Daily Archives: March 1, 2009

No Lead left behind

Overlawyered.com has an entire site dedicated to coverage of the new law *banning lead in every conceivable child item. Can’t find hand made toys anymore? Nothing in the local consignment shops? Thank Congress, PIRG and all the usual suspects for putting small businesses out of business – it’s for the sake of the children, don’t you know.

*CPSIA Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act . It’s nothing of the kind, naturally

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More on Kitchens

Ha! A reader questioned whether there was anything unnecessary in a Christopher Peacock kitchen so I did a little Googling and came up with this New York Times article on the man. I think his kitchens are beautiful so don’t think I’m criticizing the man. He can do that  ( or his clients’ demands) for himself!

Mr. Peacock likes to say that the best kitchen is a Manhattan galley kitchen, and said he spends a lot of time telling clients “that they aren’t who they think they are.” “They’re not going to be having huge dinner parties, with caterers using a pantry as a staging area every weekend.” His first act is often to cut 25 percent of the space out of new home kitchens.

A Designer’s Punch List

Here are 10 items Christopher Peacock said clients have asked for but don’t often use, and 10 items they don’t think to ask for, but should consider.


Pot-filling faucet

Pantry dishwasher

or refrigerator

Kitchen desk

Trash compactor

Large microwave

Rangetop grill

Two-tier island countertops

Large island

Appliance garage


Refrigerator and freezer drawers

Two dishwashers

Warming drawers

Small microwave


Tray storage

Roll-out drawers

Message center

Marble countertops

Wood countertops


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Median Price of House in Detroit is $7,500.

Old Coot sent this link. That’s not a typo, $7,500 is the right figure. 

I think we’ll continue to do better here.


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A question about spaghetti taps


Christopher Peacock Kitchen

Christopher Peacock Kitchen

Or whatever one calls that faucet perched over the range of all proper kitchens these days. I assume it’s there to fill pots of spaghetti water, thus freeing the Little Woman from the drudgery and toil of directing her cook to fill the pot at the sink and lug it to the stove. But what happens when the spaghetti is cooked? Doesn’t that same pot now have to be drained? Does the water weigh less on its return trip to the sink?

Just wondering.


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If you trust the New York Times as far as you can throw a snow shovel…

This just in (3:50 PM) we’re supposed to get a foot or more of snow tonight. Sooeee! I do love snow storms. If I’m grumpy tomorrow, you’ll know that the storm went out to sea and passed us by.

This part of the forecast sounds accurate enough:

“A foot of snow is significant and will cause significant travel problems late tonight and into tomorrow morning,” said Michael Silva, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Upton, N.Y.


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Global Warming and snow storms

A reader quite rightly objects to my pretending to link the story of a snow storm heading for D.C. as proof that there is no global warming. I am being silly of course when I do so but no sillier that our Warmer in Chief, Al Gore, who has blamed all ephemeral natural events on global warming, from

Myamar cyclones

Hurricane Katrina

20′ sea elevation rise 


Earthquakes, floods and even the melting of the Snows of Kilamanjero 

Here’s the thing: when, in their earnest hope of persuading people of the merits of a certain course of action, the Al Gores of the left (and the Chris Fountains of the right) have a tendency to over-state their case in order to make a point. That’s useful in satire but if you’re a fat, pompous hypocrite jetting around the globe in your private plane, tooling around on a 100′ houseboat or living in a residence that uses eleven times the electricity of the average Tennessee home, skeptics will use your hysterical rants against you and discount everything you say. Is there global warming occurring? I’d say the jury’s still out. If it is occurring, is it caused by man? The jury hasn’t even begun to deliberate on that one. Gore trying to cut off all argument by declaring that “the debate is over” doesn’t strengthen his argument, it weakens it, because how strong can a theory be if its proponents want to stifle all questions? Enjoy your storm, Al, and keep your shovel dry.

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Is it humane to write off an entire continent?

Well, billions of dollars of aid to Africa has done nothing but enrich corrupt politicians and leave the people worse off than before. Now even Kenya is shuttling toward the same misery that befell Rhodesia, Nigeria, and the rest. Same problems, as always: corruption and tribal enmities. So how much worse could it get if we pulled back and left the people to sort things out for themselves? At least we wouldn’t be propping up dictators and enabling them to grind their fellow citizens into the dirt.


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Foreclosing? Prove it!

Turns out, the friendly wizards of Wall Street were too busy collateralizing your mortgage to bother with paperwork and they may have no idea where yours is. No original note, no foreclosure, as a lot of banks like Wells Fargo are discovering. Gretchen Morgenson, that most excellent NYT’s financial reporter has a good article on the subject today. This may prove the best defense to a foreclosure yet and at the very least, may gum up the works for years, allowing homeowners to get back on their feet. Good.


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Municipal pension woes

Greenwich is looking at a huge gap in its town workers’ pension plan and we taxpayers will be obligated to fill it. Professor Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.com has been on this subject for years because, with the possible exception of Social Security, under-funded pension plans, state and municipal, are the gravest financial threat looming on the horizon. For decades, politicians have achieved union peace while keeping taxpayers happy by promising generous pensions and doing little to fund those plans (in fairness, Greenwich’s problems stem from the drop in value of the plan’s investments and not a deliberate strategy of keeping taxes down by refusing to contribute to prudent reserves. Greenwich is exceptional in this and other fiscal policy matters).

