Open house report

Hmmm. I loved 313 Stanwich Road (ML# 73760) the old house that served the McCloy family so welll over the years. It feels like a house should feel, in my opinion, with lots of rambling hallways, rooms in odd places and beautiful grounds. The McCloys must be fierce hunters, so don’t bother visiting the Austrian Alps looking to kill a chamois: the McCloys beat you to it and the creatures’ skulls are all here, tacked up on the walls. They probably go with the owners, so if you’re not into the “Gentleman’s Study” motiff, fear not. For that matter, I understand that the owners intend to yank the barn board off the “Austrian Room” and take that, too, which is a little peculiar, but perhaps there’s sentimental value there, for some reason.

But here’s the problem: the house is old. I mean, old. My pal Nancy and I tackled a project like this in Maine when we were childless, clueless and had far more energy than money and it was a great experience. Today I wuld balk and I suspect most buyers will too. You’d have a beautiful house when you finished, but that’s two years and millions of dollars down the road. Plus, and this is just one man’s marketing tip, the sellers should patch the water leak in the hallway ceiling and repair the broken sash cords in the windows. Their presence just emphasizes the amount of work needed here and that’s a discovery best left for a buyer to discover after the closing, not on his first visit.

But a great old house and could be a fun project if you’re retired and wondering what to do with your money. Asking $6.495 or thereabouts.

23 Eggleston Road, down in Shorelands, is really fun land, a half/acre of direct tidal waterfront, which means mud half the time, water the rest. The first price of $8.5 million was insane, and aren’t you glad you didn’t listen to the listing broker and pay that much for it two years ago? The current price of $4.995 is better, but you have to do some calculating here, weighing your desire to enjoy this beautiful view versus the ultimate worth of a house, even on waterfront, in Shorelands. The house is a teardown (I like it just fine and would move in tomorrow but that’s me – most people will want something new). So if you pay $2 million for a new house, can you justify a $7 million house in Shorelands? I think not – I’d have a problem with $6 million, frankly, but that would be closer to the mark. So something has to give here, and I’d guess it’ll be the price of the land (I’m told that there was a deal for $6 on this land awhile ago that fell apart. Lucky buyer). The listing sheet descibes a “Christopher Peacock kitchen” which, if accurate, must date back to Mr. Peacock’s training days in the Youth Reformatory of Liverpool in 1957. Or perhaps the kitchen is stored off premises. But you’re buying the view here, not Peacock’s early efforts.

I did like 26 Cobb Island Road (ML# 73624), Pat Lynch’s listing in – I was going to say Cos Cob but by God, it’s got an 06830 zip, so let’s say, on the Cos Cob border. $4.850 million, very nice house, completely and extensively renovated, with sweeping views down Cos Cob Harbor to the Sound. One can watch Georgie Lowther’s bungalow going up on the scrap of land he retained when he sold his family’s view and Lowther’s Point (don’t cry for the boy – that view fetched $22 million) or, in a few weeks, the mansion to be built where the Lowther manse once stood. It’s far down the harbor from Cobb Island so it won’t affect your view but will provide a point of interest for the next year or two.

Drawbacks are two, neither of which you can do anything about: I-95 and small children’s bedrooms. Noise is entirely subjective but I did not find it objectionable here. You certainly can’t hear it indoors and walking around outdoors, it just didn’t strike me as a deal-breaker. It’s probably worth $2 million in discounted price, so that’s a fair trade off for me; you have to decide for yourself.

The small bedrooms are something my clients constantly harp on and I’ve become sensitized to the subject. I always figured a bedroom was for sleeping so who cared how big it was but if my fee-paying clients care then I do too. But that’s something most builders do, I suppose because everyone wants precious to have her own private bath and you can’t have one without taking away the other. As I said, nothing to do about that here – if your kid complains, tell her to try living under a bridge instead. I liked this house very much and I think the price under $5 is a good one.

I can’t say the same for 14 Ben Court, which is a pure land value with a tired old house on it that has to be removed. I’d place the value of a lot on this street at between $950,000 and $975,000 so the current price of $1.495 seems wildly excessive. If I’m right, that will be corrected over time and if I’m wrong it won’t be the first time.


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9 responses to “Open house report

  1. BackCountryGal

    Re 313 Stanwich: Old home buyers like me don’t care two hoots about water leaks in the hallway or ugly wallpaper/paint. We see past those things and fall instantly in love with the character of the place. I too know first hand how exhausting it is to restore something to it’s 1920s beauty but give me an old house ANY day of the week. It’s a labor of love. One question: isn’t there a piece of land for sale right behind/next to 313 that might affect the price?

    • christopherfountain

      BackCountry, there are indeed two lots for sale behind this place, at grossly inflated prices. When (if) they come down, a buyer could scoop them up, possibly the house next to them on 3 acres (317 Stanwich, bought just a few months ago for $2.2 million and “available” but not listed for sale) and restore this place to its proper grandeur. But then you’d really have a ton of money sunk into it. As it is, these three acres are very private and stand well by themselves.

  2. BackCountryGal

    I’d have to win the lottery, but I would, in a heartbeat, buy 313, 317 (adorable!) and the two empty lots. A grand old home like 313 deserves to be treated with respect. I so hope whoever buys it feels the same way.

  3. Prowler

    Could you speculate on why 317 is “available” after selling just a few months ago? Do you think there was a nasty surprise after closing, or are they hoping they can – how can I say this without choking – flip it? Not sure what “available but not listed for sale” connotes.

    • christopherfountain

      Nothing awful at all – the buyers are returning to England. They are not putting the house up for sale but if, and only if, the purchaser of the McCloy house were interested, they’d talk. Or that’s what I was told. It is not otherwise for sale.

  4. Stranger

    I like small bedrooms for children. I suppose I’m a traitor to my class.

    • christopherfountain

      I do too, Stranger, but as I said earlier, when I discovered that my clients objected to them, I learned to dislike them too. I don’t want to sleep in these bedrooms, I want to sell them.

  5. Michael ferrarese

    I was the selling agent for 317 Stanwich Rd.
    Here are the facts:
    Buyers were transferred to London for 4 years & will be there for 2 more years.
    They puchased this house to live in upon their return in 2011.
    I have it listed for rent at a very reasonable price (2 yr lease at $7,900 per month with my client paying for the grounds upkeep).
    Buyers were offered substantially over selling price to resell the ppty. A deal could not be made.
    The house is currently on the “for rent” market.
    I hope this clears up the issue. Thanks,
    Mike Ferrarese at Prudential Ct. Realty

    • christopherfountain

      Thanks, Michael. As I said repeatedly about this property, it was a great buy. Congratulations.