Daily Archives: January 22, 2009

A spec house sells!

My brother Gideon alerted me to a contract that was reported late yesterday afternoon – we both missed it. Jordan Saper’s spec house at 80 Perkins Road, listed at $7.995, has found a buyer (Herb Erlich was the buyer’s rep – good for you, Herb). No report on price yet but builders everywhere should take heart from this unless, of course, it sold for 5 bucks. I’ll bet it didn’t. Jordan Saper builds houses that are not to my personal taste but he clearly knows what buyers want because his projects sell. I’ll dig up pictures tomorrow and see what I can find out about the selling price.

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Hamptons’ sale prices

A commentator mentioned that prices in the Hamptons have remained steady. I thought I remembered reading the opposite and, while I couldn’t immediately put my finger on that particular article, I did find this blog that says otherwise. 

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Remind me again how much Chris Dodd collected from his banking friends

Own a bank? Have some loot. Here’s a list of who’s getting what. My favorite? Bar Harbor (Maine) Bank & Trust, $18,700,000. Those of you with long memories will recall that when our elected and bought politicians decided to rob us of a trillion dollars, it was to save the world from the financial ruin that would otherwise be wrought by the collapse of “banks too big to fail.” I like Bar Harbor as much as the next fellow – nice X-country skiing on Rockefeller’s carriage trails in the winter and harbor seals poking their friendly noses out of the water year ’round. But other than a laboratory dedicated to breeding white mice and a college for dope-smoking artiste college students, I never saw much there that could be mistaken for a fundamental building block of our economy.

So why $18.7 million for its bank? Why do I suspect that politics and graft, rather than a keen sense of economics, is behind these give-aways? Just a suspicious taxpayer, I suppose – one of my faults.

UPDATE: I stand corrected – Bar Harbor Bank & Trust is a community bank with 12 branches! Why that’s barely $1.5 million for each branch of this vital cog to industry and finance. Why so stingy, when the country’s welfare is at stake?

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Why so few tears are shed for redundant Wall Streeters

Take $10 billion from taxpayers like us, pay yourself $15 billion in bonuses for bankrupting Merrill Lynch. When your house sells for pennies on the dollar, you bonus baby you, remind me of your pain.

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Monica Noel changes name, reports for work as house cleaner

charwomanIt’s got to be done,” the brave former socialite says. “You want me, look for me in the ladies room at Round Hill Club.”

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Everything the left has demanded

No more secret prison camps, no Club Gitmo, wiretaps or surveillance of terrorists, according to our new president. This, he promises, will win back the respect of the world and make us safer. Fine.

We know that Bush’s policies kept us from another terrorist attack for seven years. Obama had better hope he is at least as successful or he’ll be a one-term president because if he fails, even two concerts by Hollywood’s finest won’t spare him from the wrath of the American people.

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Getting to know you?

Rumor has it that a real estate firm here in town is cutting its space in half and will be putting agents up, two per desk. That should be fun, but so far, no firm will publicly admit that it’s them. I snuck into the firm’s manager’s office and grabbed this picture before being escorted out but the manager’s accommodations may reflect a rocky marriage, rather than economic turmoil. Who knows?

"Bunk'em, Danno"

"Bunk'em, Danno"

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Okay, Mad Monkey, I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

“Prophet of Doom” blogger arrested, imprisoned by South Koreans.

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She should have asked to be Treasury Secretary

NYT: Taxes, illegal housekeeper derailed Kennedy Senate candidacy.

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Speak of the Devil …

I just posted about Warren Buffet and lo, here he is, saying, “what the heck do I know?” Which is kind of cool, actually – I’ve always admired the man and now I can say I know exactly as much as he does!

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Mtg. rates back over 5%

Bummer. But still cheap. Will they drop again? I sure don’t know – they experts said they would, but that was last week. GE’s down to twelve bucks and change today – not long ago, Warren Buffet thought it was a good buy at $16. Go figure.

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Not in my town they aren’t, by gum!

We’re surrounded by a sea of  trouble, but, thanks to Mad Monkey and his tribe, Greenwich remains above that sort of nonsense.

Here’s the news from outside our enclave:

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — Home prices in the U.S. dropped the most in at least 18 years and builders broke ground on the fewest houses since record-keeping began as the recession deepened, government reports said today.

Prices in November declined 8.7 percent from a year earlier, the biggest drop in records going back to 1991, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said today in Washington. Housing starts fell 16 percent last month to an annual rate of 550,000, the lowest since the government started compiling statistics in 1959, the Commerce Department said.

“We are witnessing a severe recession, historic declines in housing prices, growing job loss and a concern that these negative trends are accelerating,” Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, said in written responses to questions posted on the Senate Finance Committee Web site today.

Record foreclosures and the highest jobless claims in 26 years are dragging down home prices as the economy enters the second year of a recession. The number of U.S. homes in foreclosure last year rose to an all-time high of 2.3 million, RealtyTrac Inc. said last week. The nation lost more than 2.6 million jobs in 2008, the most since 1945, and U.S. stocks had their worst performance since the Great Depression.

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Mad Monkey’s identity revealed – he’s from Dubai!

Some Dubai investor who bought Barney’s has figured out that the luxury market stinks and wants to sell, two years after he bought the place.

Barneys New York’s owner, Dubai’s Istithmar World PJSC, may sell the retailer less than two years after buying it as the fund struggles with losses and the luxury market slows, two people familiar with the situation said.

Istithmar doesn’t want to sell the business for less than the $942.3 million it paid in 2007, said one of the people, who declined to be identified because the talks were private. The state-owned fund has had calls from potential buyers and would sell its entire stake, one of the people said. Istithmar Chief Executive Officer David Jackson declined to comment.

