Daily Archives: January 29, 2009

Flashback, 2006 – times change

I found this bit of history from less than three years ago. My my.

Antares Purchases Two Greenwich Residential Complexes $223 Million 

Acquisition is Largest in Connecticut History 

22 February 2006 


GREENWICH, CT – February 22, 2006: In what is believed to be the largest real estate  acquisition in Connecticut history, Greenwich-based Antares Investment Partners 

announced today the purchase of two prominent residential Greenwich properties from an affiliate of Mill Management Group for $223 million. 

The company said that two complexes — the 266-unit Putnam Green I-III located at the juncture of Post Road and Western Junior Highway in Greenwich and the 130-unit Weaver’s Hill located off of Weaver Street in the Glenville section of Greenwich — will be converted into luxury condominiums priced affordably by Greenwich market standards. 

                                                                                      ……………

“Greenwich real estate, be it commercial or residential, has become among the most sought after in the world. Over the last 20 years, our research shows that Greenwich residential real estate has appreciated, on average, approximately 10% per year. This staggering statistic is at the core of why we believe our customers will be making a sound investment by acquiring one of Antares’ fully renovated condominiums,” said Doug Stevens, a Greenwich native and founder & CEO of the brokerage firm Greenwich Fine Properties. Mr. Stevens’ firm will exclusively represent Antares on this project.


I guess things didn’t work out as well as they expected.

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Apologist for Greenwich Public Schools

Now that I’ve discovered its links (or they added them) I can refer to Greenwich Post articles of interest. Here’s one from School Board member Steve Anderson defending Greenwich public schools. It’s got some interesting information, make of it what you will.

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So why should this house be worth $5 million in Greenwich?

I reprint here, because Greenwich Post offers no way that I can find to link to a specific article,[oops! I just did – click on the underlined link below]  the paper’s “Home of the Week”. It’s in Wilton, on 2 acres, and priced at $2.395 million which I assume means you can negotiate it down to $2 million or so. It looks new, so what’s the difference between it and a Greenwich house? Land value, obviously, but I’m not sure raw land carries all that much of a premium in Greenwich these days. Cost of construction? Materials would be the same and labor can’t really be much more expensive here. I know that subs charge more for work down here because, until recently, the market would bear it but not these days. So if this were an unsold spec house in Greenwich, where would I start my bidding? $1.995. Hey, you never know.
Built for today … with yesterday’s charm PDF Print E-mail

 Built for today ... with yesterday's charm

LOCATION: This architecturally designed cedar-shake Colonial-style house is well situated on a spacious, level lot in Wilton.

PROPERTY: Set back from the road on two acres, this home has a backdrop of mature trees, a picturesque stone wall, lush gardens, tiered patios, and a circular drive.

HOUSE: There are many outstanding features in this Craftsman-designed home, beginning with the welcoming wraparound porch. Moving inside, the custom details include vaulted and nine-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and bow/bay windows. On the main level is a living room with fireplace, dining room, family room with fireplace, den, eat-in kitchen with pantry, sunroom with stone floor, and screened porch. On the second level is the master bedroom with walk-in closet and bath, two bedrooms with baths and walk-in closets, a fourth with walk-in closet, and a great room with a cathedral ceiling. There are two half- baths.

GARAGE: Three-car attached.

PRICE: $2,395,000.

REALTY: Realty Seven Inc.

Agent: Deborah Estes, 762-5548.

Photography: David Ames.

 

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Dodd outraged by special treatment from banks – demands it stop

Er, that would be special treatment for executives. Sweetheart mortgage deals for all Connecticut residents who also chair the Senate Banking Committee? “Not going to discuss it. Next question.”

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Fairfield Greenwich to meet with Peter Madoff

Or so says Clusterstock. The site even has a link where you can submit questions via a secret reader to Bernie’s brother. Sounds like fun but remember, if you’re a F-F-OW (that would be, “Former Friend of Walt) and get to go to this meeting or learn details of what’s discussed, the place to reveal the sordid details is here.

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How can you tell?

French workers go on strike. This is the civilian equivalent of the French army disbanding. Or it would be if there were a French army. Gee, guess I’ll have to wait for my new Pugeut.

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Here’s an uncomfortable question for Walter Noel

Assuming he can remember as far back as last Setember. When JP Morgan pulled its $250,000,000 from Fairfield Greenwich that month, causing FGG to suspend client redemptions, did you ask JPM why they were doing it? Were you at all curious why you were losing such a large investment from someone like them?

Or did you just cut them a check and go back on the golf course to find replacement money? Walter’s good faith ignorance, never a strong defense, is being shredded with every new revelation.

And speaking of JP Morgan, does it still have any credibility with its clients after yesterday’s admission that it knowingly abandoned them? I’m sure there must be a few honorable people still left at that firm, just as a few may still work at UBS, but if the bosses are charlatans, why would anyone entrust them with their money?

