Daily Archives: May 22, 2009

Money still talks, loudly

96 Round Hill Rd

96 Round Hill Rd

Brad Hvolbeck listed this house four days ago for $8.995 million and it’s reported as under contract today. Nice work, and impressive. It sold for $8.575 in 2003 and the new owners renovated it then so I doubt they’re making money on this transaction but the fact that they sold it so quickly shows what can happen when you don’t reach for the stars. It also demonstrates, as the $24 million contract on Stillman Rockefeller’s former house earlier this week did, that Greenwich continues to be a draw. If not enough of a draw to get Mad Money’s desired price of $1,000 sq. ft. for every proper residence, a draw nonetheless.


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Clay is king – or so they say

Walt Noel tries his backhandThe Wall Street Journal says that clay tennis courts and the ability to play on them are now the “in” thing on the professional circuit. The Fountain boys all learned the sport on our backyard grass court, of course, and so we are loathe to defect to such an inferior, even plebeian surface, but for some kinds of people, I’m sure it’s just fine. Foreigners seem to like it, for instance.

I raise the point not to make life easier in Greenwich for swarthy Spaniards but because I occasionally see new spec houses with tennis courts (21 Cornelia Drive comes to mind) and when I do, I wonder what the builder was thinking of.  No one in the history of the world (I exaggerate slightly) has paid extra for a tennis court – they fall into the category, at best, of “nice to have, thanks”, but that’s it. Pools are a love them- or hate them proposition and those who want them won’t buy a house that doesn’t at least have space for one. But a tennis court? I’ve never heard of one being an issue. Some hedge fund types, convinced that their darling will be a tennis prodigy (I suppose they think it will help her get into Harvard) want a court so that Biffy can work out with her personal trainer without distraction or interruption but will they pay extra for one? Not on a bet. Builders would do better to keep the money in their pocket.


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Greenwich Gossip tours the new Hamilton Avenue school

Building by Committee

Building by Committee

He is not impressed.

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Words of wisdom for Greenwich residents, adult and child

Professor Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit: “Nothing is worse for happiness than a cultivated sense of entitlement.”

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Compounded mistakes

1 Charter Oak

1 Charter Oak

Hmm – here’s a project that’s not going well, and no wonder. First of all, the builder, an experienced local boy so who knows what was going through his head, paid $1.5 for the land back in August 2007. Not only was that awful timing, he paid the record amount for the street and previous sales included a house (!). Charter Oak may be, as the listing for this describes, “in the Byram Shore area” but as everyone knows, Byram Shore Road on the waterside is a completely different animal than the landside, and Charter Oak is landside. We’re talking $23 million vs. $1 million, just to give you perspective. 100 feet, $22 million – go figure.

Okay, so he over-paid for the land. Next up, he lists it for $3.2 million last January, or 3X more than anything on the street has sold for before. It’s a wonderful house and some family will be very happy in it but who would pay that much to be a pioneer? No one, apparently, because he eventually, and much too late, lowered the price to $2.995 in March. Today he made another mistake by lowering it again by just $200,000 to $2.765 million. I keep saying this but it can’t hurt to try again: at this price range, buyers have already discounted your offering by at least that much, so if you aren’t getting offers, itsy-bitsy price cuts aren’t going to do it. Go big or stay home, says I.

Oh, and one final mistake? Check out the snow in the picture. On the eve of Memorial Day, I can’t think of a better way of demonstrating that no one, buyers, seller or listing broker, has any interest in this house. Not smart.


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What’s up on Clapboard Ridge?

205 Clapboard

205 Clapboard

Several readers have asked about this place and since I know nothing about it, I thought I’d toss the question to those of you who do. It’s a spec house built on 3 acres of land that sold for $3.4 million in just 7 days back in August, 2004 – if you’re looking for the highwater mark of Greenwich land sales, that was probably it. The builder originally listed it before construction began at $12.250 and after three brokers and four years worked his way down to $7.995, when, on November 12 of last year, it went under contract.

