug to be distributed to associates is fully recyclable and biodegradable, meaning that it will decompose under normal landfill conditions within one to five years. Regular, nonbiodegradable plastic can take up to hundreds of years to decompose. The mug will not decompose through its normal use as a beverage container.

To help further reduce consumption and waste, other disposable kitchen supplies, including plastic utensils and paper plates are being discontinued also. Associates who use these products are encouraged to bring nondisposable alternatives from home. Dish soap can continue to be ordered on eRequest, and paper towels will continue to be available in break room/kitchen areas though property management and do not need to be ordered.

If Corporate Executive Mark Nicholls were to take his nose out of his First Grader’s text book and actually look something up for himself, he’d learn that landfills are anaerobic – no oxygen Mark, so no decomposition for a very, very long time, no matter what material you stick in there. Furthermore, have you considered the energy use involved in manufacturing washing and drying those great employee mugs you’re going to pass out? Well others have, including some folks at Harvard – guess what? You’ll be consuming more energy than if you used styrofoam cups and much more energy than if you didn’t ban disposable paper cups.

I realize that the world is filled with silly, stupid people like Mr. Nicholls and that we all have to put up with them from time to time. I find it disheartening, though, to see that this no-talent not only is still getting a paycheck when thousands of more intelligent bankers are being fired, but he’s been empowered to make a nuisance of himself and a plague on those around him who actually do real work. This isn’t to attack Nicholls – I’m sure he’s a nice guy and he does have that First Grader to support – but who is the idiot who encouraged him to come up with this assault on reason?  Can you imagine any sane, well run business devoting five seconds to this nonsense? Only a government sponsored organization could be this obtuse and  – oh, that’s right, BOA is now a branch of the federal government. Never mind, Mark – carry on!

hat tip: Deal Breaker.com

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Where’s there’s a tragedy, there’s someone to take advantage of it

No, not this blog (well, only sometimes). I’m talking about mortgage rescue frauds – companies that, for a fee, promise to help you resolve your difficulties with your lender. Surprise surprise, they often take your money and disappear. Now our intrepid Attorney General wants to do something about it. I rather doubt that we need new regulations to fight a new variation of fraud but the politician’s alarm should alert you that, if you’re having financial trouble, an attorney or an accountant is probably a better source of help than a firm you find in the yellow pages.

Hat tip: Krazy Kat

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A good time to trade up?

That’s the pitch we realtors are using. This guy thinks not and points out (a)  the “savings” on a more expensive house aren’t real – last year’s price is not today’s; (b) a house isn’t an investment necessarily, but  it’s always an expense. If you need a bigger house and can afford it, go for it – prices are good. If you don’t, or can’t, stay put.

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The Madoff Boys have another idea

20s-teapot-domeLet’s start an oil drilling limited partnership! You give us money, we’ll go drill and if we find anything we’ll let you know, just as soon as we’re back from flyfishing. Guaranteed profits? You bet Catherine Hooper’s ass!hooper1

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Real estate’s 3 Ds: death, diapers and divorce (well, there’s also dementia, I suppose)

Well Bernie didn’t jump – he may have been tipped off to the bail magistrate’s decision – so his penthouse remains occupied, for now. Walt may or may not have dementia and his creditors will probably tie up his Round Hill cottage regardless of his mental state. Diapers? Eh – in this economy, you have another kid, invest in bunk beds. But divorce? Fortunately for lawyers and real estate agents that happens in good times and bad. Especially bad, as this New York Times article describes. How’d you like to be married to this bitch?

As unemployment has hit a 16-year high and Wall Street shakes off tens of thousands of jobs, affluent couples in the New York area find their families suddenly in flux. It’s not only the high-flying income and the attendant abundance that have evaporated. For many couples, it’s also the assumption of what their marriages would look like; the traditional model — executive husband and stay-at-home wife — may be a little dated, or unworkable.

One mother in TriBeCa, who is married, at least for now, to a Wall Street executive, put it rather bluntly: “My job was to run the household and the children’s lives,” she said. “His job is to provide us with a nice lifestyle.” But his bonus has disappeared, and his annual pay has dropped to $150,000 from $800,000 a year. “Let me just say this,” she said, “I’m still doing my job.”

What’s that? You recognize that dutiful spouse? Give me a call, buddy – we should talk, soon.

