Observations on showing houses

Interesting day out there, looking at very expensive houses. The day started (last night started, actually) with two cancellations from the same seller who apparently wanted nothing to do with the evil blogger of Greenwich. Now if I owned two houses, one of which has sat empty since it was built in 2002 the other with a mortgage foreclosure pending, I think I’d overcome my distaste for a particular broker and hope and pray that he’d produce a buyer for either of my unwanted homes but that’s just me. Good luck with that foreclosure, fella, and write when you get work.

We started off looking at two superbly built houses in a row, 11 Lindsay Lane and 717 Riversville Road. I can’t say that I agree with the pricing of either house but their builders certainly put in the quality to justify it. Not a corner cut, fantastic detail, beautiful finishes and really just exceptional houses in every way. The showings were enhanced by the presence of BK Bates and Lynn Stevens who know enough to guide people through their listings, pointing out features that might be missed and otherwise skipping the damn sales spiel. My clients know what a large closet looks like, for God’s sake, and if by chance they don’t, I’ll explain it to them. These two women are fun to show houses with. Other agents, not so much.

Tried to see one piece of junk just to demonstrate the difference between quality and shoddy workmanship to my clients but the agent conducting the public open house apparently decided that two hours was enough and had yanked his sign down by the time we got there. Maybe he was just embarrassed to be seen in the place,who knows?  I waved to him through the window but he wouldn’t open for us or the other carload of would-be buyers who arrived after we did. I wonder what the seller would think about that?

Did see another open house so in we trudged and I had my opportunity to point out Home Depot wall plates, dresser drawers held together with a single screw in the corner of butt-ended sides, cheap closet fixtures, and on and on. Nothing wrong with going cheap on a $750,000 wonder but for $9 million, I expect more. I point this stuff out to my clients by the way because I try to tell them everything I know or notice about a house. It may cut down the chance of selling that particular house (ok, it kills it, sometimes) but when we find a well built house, I can tell them so and they believe me, at least until the building inspector corrects me. Everything I learned about earning trust in this business came from listening to Walter Noel. 

So a productive day, all in all – saw houses we liked, and I think some offers will be made, saw some houses that aren’t worth the land they stand on, and learned that one particular seller is determined to go down with the ship(s). Good for him – saved us time, and kept his blood pressure low.


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23 responses to “Observations on showing houses

  1. anonymous

    Not enough brokers understand (and can explain) differences in quality of land and build

    Negative prelim signals of inept sellers and/or their brokers (funny how they find each other) actually save valuable time of credible, reasonable buyers…an unintended favor in a way

  2. Reader

    I’m pretty sure that both of these houses were designed by Thompson Raissis Architects of Stamford.

  3. InfoDiva

    “…Home Depot wall plates…”

    Chris, can you enlighten those of us who sadly live in ordinary dwellings–what exactly constitutes a “high end” wall plate?

    I’d like to be appropriately appreciative should I ever be lucky enough to encounter one.

    • christopherfountain

      If they look like the cheap 69 cent plastic covers you see at Home Depor (and which are in my own house) they are. If they’re thick, often two -part pieces they probably never hung on a rack at HD. Each does the job – for $10 million. I expect the latter.

  4. Peg

    Chris, I’m obviously not comprehending some of what you wrote.

    You had a buyer who wanted to see not one but TWO homes owned by a seller who doesn’t like your prose – so he would not allow that ready, willing and able buyer walk through them with evil you? I mean – seriously? Is this the example that they post next to the old saw, “Cutting off your nose to spite your face?”

    And then an agent who was hired to sell homes (at least, that is what I am naively assuming) couldn’t get off his (not appropriate for children’s viewing) rear end to show homes to your still ready, willing and able buyer – not to mention others?

    Is there something in the drinking water in Greenwich that is seriously addling people’s brains? Do people work hard at impoverishing themselves and refusing to do what they were hired to do?

  5. Retired IB'er


    You should state which sellers would not deal with you because they are not sellers ANY BUYER should deal with on a sale as the are obviously trying to RIP OFF the buyer. Why else would they not want a market savvy agent advising a buyer?