The politicians who made those promises knew they’d be long gone when the chickens came home to roost, and they are. But we taxpayers are still here, left holding the bag. Get ready to bail out Greenwich and Chicago and California and every other municipal government in the nation. Scary stuff.

As an aside, do you know that the current, 2009 budget, calls for spending $11,800 for every man, woman and child in America? That’s before the trillion dollar stimulus fraud bill. Do the math: not everyone in America is going to be asked to contribute that sum so if you have it, you’ll be asked to do your part. And the part of two dozen of your fellow citizens. Woo hoo!


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NASA’s Chief Astrologist calls for civil disobedience

This is the same guy who promised us the world will end in four years unless we act now to end global warming. He said that two months ago so we’ve only got to put up with his nonsense for 3 years, ten months and then we’re rid of him. Today he’s calling for a demonstration in front of  a D.C. powerplant and demanding it be shut down. I could get behind that if it meant that Congress would shut down with it but he’s got one problem with his global warming protest today: a massive blizzard is heading for town.


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The Changing Market

A reader asked what was happening to the spec house at 1 Birchwood Drive but as far as I know, the answer is, “nothing”. The property came on as a building site priced at $1,600, 000 in early 2005 and in the height of that market was pursued by builders. The winner, and I suspect he regrets his luck now, took title with a bid of $2.017 million and proceeded to tear down what was there and put up an 8,000 sf ft (plus basement) house. He priced it at $6.495 in December ’06 and never dropped that price until it expired unsold in September ’07. He then switched brokers and repositioned it at $5.875 and again wouldn’t drop that price. The second listing expired in September 2008 and the house is either occupied by the builder or perhaps was sold privately – it hasn’t reappeared on the Multi-list and I don’t think it ever sold.

Regardless of its status, it’s revealing that a bidding war erupted for the opportunity to build on this  site in 2005 and no one wanted what was eventually built, at least at the builder’s hoped-for price. What would it sell for today? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it would be considerably less than the last asked-for price.

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Advertising real estate in a down market

New York City brokers have ben forced by market conditions to acknowledge that buyers are hiding and are changing advertising accordingly.

FOR better and worse, the mentality that helped propel the city’s real estate prices into lunar altitudes is gone. Not only are there fewer buyers today, but they are also more apt to have a yard-sale attitude, demanding sharp discounts on top of reduced prices — Poggenpohl kitchen and last year’s comps be damned.

Racing to keep up with a down-market mindset, many real estate brokers say they have been experimenting with a new paradigm in advertising, spinning their ads like roulette wheels in the hope of landing in the sweet spot of the parsimonious post-Lehman buyer.

The model is shaping up like this: The new propriety frowns at luxury, lifestyle and the fetishistic focus on designer brands and architects. Instead, brokers say they are trying to recast their listings in terms of responsible spending, comfort and, most especially, value.

“Three or four years ago, value was something that was uncomfortable even to talk about,” said Bruce Ehrmann, an associate broker at Stribling & Associates. “Value suggested thrift, and thrift meant you couldn’t keep up.”

But now value has another ring and thrift has a nice kind of sound. “People are not buying emotionally or lustily — they’re buying in a calculated manner the likes of which we haven’t seen in 15 years, except briefly after 9/11,” Mr. Ehrmann said. “The draw tends to be location, price and value before glory, glamour, Valcucine kitchens and Waterworks baths.”

An attractive price is the most direct way to convey value, preferably set off by some variation of the formerly taboo “reduced.”

“We never used to say ‘reduced’ in a very strong market because we felt people would think of it as tainted goods,” said Deanna Kory, a senior vice president at Corcoran. “But now if you don’t, people don’t think the seller is serious, especially if it’s been on the market any length of time. And people today feel cheated if they don’t get a deal.”

This is especially true, she added, in “certain categories that are more saturated, like one-bedroom co-ops and downtown lofts from $3 million to $6 million.”

Still, brokers were divided on the proper lingua franca for conveying price reductions and incipient seller desperation.

“We’re seeing a lot of ‘best price in the building,’ ‘unbelievable value,’ ‘won’t last,’ ‘only XYZ per square foot,’ ‘20 percent below market value,’ ‘must be seen to be believed,’ ” said Jorden Tepper, the executive director of sales at Century 21 NY Metro. “We’re trying to give buyers a reason to buy now and not wait for the inevitable price declines they’re hearing about to come to fruition.”


Maggie Ocampo, a sales manager at Time Equities, says she tries to avoid using “must sell.”

“I don’t think it helps move an apartment,” she said. “I don’t even use ‘price reduced’ because they’re all over the place. I might say ‘priced well’ or ‘good value.’ ”

Demonstrating that an apartment is worth its sticker price is the next challenge. Today’s aggressively frugal buyer is thought to be more drawn to good building financials and low carrying charges than to luxury, lifestyle and amenities.

“Sensitivity is definitely the watchword now in selling luxury goods in general,” Ms. Kory said. “Co-ops are no exception. The former message, ‘We are the best and have the best of everything,’ is now a bit more subtle.”

Mr. Ehrmann recalled another agent’s recent pitch for a downtown loft. “It was advertised as a ‘trophy’ loft, which was commonplace five years ago,” he said. “It was actually shocking in the current environment. It was quickly changed.”


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