Daily Archives: July 7, 2009

On this day of national mourning, a ray of hope

Ward Churchillhill, the prevaricating, plagiarizing pseudo-Indian (chicken feather, not dot-head) professor (he of “9/11 Little Eichmann’s” fame) has been denied reinstatement to the University of Colorado by a federal judge. How gallant of that judge to tear himself away from major Media’s wall-to-wall coverage of the real story today, the Al Sharpton Show, to issue his decision and brighten up our day. I’m just guessing here, but I’ll bet he shows up next as some kind of aide to Al Frankin.

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Slowly I turned, inch by inch, step by step…

407 Sound Beach

407 Sound Beach

Decent house, decent builder, but tiny back yard and Sound Beach Avenue is not the bucolic lane it once was in, say, 1816. So its first price, way back in early 2008 of $1,000 sq.ft. ($3.999 million) was too high. It’s had a couple of price cuts since and this afternoon came down to $3.3 million. I’d have liked that price a year ago – today, the house reeks of, if not desperation, at least a builder who’d like to unload his project. I still marvel at the refusal of spec builders to take a hard, impersonal look at the market and price accordingly.

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Help wanted

If it comes with housing, I'm all over it

If it comes with housing, I'm all over it

Witch position pays 50,000 lbs.  Ruth Madoff got her passport back from the feds yesterday and seems otherwise unoccupied so ….

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Okay, we did get a contract today, and a sale

14 Dewart

14 Dewart

This two acre lot on Dewart was listed at $2.2 million, assessed at $1.899 and sold today for $1.825. I’m a little surprised by that price – Dewart’s a good road but this land has a stream bisecting it, making building complicated, and a fair amount of Merritt Parkway noise, but there you have it: best current price comparison for a building lot off North Street.

The cotract was for 7 Long Meadow, asking $975,000. That’s a significant sum for both the buyer and the seller but hardly earth-shattering in the Greenwich market.

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Hope and change

No contracts reported today but there were 27 price cuts, most of them too small to be meaningful but the cumulative affect of enough price cuts on a residence eventually can make it attractive. Of course, by the time that happy moment is reached we all will have long forgotten the place, so who cares?

745 Single family homes for sale, if you’re interested.

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Now that’s just mean

Reader Shoeless points out, “LA wants stimulus funds for the Michael Jackson memorial service – they consider it a “shovel ready” project”.

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Oh goody, another spec house!

The same agent who brought us 39 Boulderbrook (started at $9, cut to $4.5 million) has announced another listing, new construction at 50 Shore Road, on the Stamford border in Old Greenwich. It’s a half acre on the butt-end of Tomac Cove which means mud half the day, water the other. I wouldn’t think $5.5 million will prove a popular price but I guess you don’t know if you don’t try. That brings the total of unsold spec houses to 105, if you’re counting.

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Cause and effect? The McCloy house hits the market

Walt Noe, John J. McCloy and wives, all bestest friends. "Now give me my fu..ing money back!"

Walt Noel, John J. McCloy and wives, all bestest friends. "Now give me my fu..ing money back!"

John J. McCloy’s house at 313 Stanwich Road has been listed for sale today at $6.495 million, not a totally crazy price for an old 1928 rambler on 3 acres; the town pegs its assessment at $5.346 and as these things go, that’s pretty close. Too bad they sold off some lots in back, as that land has been cleared and now sits, bare and unattractive (like so many of us, I fear). But what intrigues me is, what else, the Walter Noel connection. In a letter of recommendation on behalf of Walt to the Round Hill Club John J. described his wife Laura and himself as “the Noels closest friends for thirty years” yet, in an interview with the Times earlier this year, McCloy denied having ever invested anything with his closest friend. Is that so? Did he really refuse his friend’s entreaties or did he send a few too many millions down to Two Sound View Drive? Mr. McCloy certainly won’t tell us, but I wonder if his name appears as a plaintiff in any of the civil suits now wrapped around Walter’s head?

