Daily Archives: June 24, 2009

Greenwich Time columnist: Our schools suck

He doesn’t paint an appealing picture of the performance of our students. We seem to have finally selected a competent superintendent so perhaps that will help. Whatever develops, if you’re a homeowner, you have a stake in this issue because Greenwich real estate values depend to a great extent on our image of providing a quality education to our kids. If we don’t, home prices will reflect that.

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U.S. wins metric football game

The Times calls it the team’s greatest victory ever. To me, watching soccer is about as exciting as watching a hockey game, which is to say, I don’t (but the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. in 1980? was pretty cool).

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Not worth a Continental

California to start paying creditors with I.O.U.s. In 1778 our countrymen paid debts with paper promises as part of an effort to wrest liberty from the British and found a new country. The Governator and his fellow pols in California are fighting to preserve a bloated, over-paid work force of state and municipal unions. Some things have not improved over time.

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Greenwich murders and other grisly tales

Mention of the Frankel “suicide” at 895 Lake reminds me that an out-of-town buyer recently inquired about two houses that were for sale. I had to tell him that one (Wykam Hill) was for sale because the owner was cooling his heels in jail after throwing an old man to the pavement and killing him and the other (Dairy Road) was the scene of another suicide, where Andy Kissel bound his hands behind his back and stabbed himself eight times. I didn’t mention Frankel, or the poor guy shot dead in his swimming pool, or even Martha Moxley, yet my buyer still seemed to get the impression that Greenwich is a more interesting town than he had thought. That it is.

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Odd moments in pricing

895 Lake Avenue, the contemporary where Mr. Frankel the insurance fraud lost a girlfriend to hanging (declared a suicide by the Greenwich police, of course), was purchased by BSF Builders last year and put back up for sale when they decided against building a new house. They marked it up, naturally, because builders always thing land is more valuable having sat in their inventory, even if only for a month, and it hasn’t sold. So, they’ve been trying to rent it, for $10,000. That was also unsuccessful so today that listing was deleted and expunged from our records with a new listing, for $12,000, replacing it. BSF is a very successful company and I wouldn’t question their business judgement, but it’s my impression that rents have been falling, not increasing.

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More speculation on 480 North Street

As posted earlier, 480 North Street was reported sold today for $4.725 million, or $225,000 more than it sold for in August last year. The house has sat empty since that first sale, priced by the new buyer at $5.3 million and going nowhere. Until today,which gives rise to three possible scenarios that I can think of.

1. A buyer (from out of town?) views it, signs a contract for it Monday and closes Wednesday morning without any inspections or even opening the pool, and pays a premium for the place because he thinks its value has gone up since August 2008. I don’t think this is likely.

2. A sophisticated investor agrees to pay Patriot Bank $3.5 million for a defaulted mortgage plus $1.250 more, and in return gets the right to pursue the loan arrears and a house that couldn’t sell for $5.3 and is probably worth less than $4.5. I know of no sophisticated investors who would make such a bad deal, so let’s move on to …

3. A sophisticated investor buys Patriot’s note at a heavily – discounted rate – $1.45 million?) and receives the note and the house, which he reports as “sold” for the face amount of the note, the arrearages and who knows what else – maybe that pool. In that way, he can relist the property for some number above $4.725 million and not have to deal with obnoxious buyers who bid just above what he actually paid for it. I personally think that’s what happened here, but if any readers have a better idea, go for it.

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Price it, sell it

6 Loading Rock

6 Loading Rock

I know I’m an evil ogre who tears down homeowners’ property values but trust me on this: pricing is not that difficult. This house on Loading Rock is a well built house, no back yard to speak of but the community beach right across the way. It’d be a great place to live, but when it came on January, 2008 priced at $3.695 million, what was I or any other agent supposed to do with it? Sell it? At a price never even approached in that neighborhood? Of course not, so it sat for 18 months, eating up the builder’s money, until he finally got it down where it should have been in the first place, $2.650 million. Now it has a buyer and Joanne Gorka has him – good for her, because Joanne’s a real keeper.

But any one of my children could have been given the price history on this street and a tour of the house and done a better job pricing it than its builder. Yours could, too. Ego and delusions are expensive luxuries in this business.

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Tearing up the pea patch

Pretty quiet days in real estate, for the most part. I refuse to get excited about the sale of 480 North Street for $4.750 million, $250,000 more than it was purchased for last year because I don’t believe its reported price, even if a fine firm like Coldwell Banker says so. It is possible that this house is the only exception in Greenwich that actually increased in value this year but I’m from Missouri.

More typical is the new listing right up the road, 510 North. Listed by David Ogilvy for $11.5 million in 2002 (yes, we had wacky prices even then), it languished until 2004 when Sally Malone got hold of the listing, cut the price to $9.450 and finally, in 2005, sold it for $6.550. Today it’s back, asking $5.995. The seller obviously made a poor choice in brokers – if he wanted to make money on this deal, he should have chosen the miracle workers at Coldwell Banker.

Another new listing that won’t set the landscape on fire, now, is some new construction at 29 Old Wagon Road, asking $1.895. I’m fairly certain that the best that street has achieved was $1.995 and that was for far more house at a far better time. But there’s hope – if Patriot Bank holds the construction note on this project, it may very well end up being reported at $3.2 million, and won’t that make the neighbors on Old Wagon happy!

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Officers and directors of Patriot National Bank

If you’re interested, they’re here.

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Why bother?

17 Hendrie Drive in Old Greenwich is a very nicely-renovated split level right on Ole’s Creek with a dock that’s useful four hours a day. I cheered when it came on a year ago priced at $7.5 million because I live just across the creek and if Hendrie could command that kind of money, I figured to be spending at least $6 million of my own in the near future.

