Monthly Archives: March 2009

Market wrap up, 3/30/09

1 Pheasant Lane

1 Pheasant Lane

No sales reported today but we did get a spurt of new listings just at the close. One Pheasant Lane, off North Maple, was last listed in 2005 for $4.795 and eventually sold in 2006 for $3.850. It asks $3.975 today. The seller is an LLC, often an indication that a builder owns a place. If so, he’s changed his mind.

33 Dairy Road, listed as both a residence and land, sold for $1.6 million in 1996 and asks $3.595 now. No indication that much has been done to it so the price increase must be attributable to inflation and the passage of time.

And that’s about it for real estate excitement today.

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I did what?

Reader Krazy Kat sends this link to a New York Magazine article written by the guy who wrote the computer program that set traders free to play with securitized bonds. the rest, as we’re discovering, is history. Long, but entertaining and easy for dummies like myself to understand.

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Land Prices

I’ve written before about the collapse of land prices – a temporary collapse, I hope, while buyers regroup, get their bearings and regain the courage to invest in building a new house – and here’s an example illustrating at least a decline in that category: 5 Kenilworth Terrace, off lower North Street, joined another land sale on that street, asking $1.495 (the other is asking in the $1.6s). Everything there is about an acre, so comparisons are at least similar. 25 Kenilworth asked $1.375 back in July, 2000 and sold for $1.525. 23 Kenilworth sold for $1.940 in 2003 and 27 sold for $2.7, full asking price, in 2006.

Twenty-seven may have been more than a mere land sale, at that price, but not the other two. So at $1.495, we’re back below 2000 prices and, of course, the place hasn’t sold yet.

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New Listings?

A reader asked if people were still putting their houses up for sale or waiting out the current market. Good question, so I pulled some statistics. To my surprise, we seem to be adding new listings even faster than we did before. For instance, this month saw 104 new single family listings, compared to just 75 in 2007. For the year so far, 275 new listings, compared to 204 in 2007.

What we aren’t duplicating is the speed with which houses are moving off the market, so our inventory is soaring: 650 houses now, vs. 552 in ’07 and just 443 in ’06.

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It’s so damn hard to keep up with these wily Reds!

Remember when taking us off the gold standard was a communist plot, right up there with putting fluoride in our water? Now Putin and his fellow commies are proposing to return us to it. I know they’re plotting something, but what?

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Saab Story

Saab 96

Saab 96

Well darn. Saab is probably getting out of the production business. I didn’t like mine when they were made under General Motors’ ownership (quelle surprise) but the old ’96 two-stroke that required you to mix oil in the gas was a blast. Amazing cars, great torque and one of them saved my friend’s life when, as a Williams’ boy with a tad too much to drink, he went airborne, flipped a couple of times end-over-end and then rolled over a few more times before smashing into a telephone pole. The car didn’t survive but a band of Ephmen did, and no doubt the world’s a better place because of it. No doubt.

But I’ll miss those Saabs.

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Sparks of activity

28 Welyyn, Rvsd

28 Welwyn, Rvsd

28 Welwyn Road, off of Indian Head, has gone to contract today. Listing price is $3.650 million so that’s a nice sign. Good house, built in 2003 either for the present owners or they bought it from its builder but a solid home and Welwyn’s a great street.

35 Sunshine Ave. also in Riverside but north of the Post Rd. was reported as under contract before, I think, but in any event, it’s there now. This house needs replacing, even though (or because) it served as home for those rowdy Kaye kids, and was listed as land, first at $790,000 back in July and then this February at $650,000. The last reduction seems to have done the trick.