And it’s still under contract. The house certainly seemed finished when I viewed it in, oh, 2006 or so, and I can’t imagine what’s holding up the sale. A number of us are curious because the market was dead in November and we’ve been wondering whether the buyer got a steal or just paid retail for a house he wanted. But we won’t know until he actually buys the thing. Readers with actual knowledge or just fanciful imaginations are encouraged to write in and share their insight.


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Dear Uncle Walt: Thank you for the lovely gift of matching FGG shares. Unfortunately ….

oman writingMrs. John L. Strong, stationers to high society, closes shop.

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Here’s why you check land records

I received the following from a most excellent trial lawyer, Peter Nolan (the fact that he attended law school with me only slightly diminished his skills and aptitudes) concerning a suit he won earlier this year against the owners of 175 Zaccheus Mead Lane. Now I assume that the point in Peter’s writing to me is to put a little pressure on those owners to remedy the situation they’ve been ordered to remedy, but what the heck, the case is real, the facts are accurate, and it does serve as an object lesson for home buyers to make certain they know what they’re buying.

I represent the owners of 167 Zaccheus Meade. Their neighbors at 175 Zaccheus Meade filled in their back yard as part of the construction of a new house in  a tear down scenario, causing severe flooding at my clients property since summer of  2001.   After the usual years of delay we brought the case to a Jury in December and received a $900,005 award against the owners of 175 for trespass.  Their insurance company paid (we settled for $895,000 to avoid the delay of an appeal) and the Court also enjoined the owners of 175 from further trespassing, as set forth in the attached transcript.  In our view they need to install some type of fix at their property, as you can also see from my comments in the attached.
Now without having fixed their property, the owners of 175 are listing their property.  So some unsuspecting buyer may walk in and take a situation where the property they purchase contains a built in condition that causes a trespass.  I suppose if their lawyer does his/her homework they will see notice of our judgment on the land records and at least inquire, but you never know.  If you have any interest in reporting, I would be happy to give you more information or answer any questions you may have.

Hope all continues well despite the market.
Peter M. Nolin
STAMFORD, CT 06901-1026


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This doesn’t seem to be working so well

Fanie Mae “Home-Saver” rescue plan hits 70% foreclosure rate. I doubt anyone in Washington is too worried about this. The point of all our welfare programs is not that they don’t work – we’ve known that at least since the failure of the War on Poverty – but whether our intentions are good. And what demonstrates a good intention better than confiscating billions of dollars from one group of citizens and bestowing it on another?

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From Tucson, evidence that sellers are just as irrational west of the Mississippi

Yup, here’s a guy with an unsold house who figures a $6,000 price cut will show his steely resolve and sell the house. I think he’s wrong.

this oughta do it

… on the market 6 months at $995,000, with nary a price drop, today, the owners of 6622 N LONGFELLOW Dr seem to have come to the realization that something’s gotta give. And so they have, perhaps after much hand wringing, dropped their asking price to $989,000.


As I’m scribbling this, a client of mine, for whom I’d made an offer some months ago on this house, an offer that was rejected, sent me the following email offering to write this one up for me.  And of course I accepted. So from a ready, willing and able home buyer,

You should blog this one.  I’ll write it for you.

“Big” price change on Longfellow.  This is one of those done just to
get some attention as it was only a $6,000 price drop.  I had clients
that really loved this house, but weren’t going to overpay for it.
They made an initial offer of more than 85% of the list price and were prepared to go quite a bit higher to make a deal, but incredibly, their offer was REJECTED. No counter offer, just REJECTED. Despite their willingness to go higher, they weren’t going to bid against themselves, especially for a house that at the time was on the market for about four months with an owner that was being unreasonable.

Fast forward and it’s almost June, my clients have found their dream house in an area they like better with one of the best lots in the Foothills.  Meanwhile, the owners of the house on Longfellow are holding firm waiting for that one buyer to magically appear and
essentially holding firm at their price after six months on the market despite all the data to the contrary.  Now they have to deal with a house down the road on Longfellow that has 1,000 more square feet and the same price.  When that one goes to contract it will almost certainly prevent their home from appraising even if they do get what they are looking for.

