Daily Archives: May 13, 2009

Global death watch – 3 1/2 years and counting

It has been six months since puppeteer – turned – NASA scientist Jim Hansen promised us irreversible disaster if we didn’t stop global warming within four years. Here’s one guy who I want to take at his word, literally. What with Obama’s recent backtracking on polar bears, CO2 and now carbon cap and trade schemes, it seems possible that we can survive the man’s term without destroying the world’s economy to Mr. Hansen’s liking. In which case, we can all relax, because it will then be too late to do anything but buy some kayaks and wait for Noah’s flood. Cool. So forty-two more months and we’re home free – hang in there.

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Cheney’s back and Obama’s got him!

White House considering continuing Bush policy on indefinite detention for terrorists. I really must wander by the nutroots blogs and see how they’re handling all this. Not well, I shouldn’t think, unless, like the New York Times, they just ignore their old positions and applaud the new one because well, it’s Obama, for Christ’s sake!

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No wonder Walt stood me up for lunch : FGG has folded!

Those of us wondering what the Fairfield Greenwich Group folks were doing lately need wonder no longer – they’ve called it quits and have turned their few remaining assets over to a competitor.

Fairfield Greenwich, which had more investor capital tied up with Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme than any other firm, is turning over the bulk of its fund-of-funds business to Sciens Capital.

While the exact terms of the transaction are unknown, Sciens will initially advise New York-based Fairfield as it restructures four funds of hedge funds whose combined assets under management have fallen to about $2.5 billion, from a peak of $5 billion last year. Assuming investors sign off on the restructuring plan, Sciens would then take over management of the funds, sharing some of the fee revenue with Fairfield.

Because no money is changing hands, the deal isn’t being described as a sale. However, Sciens eventually is expected to have complete control over the business and to rename the funds. Fairfield will retain a stake in the business. Together, the four funds of funds invest in about 40 hedge funds.

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Size matters

“Anonymous” points out below that Steve Jobs is tearing down a 15,000 sq. ft. California monster (I’d guess it belonged to that eco-warrior, Barbara Streisand but she prefers 40,000 and up) and replacing it with a more modest structure of 6,000 sq.ft. Frankie Farricker and I were discussing this just this afternoon – most of our wealthy clients who are looking for a new house want something around 6-7000 sq.ft. and refuse to consider the 15,000 ones out there. That’s too bad because, as we’ve had to explain to these folks, the builders of these unsold spec houses weren’t building that small – 9,000 is the minimum.

That will change when these builders go bankrupt and their replacements come in and start over but for now, it means even fewer buyers who really, really want what has been built. On the flip side, if you do want a huge house, now’s the time to go shopping – we probably won’t see their like again for a long time.

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Full moon at Greenwich Library

Our public library hosted a seminar for fruitcakes yesterday so that concerned mommies could wail about the dangers of rubber ducks, frying pans and “chemicals”. I understand how a frying pan can hurt when heated and applied forcefully to the head but chemicals? Isn’t the universe made up entirely of chemicals? Where are we supposed to live?

I think these worriers just enjoy wallowing in fear and enjoy the conceit that by attempting to control their household environment they can pretend to control an unruly world. Whatever. I did enjoy this quote from a lady who sounds likely to have received an advanced degree in women’s studies at a prestigious university.

The discussion confirmed many things that Greenwich resident Lisa Sheldon already knew. The mother of two recently has gone to work making her home greener by removing several carpets, using chemical-free cleaning products and tending an organic lawn.

“I’m always looking for more ideas and more products and more coping mechanisms,” Sheldon said. “It helps validate and it helps inspire.”

I haven’t been to college recently but “validate and inspire” sounds like something that would have seeped out of a Women as Victims class at Yale.

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Thank goodness someone still reads NYT editorials so the rest of us don’t have to

James Taranto, author if the WSJ Best of the Web, supplies us with this reminder of why the Times stopped being relevant oh, 40 years ago:

Two Papers in One!

  • “In its closing months, the Bush administration is pulling out all the stops in its eight-year effort to undermine the Endangered Species Act. In mid-August, the administration proposed two dangerous regulatory changes. One would free the government from considering the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on polar bears and other imperiled wildlife.”–editorial, New York Times, Oct. 25, 2008
  • “Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has upheld a Bush administration finding that the Endangered Species Act is not a suitable tool for restricting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases threatening the polar bear and its habitat. We agree, with this codicil: . . .”–editorial, New York Times, May 13, 2009

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His didn’t run as long as Bernie’s nor collect as much money but for a West Virginian …

FGG Due Diligence team off for surprise inspection of Madoff Securities

FGG Due Diligence team off for surprise inspection of Madoff Securities

He did pretty darn well. His Senator, Ex-Klan Chieftan Robert Byrd, must be proud. West Virginian ran Ponzi scheme from 1998 til March, 2009, netting $5 million. Well, at least his sisters and first cousins probably prospered.

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What was that?