Thene there are some price cuts reported today that, while they aren’t yet sales, at least show that their sellers are getting serious. 173 Stanwich, a contemporary on 2 acres, originally came priced at $3.595, today it’s $2.195. Two Grimes Road, in Shorelands, sold for $1.250 million in 2000, was put back up for sale in 2004 at $1.745 and sold in a bidding war for $1.904 (remember 2004?). Those buyers tried getting $2.795 in May, 2007, and after two years of waiting for a buyer to appear have reduced it today to $2.325. Twenty-sixValley Road, a speck of a lot in Cos Cob, debuted at $640 in May and has now dropped to $425,000. Thirty-seven Midwood, off of Glenville Road, tried things out at $1.750 for awhile and is $1.395 now.  And then we have 98 Glenwood, in Belle Haven, which must have had a beautiful setting when it was built in 1838 but which now overlooks the Belle Haven Club. Nice water views and how painful can it be to look over a beach club, but still, its first price of $16.8 million brought to mind Crazy Eddy and not necessarily in a positive way. It’s got a new broker and a new price today: $12.5 million. Still a tad out of my range, but an improvement.

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Tanned, fit and rested, Walter’s back from Mustique!

And sending links so that anyone who wants to can check in on Patriot Bank’s insiders’ stock sales. (use stock symbol, PNBK). The CEO, Angelo DeCaro, seems to have been busy unloading shares, as has Marcus Zavattaro but Marcus, at least, has an excuse – as of last Thursday, he’s gone from the bank. He left behind some of the spec house loans he extended, however, which wasn’t very nice of him, given their non-performing status.

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Return of the bumper sticker

sticker_black1

My pal has made this sticker available at Cafe Express (see “bumper stickers” on right or click here. No, I don’t get any money from this and my friend is not planning on retiring on the proceeds. We both just think it’d be fun to see some around town. Maybe on that Brunswick kid of your’s Lexus – beats him wearing a Che tee shirt.

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UBS to fire another 8,000?

While we wait for Greenwich real estate news to appear – nothing so far this morning, except for the reappearance of a pathetic redo job that’s already dropped $1.5 million and probably has half its remaining price still to go – this is business news that could affect our market if some of these firings are centered here.

It’s not much of a story that UBS is still trying to dig itself out of the hole it crawled into but this explanation as to why it’s got such trouble valuing its portfolio of collateralized loan obligations probably extends to other firms, too:

“We’ve had a lot of enquiries on CLO values recently. The big issue is that they are even more opaque than CDOs (collateralized debt obligations), which lay at the root of the sub-prime crisis,” Haydon-Rowe said.

 

“A lot of these products don’t have the documents of the underlying loans, many are private loans, and in many cases the staff who originally structured the CLOs – and so can understand them – have moved on.” 

Clueless in Zurich – how firing still more people who might understand what UBS owns will help the problem escapes me, but that’s why they pay these banker chiefs the big bucks.

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Another Greenwich Avenue chain store vacates

According to Greenwich Gossip, handbag seller Coach has cleared out and off the Avenue. The Gossip sees this as good news and I sympathise with its wish that the old, local stores would return, but I don’t join in the joy. I abandoned the Avenue long ago and find what I need on line, especially now that Amazon sells everything one could possibly need (except for guns and ammo, but since Grannick’s quit supplying those, the Ave is still no solution). However, a thriving shopping district, even one mostly patronized by Westchester residents and newcomers to Greenwich, is still important for our local economy and, out-of-town or not, a retailer is a retailer and, besides, locally-owned stores can only benefit of a big chain draws foot traffic to the street.

So I won’t miss Coach, but neither will I exult in its demise. Plywooded windows are nosubstitute for ongoing enterprises.

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Al Gore reads this blog!

No, he hasn’t dropped the price of his 9,000 sq.ft. Nashville mansion – in fact, as far as I know, it’s not up for sale – but he did leave his lights on during the “Celebrate Civilization” hour last Saturday. Whatta guy.