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Bottom story of the day

Republican complains that stimulus bill will give cash to illegals. What a dummy – everyone is getting money from this bill, with the exception of working citizens who pay income tax; we’re the ones who will be paying everyone else. Unemployed, unproductive leech? – Hell man, that’s just an anagram for Democrat! Where do want us to send your check?

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Price reductions

Despite what I say below about being at a loss to precisely assess relative values these days, I’m not completely helpless nor are my colleagues. So if you’re going to reduce your price, make sure that you move the price below what we’ve already marked it down to. There’s a house in Riverside, for instance, held by a relocation company, that’s been sitting on the market well below what it’s original owner paid for it. I don’t know who is ultimately responsible for the loss in this case – owner or relocation company, but that’s immaterial. What I do know is that the house is sitting vacant and not going up in value, and it’s asked for price of $2.195 million is too high (or it would have sold, obviously). I’ve already calculated that the seller will, or at least should, accept an offer below $2.0 million so when the price dropped last week by $100,000 to $2.195, it didn’t stir me to action. We already knew you’d sell it for that and we’ve gone on ahead of you – tell us something we don’t already know, like maybe, you’ll sell it for $1.595. That would make us all sit up and take notice.

Because I’m a nice guy, I won’t use this occasion to bash the home owner on Stanwich who is reducing his price $10,000 every week, but I will suggest that price cuts of $100,000 would probably be more productive than little nibbles. If, say, you’re at $2.8 million, we’re all pretty confident that you’ll accept an offer of $2,790,000, so moving the price there does nothing – give us something we can email our clients about, please?

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At a loss for numbers

I’m finding it difficult these days to accurately assess a house’s value because there are so few sales with which to compare it. For instance, I saw 46 Terrace Avenue  in Riverside at its first broker open house today and, although it’s a nicely done rehab, I thought the seller must have been out of the country for two years before he set his price of $1.825 million. But pulling up its history, I see that the current owner paid $1.925 million for it in August 2007 and the listing agent tells me that they put another $75,000 into it over and above the cost incurred by whoever took it down to its studs and completely rebuilt it in 2004. So the seller should be congratulated for recognizing the change in our market place and accepting a $200,000 loss (plus commissions and taxes). But will it sell for its asked for price today? I don’t know. What we are seeing sell right now are mostly houses that have, for whatever reason, had their prices slashed by huge amounts. The question everyone – agents, buyers and sellers – should ask is, are these sales harbingers of the coming market or one-offs that will prove to be anomalies in the coming months? I almost, but don’t quite, feel some sympathy with investment bankers trying to value their toxic portfolios. There’s no market for this stuff so today its value is zero but isn’t there some value that is going to be recognized some day? Sheesh.

Or how about 41 Jones Park Drive,also in Riverside? A big, beautiful house on a fine Riverside street, it’s a far cry from the original 1963 house I once played in. A couple of years ago, armed with a handful of recent sales, I could have easily reached an opinion about its $6 million asking price that would have probably, although not necessarily, been pretty accurate. I really can’t do that today. It’s been listed by a very experienced agent and I respect both her and her firm’s judgment so my inclination is to agree with them and conclude that we can still get $6 million in Riverside for the right house but I’ll confess, I just don’t know. That’s uncomfortable, obviously, because what I, and all agents, offer our clients in exchange for our fees is what purports to be expert opinion and advice. Scratching my head and concluding “beats me” doesn’t exactly scream of expertise.

So there – I’ve confessed, but I don’t feel any better. I am looking forward to seeing sales activity resume so that I have something to compare and base my opinions on. That may require a few buyers to err on the side of over-paying or sellers to sell too low, but so long as they’re other agents’ clients, so be it. Someone’s got to go into the water first.

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Sales activity, sort of

19 Church Street W., Unit #4 (in Byram, not central Greenwich) has sold for $172.500, the lowest price for anything in Greenwich that I’ve seen for awhile. Granted, it’s just 546 sf, and has just a bedroom, living room and galley kitchen, but heck, it’s a sale. Bought for $184,000 in 2004, by the way.

220 Overlook Drive in Milbrook has gone to contract. This came on priced at $3.495 million in October 2007 and never had a price reduction. Did the seller’s stubbornness wear down a buyer or did he finally throw in the towel and accept a lower offer? We’ll know when it closes. No property details because it’s a Greenwich Fine Properties listing and they like to keep the details of their listings secret. Is that why it didn’t sell for 15 months? I don’t know, ask GFP.

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But the debate is over!

Someone out there is no more persuaded by Gore’s global warming than I am.

