Daily Archives: May 2, 2009

Jack Kemp has died

Tonight, of cancer. He was only 73. What a shame – I always liked his politics, which were conservative without all the moral rightiousness of most Republicans. Good guy.

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Here’s a blogger that even the GAR can admire

According to this independent observer, business in the Hamptons has never been better. “You snooze, you lose”, she cautions, so buyers, get out your checkbooks.

As always folks the operative principle is supply and demand. And as the inventory diminishes, the curve goes up once more. So buyers out there, you have been noticed that the time is right for you to make your move on both deals and values.

Of course, for every positive-thinking, decent writer, there are always mean, cynical nay sayers like this fellow, who reports, “Darkness Descends on Hamptons Real Estate”. Can’t we all agree to either say nice, cheerful things or say nothing at all?

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The demise of the independent appraiser

Part of Congress’s “reform” of the banking industry is to prohibit appraisals by independent appraisers. Or at least, I think that’s what it’s done, judging from reader comments. I haven’t researched this much so I won’t pretend to know anything about it but if it’s true, I think home owners, buyers and sellers, have just been screwed. Here’s an appraiser who doesn’t like the law at all:

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Lehman Brothers’ real estate genius

Says here in the Times that Marc Walsh, head of Lehman’s real estate business, was considered one smart dude by his peers. Maybe – I know nothing about high-powered, multi-billion dollar commercial deals, so perhaps they made sense to someone at the time although the article suggests that some fellow bankers and real estate people had their doubts. What I do know is that Lehman’s participation in the Antares boy’s purchase of the Putnam Green condo conversion project was an absolute folly, the idiocy of which was apparent to anyone with the smallest knowledge of Greenwich real estate.

Antares paid twice the price of the next highest bid for these properties, and the project’s success depended on them getting at least three times as much per condo as any Byram unit had ever sold for. Had anyone at Lehman bothered to place a call to even the least experienced agent in town, they could have learned that the deal was impossible. The fact that no such call was made suggests that the entire charade was all about the deal, not viability. After all, Lehman and Antares made their fees while the underlying debt was unloaded on suckers like pension funds.

So were the larger deals more carefully vetted? I don’t see why they would have been, and you certainly wouldn’t think so judging from this  local display of their talents.

UPDATE: Genius? I will only point out that, according to the article, mr. Walsh relaxes by spending all his free time fly fishing. There are two boy wonders who we all know are avid fishermen, Mark and Andy Madoff, and of course our regular reader and commentator, Fly Angler. Hey – I report, you decide.

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When bloggers attack

Interesting reading in the Times’ Real Estate section on real estate blogs and the readers’ comments trashing particular properties. Their advice: forget about it. My advice: listen to what people are saying – some of them are actual potential customers and you’re hearing their opinion, unvarnished by polite agents.

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The Times predicts a cold summer

Mayweather to come out of retirement in July

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Swine fever – again with the bad puns!

This is serious, folks, just ask our panicked Vice President. Yet people continue to make fun of the dreaded disease. Check out this punster in the New York Times: Swine flu: first sow no panic.

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Total disconnect

Back from an afternoon showing houses and I continue to be astonished at the fantasy world sellers persist in clinging to. I was with buyers who can afford just over a million dollars and for today’s fun I purposely went hunting at some places priced at almost twice that, for my clients’ education and mine. Whoo boy. Sellers really ought to hear about what buyers think of their houses. When a buyer prefers a house at $1.2 million to one priced at $1.8 (an opinion I shared), that seller is in serious trouble. We stopped at three such examples but we could have continued all day. There are houses for sale today that were never worth what the seller’s asking, even at the height of the market, let alone today’s 40% off world. I suspect that part of the blame goes to the listing agents who are so busy pumping up their client’s moral that they’re neglecting the most important thing: the truth of the situation.

I also know of agents who will take a listing at an asinine price in the hope that they’ll still have the listing when the seller comes to his senses. I won’t do that, possibly from twenty years spent as a lawyer billing clients by the quarter hour. I still value my time, and if I’m not going to be paid for it, I’d prefer to spend it on myself, not feeding someone else’s delusions.

So we’ll see. I assured my clients today that there was absolutely no reason to bid on anything we saw – time and the market are on their side and right now, it’s best to wait on the sidelines.

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Making light of swine flu?

Headline from today’s WSJ: Curious treat from Mexico

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Palmer Hill condos – desperate?

At least once a week I receive the following “comment” from fasttalk@AOL.com, which I assume is a computer-generated commercial spam program:

I looked all over and the quality and value they are offering at Palmer Hill cannot be matched. The clubhouse, pool and gym are incredible also. Great location. I’m sold!

I realize spam is cheap, but at the very least, the fact that the Palmer Hill developers would pay anything at all to clog the airwaves with this crap  (forgive me, Al Gore – I know that the Internet is really carried through tunnels) shows a deep ignorance of how to market these days, and perhaps reveals that sales on the Hill aren’t what the builder had hoped they’d be. 

And here’s another funny tale: the developer has hired a crack sales team that has been instructed to follow a strict sales script so that buyers, even if accompanied by their own agent, are forced to endure the car salesman technique of “lock in” questions: “Now, is this the kind of kitchen you were hoping for?” “Is this the master bathroom you were expecting?” “If we could guarantee you your choice of garage [or garbage disposal or whatever], would you be ready to commit today?” Etc. I won’t go near the place on a bet, but agents who have tell me the process is excruciating. The whole marketing effort smacks of someone who has no idea of the sophistication of Greenwich buyers and they’re driving away half their target audience with this crap. The same thing happened to Greenwich Honda when the D’elias sold it. Great car, but when it’s time to replace my car (and mine’s only seven years old so that’s not happening soon, thank god), I intend to buy another Honda but not from our local dealership. 

Manipulation as salesmanship is tacky,leads to sleepless nights by its practitioners and, at least in Greenwich, ineffective. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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