Daily Archives: March 27, 2009

Celebrate civilization – Earth hour update

According to its organizers, tomorrow’s hour-long return to cave dwelling will send a strong message to politicians that we like it like that. “Leaving your lights on will be a vote for Global Warming”. Cool! My vote should be several thousand watts. 8:30 – 9:30 PM Saturday – let there be light!

 

I'm waiting for cfl bulbs to be invented - until then I'll just sit here in the dark

I'm waiting for cfl bulbs to be invented - until then I'll just sit here in the dark

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Has Walter been doing the dirty in Mustique?

Thanks to the Greenwich Diva, here’s a new Ponzi scheme operating out of St. Vincents and, the Diva says, Mustique. More to follow as we dig around a bit.

Bloomberg’s got the story too.

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Good news for Greenwich if Hartford will refrain from following suit

New York eyes hiking income tax on “rich” folks. $250,000 and up, at least for now. That should push two-income earners a bit further east, maybe. Pile it on boys, and hike those county taxes while you’re at it.

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What’s the least a building lot’s worth?

13 Peck Ave

13 Peck Ave

I don’t know, but the question came to mind when I saw this listing. It’s a tenth of an acre near I-95 in Byram and approved for a single house. Looks like a little site prep is involved.

It didn’t sell for $549,500 in June ’04 and has suffered the indignity of five price cuts since then, dropping down today to $249,000. I don’t think that’s going to do it either.

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A modest sale on Valleywood

77 Valleywood

77 Valleywood

Cos Cob continues to tear up the pea patch in sales activity after lagging behind other areas of town for months (4 out of 7 contracts this month were for CC). Today this Valleywood Road house sold, for $1.080 million, down 12% from what the sellers paid for it in 2005 ($1.230) and quite a bit off its initial asking price of $1.450, but these days, a 12% bite isn’t horrible.

82 Buckfield Road, on the other hand, isn’t doing so well. It first asked $4.790 back in April 2005 and hasn’t sold, despite dropping its price steadily. Today it’s down to $3,194,876 – usually, an oddly precise number like that is what is owed the lender.

UPDATE: Oops! This house was reduced from $3.495 to $3,494,876 in January so it was then, I would guess, that the bank started looking for its number. Today’s reduction is a signal that they’ve begun to accept the fact that they’re going to lose money on their loan. It will be interesting to see how far that acceptance runs.

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Bailout time (again)

GE curtails production of solar panels citing “collapse of demand”. I suspect that this is the result of market forces at work: solar energy is still not cost competitive with other sources. In a free market, the new technologies being developed that are pushing the cost way down would be allowed to proceed and in a few years, GE could bring good things to life. What will most likely happen is that the federal government, urged on by a Congressperson or two from GE’s plant’s district, will arrange for a subsidy to keep this inefficient process going. Ten years from now we’ll have full employment at a plant making obsolete equipment and the new technologies will still be in development, starved of private financing. That’s my guess, anyhow.

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Lies, damn lies and bankers

Apparently not all bankers are as forthright as my new friends at Patriot. Dealbreaker reports that Bank of America’s Ken Lewis seems to be back-tracking on his earlier assurances that all was fine. Gosh, who’d have suspected duplicity from a banker?

As you’re aware, Ken Lewis sent an email blast out a couple weeks ago letting everyone know that Bank of Amerillwide was profitable for January and February (not mentioning anything like writedowns or shizzle like that). Just now when asked by Burns how the firm’s been doing of late, K to the L said trading wasn’t “as good” in March, then paused when EB wondered if they were still profitable, said some stuff about deposit flows, got flustered, and was all, “uhh, we’re too far into the quarter to discuss, gotta go, k bye!”

UPDATE: None of the big three banks are doing well, according to ZeroHedge.

…[T] he plane is back to crashing into the mountain. After vociferous pledges that business has never been more stellar, the big 3 banks are starting to hit retraction mode. Enter Jamie Dimon, who in a interview with the lovely Erin Burnett stated sheepishly and under his breath that “March was a little tougher.” Talk about read between the lines understatements! If the pillar of stable banks that is JPM is saying things are back to normal, read horrendous, we can’t wait to see Vikram tell people he was really drunk or high or both when he said that the January-February trend was his friend (only exception if copious amounts of roofies were involved).

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March contracts

March 1st -27th, 2009, single family contracts: 7 (all under $3 million)

March 1st -27th, 2008, SF contracts: 38

March 1st-27th, 2007, SF contracts 85

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Here they come!

black-helicoptersUN global warming scheme will “redistribute” trillions of dollars from us to them, throw millions out of work and destroy the world’s production system. And that’s just the warm up. so to speak.

Among the tools that are considered are the cap-and-trade system for controlling carbon emissions ….; “carbon taxes” on imported fuels and energy-intensive goods and industries, including airline transportation; and lower subsidies for those same goods, as well as new or higher subsidies for goods that are considered “environmentally sound.”

Other tools are referred to only vaguely, including “energy policy reform,” which the report indicates could affect “large-scale transportation infrastructure such as roads, rail and airports.” When it comes to the results of such reform, the note says only that it could have “positive consequences for alternative transportation providers and producers of alternative fuels.”