My doubts about that price, alas, proved well founded, and the place keeps whacking bucks off its price. It was reduced to $5.750 last month and today reduced another $250,000 so that it’s $2 million below where it started.

I’m still not spending any imaginary money, but I do wonder two things: if you’ve overpriced your house by (at least) $2 million, why not admit that immediately instead of bleeding to death slowly? And, if you can’t sell it at $5.750, why do you think a wee price reduction of $250,000 will make a difference?

Just asking, you know.

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Is Patriot Bank selling more than bad debt?

It seems that the directors are busy selling shares. The numbers are here. I have to go out but when I have a chance I’ll check this out further.

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You see swine flu vaccine, Chris Dodd sees pork

And he’s entrusted the nation’s flu vaccination program to a Connecticut company that seems to be on the verge of bankruptcy. “If it’s a choice between the country’s kids or one of my constituents,” Dodd declared in a news conference announce his hijacking of federal funds, “my constituent wins, every time. What, you think I’m stupid?” Dodd adjourned the meeting took off all his clothes except his hiking boots and strolled from the room with Governor Jim Sanford. “Off to Argentina!, then Switzerland.”

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Richard Harris, R.I.P.?

Not the electrician Rick Harris, the spec builder Richard. He had some success building in town but now the few projects he’s still involved in are bank owned and going nowhere. There’s one on Butternut Hollow, jammed up to the Merritt and swampland and one at 12 Ledge Road in Old Greenwich, now owned by Ulster Bank. Ledge was priced at $3.795 in 2006 and is now down to $2.995. Even at its new price, I’d hesitate. When I first saw it I reported that I’d never imagined I could dislike a post and beam house but Harris had made that nightmare a reality. I’ve never figured out what happened to this man in the past eight years but each house he built seemed odder than the one before. If there was a view available, he’d turn the house away from it. If he could site a house away from its neighbor, he’d cram it in so that each could stare into the other’s master bedroom. If his name had been Zero Mostel, I’d have thought he’d figured out a way to get rich by failing. As it is, I think he just lost his touch. Back to Canada for him.

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Really?

480 North Street, reported as under contract yesterday, is reported sold today for $4.725. Maybe. Patriot Bank held a $3.5 million mortgage on this property and with arrears, was owed somewhere around that much. But Patriot was flogging this loan, and a dozen more, for far less than face value. Did they, as they were supposedly negotiating in good faith to sell their note at a discount, miraculously, and just in the nick of time, find a buyer willing to pay one hundred cents on the dollar? Anything is possible of course but in real estate, one never knows. I do find it curious that the buyer would pay $225,000 more than this place sold for a year ago, but maybe his broker told him that prices have increased since then.

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Thanks, but I’ll be hiking nude in the Alps that day

I have received an invitation from our country’s First Lady to attend a “National Day of Service” where, I guess, I can join her in advocating for her husband’s health care plan. Am I the only American who has yet to see this plan? I mean, I wouldn’t want to be such a sheeple that I spend a day of my life advocating for something I’ve never read or even know the contents of. No one’s that stupid, right?

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Coldwell Banker moves (out)

Shuts down Norwalk offices, cans 44 agents. Hardly surprising. – I don’t think much is happening in Norwalk real estate these days and Coldwell has to marshal its resources so it can pay back its parent company Realogy’s junk bonds. So do you think that, to further save money, Realogy will convert its Greenwich branches of Sotheby’s and Coldwell Banker into Century 21 offices? I imagine the Sotheby agents would welcome the savings effected by having just one golden polyester blazer to wear each day instead of fashion designs from the Greenwich Hospital Thrift Shop. Besides, as reader Fred would point out,  a switch to Cos Cobber uniforms could help the otherwise – underemployed agents gain listings in that neighborhood. It’d be a smart move, guys.

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Stop global warming – take off your clothes!

17swiss_600The NYT : Naturists insist nude vacations help prevent global warming. Uh, okay.

And, in case you’re wondering (wandering?), nude hiking’s legal in Switzerland. I’ve never particularly enjoyed wet, sandy bathing suits and hiking with just boots sounds appealing but maybe not in winter, like these guys.

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“New” Listings

34 Boulder Brook

34 Boulder Brook

This property sold for $1.215 million in 2001 and again for $1.790 in January 2007. It’s back on again today, at $1.595. 70% Rule shows $1.453.

And from the hope springs eternal department, 606 W. Lyon Farm is back (it never actually left, just expired), asking the same price it did back in March, $1.795. The sellers paid $1.150 for this in 2007, renovated it and returned it to sale in April 2008 for $2.250. That was bad timing, as Lyon Farm condo prices are falling, not rising, and this would have been a record or close to it. So it hasn’t sold and it’s slowly dropping to earth. Town’s 70% pegs it at $1.233.

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Wonder why Walter Noel’s been hiding?

Here’s why, and you can bet neither he nor Andres is planning on attendig Oktoberfest this fall.

Retirees kidnap, torture financial advisor who lost their money.

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Greenwich Time editing

Reader JS sends along this fascinating editing job by the Greewich Time reporting on the election of a new president for NOW:

***
INDIANAPOLIS  — The National Organization for Women has elected a 56-year-old Maryland woman as the group’s next president.
 
NOW said Terry O’Neill, who is white, defeated Latifa Lyles, a 33-year-old black woman from Washington, D.C., during the organization’s three-day national conference in Indianapolis.
 
***
 
I found original AP story: AP used “African-American”, but that’s a whole other issue.   
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hQrfD6IF-HyQzV668Ox_fJivHDwgD98VBIMG0

JS wonders what the race of either candidate is relevant to a story about NOW. I dunno.

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