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Why you see only Shingle Style/Georgian/Colonials being built in Greenwich

Lsst year, 362 single family houses sold in Greenwich. Of those, eleven were contemporaries and of those eleven, only two sold for more than $3.0 million: one, at $3.1 million, represented a loss of several hundred thousand dollars to the seller who’d bought it two years before (and the buyer, a builder who intended to tear it down and build anew, changed his mind even about that and has relisted it as land for $3.4 million – fat chance); the second sold for $3.4 million.

So if you like contemporaries, and I do, don’t buy an expensive one in Greenwich, where buyers expect and demand the pseudo-traditional. Or if you do, don’t plan on recouping your money in a hurry.

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Global warming is so 2007

Now it’s “climate change”, damn it!

We mentioned this last week but here it is again: sea ice levels return to 1979 levels. Fastest change in decades, which just proves that your plasma TV is ruining the environment.

Hat tip: Instapundit.com

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Times are bad? Shoot the moon!

When it sold as a building lot in 2007, 1 Charter Oak in Byram set the record for its street at $1.5 million. The existing house was razed, a new one twice its size built, and now it’s for sale at $3.2 million. While it is undoubtedly true that, as the listing promises, one can enjoy a water view by peering down the street, across Byram Shore Road and past the houses thereon, that water is about 500 yards away. About a football field’s length the other way one can enjoy a view of I-95. For truck spotting fans, that’s probably a good thing.

$3.2 million? This will be interesting to watch.

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Don’t renovate capes!

Okay, that’s a bit over-stated, but here’s an example of someone putting what may prove to be good money after bad. 66 Perkins Road was bought for $2.2 million in 2006 and renovated to some extent (or completely – depends how one interprets realtorese). Returned to the market for $3.6 million in 2007, it was still a house with low ceilings and still didn’t sell. It’s got a new broker now and a new price; $2.750 million. Depending on how much the owners have put into it, the new price seems perilously close to what they paid for it (net sale proceeds after taxes and commissions = < $2.585, less renovation costs). It’s true that they could have given their money to Walt Noel to invest and lost it all so breaking even may not seem like such a bad deal, but my general rule still stands: pay for renovations if you intend to stay and enjoy them; otherwise, move on. There was a time when you could buy a house, update the kitchen and baths and maybe pick up a hundred grand profit – this is not that time.

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I don’t think so

If 6.6 acres on Round Hill Road, complete with a renovated 1745 farmhouse, sells for $3.4 million, how much is a building lot at 543 Stanwich with a 3,000 sf 1960’s ranch worth? The seller says today that its proper price is $4.225 million. Gosh!

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Round Hill Land Values

384 Round Hill Road

384 Round Hill Road

When this property, priced at $5.2 million went to contract in November, I reported the rumor that the owners had accepted an offer in the low 3s. That seemed low for 6.6 acres and a renovated 1745 farmhouse, even if it did overlook the Round Hill general Store. But its selling price was reported today as $3.4 million, proving again, as I suggested in the original post, that in this town, rumors about real estate are often more accurate than any other kind (well, the Noel/Alzheimer’s rumor seems pretty solid, but forget about that). 62% of the original asking price is arresting; for those taking notes, you may want to know that the sellers paid $2.6 for this place in 1999 and put in a substantial amount of money into renovations. Oh – and the original price back in 1998? $3.5 million. My my.

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Bernie stays home

Legally correct, I suppose, but emotionally unsatisfying.

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Former NAR Economist says, “they made me to do it!”

And boy is he sorry now. Freed from the inhumane pressure of accepting a huge salary and First Class trips around the country provided by his employer, NAR economist David Lereah now admits that he was just a paid flunky who said whatever his bosses demanded, including predicting a “soft landing” for real estate in 2006 when he knew better.  But no more -now he’s an independant, free-thinking type, ready to provide objective advice. Trouble is, no one’s listening – his $495 newsletter has less than 50 subscribers, which won’t even pay for the fuel for his Mercedes.

Mr. Lereah now works in a small upstairs office that doubles as an exercise room. He has started his own company, Reecon Advisors, that puts out a weekly newsletter on the housing market and provides consulting services. “I feel I have such a refreshing view now because I’m not representing any interests,” says Mr. Lereah.

He charges $495 annually for the newsletter, and currently has fewer than 50 paying subscribers — a number Mr. Lereah aims to increase to 1,500 by the end of this year.