The key players are now all in place in Washington and in state governments across America to officially label carbon dioxide as a pollutant and enact laws that tax we citizens for our carbon footprints. Only two details stand in the way, the faltering economic times and a dramatic turn toward a colder climate. The last two bitter winters have lead to a rise in public awareness that CO2 is not a pollutant and is not a significant greenhouse gas that is triggering runaway global warming.

The story begins with an Oceanographer named Roger Revelle. He served with the Navy in World War II. After the war he became the Director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in La Jolla in San Diego, California. Revelle saw the opportunity to obtain major funding from the Navy for doing measurements and research on the ocean around the Pacific Atolls where the US military was conducting atomic bomb tests. He greatly expanded the Institute’s areas of interest and among others hired Hans Suess, a noted Chemist from the University of Chicago, who was very interested in the traces of carbon in the environment from the burning of fossil fuels. Revelle tagged on to Suess studies and co-authored a paper with him in 1957. The paper raises the possibility that the carbon dioxide might be creating a greenhouse effect and causing atmospheric warming. It seems to be a plea for funding for more studies. Funding, frankly, is where Revelle’s mind was most of the time.

Next Revelle hired a Geochemist named David Keeling to devise a way to measure the atmospheric content of Carbon dioxide. In 1960 Keeling published his first paper showing the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and linking the increase to the burning of fossil fuels.

These two research papers became the bedrock of the science of global warming, even though they offered no proof that carbon dioxide was in fact a greenhouse gas. In addition they failed to explain how this trace gas, only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, could have any significant impact on temperatures.

—-
Several hypothesis emerged in the 70s and 80s about how this tiny atmospheric component of CO2 might cause a significant warming. But they remained unproven. Years have passed and the scientists kept reaching out for evidence of the warming and proof of their theories. And, the money and environmental claims kept on building up.

[Maurice] Strong developed the concept that the UN could demand payments from the advanced nations for the climatic damage from their burning of fossil fuels to benefit the underdeveloped nations, a sort of CO2 tax that would be the funding for his one-world government. But, he needed more scientific evidence to support his primary thesis. So Strong championed the establishment of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Over the last 25 years they have been very effective. Hundreds of scientific papers, four major international meetings and reams of news stories about climatic Armageddon later, the UN IPCC has made its points to the satisfaction of most and even shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

But the tide was turning with Roger Revelle. He was forced out at Harvard at 65 and returned to California and a semi retirement position at UCSD. There he had time to rethink Carbon Dioxide and the greenhouse effect. The man who had inspired Al Gore and given the UN the basic research it needed to launch its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was having second thoughts. In 1988 he wrote two cautionary letters to members of Congress. He wrote, “My own personal belief is that we should wait another 10 or 20 years to really be convinced that the greenhouse effect is going to be important for human beings, in both positive and negative ways.” He added, “…we should be careful not to arouse too much alarm until the rate and amount of warming becomes clearer.”

Al Gore has dismissed Roger Revelle’s Mea culpa as the actions of senile old man. And, the next year, while running for Vice President, he said the science behind global warming is settled and there will be no more debate, From 1992 until today, he and his cohorts have refused to debate global warming and when ask about we skeptics they simply insult us and call us names.

So today we have the acceptance of carbon dioxide as the culprit of global warming. It is concluded that when we burn fossil fuels we are leaving a dastardly carbon footprint which we must pay Al Gore or the environmentalists to offset. Our governments on all levels are considering taxing the use of fossil fuels. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of naming CO2 as a pollutant and strictly regulating its use to protect our climate. The new President and the US congress are on board. Many state governments are moving on the same course.

And, I am totally convinced there is no scientific basis for any of it.

Global Warming. It is the hoax. It is bad science. It is a high jacking of public policy. It is no joke. It is the greatest scam in history.

John Coleman
1-29-09

My take? This is all about money and governmental control. I’m deeply disappointed that my old Yippie comrades at arms, suspicious of all claims of authority, have succumbed to this BS with the same avidity that they adopted Hollywood’s and main stream higher education’s lock-step thinking. I suppose they knew that free enterprise was bad and so gave up their minds in favor of being what they were told by collectivists. I wish now even more of them had become pot dealers – we might have produced a generation of entrepreneurs instead of mellowed-out automatons.

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SAC Capital – burning papers in the bunker?

No no, just kidding, but DealBreaker reports that at 10:00 am there were 7 firetrucks parked outside its High Ridge Road headquarters. Now if that same number of engines were parked at 175 Round Hill Road, we’d have a story!

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Realogy Death Watch, cont.

Realogy, corporate owner of Century 21, Sotheby’s and Coldwell Banker, is shutting down its Coldwell Banker Litchfield office and shedding 15 agents. The closing came as a surprise to the agency because they’d been doing well “but not well enough, obviously”, according to its manager. As I warned last year, when Apollo Management, owner of Realogy, saddled its subsidiary with junk debt and onerous interest payments, the strain of making those payments would jeopardize even strong real estate offices. I guess it has.

