Daily Archives: June 23, 2009

Your money or his life!

2 dogThe Governor of California is obviously a fan of National Lampoon, and so in his endless quest to get federal bailout funds he’s threatened to close all public parks, slash the school budget (good!) and now, I kid you not, kill puppies! Here’s a better idea, Arnold: close up Sacramento and send everybody home for three years. Eliminate anything to do with art in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Line up every state worker in rows and decimate them. Then line up the survivors and do it again. repeat as necessary. Sell the state helicopter. You need anything else, give me a call – I’ve got lots of helpful ideas.

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We’re going to keep at this until we get it right

Admitting utter failure in solving homicides in Greenwich, Police Chief Ridberg has announced a new “back to basics campaign.”

Following a focus of its efforts on enforcing state seat belt laws last month, the Greenwich Police Department is focusing on red light violations in June. Patrol officers and the Traffic Enforcement Unit will be concentrating their efforts across town to enforce signal lights. Violations carry a $124 fine.

“We did cellphones in April, seatbelts in May and now we’re onto red lights,” Ridberg said at a news conference today. “We moving up the ladder in degrees of difficulty. By the time school starts in September we’ll be ready to tackle enforcing helmet laws on those kids riding their bikes to Central Middle. As we go along, our patrol men will gain confidence in themselves and their problem solving abilities. The finale to all this is a retreat we’ll be attending in October – the whole force, to upstate Connecticut ,where we’ll practice falling into each other’s arms, building rope bridges and singing Kumbaya round a real campfire. By November, Murder, Inc. better watch out – Greenwich won’t be the whipping boy for those guys ever again.”

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Catherine Hooper’s desperate plea: “Let my people go!”

Ruth can’t get her hair dyed at her usual salon, Mark and Andy are despised by their peers in New York and Greenwich and Bernie, poor Bernie, is scared that someone wants him behind bars for more than twelve years. All this tragedy is what no doubt prompted Andy’s main squeeze, Catherine Hoops Hooper to call this blog with a message of compassion and love. “They’ve suffered enough”, she told us, “even Minnesota Peg agrees.” It’s time to forgive, forget and let bygones be bygones.” Who could disagree? But Hoops, if Andy does lose all his money and you still want to go to the Keys this winter, let’s talk.

See? Swim away, little fishy. Bye bye!

See? Swim away, little fishy. Bye bye!

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God bless the NAR

The National Association of Realtors represents – surprise! – Realtors, and as such, it’s always got our back. Today, its chief economist was on TV explaining that house prices aren’t really all that low, its those darn appraisers jabbing sticks in the spokes by using distress sales and foreclosures as comparisons. Look – take a spec house on, oh, say, Beechcroft Lane. Is it worth its $7.9 million asking price? You damn well bet it is! But some appraiser who, in the words of our NAR, is “from out of town and unfamiliar with a neighborhood’s value” is going to wander directly across the street, find another spec house of exactly the same size that sold for $6 million last July and use that sale as a comparable value!Hell, he might even discount that price 30% or so to accommodate the past year’s price drop. Does he know that the sale was by a “distressed” builder? He does not and worse, he doesn’t care. He says he’s “marking to market” when we Realtors know he’s artificially lowering the values of existing houses from their “real” worth. Who defines real worth? Sellers and their listing agents, who’d you think?

If you have trouble understanding this concept, blame a poor education. Plato explained it all, what with those guys in a cave (that would be the myopic appraisers) who see shadows of the perfect ideal. Realtors are the Platos in this scenario. Just ask us.

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Walter Noel lost $7.5 billion with Bernie – this guy sucked in $5.1 billion

And now he’s being sued by the Madoff bankruptcy Trustee. Seems that Jeffrey Picower may have known what mischievous Bernie was up to all along. Bad boy, Jeffrey.

In the days and weeks following the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi sheme, the foundations funded by media-shy Jeffrey Picower  – The Picower Foundation at MIT and The Picower Institute for Medical Research – were considered some of Madoff’s biggest victims.  But, as it turns out, their generous benefactor may have known about the scheme all along, to the tune of $5.1 billion in returns from his various Madoff accounts.

Hey Walt, maybe you can ask this guy for some of your money back – seems as though what you lost ended up in his pocket.