In the same bland manner, the note informs negotiators without going into details that cap-and-trade schemes “may induce some industrial relocation” to “less regulated host countries.” Cap-and-trade functions by creating decreasing numbers of pollution-emission permits to be traded by industrial users, and thus pay more for each unit of carbon-based pollution, a market-driven system that aims to drive manufacturers toward less polluting technologies.

The note adds only that industrial relocation “would involve negative consequences for the implementing country, which loses employment and investment.” But at the same time it “would involve indeterminate consequences for the countries that would host the relocated industries.”

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Won’t we end up spending on their social security?

Stimulus funds to pay for anti-suicide fence on Akron bridge. It would be more cost effective to just move Akron somewhere pleasanter.

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Forget Nantucket, how about a bargain on Round Hill Road?

A sharp-eyed reader picked up what I missed when it was reported Wednesday afternoon: Leona’s place on Round Hill has just plummeted again and it can now be yours for just $75 million. That’s a saving of $50 million from its original price. Why, if it drops again, you’ll just about be getting it for free! Only in America.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that if a client ever again berates me for mispricing her house I can now reply, “yeah, but at least I didn’t miss by fifty million dollars.  At least I didn’t do that!”

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Yes, this blog reaches across the water to Nantucket, too!

The island’s real estate is in the tank – prices down at least a quarter and still falling, according to the WSJ. Those of my fellow agents who so regularly lambaste me for, as they see it, urging buyers to profit on another’s misery will of course eschew any bargains available on the Grey Lady, just as they refuse to buy lighthouse baskets at the end-of-summer sale. Others of you with a little cash in your pockets and no scruples might want to nosey around up there.

The island has a glut of unsold homes, and even some foreclosures. Hardest hit of all? Vacant land. “The theory that land on Nantucket would always increase in value has been blown out of the water,” says local Realtor Kate Ranney Sayle of Denby Real Estate. “Nobody wants to buy it. Right now, you can’t give a vacant lot away.”

In 2007 the average lot of vacant land sold for $2.3 million, she says. Today? Try $395,000. In a crash of this scale, nowhere is spared. So much for all those people during the bubble who insisted “quality” and “high end” property would retain its value. According to the Case-Shiller index, average US home prices have fallen about 27% from their peak in early 2006. Nantucket tracks pretty closely to the trend. How the mighty have fallen.

Just a couple of years ago, at the height of the hedge fund boom, the small island was gripped in a speculative frenzy. The richest hedge fund managers, who made their incredible fortunes just down the coast in Greenwich, Connecticut, bid aggressively for homes and land. A place on Nantucket became the latest trophy for the guys who had everything – including a private jet to fly them to and fro. Nantucket was hardly blue-collar to start with, but many locals complained that the new money was ruining the island. Overpriced bistros and frou-frou shops ran riot. Clam shacks gave way to the sort of restaurants where mashed potato is called “potato foam” and a sauce is an “emulsion.” Average sales prices for homes doubled in a few years to $2.5 million. Land prices quintupled. Back then you couldn’t find a home. Now you can’t get rid of one.

“At the peak of the market there were about 230 houses for sale,” says broker Cynthia Lenhart of Compass Rose Real Estate. “There were lots of buyers and nothing to sell them. Now there are about 550 houses for sale, and not many buyers.” There have even been foreclosures and short-sales, something almost unimaginable until now. Some were properties developed by speculators. But they’ve also included a prime commercial building on Main Street that was taken over by the bank.

There’s a familiar story in most real estate crashes: First the buyers vanish, then inventory piles up, and only then — normally after a long and painful process of resistance — do sellers get real and drop prices.

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Price cuts, notable and unnotable

6 Lauder Way, originally $16.9 million and later $15.5 was reduced today to $13.9.

The owners of Copper Beech weren’t so bold. They dropped their price $100,000 to $7.895 million. If you’ve been holding back, now’s your chance.

56 Sound View Drive, the condos still under construction near Town Hall, saw one unit dropped from $3.195 to $2.995. Okay.

124 Porchuck, a mock-Tudor sort of house, sold for $2.895 in 2005, had some renovations performed and is back up for sale today at $3.195.

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Patriot Bank is Thriving

That’s what I’m told, anyway. No problems with construction loans, absolutely no trouble with loans in Scarsdale,  the FDIC is not breathing down their necks and no personnel problems whatsoever. My previous comments to the contrary, I’m delighted to hear that the institution’s in fine fettle. Funny how rumors spread but I’m happy to stop that spreading, when I can.

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Celebrate civilization day tomorrow, 8:30 pm

bridge1407_wideweb__470x3110 Tomorrow night the anti-human brigade wants the world to turn off its lights and hunker down in the dark to celebrate …. something. I intend to turn on all the lights in my house, any spotlights if we have them, and toast the geniuses who made my own life so comfortable and blessed. Heck, if I’m driving then, I’ll even turn on my headlights!

UPDATE: Great minds think alike.

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