Daily Archives: April 13, 2009

Foreclosures

It’s a little sad to prowl though sites like Realtytrac.com and see foreclosures on mortgage amounts that, judging just from address and type and size of the house, seem destined to wipe out any equity the owner has. There’s a $650,000 foreclosure coming on a house in Havemeyer, for instance, on a 1200 sq.ft. house. That’s about the full value for a house that size these days, and my guess is we’ll see it bank owned soon. Similarly, a house on Reynwood Road, $2.5 million mortgage debt, is, judging from its tax card description, worth no more than the land it sits on. What’s a 4 acre building site worth these days? Probably $2.5 million. And there are more to come.

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Does this mean a price break on Old Mill Road?

Robyn Gibson, Mel’s wife of 28 years, has filed for divorce. I wouldn’t sully this blog with celebrity gossip – not when there’s so much Walter Noel dirt to dish out – but the 75-acre Gibson estate on Old Mill, used infrequently even in happier times, has been sitting on the market for a long time now and has barely budged in price, dropping from $35 million to $30. California’s a community property state so I’d think the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Gibson is in for a big payday. And an unsold asset sitting idle and unwanted all the way on the wrong side of the country might be a tempting thing to dispose of. Do I hear $15 million? $10?

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Goodbye to all that

Captains of Industry - not

Captains of Industry - not

When the Antares web site went dark I speculated that the boys had merged with Realogy and gone off to do whatever geniuses do. I was wrong about the Realogy bit, but I received this word from a reader just now about what  Joe and whatshisname are up to:

They are essentially closed. Fired most of their people Thursday afternoon – Happy Easter to you too “boys”.

I won’t say that financial death couldn’t have happened to a more deserving duo – there are too many candidates for that honor to simply hand it to these arrogant idiots on a platter – but I am not particularly disturbed by news of their demise.

UPDATE: Both of the boys used their earnings from the Putnam Green fiasco (fiasco for those dumb enough to loan money on the project) to build themselves huge houses on Mooreland Road. Are those threatened? I don’t know, but I think I’ll prowl around the land records tomorrow and see if there are any angry creditors around.

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Then and now

70 Sherwood Ave

70 Sherwood Ave

Renovated 2006 and ’07, placed for sale 9/07 at $5.775 million. Today’s price: $4.395

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Devito’s back and Round Hill’s got ‘im

Dom Devito, that very pleasant builder with a variety of legal (criminal) and financial troubles has brought 516 Round Hill Road back on the market. I’ve written about this place before, albeit using the street address of 518, which is what was hand painted on a piece of plywood at the entrance to its mud driveway. It’s four acres up near Leona’s place, on a shared driveway on a back lot that’s a little bit of fill and a whole lot of steep hillside. The “house” consists of a foundation and a framed and plywooded structure with most of the windows in. It sat open to the weather for a long time but if there isn’t too much water damage I suppose you might be able to salvage what’s there. Patriot Bank improvidently extended $6.6 million for its construction even though it had only reached this primitive state and that’s the amount of the mortgage note they’re foreclosing on. I calculate its value at somewhere between $2 and $2.5 million, maybe, on a good day. Asking price is $7.9 million, which shows that neither Dominick, his broker Steve Archino or Patriot Bank have lost their sense of humor. That’s good to see in these tough times.

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Doverton Drive land value

There’s a new listing on Doverton Drive (off Sabine Farms) asking $2.6 million for just under 4 acres with a 1976 contemporary on it. I’m not jumping for joy at this low-priced discovery but it’s interesting to see what happened with the only other Doverton property to sell in the past decade. In 1999 27 Doverton, 2.52 acres also with a contemporary sold for $1.915. It came up for sale again, beautifully renovated, for $3.9 and change in 2006 and Mark Mariano paid $3.550 million the following January for the privilege of tearing it down. The house he put up in its place hit the market just 11 months later for $11,750,000 and while I thought that was funny, I’m sure he didn’t. It’s down now to $8.450 and still available.

I haven’t seen the new listing yet so I can’t compare its lot to that of 27’s, which is very nice. Still, $3.55 to $2.6 is a significant drop, I’d think.

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Marilyn Chambers dead at 56

marilyn-chairJeeze, that’s too bad. My law school classmate, Chuck Boisseau, attended Staples High School with her, before the Ivory Snow ads and, too bad for him, before “Behind the Green Door”. He only admired her from afar, as I recall.

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Hey kids, it’s so easy, anyone can do it!

California gang members indicted in mortgage fraud scheme. Now if it turns out they didn’t pay their taxes, too, they’ll be eligible for cabinet appointments.

