Daily Archives: May 20, 2009

Mussulmen terrorists arrested in NYC

Planned to bomb synagogues, shoot down planes. I’m curious to see how the Left handles this. During the former Bush administration (I say “former” because many leftists seem to believe it’s still in office) all such arrests were treated with skepticism and a dismissive attitude. Will that be the case now that Obama’s on the beat?

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Greenwich hedgie sues, loses big

Brian Olson, one of three founders of Viking Capital, sued his old partners for $250 million he claimed was owed him. The Delaware Chancery court has awarded him a goose egg, which must be a big honking disappointment. No need to lose sleep worrying about Mr. Olson, however. He did make, according to the suit, $150 million between 1999 and 2003 (and presumably, some more thereafter) and the town figures the two houses he owns on Mayo Avenue are worth $15 million. That should tide him over.

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This was worth 15 credit hours at the Academy

Donut HuntingPolice will enforce use of turn signals by motorists.

 But there are difficulties. “Look,” Greenwich Police Chief Ridberg told this reporter, “we did pretty well with the seat belt crackdown. I mean, even the worst of our officers can figure out whether a seat belt’s on or off. But turn signals, that’s tougher. They got to get the whole ‘left turn, right turn’ thing right or the ticket’s no good. We’ve had to toss ’em out by the dozen.”

The Chief is hopeful that a new enforcement tool, purchased with Homeland Security funds, will help: “We’re putting mittens on our officers,” he said. “Red for left, green for right – or is it the other way? Whatever, we’re on the case.”

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Half a loaf is better than none

I truly believe that Obama’s economic policies are going to drive the country to ruin but at least that we we can do it to ourselves rather than permit foreign enemies do it to us. And he does seem to have avoided the Bush Derangement Syndrome that has driven so many liberals to such a frothing madness that they can no longer think (assuming they ever did). So far, the One has not shut Gitmo, has not released terrorists, has not turned them over to the federal judicial system and may even do something to prevent Iran from nuking the world – maybe. Today, his lawyers urged the Supreme Court not to revive Valerie Plame’s suit against Cheney and Rove. Obama, at least, understands that there are some critical problems facing us and we don’t have time for placating the nuts. Too bad Nancy Pelosi doesn’t understand that but then again, it’s far better that she be kept busy playing in the sandbox than interfering with real issues.

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A day for big contracts

In addition to the Rockefeller deal at $23.9 million, 238 Byram Shore Road, asking price $9.8 million, is reported as under contract. I’m a little surprised by this one. 24o Byram, next door, four years newer, also asked for $9.8ish and took two years to fetch $7.2 million, so when this one came on shortly after that one sold, I figured it would have a hard time fetching almost $3 million more. But now, 2 1/2 years later, it has a buyer. Too soon to tell whether it was worth the wait but if they got anywhere close to that asking price, I guess it was.

A house on Stepping Stone is also reported under contract. Priced at $1.95 or close to it, this isn’t quite nosebleed territory, but hey, something’s moving. 798 houses to go and we’re out of this damn market!

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I don’t think he liked the car

Some Brit test drives the new Honda hybrid and reports on the result:

Much has been written about the Insight, Honda’s new low-priced hybrid. We’ve been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you’re easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things. The beginning of days.So far, though, you have not been told what it’s like as a car; as a tool for moving you, your friends and your things from place to place.

So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.

The biggest problem, and it’s taken me a while to work this out, because all the other problems are so vast and so cancerous, is the gearbox. For reasons known only to itself, Honda has fitted the Insight with something called constantly variable transmission (CVT).

It doesn’t work. Put your foot down in a normal car and the revs climb in tandem with the speed. In a CVT car, the revs spool up quickly and then the speed rises to match them. It feels like the clutch is slipping. It feels horrid.

And the sound is worse. The Honda’s petrol engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full chat, makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.

So you’re sitting there with the engine screaming its head off, and your ears bleeding, and you’re doing only 23mph because that’s about the top speed, and you’re thinking things can’t get any worse, and then they do because you run over a small piece of grit.

Because the Honda has two motors, one that runs on petrol and one that runs on batteries, it is more expensive to make than a car that has one. But since the whole point of this car is that it could be sold for less than Toyota’s Smugmobile, the engineers have plainly peeled the suspension components to the bone. The result is a ride that beggars belief.

There’s more. Normally, Hondas feel as though they have been screwed together by eye surgeons. This one, however, feels as if it’s been made from steel so thin, you could read through it. And the seats, finished in pleblon, are designed specifically, it seems, to ruin your skeleton. This is hairy-shirted eco-ism at its very worst.

I have, on rare occasions, been told that my writing can creep up to that fine line of cruelty no nice person wants to cross. I shall refer future critics to this man’s posting.