Footnote to the story that should be a lesson to the owners of this
house the next time they get an offer that is “insulting”. My clients
also made a bid of about 85% of the list price on the house they ended up getting.  But the sellers on that one weren’t insulted, they made a counter and ended up getting 98% of what they asked for.

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Kids will do the darndest things – when brainwashed by their teachers

hitler youthEngland is already encouraging children to spy on and report their parents for wasting energy and not recycling properly.  Now comes an even better idea, urging resentful neighbors to rat out those “living beyond their means”.  This latter idea has a real future in America, I think – we already have a party in power whipping up class warfare and resentment of those more successful than us, so who wouldn’t want to make their lives miserable by diming them to the IRS?

And we need not stop here. As collectivism takes hold and we all must answer to society for our behavior, we can report that fat guy next door who’s always finishing off a quart of Hagen Daaze, the bimbo who won’t wear a bicycle helmet because it ruins her hairdo and the eco-creep who still uses incandescents for porch lighting. What fun! And coming our way soon, I’d wager.


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Contracts, year-to-year

We’ve sen quite a drop in in sales activity in the past 12 months, as some of you may be aware. Here are the monthly contract numbers, showing that decline.

September ’06 – 33

September ’07 -33

September ’08 – 24

October ’06 – 35

October ’07 -33

October ’08 12

Nov. ’06 – 62

Nov. ’07 – 39

Nov. ’08 – 11

Dec. ’06 – 49

Dec. ’07 – 23

Dec. ’08 – 7

January ’06 – 38

jan. ’07  – 40

Jan. ’08 – 27

Jan. ’09 – 9

February ’06 – 57

Feb. ’07 – 52

Feb. ’08 – 38

Feb. ’09 – 14

March ’06 – 73

March ’07 – 92

March ’08 – 39

March ’09 – 12

April ’06 – 65

April ’07 – 74

April ’08 – 44

April ’09 – 25

May ’06 – 46

May ’07 – 41

May ’08 – 32

May ’09 – 23

Historically, March and April see the most activity. That obviously didn’t happen this year, but it may be encouraging that we’re down “only” 50% for May from past good years. Some brokers see that as evidence that the market is picking up and we’re climbing back and I can’t predict the future so perhaps they’re right. Another possibility is that the buyers who in the past would have committed in the earlier months held off out of fear where the market was heading and, sensing or hoping  that we were bottoming, moved on a house in May. So are we seeing the normal March/April market appear, albeit cut in half, in May and we can expect the usual summer shut down to return, or are we seeing pent up demand such that we’ll stay busy all summer? I’m going with the first scenario, but that’s just a guess. June will tell.



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Suicide, not murder

Another case solved by the Greenwich Police Department: the Colorado Springs man who died in a one-car collision late Sunday night/ early Monday morning slashed his neck before driving his car into a bridge abutment, the medical examiner has ruled.

Although De­­puty Medical Examiner Alex­ander Milovanovic would not discuss the specific details that led him to his conclusion, he clarified that Corna suffered only one knife cut across his neck. Port Chester police initially reported that Corna had suffered multiple knife wounds.

Corna died early Monday in Port Chester, N.Y., after he crossed the centerline of U.S. Highway 1 in a rented car and crashed into the foundation of a railroad bridge. Milovanovic has said either the crash or the cut could have been the fatal injury.

“I understand how much pain this tragedy brought to all his friends, but we (made the determination) with reliable information, and everything is consistent with suicide,” Milovanovic said. “This very incident is plain, simple suicide.”

Milovanovic said he reached his conclusion based on his examination of Corna and evidence provided by the Port Chester Police Department.

“I would not place any death in a category without having evidence. I have to defend my decision,” he said. “In fact, for a suicide determination we need something that points that this was a deliberate act.”

An obviously relieved GPD Chief Ridberg crowed about his force’s performance. “We said it was a suicide all along, didn’t we? I remind you, we have no murders in Greenwich – lots of suicides, for some reason, but no murders.” The Chief announced that the Glenville Task Force, a posse comprised of the Glenville School’s First Grade, was being disbanded and that Officer Joe Bolton would return to his duties directing pedestrian traffic on Greenwich Avenue. “It’s back to doing our real job,” Ridberg said.

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