“He’s starting to make some money off it now, not much,” says Mrs. Lereah. “We have an expensive lifestyle: a big house, a housekeeper once a week, college tuitions, the country club.”

Every morning, Mr. Lereah drives to a Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s and eats in the car, just as he would have on his commute to NAR.

Mr. Lereah’s real-estate portfolio has taken a hit. He says his 3,068-square-foot five-bedroom, 5½-bathroom brick house has lost about 20% of its value in the past two years. (It is worth $780,000 now, according to Zillow.com.) His condos are down, too. He now says housing prices won’t recover for some time.

That’s a bummer, of course, but don’t worry – there’s a new source of optimism at my organization:

His successor at NAR, Lawrence Yun, however, says things might be looking up. In his latest news release, Mr. Yun says that although the pending home-sales index based on contracts signed in November fell 5.3 from a year earlier, with a “proper real-estate focused stimulus measure,” home sales could rise more than expected, by more than 10%, to 5.5 million, in 2009.

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How cool is this?

Fox has a live video-feed of Bernie’s apartments’ garage, the better to see if he heads off for court (won’t he be late? Decision is due at noon, and I’d think he is supposed to be there to hear it). How come Greenwich Time doesn’t have a similar camera feed for 175 Round Hill Road? Shouldn’t we know what Walt and Monica are up to?

UPDATE: I don’t think he’s coming out; did he see his shadow? Nice touch: there are bars on the window facing Bernie’s (?) Mercedes. Perhaps he’s peering out from behind them, adjusting to the view.

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Bottom story of the day

Obama’s Global Warming Czar a Socialist

Until last week, Carol M. Browner, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick as global warming czar, was listed as one of 14 leaders of a socialist group’s Commission for a Sustainable World Society, which calls for “global governance” and says rich countries must shrink their economies to address climate change.

By Thursday, Mrs. Browner’s name and biography had been removed from Socialist International’s Web page, though a photo of her speaking June 30 to the group’s congress in Greece was still available.

Socialist International, an umbrella group for many of the world’s social democratic political parties such as Britain’s Labor Party, says it supports socialism and is harshly critical of U.S. policies.

Global Warming is all about imposing Socialism on the United States and handing control of our economy to the government. I’m surprised anyone finds this revelation about Browner’s ties newsworthy.

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Taking a hurtin’

26 Taconic Road

26 Taconic Road

26 Taconic is a nice house – it has its problems, but don’t we all? It’s been up for sale since September 2006, first at $7.895 and now, 2 1/2 years later, 25% less – $5.980. Buyers seem scarce so it’s also available for rent – that started at $20,000 and today it’s dropped to $17,000. So: can’t sell it away, rent it away, when does he try giving it away?

I wonder if this house’s difficulties cause any sleepless nights for the builder of the 12,000 sf spec house around the corner on Byfield lane? That one hasn’t hit the market yet but when it does, it might land with a thud and a splash. Ow.

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H2O + 0 degrees = ice

Crushed in the bath tub!

Crushed in the bath tub!

I just ran into my neighbor/plumber Tim Palmer and he looked uncharacteristically cheerful. I attribute that to the forecast of three degrees Thursday night and the flood, you should pardon the term, of phone calls he can expect about repairing burst frozen pipes at emergency rates. If you’re leaving town (Walter, Andy) you may want to set your thermostat to 68 – it’s a false economy to set it at, say 55 because while the main part of your house may stay above freezing, there are often cold spots in walls and basements that aren’t so fortunate. Or you can just call Timmy when you return.

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22% Off

59 Old Mill Road

59 Old Mill Road

This cottage has been marked down to an even $2.0 million (actually, $1,999,999, but that’s a little too precious for my taste). It’s been renovated, and $2.0 certainly looks better than its original tag of $2.495, but it is literally on the Old Mill Northbound Merritt exit and entrance. Just before you merge, hang a right into the driveway and you’re home. I had the listing before it was renovated and tried advertising it, “EZ ON/EZ OFF” but it didn’t help. We’ll see if this price cut does.

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Doomed to repeat history?

WSJ: Surge in protectionsim threatens to deepen economic crisis. Thank goodness that Mr. Protectionist himself, Joe Biden, is scheduled to spend the next four years in a small dark closet in the White House but more of his ilk, in both parties, remain in the Senate. Uh oh.

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High Noon

That’s when Bernie learns whether he stays at home with Ruth and his ankle bracelet or starts making new friends in a federal dorm. What say you?

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