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Here’s someone who’s not bottom feeding

1 Indian Spring Rd

1 Indian Spring Rd

The 1931 Stillman Rockefeller estate, 11 acres (left) surrounding a gorgeous mansion completely and splendidly restored over the past couple of years, was listed for $23.9 million and, 19 days later, has gone to contract. Sometimes, if you find what you want and have the money to pay for it, it makes sense to just go for it. That’s how I ended up with my last Snickers bar.

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Pithy Wisdom from Size Buyer

I like this from reader Size Buyer’s comment, below:

Buyers are entitled to make low offers and sellers are entitled to sit and wait for a better one. However, I do think that as time passes that buyers will find sellers that need to sell but I don’t think that sellers will find buyers that need to buy (not anytime soon that is)

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Price cuts – how much and how often?

Two houses with new prices today illustrate the difficulty sellers face when trying to adjust their price to draw a buyer. 25 Selden Lane dropped $300,000 to $4.495, hardly large enough to draw attention these days, when buyers have already discounted it by at least that much.  65 Tomac Avenue saw a similar dip to $3.795.

But both these houses are now about a million dollars less than their original asking prices: $5.250 for Selden, $4.860 for Tomac. Had they had a million whacked off their price a month after first being listed, that would have attracted buyers’ attention, but who wants to do that? So it’s tough – you end up like that poor guy at 187 (?) Stanwich Road, who has been taking $10,000 a week off his price since Hector was a pup and still can’t unload the place. Dramatic action is called for, I think.

By the way, I wonder what the reaction of the sellers would have been to offers a million less than their asking price when the houses first came on. I suspect the angry owner and her agent would blame those horrible readers of that horrible blog, running around town making irresponsible, unreasonable bids! That’s my guess.

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Who is being realistic?

I am chided by younger brother Gideon for encouraging readers of this blog to proffer “unrealistic” offers on Greenwich houses. I can’t vouch for what readers do but I do know that my own clients seem to have a much better grip on what current value is than do sellers. Yes, most of our bids are being rejected. No, I do not think time is on the sellers’ side. Quite the contrary. When you look at some recent examples of what’s sold this year and compare selling price to original asking price, I think buyers can be excused for making “insulting” offers – there is nothing insulting abut offering fair market value. Disappointing, perhaps, but not insulting.

I have taken some steps out of the bidding process to save everyone time, however. Before we begin, I call the listing agent and say something like, “I have an all – cash buyer who can close in two weeks, no contingencies. He’s looking to pay somewhere in the mid – $4s. Is that something your client would be interested in?” If she says no, it’s on to another property. And oddly enough, all of those house owners who aren’t interested still have their house for sale. I wonder why?

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Does coaching improve SAT scores?

1957: Stanley Kaplan refines his technique

1957: Stanley Kaplan refines his technique

This study says it does not.

 As one of those idiot savants who can do well on any multiple – guess test and a No. 2 pencil I’m agnostic, but it seems to me that a few weeks of cramming with vocabulary flash cards can’t make up for 15 years of not reading. Math may be another matter, as that subject always eluded me. I do know that when I taught LSAT tests for Kaplan, students either got the logic that formed the basis for half the questions or they didn’t. Sometimes a light would go on and that’s all the student needed, most often, the lights would remain dimmed. But I was probably a lousy teacher, because the logical reasoning seemed intuitive and I had difficulty passing that intuition on.

It did seem a lot less stressful when I was taking these damn things in the late 60s and early 70s. Show up on a Saturday, no one was coached, live or die, it was all over before noon, as I recall. But I do wish real life were as simple as the PSATS, SATS and LSATS. A life coach would be nice, too.

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Chris Dodd; “I’ll give you a law you like and two weeks at my Irish cottage – please?”

No one in Connecticut will give him money any more so Dodd meets secretly with “payday lenders’ to solicit funds.

Of all the Senators facing reelection in 2010, Connecticut’s Chris Dodd is clearly the most vulnerable. He’s deep in the pocket of an industry (finance, hedge funds) that no  longer has the money to bankroll him, he’s tied to the AIG bonus brouhaha and he made a quixotic run for President that did not endear him to residents of his own state.

Desperate for funds, Dodd has now turned to the absolute dregs of the financial industry: payday lenders.

And what’s more, it appears that the fundraising event was designed to look like an industry dinner that members of the Online Lenders Assocation (OLA) just happened to be at.

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More professionals at work

72 Laddins Rock

72 Laddins Rock

This is a well built house on a rather busy street but at the right price, decent shelter. It was purchased new for $1.3  million in 2004and when it was relisted for $1.850 in FFebruary 2008 I suggested that it wouldn’t fetch that price. For sharing that opinion in print, I was chastised by a the listing agent for “talking-down” the property. The agent seems to confuse, as does my little brother Gideon, the power of this blog – nil – with the power of the market place. Or not – perhaps there were dozens of buyers eager for this house who were turned off when I said it was over-priced. Whatever, three agents and lots of price cuts later, it’s now asking $1.275 and still hasn’t sold.  And, while I hate t rub salt in the wound, I don’t think 2004’s price is going to be effective in the current market.