    You should publically out them, IMHO. (But then I am a hot head…)

    • christopherfountain

      Well, IB’r, the clues are there. Not many houses in the near-$10 million range that have been for sale since 2002 and never lived in. And not many of those are owned by the same guy with another house in foreclosure.

  6. cos cobber

    I’m sorry, I’m slow and from Cos Cob, what do you mean by wall plates?

    • christopherfountain

      When they extend electricity to Cos Cob so that the residents can illuminate their outhouses, you’ll find what’s called a “light switch” on the wall and, if you’re lucky, a wall plug to, say, power your still. The cover for those things is called a plate, Cos Cobber. Trust me – you’re gonna love this stuff. I just hope you guys get it before Obama and the Greens eliminate electricity. Its been really convenient to have around.

  7. anony-moose

    Are these a good example of switch plates that are worthy of an upper-tier Greenwich estate?

    At the very least, they cost an appropriate amount, but not sure if the styling would go well or not with those houses.

  8. OGRCC

    717 riversville.

    takes 25 min just to get to central greenwich from there.

  9. cos cobber

    Oh those do-dads. Yeah we have electricity now
    (remember we were the home of metro-north power
    plant) but few of us bother using outlet covers and switch plates.
    We like to save ourselves the 69 cents and leave them

    I have a feeling you could probably teach me a deal about
    Plumbing too, I look forward to that. Some questions persist in my house like ‘how do I get my water hot’ and ‘what is the best way to winterize my outhouse.’

    No matter, I think switch plates and outlet covers is a better term, but alas you’re the realtor.

    • christopherfountain

      Well I figured you guys had walls, Cos Cobber, but might not know about switches. And as for winterizing outhouses, here in Riverside we jam pages from the Sears catalogue in the cracks but if you’d like to emulate our tonier betters in the Back Country, look for discarded Nieman Marcus catalogues next time you’re at the dump.

  10. InfoDiva

    Wow, Chris…your blog is so educational.
    Now I’ll know a quality wall plate when I see one.

    I’m guessing that every $10 million house deserves these:


  11. Rachel

    I’m with Peg on this one — these greenwich people sound INSANE!

    I’m also so with you on showing houses with great brokers — it makes the world of difference, and truly makes putting a deal together much more enjoyable for all parties.

  12. Reader

    MapQuest calculates the time from 717 Riversville Rd. to Greenwich Avenue at 17 Minutes. Rocky Point Rd, Old Greenwich to Greenwich Avenue is 14 minutes.

  13. I grew up in OG, just up Shore Road from Rocky Point Rd. The only way to get to Greenwich Avenue in 14 minutes would be by helicopter.

  14. Cos Cobber

    You have Nieman Marcus catalogues! Life is indeed good in Riverside. I’m stuck with discarded phone books. Sure, they insulate well, but make for dull reading.

    TTFN…See you at the dump

  15. Blind Brook

    Wall plates? Switch plates?

  16. Anonymous

    I agree with IBR you should say . my guess is Mariani .I am not sure 1 of his is in foreclosure . Only a guess.
    How the hell can a broker not let in 2 car loads of possible buyers. It is insane, the seller will be livid and rightly so.


    • christopherfountain

      Not Mariani – he was angry at me years ago when I suggested that his Khakum Woods spec house, priced at $25 million, would probably sell for $12.5, but I’m sure he’s gotten over that. Especially because, two years later, the house sold for $12.5 million.

  17. Anonymous

    I have seen Lindsy and I must say I love the location but was disappointed with the size of the whole second floor . this cannot compete with what builders have been doing over the past few years the room is tight . There is a small landing when you reach the top of the stairs and the doors are all right there. At this price point you really expect more space. I think the house has alot of nice features is good quality but sometimes SIZE DOES MATTER.

    • christopherfountain

      It’s such a matter of personal taste, Anon. I have heard your criticism of bedroom size from clients, yet others love the scale. Builders are really in a damned if you do/ don’t quandry here, and I think this builder was wise to just go with what he liked.