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Car industry failing? Make cars more expensive and useless! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Obama and his demmerkrats are about to turn the car industry over to the tender mercies of the EPA, which wants to mandate high ethanol fuel blends (which cars can’t run on), initiate a carbon tax (which consumers will pay) and force mileage to increase by 40% (raising the price of cars still higher). I used to think that the people advocating these things were merely deluded fools – the more it continues, the more I’m convinced that the have the goal of destroying our economy, nothing less.

The EPA is trying to craft new federal emissions standards that would match California’s still-to-be-implemented state-level greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles and federal automobile fuel economy regulations now being developed by the Transportation Department. Figuring out how to do this won’t be easy, or cheap.

The Obama administration inherited a congressional mandate for auto makers to boost the average fuel economy of their vehicle fleets to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020, a 40% increase from the roughly 25 mpg standard for the current fleet. California estimates its standards would require auto makers to achieve 35 mpg by 2017. And unlike the federal government, which gives auto makers compliance credits for churning out “flex-fuel” vehicles capable of running on high levels of ethanol, California requires auto makers to prove motorists are actually filling up on those high-level blends in order to claim credit.

Just meeting the federal standards will require huge investments by auto makers. Last summer, the Transportation Department estimated its proposal to require auto makers to achieve 31.6 mpg by 2015 would cost them $46.7 billion, a sum the agency said would make it among the most expensive rule makings in U.S. history.

Under one portion of the Clean Air Act, facilities that could be major sources of air pollution can be built or significantly modified only if they are equipped with “the best available control technology.” The law generally applies to power plants, refineries, steel mills or other facilities if they emit at least 100 tons per year of any regulated air pollutant.

But the law also covers “any building, structure, facility or installation” that emits at least 250 tons per year of any regulated air pollutant — a threshold low enough to cover roughly one million midsize to large commercial-sector sources, including restaurants, hospitals, schools and office buildings, based on estimates by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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From Walter, sad news

Waiting for Lorne Greene

Waiting for Lorne Greene

Having been forced to sell off his prized horses (thank God Walt was on hand to stop the Fabulous Five from being loaded onto the knacker’s van), Fairfield Greenwich Group partner Jeffey Tucker is now offering to sell the farm itself. Funny thing, I’d have thought the more appropriate expression here would be “buying the farm” but those FGG guys always did have a strange way of doing things.

UPDATE: Okay, I was trying to spare Walt’s feelings but no one was getting the Lorne Greene reference so Walt, avert your eyes.

lorne-greene

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1964 2000 sq.ft. split-level: $3 million

4 acres on Hunting Ridge, comes with pool, tennis court and (attention, Walt!) horse stalls. I will refrain from adding, “cheap at twice the price”.

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3 1/2 months to decide on a dog, how many days to decide to shoot a pirate?

One troubling point in the terrific take down of those pirates by Navy SEALS is that, according to the NYT, Obama and his advisors dithered over whether to allow it. Doesn’t seem to be that difficult a decision but I’m insensitive to nuance. There’s talk now of bombing the pirates base; whoopee. If we can’t explode a few heads without days of meetings and consultations I wouldn’t expect any meaningful action on the Somali shore for at least a few years.

The Defense Department twice sought Mr. Obama’s permission to use force to rescue Captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said. On Saturday morning, the president agreed, they said, if it appeared that the captain’s life was in imminent danger.

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Make room for Daddy (and daughter and …)

According to the NY Post, Bernie Madoff’s niece Shana, compliance officer for Madoff  and the daughter of brother Peter, has hired a consultant on how to adjust to prison life. I was just posting on this and wondering whether Walt was retaining the same service when the dude himself emailed in to say that he was not planning to do that. Atta Boy, Walt – stiff upper lip and all that. But better not “stall”, so to speak – your fill(y’s) may need help adjusting to different bits and saddle blankets.

Shana “has been asking around what it’s like to do time,” another source said.

That source said she had contacted Levine “to learn how to game the system, so you end up in Club Fed, not Leavenworth.

“Shana was a compliance officer and signed a lot of documents, saying they were correct,” the source said. “She may have a problem.”

Levine said, “Another male member of Madoff’s family also contacted me, independently” on the same subject.

He said a representative of Bernard had contacted him before the Ponzi scammer went to jail, but the rep’s lawyers declined to let him take the course because his phone chats were being monitored. None of the Madoffs has yet sent money to Levine, he said.

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I must be the only pessimist in town

New listings keep coming on at prices that show that some of us here in Greenwich think the market is poised for a comeback and who am I to argue? Here are two listings new today.

36 Weaver St

36 Weaver St

Bought new in 1999 for $1.575, 4,000 sq. ft. on 0.75 acre. Assessed value: $1.727. Asking price: $3.350 million. Price per sq. ft.: $837.50

 

 

35 Lockwood (OG)

35 Lockwood (OG)

Bought new in 2004 at full asking price, $2.795. 3,900 sq. ft (plus finished basement) 0.3 acre. Asking price today: $3.3 million. Price per sq. ft: aprox. $850

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Spring is here?