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Here comes the Trabant

180px-trabant_601_mulhouse_fra_0011News that Obama has fired GM’s Rick Wagoner doesn’t surprise me and, I suppose you can’t retroactively fire his predecessors of the past 40 years who guided GM to build cars that were poorly made and unwanted. Just as it seems within the power of the government to rescind bonus contracts for AIG executives now that taxpayers own 80% of the company, dumping the chief executive of a company begging for billions of dollars of taxpayer money is probably overdue and fitting.

What worries me though is the fact that our largest companies are, in exchange for these billions, ceding control to the government. Today the president of the United States fires Wagoner. Tomorrow, won’t Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, goaded by their Green constituency, demand new products from that same company? If we own these companies or they are in our debt, shouldn’t we have a say in what they produce? What they pay their workers? The benefits they must supply? It’s not hard for me to envision the cessation of fuel-guzzling, wasteful pickups by GM and the introduction of new products, designed and approved by Ralph Nader and Green Peace, that will have 2 cylinder, 15 horsepower electric motors and cost $55,000 apiece. No one will want them, but they’ll be all that’s available, like East Germany’s  beloved Trabant.  

Socialism specializes in producing waste and inefficiency – we’re watching it come here and no one seems to care. Better, I think, to let GM fail and disappear than set the model for a new “partnership” between government and what’s left of private enterprise.

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A.I.G. – taxpayer money being used to bailout banks surreptitiously?

That’s what ZeroHedge is reporting.

Exclusive: AIG Was Responsible For The Banks’ January & February Profitability

Zero Hedge is rarely speechless, but after receiving this email from a correlation desk trader, we simply had to hold a moment of silence for the phenomenal scam that continues unabated in the financial markets, and now has the full oversight and blessing of the U.S. government, which in turns keeps on duping U.S. taxpayers into believing everything is good.

[L]et me explain in layman’s terms:
AIG, knowing it would need to ask for much more capital from the Treasury imminently, decided to throw in the towel, and gifted major bank counter-parties with trades which were egregiously profitable to the banks, and even more egregiously money losing to the U.S. taxpayers, who had to dump more and more cash into AIG, without having the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner disclose the real extent of this, for lack of a better word, fraudulent scam.

In simple terms think of it as an auto dealer, which knows that U.S. taxpayers will provide for an infinite amount of money to fund its ongoing sales of horrendous vehicles (think Pontiac Azteks): the company decides to sell all the cars currently in contract, to lessors at far below the amortized market value, thereby generating huge profits for these lessors, as these turn around and sell the cars at a major profit, funded exclusively by U.S. taxpayers (readers should feel free to provide more gripping allegories).

What this all means is that the statements by major banks, i.e. JPM, Citi, and BofA, regarding abnormal profitability in January and February were true, however these profits were a) one-time in nature due to wholesale unwinds of AIG portfolios, b) entirely at the expense of AIG, and thus taxpayers, c) executed with Tim Geithner’s (and thus the administration’s) full knowledge and intent, d) were basically a transfer of money from taxpayers to banks (in yet another form) using AIG as an intermediary.

For banks to proclaim their profitability in January and February is about as close to criminal hypocrisy as is possible. And again, the taxpayers fund this “one time profit”, which causes a market rally, thus allowing the banks to promptly turn around and start selling more expensive equity (soon coming to a prospectus near you), also funded by taxpayers’ money flows into the market. If the administration is truly aware of all these events (and if Zero Hedge knows about it, it is safe to say Tim Geithner also got the memo), then the potential fallout would be staggering once this information makes the light of day.

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Congress – it brings bad things to light

Courtesy of our elected representatives, incandescent lightbulbs will soon be banned and we will all have to use compact fluorescent bulbs – “CFLs”. You’ll love them. Here are some tips from the New York Times on adjusting to this inferior product.

¶Be aware that compact fluorescents can take one to three minutes to reach full brightness. This is not a defect. [No, it's a feature!]