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If French Road isn’t your cup of tea

CognewaughHere at Fudrucker & Fontanski Discount Realty we understand: you’ve got $12.7 million burning a hole in your pocket but what with Obama’s need for bailout funds and Al Gore’s demand that you help him fuel his houseboat with bio-diesel, do you really feel comfortable spending so much on yourself? We didn’t think so. Here’s an alternative on 85 Cognewaugh Road. $819,00, marked down 12% from its original asking price of $929,000. It’s clean, bright and looks very nice. It has the usual Cognewaugh backyard – rocks and stuff – but I think it’s looking decent in its new price. The sellers bought it for $420,000 in 1992 dollars  and renovated it in 2003. Maybe an offer in the 7′s? I think you could get a good deal here.

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But why would it do that?

 Bloomberg: Wilson sees S&P correction if focus shifts to “bad news”.

Here’s a fun chart from Zerohedge – mass layoffs accelerating.

BLS Mass Layoff Events - june 22

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Obama golfs and media swoons

The two Bush’s weren’t so fortunate – while Obama’s outings show a cool, collected leader, the two Bush’s own excursions demonstrated a callousness and frivolity that turned the stomach of every proper-thinking reporter. Hmmm.

jesus golfs

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Mariani Spec houses up for rent

As reported here earlier, the rumor going around is that Mark Mariani refinanced his unsold properties on Dairy and Doverton (and, perhaps, Meadowcroft) or sold them, with the intention of renting them out until the market improves. Dairy was pulled from the sale list and put up for rent last mnth, now 27 Doverton is also for rent. Meadowcroft is still available for purchase but I, at least, wouldn’t rush on that one.

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You never know

14 Dewart Road (off North Street) has found a buyer – asking price was $2.2 million. It enjoyed a fair amount of babbling brook noise from the Merritt and its two acres were split in two by a real babbling brook so neither I nor the clients I showed it to were sold on the site. But someone was. I’d say that this proves there’s an ass for every stall, but someone might think I was criticizing their judgment. Far from it – Dewart is considered a good location and it certainly supports some very large houses. The Nine West shoe guy’s kid has about a zillion acres across the street, for instance, and, assuming he didn’t lose everything to Bernie Madoff (he lost a bundle, we hear), he’ll keep on there.

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Clusterstock – housing rebound?

Here’s their chart of the day.

clusterchart062309-existing-home-sales

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42 Birchwood goes to contract

This house was built on land purchased for $2.1 million back in 2002. It was placed for sale in 2007 for $4.995 and eventually dropped a million to $3.995. Today it found a buyer. Even subtracting the price paid for the land, the sellers should make out alright here. This seems to be evidence that, maybe, buyers and sellers are coming together. Buyers can appreciate a million dollar price cut but no longer insist on a distress sale price, and the sellers have had to water down their own dreams of huge profits. May this process continue.

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I blame Bill Raveis

Raveis.com is the best web site in the business, I think, but I never really touted it when I worked for them. Now that I don’t, I can, without being accused of not being objective. Check out this link to current statistics for Greenwich - sales, inventory, median prices, etc. The one caveat: watch for percentage of sales to ask prices, because Raveis is at the mercy of the Greenwich Board of Realtors for this number and the Board, not surprisingly, prefers to use the last asking price rather than the original asking price. Even so, the figure is eye-opening, but if would be really dramatic if the bard used true numbers.

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Stop blaming bloggers when your ridiculously priced house doesn’t sell

11 Mountain Wood Dr

11 Mountain Wood Dr

This 1978 colonial on Mountain Wood was first put up for sale in May, 2007, for $6.250 million. The house, while custom built 30 years before, showed its age badly and was never, ever going to fetch anything close to that price, in my opinion. I didn’t mention it in this blog but the market must agree with my assessment because it still hasn’t sold, despite changing agents three times and taking five price cuts. Today it’s been marked down again, to $3.4 million. That’s perhaps where it should have started back in 2007 but I doubt it’s low enough now. I think of this as pretty much a land sale, although the house is just fine if you’re okay with low ceilings and a 1970′s feel. What’s a two -acre lot in the mid-country worth? About $2.5 million. By coincidence, the 70% rule pegs this at $2,493,050.

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In a recession? Jobless rate alarming? Make it more expensive to hire!

Mired in the worst unemployment slump in the nation and on the verge of bankruptcy, California has joined other Democrat – controlled states to expand the days off employers must grant employees. The latest – school play days. No doubt because Democrat politicians have never had a real job in their lives – it’s an experience that ruins them forever for dreaming Demmerkratically – they seem to think that this kind of provision costs employers nothing. The play-going parent who doesn’t show up for work isn’t paid for that day, goes the logic, so what’s the beef?