“That” might have been the spring market we just saw flash by. No contracts reported today, only 3 this week and, given the low price range of those it’s a safe bet that they were actually signed several weeks ago, dependent upon financing and only just received the okay from the banks. We’ll see more transactions, I hope – certainly I have a number of bids out there and I’m sure other agents do, too – but it’s possible and I think likely that the flurry of activity the past few weeks represented the demand of buyers who wanted to buy last fall and waited until now before deciding that prices had begun to stabilize and it was safe to commit.

If I’m right on this, I look forward to pushing the deals I’m working on to a conclusion, successful or dead, and then heading out west for the summer where the trout have never heard of subprime mortgages, staging or FAR.

You sellers should relax too – there’s always next fall.

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Shoot the messenger

When 54 Havemeyer Lane came on the market a year or so ago, along with its sister ship next door, each priced at $2.195 million, I opined that Havemeyer Lane was too busy and undesirable a street to justify trying to set a price record. The builder’s reaction was to threaten to pull a listing for another house listed with a colleague of mine (also overpriced, also still unsold, so she’d have been doing a favor) and basically, made life hell for anyone even vaguely associated with me. She’d have more profitably spent her time checking out competing prices, perhaps, because today the house has been relisted for $1.595. Too little too late, I suspect, but it might have been a good place to start.

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Striking off $150,000 per week, it ought to sell by Labor Day

147 Hendrie Ave

147 Hendrie Ave

Listed two weeks ago for $4.250 million, reduced today to $3.950.

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Won’t someone stop this man?

Dick Cheney has snuck back into the White House and is running the presidency again. Oh, the horrors! Obama will repress release of terrorist “abuse” photos on grounds of national security. Now how will the world learn to love us?

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Who says the market’s dead!

Havemeyer Lane

Havemeyer Lane

Raised ranch on Havemeyer, “in need of tender loving care”. Listed in January for $699,000, contract in March, closed today, $570,000. That sounds about right. Notice, by the way, the time lag between contract and closing – the days of banks snapping to and getting out a mortgage overnight are gone.

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Port Chester/Greenwich condos

The Riverstone condo project, on the Port Chester/Greenwich border but just barely in Greenwich, started off pretty well a few years ago but now seems to be losing steam. Nothing’s sold there in quite awhile, there’s still a whole block of units to be completed and existing sales just a year or two old are showing up on the market priced below what the developer would like to get for his new ones. I wss surprised even at the initial success of this project, so I’m not astonished at its slow-down now.  Location still counts, and this location isn’t prime, Greenwich address or not.

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Smith College fires all its Jewish and Christian chaplains because like, you know, Dude, they’re so like yesterday.

Recognizing its continuing obligation to nourish  students’ spiritual needs, however, Smith administrators have kept on all Buddhist and “Wellness” chaplains as well as, one supposes, Wicans and animists.

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Those dirty French bastards!

First they messed with our Freedom Fries, then they emasculated John Kerry, now their kisses carry herpes! These poeple will stop at nothing.

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More water, less traffic but ….

Carriglea

Carriglea

New construction, with dock (good at high water) off Indian Head, $12 million. Listed today. No indication of size but it’s on an acre so figure around 5,000 square feet plus a finished basement. This was built on land purchased for $5.5 million in January 2008, the last hurrah for the housing bubble, when an acre of Riverside waterfront really did sell for that amount. History of the lot shows that someone made out well – brother Gideon sold the same land but a different house for $2.5 million in 1999, in a bidding war that started at $2.175.

Will the site support a $12 million house? I really don’t know. Riverside waterfront like this has always sold well, and at fancy prices. In a better market, good things would happen for the seller. In this market, …?

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More bad news for certain Greenwich residents

Craig’s list to discontinue “erotic services” ads. You can hear the howls of dismay from Fort Lane to Twin Lakes Drive. Sorry guys.

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Two news services in one!

Bloomberg: Consumers go on buying splurge 5/13/09

Bloomberg: Retail sales unexpectedly slum for second month in row 5/13/09

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If you were waiting for a signal, now’s the time to sell stocks

Investors turn bullish on U.S. Securities.

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Brochures

As my clients and I go strolling through old inventory we invariable see stacks of four-color brochures, overflowing with fulsome (I use the term deliberately and accurately, Hiram) praise of the may virtues of the property, its location and the fine craftsmanship dripping from every molding. Funny thing, of course, is that we’re prowling through houses that haven’t sold despite being on the market for months or even years – the brochures don’t seem to work.

My rule of thumb when I worked at another firm was that by the time a listing’s brochures arrived from the printers usually 3-4 weks after the house was isted, it was already obvious that the place had been overpriced.

So the lesson I took from that is that, if you want to sell your house quickly, set its price right. If you want nifty color pictures of your home printed at the broker’s expense, jack the price sky high and wait. You’ll have 500 brochures to entertain you while you wait for a buyer and if you grow tired of looking at those, just stop by any other over-priced house and help yourself.

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