UPDATE: You know, all teasing speculation aside, Mr. McCloy’s father was a remarkable man of astonishing achievement – rebuilt Germany after WWII, among other part-time activities. Came up from a poor background to end up serving every president from Truman to Regan. His obituary from 1989 is here.

UPDATE: Map view here. Notice the waste pits behind the property.

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Who killed California?

It wasn’t Jarvis and Proposition 13

It took some amazing incompetence to toss this best-endowed of places down into the dustbin of history. Yet conventional wisdom views the crisis largely as a legacy of Proposition 13, which in effect capped only taxes.

This lets too many malefactors off the hook. I covered the Proposition 13 campaign for the Washington Post and examined its aftermath up close. It passed because California was running huge surpluses at the time, even as soaring property taxes were driving people from their homes.

Admittedly it was a crude instrument, but by limiting those property taxes Proposition 13 managed to save people’s houses. To the surprise of many prognosticators, the state government did not go out of business. It has continued to expand faster than either its income or population. Between 2003 and 2007, spending grew 31%, compared with a 5% population increase. Today the overall tax burden as percent of state income, according to the Tax Foundation, has risen to the sixth-highest in the nation.

But the fundamental problem remains. California’s economy–once wondrously diverse with aerospace, high-tech, agriculture and international trade–has run aground. Burdened by taxes and ever-growing regulation, the state is routinely rated by executives as having among the worst business climates in the nation. No surprise, then, that California’s jobs engine has sputtered, and it may be heading toward 15% unemployment.

Read the whole thing (h/t, Instapundit)

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News from California

I like to check in on Bubbleinfo.com (link to the right) for news of what’s happening in the California foreclosure market because whatever starts out west sooner or later ends up here. And there’s useful information posted today, but what caught my eye was this pictorial of a Frank l. Wright house, in need of renovation yet asking $15 million. It’s pretty neat.

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Listing brokers’ woes

172 Milbank172 Milbank is a two-unit condominium project that is impeccably built and very attractive but it seems to be the victim of unfortunate timing. It came on the market in September, 2008 just as the market was going into its death spiral, priced at $3.999. That didn’t work so the builder raised his price to $4.250. Again that failed, so he dropped his price back to $3.999 in May and today whacked a full $200,000 off it, for a new price of $3.799. I know the agent whose listing this is and she’s sharp, talented and very much not a dummy, so I’m inclined to blame the builder, not the agent, for believing that someone who wouldn’t buy at $4 will be tempted at $3.8. These times call for a meat axe, not a micro-planer.

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Determination

57 Byram Shore Road

57 Byram Shore Road

This is a lovely renovated older home with water views on a half acre. The owner paid $1.450 for it in 2002, which may have been a bit exuberant, put some money into it and placed it back up for sale in 2005 at the remarkable price of $5.775 million, or, dividing its 3800 sq. ft. into that sum, $1,497 per square foot. No one wanted it at that price and now, after four years of digging in her heels, she’s lowered it to $3.950 million. That must seem like a significant number to the seller when she compares it to her first demand but it’s still more than $1,000 sq.ft. and I doubt buyers will agree with her valuation. But that’s what makes a horse race.

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In the blink of an eye

Take a look, if you wish, at this video from May, 2007, showing off theAnatres mansion development. For fans of the decline of the Roman Empire, this is kind of neat, capturing the exact peak of the housing bubble. Everyone who was anyone in the Greenwich bubble was here that evening. Two years on, they’re all gone. The Antares group is gone, the mansion development is remains unbuilt and abandoned, the Stamford Harbor development is kaput (so far as Antares’ participation is concerned), the Greenwich YMCA, beneficiary of this party, is drowning, Marcus Zavataro has left Patriot Bank and the men he left behind  have to borrow dimes for the pay-toilets the FDIC installed in Patriot’s lobby, Miller Motor Cars isn’t selling many Bentleys, etc. etc. They’re all here on one tape, saying farewell to all that.