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Professionals at work

From the Connecticut MLS website (not Greenwich’s)

Please Respect Foreclosed Properties
We have recently begun receiving complaints from listing agents about damage being done to foreclosed properties.  
The damage appears to be the result of showing agents or their clients attempting to determine the extent of preexisting damage in the property. 
Regardless of a property’s condition, no one has the right to enlarge holes in walls, remove insulation or otherwise modify any listed property without first obtaining the seller’s permission.
Please Respect Foreclosed Properties.

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Little house on the Prairie

Lonely Man

Lonely Man

A condo at 40 Sound View sold today for the astonishing sum of $3.525 million, quite a bit higher than the asked for price of $3.350. I assume some extras were added to account for the higher price, but I also note that the contract to buy this place was signed in June, 2008. Selling broker, Chris Finlay. I wonder if he’ll move in too so that his client isn’t all alone in the complex. I also wonder whether the buyer isn’t just a little cheesed that he signed up for this place last June, before the unfortunate events of the fall.

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Where’s the real estate discussion?

Well, as of 10:35, there is none. No contracts reported, no sales, a couple of inconsequential price cuts. Is there something interesting in the pipeline? If not, that will be interesting in itself.

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If he’s so smart, why is he living in Cloud Coo-Coo Land?

Gets 40 MPG, until it doesn't

Gets 40 MPG, until it doesn't

 

Obama says boosting fuel efficiency won’t involve a trade-off between death and gas savings. Other’s disagree.

USA Today:

The Obama administration’s sweeping fuel-economy and emissions initiative announced Tuesday reopens a fierce debate over tradeoffs between fuel economy and auto safety.

The government says no tradeoff exists, because nothing in the new rules would force automakers to sell more small cars, which are more dangerous in crashes than larger ones. But some safety experts think otherwise.

“The deadlines are so tight that downsizing will be a tempting compliance strategy” for automakers, says John Graham, the former rulemaking chief in the Office of Management and Budget.

 The plan requires automakers to sell cars that average 35.5 miles-per-gallon by 2016, a little more and a lot sooner than current law. It has been heralded as a brilliant solution to the nettlesome mix of problems related to fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The move is also an example of the clout environmentalists have with the Obama administration and comes as automakers’ dire financial straits are forcing safety to a back burner. It raises the risk that cash-strapped automakers will take the fastest and cheapest route to building more fuel-efficient vehicles: Make them smaller and lighter. Further, as General Motors and Chrysler rely on federal bailout money for survival, they are ill-positioned — and disinclined — to fight proposals that some say may not be just dangerously costly, but simply dangerous.

The National Academy of Sciences, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Congressional Budget Office and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have separately concluded in multiple studies dating back about 20 years that fuel-economy standards force automakers to build more small cars, which has led to thousands more deaths in crashes annually. Even though the standards were updated in recent years to reduce the incentive for automakers to sell more small cars by allowing different fuel-economy targets for different vehicles, the fastest way to make cars more fuel-efficient is to make them smaller.

Some safety experts worry that the administration’s green focus could reverse progress made in reducing the highway death toll. The fatality rate in car crashes reached its lowest ever in 2007 and is projected to drop even lower for 2008 — to 1.28 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.

President Obama this month withdrew the name of his nominee to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, longtime safety advocate Charles “Chuck” Hurley, after an outcry from environmentalists over Hurley’s statements linking fuel-economy rules to highway deaths.

The Obama administration maintains the new fuel standards can be met without forcing more small cars into the market.

“Because every (size) category has to get more efficient, if the soccer mom wants to buy her minivan, it will be a more fuel-efficient minivan. If someone wants to buy a big SUV, it will be a more fuel-efficient SUV,” said Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

She said companies can use advanced technologies to improve fuel efficiency without dramatically changing their fleets.

This is what passes for reason in Washington: have a dream, demonize anyone who throws a little cold water on that dream, like poor Mr. Hurley who is president of MADD, for goodness sake, and simply deny reality. It’s happening with solar power, wind power, the anti-nuke movement, and so forth. We can spend with abandon, pour money into welfare, suck money from the productive sector and still have a vibrant economy with free medical care and sundaes for all. The next decade is going to be too much fun to miss.

UPDATE: Pulled up in Old Greenwich

truck_house

 

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And we thought they’d stopped logging in California – Timber!

Megan McArdle says we should let California go bankrupt. When you consider that if the legislature had just limited the expansion of  state spending to match population increase and inflation they’d be sitting on a $17 billion surplus today, I think it’s high time to wave goodbye to Sacramento and wish them luck. It’ll never happen, of course, what with Obama, Pelosi and the entire Democratic party watching their dream of unlimited spending and taxes only on the rich slide into the Pacific, but it would be nice if it did.

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