“If they’re in a hurry and need the cash right now, they will have to pay the price,” said Armando Branchini, vice president of Intercorporate, a Milan-based consulting firm specialized in luxury. “If Istithmar can be patient, they’ll get the pay-off.”

"It's worth every penny you paid for it, Honey, and we're going to make them admit that!"

"It's worth every penny you paid for it, Honey, and we're going to make them admit that!"

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Open house dreaming

I think that our market is still being filled with new listings that are over-priced. Part of that is the refusal of sellers to get real, some can be attributed to agents “buying” a listing by deliberately lying to would-be sellers (okay, let’s use the softer term and say, “letting their optimism get the best of their judgment) and, in some small part, the complete lack of certainty of what’s coming at us. I was at a house today with another agent and, after we’d seen the place and were walking back to our cars, I said, “asking price should be $500,000 less: $2,495,000.” The other agent, a very good one, said, “oh, no, that’s much too low,” so I asked her what she thought it should be priced at and what it would sell for. After a certain amount of consideration, she finally concluded (a) that it was going to be on the market a long time, (b) that maybe $2.650 was a better asking price, and that it would probably sell at $2.495. So she ended where I began – my guess, today, is that it will sell for $2.3 million but here’s the rub: neither of us know. Not long ago, I could make a pretty good estimate of a house’s value, with the occasional whopper of a miss. Today, I’m sort of, kind of confident about guessing present value (limited, of course, by the lack of 15 recent nw to use) but I really have no idea what the market will look like in June. My fear is that it’s going to look really, really ugly. But I don’t know that.

So I’ll keep an eye on this place and report back when, and if, it sells. Then we’ll know.

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4 Weston Hill, Riverside

4 Weston Hill

4 Weston Hill

This is a nice house on a good street, nice pool, backyard, and all that. It sold for $1.650 in 2002 and was listed for sale again in 2008 for $2.495, which wasn’t the right price. That listing expired and its now with a new broker and asking $1.995. That may still not do the trick, but fans of this market should take note that it’s $500,000 less than its owners originally wanted. Reality bites.

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54 Highview Ave. Old Greenwich

54 Highview Ave

54 Highview Ave

The owners of this house paid $975,000 for it in 2001, completely renovated it inside with new kitchen, baths and all that and put it up for sale in August, 2007 for $1.695. I thought then that that was a fair price for such a nice house, unprepossessing as its exterior was, but no buyers agreed with me and the owners ended up renting it for a year. It came back on last fall and sold yesterday for $1.2 million. So okay, my estimate of its price was too high in 2007 (in my defense, the listing agent is a real pro and not known at all for over-pricing her listings so we were both fooled by the declining market) but $1.2 is a long way from $1.695. In fact, if you take the 2001 price and add in the cost of renovations, it’s probably back to where it started. The owners had the use of it for six years and the rental value for another year, but …gee.

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Off to see what’s out there

(10:32) It’s Open House Thursday, and there are a number of new listings and dozens of retreads available for viewing. I go forth out of a sense of duty, rather than any realistic expectation that I’ll find something notable to report on in a positive sense but heck, you don’t know if you don’t try. Please come back after 1:30 and see what, if anything, I found. Thanks!

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This is probably good news (for other parts of the country)

Housing starts drop another 16%, lowest rate since record keeping began (of this statistic, obviously, the Babylonians were busy with clay tablets eons ago). This country may still need a good five cent cigar – it most definitely doesn’t need more houses, right now. So clearing things out can only help, I hope.

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — U.S. builders broke ground in December on the fewest houses since record-keeping began as sales and credit dried up, signaling the real-estate slump will keep hurting economic growth.

Housing starts fell 16 percent last month to an annual rate of 550,000 that was less than forecast and the lowest since the government started compiling statistics in 1959, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Building permits, an indicator of future projects, were also at a record low.

Here in Greenwich where we long since used up land suitable for tract housing, new spec home starts are close to dead, but I see in my travels through town a lot of projects nearing completion. I hope for their builders’ sake that they’re all custom homes but I’d guess many are not. So watch, as notes come due on tons of unsold spec homes this and next month, for prices to plummet. That’s just my guess – your opinion may differ and God bless you if you’re right.

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Hold that line, dammit!

10 Tod Lane

10 Tod Lane

In April 2005 this house on Tod Lane was listed for $2.795 million and sold five days later, via bidding war, for $2.905 million. Those were good days for sellers, bad for buyers – which makes me wonder, when Mad Monkey refers to “greedy buyers” today, whether he appliedthe same term to sellers four years ago, but never mind – today, it’s been relisted, for $2.495 million. Someone didn’t get MM’s memo, obviously, about refusing to give in to market conditions. I don’t need CEA’s sophisticated calculator to figure out that the owner is not expecting a profit on this one.

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Arbor Rose Condo Sale

These units on East Elm Street set all sorts of price records when they were first offered back in 2004 and they obviously retain their appeal and continue to resist the price deflation that’s afflicting the rest of our housing stock. A unit at 94 E. Elm, originally purchased for $2.878 in November 2004 went to contract again this past October 27 and sold yesterday for $3.8 million. The market’s gotten worse since October but it certainly wasn’t flourishing at that time, so this sale should please fellow Arbor Rose owners.

Perhaps a more typical story is a new listing today for 9 Stanwich Road. Purchased for $2.350 million in 2005, it came up for sale today for $2.495. William Steele, at Round Hill Partners, has the listing and I’d say he has a realistic view of what’s happening these days.

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