Daily Archives: May 28, 2009

Fatal mistake: confusing fads with permanent change

Organic dairy farmers going bust as consumers switch back to regular. I spent many summers in northern Vermont and came to know and like the local dairy farmers, all impoverished, in the Vermont of the 1960s. So this story of them being flattened again after stretching to go organic brings sorrow, not glee. But the whole organic craze was a fad, no different than LaCoste shirts. In fact, the milk was bought by the same girls who busted LaCoste when they abandoned the brand, now grown up into mommies.

You might wonder whether the same fickleness will affect the earth-warmers when their electricity costs quadruple and the price of a new car doubles. But so far, there is no law requiring the purchase of organic food – there is for the global warming bunko, though, with more coming. Should be fun to watch.

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No, the potato goes in front!

oldies_speedo(Old Polish joke – sorry, couldn’t resist.) Ahmadinejad hands out potatoes for votes.

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Cost per square foot

A builder friend recently told me that he’s bringing in a new custom job at less than $300 per square foot, thanks to all the discounts he’s getting from subs and material suppliers. That’s for an absolutely top-of-the-line house, with pool. If you consider that 75 Dandy Drive sold for $542 sq, ft, Shore Road is looking for $850 and so on (these prices assume no cost for land so obviously …) this might be an excellent time to build new. Especially because the price of land is so cheap now – there are no builders competing for it and few end users. Just saying ….

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75 Dandy Drive

Excitement in the woods!

Excitement in the woods!

This 1965 house on an acre was listed last August for $1.795, went to contract April 24th and sold today for $1.215 million. 2,200 sq. feet or something close to that. Hmmm.

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User’s review of the Kindle 2

Not mine, a columnist for the New York Times. I’m still finding my way around mine but this guy’s experience seems similar to my own. Mostly positive. Besides storing 1,500 books (I have about 9) there i the speed factor that’s really cool. It crossed my mind recently that, despite good intentions, I had never read U.S. Grant’s autobiography. Three minutes and $3.99 later, it was on my Kindle and I was happily engaged. Neato.

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Guide to the mortgage meltdown

BusinessInsider has reprinted a series of charts prepared by Whitney Tilson who has a book out on the subject. If the book is as clear as these charts are, it should be an illuminating read. Check them out.

And here’s Mr. Tilson’s own website. Don’t miss the chart on home values – scary.

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45 Valleywood sales price

This house, listed for $985,000 last December, went to contract last month and sold today for $835,000. That’s not bad – 85% of asking price, but I was amused by the notation on the original listing that “Purchaser must be qualified for $1,000,000 or more”. I guess he didn’t have to be.

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But why? How?

Christian LaCroix has filed for bankruptcy and I just don’t understand.

lacroixlacroix II

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Hello, summer?

We’re just a little past noon on Thursday so there’s still time for things to change but so far this week we have had exactly four houses go to contract, none over $900,000. There are certainly plenty of buyers out there and I expect to report a contract well over that $900,000 mark soon, but I think we’ve seen the end of the spring market. What killed it aborning? I blame sellers, who in the face of buyer resistance to their asking prices refused to drop down to the market. My guess is that sellers saw the small flurry of activity the past few weeks and ignoring my warning that they were witnessing a tiny version of the spring market, delayed and truncated, thought that the glory days were back or soon would be. Well, the sellers were wrong. Funny thing, ha ha: at least three sellers rejected one of my buyer’s offers, saying that they’d keep it rather than sell at the offered price. Well, we found something better, at a better price, so I hope those sellers enjoy their property.

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Another good thing about short selling

It imposes punishment far more effectively and quickly than all the posturing and investigations of Dick Blumenfeld combined. David Einhorn has declared war on and is shorting Moodys.

David Einhorn, the feared investor who made a killing shorting Lehman Brothers, is now shorting Moody’s (MCO), whose largest shareholder is Warren Buffett.

Einhorn says the firm has no value, that nobody takes it seriously anymore and that it blew all its credibility with AIG (AIG).