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Still for sale

66 Perkins Road

66 Perkins Road

I’m heading off soon on the Thursday open house circuit (and you thought this job was all about glamorous women and exotic locales) and one house I’d like to revisit is this one on Perkins Road. It seems to provide a good indicator of what’s happening in the market.

This was a tired old house in 2005 when it was put up for sale at $2.995 million, proving that, even at the height of the market, people could still manage to overreach, but it did eventually sell for $2.2 million 14 months later. That sale probably marked the high water level for Greenwich real estate in this cycle, at least. The new owners renovated it and put it back on the market in November 2007 for $3.6 million. A year and some months later, they have reduced its price to $2.75 million. It still hasn’t sold but I’m sure it will eventually. My question is, how much will all the renovation prove to be worth? I figure the sellers will need at least $2.350 million to break even on just the land purchase, leaving $400,000 to recoup the expenses of remodeling. That’s probably enough, but if the price drops much further before this place sells, someone will be left sucking wind.

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Construction debris may not be all that’s falling from Trump Parc Stamford

Watch out below!

Watch out below!

This project in Stamford has been dropping all sorts of stuff on people and cars as it’s gone up but, so far, all has seemed to be going well with sales – the place was reported as 50% sold some months ago, even as 2X4s and sheet metal tumbled to the sidewalk. But I received this message from one of those unhappy buyers today. Is it true? Seems to be, but I certainly don’t know. If you’ve bought, or are thinking about buying, though, you might want to make some inquiries into the exact status of the building.

“The  Trump building is NOT > 50% sold, even though it had been reported as such months ago.  They apparently can say that they have so many units available for sale, while others can be excluded from that designation,  and enable themselves to report more than 50% sold.  Anyway, it’s known that the building is not in fact 50% sold because banks will not grant mortgages to buyers if the building is less than 50%, and that’s been happening.”

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A modified Rangel plan?

Paul Petzold, last man down

Paul Petzold, last man down

Thinking about this whole financial mess, it seems to me that our current crop of investment bankers never learned to take responsibility for their actions or for those under their care. Henry Blodget made millions for himself and Merrill touting worthless stock while simultaneously sending emails snickering at the sucker-customers who believed him. UBS sold auction-rated securities to its least sophisticated customers claiming they were as good as and even better than cash, then told the buyers to pound sand when the securities became illiquid. JPMorgan, as detailed below, led its customers into Madoff/Noel land and left them there.

I learned responsibility through osmosis from my parents, with a refresher course, if one was needed, at National Outdoor Leadership School: you don’t lead people into the mountains and come home without them. Today’s IB’s seem to have missed that experience and focus entirely on themselves and their bonuses, no one else.

I understand that the military instills pride, discipline and a sense of team work in its troops, and that the best of them know never to leave a wounded comrade behind. Tax cheat Rangel may have introduced his proposal to reinstate the draft solely to hinder the hated Bush war in Iraq, but I think he was onto something: Rangle wanted to annoy rich white privileged kids – I’d like to see those same kids (actually, race is irrelevant) become full human beings before giving them the power to run the world’s economy. So how about making military service a mandatory requirement for gaining an MBA? Rangle would be happy to see these spoiled brats’ rich careers deferred and the rest of us could have honorable people in charge of finance. Everybody wins, even and including the would-be bankers.

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You ever play hide and seek with your pals and the “hider” sneaks home?

That’s a sin in childhood games but not, it seems, in the grown-up world of finance. JPMorgan sold a triple-leveraged investment in Fairfield Greenwich Group’s Madoff Ponzi and, to show its good faith, put in $250 million of its own money. Then, early last fall, JPMorgan grew suspicious and pulled all of its own money out and went home but didn’t warn its investors. They stayed in, lost everything, and now they’re mad. JPMorgan’s behavior wouldn’t pass muster at Tiny Tots Nursery School- it probably will on Wall Street. Bad boys.

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Riverside residents killed by drunk driver in Colorado

Horrible news with which to start the morning. Per Greenwich Time:

Two town women, longtime librarians for the Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich, were killed en route to the Denver airport Wednesday morning when their cab was struck by a hit-and-run driver, police said.

The library’s head of youth services, Kathy Krasniewicz, 54, of Palmer Hill Road, Riverside, and former youth services director Kate McClelland, 71, of Dorchester Lane, Riverside, were killed in the accident, a library official said Wednesday night.

10:30 AM, coming in from the airport in a taxi, smashed into by a woman who, when apprehended, seemed to be drunk. I won’t add the obligatory “alleged” here. I have unlimited sympathy for alcoholics but none whatsoever for those that drive. Stake her out on the prairie.

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