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Finally, a solution!

What to do with one hundred unsold spec houses, all sitting out in the weather and deteriorating as they’re lashed by the rain and baked by the sun? Some genius has come up with the answer: shrink wrap them! The king of shrink wrapping has moved on from encasing boats in plastic and now proposes to shrink wrap vacant Florida condos. You buy it cheap, wrap that sucker up and wait five or ten years until the next wave of lunatics shows up. Way cool.

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What gives with Pinecroft Road?

In reviewing the sparce open house list today (nothing worth revisiting, in my opinion) I noticed that 19 Pinecroft is for sale at $2.595, and realized that I’ve never seen  anything sell on that street. It’s a nice dead end, close to town (off of Parsonage) and there have been a couple of decent houses listed for sale on it, so what’s wrong? I’d guess nothing, except price. 11 Pinecroft, now asking $3.295 million, was originally listed in 2007 for $4.350. 14 Pinecroft tried $4.950 in 2007 and finally expired unsold in 2008 at $3.995. The lesson is probably not to overprice your house by a million bucks – once you do, you’re dead. 19 may avoid that fate by starting in the mid-2s, but time will tell.

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Stillman Rockefeller didn’t sleep here

556 Riversvile Rd

556 Riversville Rd

And perhaps that explains this one’s selling price, although I suspect it has more to do with declining land values on the northern margins of our town. Purchased for $3.5 million in 2003, completely renovated in 2005, it was listed last year for $5.295 million. It sold yesterday for $3.2 million, or 60% of its asking price. Town’s assessment: $3,002,650. Oh.

Not good news for 717 Riversville Road, a spec house that started at $14 million a few years ago and is still looking for a buyer.

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And his parental status is relevant how?

Greenwich Time: “Pemberwick grandfather to undergo more psych tests.”  Gerardo Lombadi is a 76-year-old nut job who stabbed and shot his former daughter-in-law to death. If he’s too loony to be held accountable for his crime, fine; why his being a grandfather has anything to do with the matter escapes me.

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Everything is beautiful, everything is fine

The sale of Stillman Rockefeller’s restored mansion for $22.5 million has Greenwich Time and my colleagues all atwitter: the right house at the right price will still sell, seems the consensus, and that’s right. Greenwich hasn’t suddenly become a wasteland of ruined dreams (but try telling spec builders and unemployed homeowners that) and a beautiful house will always be attractive. And, as our Lord reminded us, “the rich will always be with us.”

Of course, there’s this sobering note, but heck, look on the sunny side!

This is despite a dramatic 70 percent drop in Greenwich home sales in the first third of 2009, compared with a year earlier. The average sale price also fell 23 percent, from $2.8 million to $2.2 million.

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Price cuts of note

29 Palmer Island, a nifty newish house in great condition on a very private Old Greenwich street came on just two weeks ago priced at $2.279, a price that would have been eminently reasonable two years ago but which struck me as a tad aggressive in this market. Today it was cut to $1.979, and I like that price much better. Caveat – the owners are friends of mine and creek neighbors, so I may not be totally objective here, but if you’re looking for a good house under $2 in Old Greenwich, you should check this out and decide for yourself.

84 Butternut Hollow is an older house on a nice piece of land. Overpriced (the market said, not me) at $2.595 in July, 2008, it’s reduced today to $1.789. I’d still negotiate, but now now that the sellers are more realistic, the effort would seem to be worthwhile.

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Nothing under his kilt?

I have heard that a certain pissed-off reader of this blog who blames me for the failure to sell his house (I posted on it June 3rd, 2009, he’s had it listed for sale since January, 2005, but I guess buyers knew I was going to say mean things about it in four years) has filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. I’m checking the public records and will bring you details when I can but in the meantime I’d like to express my deep regret that one single posting could have such devastating effect. Who Knew?

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