¶The place where people are most likely to use compact fluorescents, closets, may be a poor choice. Experts at Energy Star warn that frequently turning the bulbs on and off shortens their lives, and recommend using them in fixtures “that are used at least 15 minutes at a time or several hours per day.” [So what will you use to illuminate your closets? Congress didn't think of that - try a candle]

¶The bulbs do not do well in hot places with little airflow, like recessed ceiling fixtures. They are ideal for table lamps. [Can you stick a candle upside down in a ceiling light?]

¶Not all compact fluorescents work with dimmers or three-way sockets. Read labels. [Who needs a dimmer anyway? You want mood lighting, grab that candle in the closet.]

¶Learning about “color temperature,” which is printed on the label of high-quality bulbs, can help consumers avoid disappointment with the color of the light. The warmest-looking bulbs generally have a color temperature less than 3,000 kelvins, with the harshest bulbs usually above 5,000. [Borrow your wife's makeup kit - a little practice and you'll lose that Morticia Adams look.]

¶Compact fluorescents contain mercury and should not be disposed of in the trash. Many chains, like Home Depot, offer recycling bins for the bulbs.

¶If you break a bulb, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends precautions to avoid mercury exposure: Clear people and pets from the room and open a window for at least 15 minutes if possible. Avoid vacuuming. Scoop up larger pieces with stiff paper or cardboard, pick up smaller residue with sticky tape, and wipe the area with a damp cloth. Put everything into a sealed plastic bag or sealed glass jar. In most cases, this can be put in the trash, but the E.P.A. recommends checking local rules.[While the Haz-mat team is at your house, perhaps you can persuade them to remove those mercury thermometers, too.]

Sure this all sounds crazy, and expensive, but if it saves the life of one polar bear ….

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World ends – reporters, minorities hardest hit

Ethnic newspapers are suffering

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New York hits the producing class, again

As we knew they would, New York Democrats have decided on a special new tax on anyone earning $300,000 a year. But don’t think of it as punishment for achieving success – no, it’s better than that:

“It’s a profound breakthrough for tax fairness,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party. “The era of phony prosperity has ended, and a new era of real shared sacrifice must begin.”

Uh huh – “sacrifice”  – and guess who’s the fatted calf? Tea Party, anyone?

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Uh oh – anyone know whether George Lindemann, Jr. is still in Miami?

alysheba Alysheba injured in stall last night, euthanized. 

Momma Lindemann is stiff with worry.

 

Oh, Monica, don't laugh! Georgie didn't come home last night!

Oh, Monica, don't laugh! Georgie didn't come home last night!

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Celebrate Civilization Hour coming up!

I have to go out for awhile (I’ll have my headlights on) but don’t forget to turn on all your lights tonight from 8:30 -9:30. Say thank you to Thomas Edison and for that matter, my great grandfather John Caldwell, who spent his career with the Westinghouse brothers and helped bring prosperity to this nation.

UPDATE: Back! I was off at Greenwich Hospital, unplugging respirators that just swallow huge amounts of energy. I stuck “Earth Hour” stickers on the deceaseds’ beds to bring some comfort to their loved ones. It was only right.

Driving home, I can’t say I noticed any darkened houses. Here in Greenwich, anyway, Edison must still be revered.

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Walt’s Round Hill Rd neighbor, Frederick Bourke

A couple of readers have sent along new developments in the Bourke bribery case.

His lead lawyer has withdrawn from the case. I can only speculate, but the first reason that comes to mind as to why I’d withdraw from a case is if my client insisted on testifying falsely (well there’s always the matter of payment, of course, but Mr. Bourke seems to have that matter under control). But perhaps the two just don’t get along.

And in the Bahamas, Bourke’s codefendant Viktor Kozeny has settled his own cilvil case with various plaintiffs, thereby freeing up millions of dollars in frozen assets. Bourke and Kazinsky are scheduled for trial in New York this June. Kozeny is not expected to attend. If the Bahama’s don’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S., perhaps Mr. Bourke might want to go down to visit his friend.

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