The beef is that you can’t run a business not knowing who will show up for work that day. Volvo tried that, with a government mandate that guarantees unlimited sick leave and the result is that the Japanese build a car in 12 hours, the Swedes 60. The squareheads aren’t that much slower, of course, but Volvo has to schedule many more workers each day in the hope that some will report for duty.

Same thing here. The more difficult you make it to employ someone, the more you intrude on a business’s daily operations, the less likely that business is to expand. Or, in California’s case, the more likely a business is to flee to another state.

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It’s the children who will suffer

Boo hoo. Just as our own Greenwich Police Department fired school crossing guards when they were told to rein in their budget, California politicians and their allies in the press are focusing on the sorrow and the pain about to be inflicted on poor little school kids out in the Garden State? Sunshine State? Prune and Tofu State? Whatever, here’s someone who says it just ain’t so.

There’s no easier way to draw attention to your budgetary plight than to hack (or threaten to hack) education spending.

The thought of children squeezed into a one-room schoolhouse like sardines (not pictured), eating sugary lunches and learning about whales for the third time this semester (because the school didn’t have the budget to buy any new material) is just too much for anyone to take.

But education tends to be a big line item, and when you’re looking to flense the budget, it’s a good candidate for cuts.

Matt Welch points to this AP article about the coming “deep budget cuts” and the effect it will have on education. It includes lines like this:

“California used to lead the nation in education,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during a recent visit to San Francisco. “Honestly, I think California has lost its way, and I think the long-term consequences of that are very troubling.”

Yeesh.

But as Welch points out, talking about cuts in education spending makes as much sense as talking about banker pay:

Not mentioned anywhere in the entire 1,093-word article: “[S]pending for kindergarten through 12th grade education in the Governor’s proposed budget for 2008-09 [was] $7.4 billion higher than it was five years ago – and average daily attendance during that same period has declined by 74,000 students.” Nor is there uttered the phrase “Proposition 98,” which is a 20-year-old law that locks in K-14 education spending at 40 percent of California’s budget. Considering that the California budget between 1990-91 and 2008-2009 grew by an average of 5.91 percent, compared to an inflation+population growth rate of 4.38 percent, that has resulted in two decades of robust education funding increases.

Also not mentioned in the article are the $48.9 billion in school construction/maintenance bonds passed this decade alone (at a time of decreasing enrollment), or that firing teachers is a perennial California scare story, one that almost never results in significant amounts of teachers actually getting fired. (This is due in part to the fact that in many districts, it’s nigh on impossible to fire a teacher.) Might this latter factor contribute to California’s wretched K-12 academic performance? The article does not dip a toe in any such analysis, relying instead on a two-pronged explanation of slashed funding and under-educatable immigrants… Read the whole thing >

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Back from French Rd – it’s beautiful

Who knows what a new mansion should sell for these days but the one at38 French Road at least looks as though it should cost a lot. It’s a Georgian made from antique brick , set way back on the lot down a long driveway and, to my mind, will only look better in twenty years, as opposed to many of our new spec homes that are already looking silly and outdated. The rooms are beautifully proportioned, by which I mean the architect eschewed the airplane hangar look, and the quality of construction appears to be superb. If there’s a quibble here, I’d say that the back yard is a wee bit small for this price range – no nude sunbathing by the pool unless you don’t mind shocking your neighbors, but you aren’t going to get fifteen acres this close to town – life is compromise.

So will it sell? It certainly should, and, at the very least, it will kill other spec houses in its range (and there are a number of those). This one is the cream of that crop.

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Existing home sales up, prices down. Gee, cause and effect?

Sales of pe-existing houses are up 2.7% but that’s nationally, where foreclosures are driving prices down (17%). Greenwich has yet to enjoy either phenomenon on a wide scale.

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Well, he said he was sorry!

Bernie Madoff thinks twelve years would be an appropriate punishment for his transgressions. Or less. I’m going with the “or less” option. The poor old guy has lost the respect of his peers, the friendship of Walt, and that cell he’s in lacks windows. How cruel do we want to be? I mean, aren’t we sending terrorists to Bermuda and tropical Pacific islands? Does Bernie deserve less? Besides, he can fly there on his private jet and save us taxpayers money.

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Pending sale

46 Terrace

46 Terrace

This modest little house sold in the 900s in 2003, was gutted, expanded and renovated that year and resold for $1.775 in ’04. It sold again in 2007 for $1.925 and that pretty much marked the high water mark for real estate in this cycle. That buyer listed it for just $1.825 last year, marked it down to $1.525 recently and now has a contract. Sales price not yet reported.

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