Buy a house!

Buy a house!

Another real estate columnist in town (no link because his paper won’t put him on line) says that we’ve reached bottom and now is the time for buyers to “pull the trigger”. That worked on those Somali pirates, for sure, but I’m not as positive as he. I think I’ll wait until something starts selling before I conclude that we’re on the way back. It’s a certainly a good time to look for bargains, but except for those, I’d hold off. But if I’m wrong, you’re missing the opportunity of the decade, so feel free to disagree.

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The best house on the street

16 Benjamin Street

16 Benjamin Street

This is a lovely, well built house on Benjamin that neatly illustrates the rise and fall of our market. Its builder priced it when it was still under construction at $3.725 in April, 2006, $1.1 million higher than anything on Benjamin had ever fetched. As the market soared and work progressed, the builder reacted by raising it first to $3.925 and then to $4.400. I had my doubts at the time whether it was wise to pay so much more than the houses surrounding this one were worth but someone disagreed and bought it for $4.365 million in late ’06. Those buyers are now trying to sell it again, and originally priced it at about what they paid for it 2 years ago, $4.395. Today they have acknowledged that they’re facing a loss and have reduced it to $3.995. It’s a great house, but when the highest price on Benjamin, before this one, is $2.683, achieved at the height of the boom, I think these sellers will continue to confront difficulty. Again – there’s nothing at all wrong with this house, but birds of a feather and all that ….

To be honest, when this house sold for what it did back in 2006 I was reminded of an incident back in the dot com days when I went into a deli for a cup of coffee and found the counterman glued to the financial news channel, watching his investments. I told the friend I was with, “when the guy selling you coffee is buying tech stocks,you’re long past due getting out.” Some things don’t change.

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The Pirates vow revenge, revenge, let’s bomb them now, avenge avenge!

A taste of ordinance may change their ways.

With cat-like tread,
Upon our prey we steal;
In silence dread,
Our cautious way we feel.
No sound at all,
We never speak a word,
A fly’s foot-fall
Would be distinctly heard –

Police. (pianissimo)
Tarantara, tarantara!
Pirates.
So stealthily the pirate creeps,
While all the household soundly sleeps.

 

Pirates.  
Come, friends, who plough the sea,
Truce to navigation;
Take another station;
Let’s vary piracee
With a little burglaree!
Come, friends, who plough the sea,
Truce to navigation;
Take another station;
Let’s vary piracee
With a little burglaree!

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Good thing the owners at Putnam Hill are estates – word of their unit value’s demise won’t disturb them

Putnam Hill co-ops have long attracted an older crowd and now that so many of those owners are no longer growing older, the apartments are coming up for sale. I see that a three-bedroom corner unit, priced at $795 last summer, was reduced to $525,000 today. Curious where the original price had come from I looked up recent sales of three bedroom units at the complex and found the answer: that’s what these things were worth just recently.

In May, 2007, another unit, same untouched 1956 vintage, sold for $799 without ever appearing on the MLS. And in May, 2008, a seller reached for $840,000 but soon settled for $735,000. Assuming that we’re truly comparing apples here, I’d say that the price of fruit at the top of Milbank Avenue has fallen 35% in the past two years – that may serve as a cautionary tale for owners who hesitated to sell in 2007 and waited for prices to climb. Sometimes, you don’t always get what you want.

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Walter won’t be in court today

Never rely on newspaper reporters to get court dockets right – use the judicial system’s web site, instead. Checking that site, I’ve learned that there will not be a hearing today on the defendants’ motion to dissolve the liens filed against Walter and the Madoff boys’  property in Greenwich. Well darn – I was looking forward to watching the action and reporting on it here. If it doesn’t go forward soon, I’ll just make something up. But for now, we wait.

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When they banned cigarettes for dogs I remained silent, because my dog doesn’t smoke

Now comes a charming vignette of PETA and other kooks sending death threats to a dog breeder who dared sell a puppy to Vice President Biden. PETA want to ban all pets, and has chose dog breeders as its opening.

Naturally, PETA led the charge:

Brown was not only vilified in posted comments to newspapers but also on the Web site of People for the Ethical Treatment Animals, or PETA. 

According to a Dec. 12 press release from the animal rights group, it aired its controversial TV commercials “Buy One, Get One Killed” in Biden’s home state of Delaware after he bought his dog from Brown. The commercial blames euthanization of animals in shelters on people who purchase pets from breeders.

What the story fails to point out is that PETA is not only against dog breeding, but all pet ownership, and has a documented record of routinely euthanizing dogs rather than putting them up for adoption.

PETA is comprised of seriously deranged individuals – something you might remember the next time they approach you for donations. Myself, I think I’ll just send them some peanuts and CFLs.

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