As was made clear when the banks blew up, Moodys (and to be fair, its competitors) stopped being useful long ago when they changed their business plan from charging investors for ratings and accepted their pay instead from the issuers of securities. They probably were busy last week making extra money in Copenhagen. So Mr. Einhorn, you go, boy – kill ’em.

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Update on 186 Shore Road

Commenting on my first post about this property (below) a reader asked why I “waste my time viewing obviously overpriced listings”. Generally, I don’t – if I see a new listing that’s light years from what the street it’s on will support, I skip it, saving it for when the seller snaps out of it. But this property isn’t in that category – not entirely, anyway, and besides, it’s been built and listed by friends of mine, so off I went (the offer of free lunch might have played a small role in that decision, too.)

And I’m glad I saw it. The “water glimpses” I envisioned turn out to be great, sweeping views – across and down the neighbors’ driveways, admittedly, but the view is protected and it’s very nice. Stamford Harbor’s light house is part of the scene, which adds a little something. And the house itself is one of the best house for entertaining I’ve seen. An entire glass wall folds away, revealing those water views and opening to a terrace, with fireplace, that wends its way back to the kitchen – dining area so that the ground floor serves as a really cool party central. The bedrooms are nice; all but one has a water view, and decks and balconies abound.

What would I price it at? I’ve written the number on a scrap of paper and hidden it in my desk drawer or I would have if the Ikea special Frankie Futter provided me had a drawer. As it is, I’ll just say that I wouldn’t have been as confident of market conditions as my friends (did I mention these guys are my friends?) are, but they have enough experience and judgement that I’m certainly not going to gainsay them (publicly).  So we’ll just see what Mr. Market says and I’ll report that news when it happens.

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You don’t get the Nobel for brains

Polar Bear Patrol

Polar Bear Patrol

Anyone who doubted the the intellectual strength of Nobel Prize recipients after Al Gore got his gong must really be scratching his head after Obama’s new Energy Secretary, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Chu, suggested that we paint all our roofs white to prevent global warming. This is not only silly – imagine the glare and the heat generated from so much sunlight bouncing around, it overlooks a rather obvious problem: roofs get dirty. Of course, in Obama world, this may be a feature, not a bug, because it will provide employment for the otherwise-unemployable while using up stimulus funds. Here’s a gang now, preparing to scrub a once-white California roof. Given Los Angeles’ smog conditions, these guys will be back again next week.

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Well this should be interesting

186 Shore Road

186 Shore Road

186 Shore Road used to be occupied by a nifty little cape, and I would often get inquiries from my clients asking what they might be able to buy it for. I would explain that, while the small house was within their price range, the land it sat on was way beyond their budget.

But not beyond the budget of local builder Mark O’Brien, who tore down the cape and started this one, only to change his mind about living in town. Last heard, Mark sold his own waterfront property for a huge sum and has taken his family to New Zealand, which makes me jealous as hell. His former partners at Greenwich Land Co. , excellent builders in their own right, took over and finished the project and have listed it today for $8 million. That’s pretty daring, I think.

We have seen $8 million reached on Shore Road recently but that was for direct waterfront with spectacular views east down Long Island Sound. I haven’t seen the views from this one (open house is later this morning) but I wouldn’t think there’s anything but water glimpses – not the same thing. And while it’s true that, after sunset when Tod’s is closed, Shore Road is transformed into a quiet dead-end street, it is quite different during the day. And this house is right on that road.

So will someone pay $8 million for the convenience of being able to walk to the beach, even if there’s a steady stream of traffic outside ten hours a day? I guess we’ll find out.

UPDATE: It was 200 Shore road that sold a year ago, $7.750 million on an $8 million ask, 23 days. But while it’s only a few yards down the road, it’s also directly on the water, and that makes a huge difference, or I would think it would. Here’s the view from 200’s veranda – prettier than a view of Ned Cole bringing busloads of New Haven kids to the beach.

70247_301_65

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