A sale in Darien

527 Middlesex Road

527 Middlesex Road

Rarer than hens teeth, a contract for new construction has been reported in Darien. This house was listed on the Greenwich MLS and I viewed it a couple of times with clients. Really a beautiful house, across from the polo field, and after being reduced from $5.950 to $4.450, a pretty good buy, it would seem. Interesting that Greenwich builders used to justify their high prices by citing the high costs associated with building down here. I can’t believe Darien is any cheaper, and this house was built to a standard that would have had an asking price of at least $7.5 million in Greenwich. Hmm.

Another point of interest: I showed this to clients who loved the house but rejected the entire town of Darien after speaking with friends and deciding that Darien is still anti-Semitic. Is that true? I know that “A Gentleman’s Agreement” was written here, but that was in the 1950s. Greenwich has travelled light years from that sorry past but at least in the perception of some people, Darien has not. This is, of course, a verboten subject for real estate agents to discuss under the Fair Housing Act but I have never claimed to devote this blog entirely to real estate, so the heck with it – I’m interested.


Filed under Uncategorized

19 responses to “A sale in Darien

  1. Nicholas

    I’ve never considered it, but I now realize I don’t think I’ve ever had a Jewish client in Darien.

    Greenwich and Stamford…certainly. New Canaan and Wilton…a few. Westport…..oy, they’re everywhere.

    But none in Darien. And no synagogues, that I can think of, either.

    • christopherfountain

      There are no synagogues – I checked. But that points out the foolishness of forbidding raising this topic. If Darien is no longer anti-semitic, then the town is losing out and Jewish families who might enjoy its schools and beaches and (slightly ) lower prices are losers too, all because of a dated misperception. And if the town is still hostile ground, then that should be exposed and the citizens embarassed into behaving like real human beings. Instead, at least as far as real estate agents are concerned, we’re silenced.

  2. Anonymous

    Still don’t know if town is or is not anti-Semitic

    But any Jewish financier tends to know in which suburbs his Jewish colleagues prefer to reside; word-of-mouth reputation outweighs usual public claims of free and open housing mkts

  3. towner

    Not quite sure how an agent would know if his or her clients are Jewish unless they were asked or told. I am Jewish, lived in Darien for years and never came across any anti-semetic undertone at all. While there are no synagogues, there are no public golf courses either, but since we are located right inbetween Stamford and Norwalk, easy enough access to both!

    • christopherfountain

      If a client says, “we’re Jewish and don’t want to live in Darien because our friends say they’re anti-semitic there”, any agent who has passed the basic listening test required by the state will probably understand that (a) his clients are Jewish and (b) they’re concerned about living in Darien.

  4. Anonymous

    A sister and her husband lived in Darien up into the 90s. They reported the Gentlemen’s agreement was alive and well.

    While they were living there an article appeared somewhere (NYT?) that then got a little TV news coverage. One of the local clergy was interviewed and exclaimed something to the effect of “What nonsense! Of course there are Jews in Darien. There are several in my congregation!”

    It’s not just Jews, though. After kicking and screaming, didn’t Darien finally make an exception to their single family dwelling zoning and allow one apartment complex – that ended up being multi-million dollar condos?

    And was it the 2000 or 1990 census that showed one minority – someone’s live-in housekeeper.

    And poor Greenwich gets sued left and right.

  5. Townie

    What is the Gentlemen’s Agreement?

  6. W.

    I have heard the same thing about Darien but consider it a bit strange. I grew up in an area where you could count the Jewish people literally on one hand. So by comparison, all of the towns in Fairfield County have a lot of Jewish people to me and most people in the USA would probably think the same thing. Also, the rumor that Darien is anti-Semitic seems to have the most currency in Greenwich, which is kind of funny because if you asked people in Scarsdale whether people in Greenwich are anti-Semitic, they would probably say yes. For what it’s worth, a member of one of the two Jewish families I knew growing up moved to the area a few years ago and resides in Darien of all places. She seems to like it, but maybe her standards were low from having grown up in the hinterlands.

  7. Anonymous

    Indeed, much is relative; I recall a wealthy Jewish classmate who grew up on UWS of Manhattan; attended an elite Manhattan prep school and then Harvard, but claimed that he and his family viewed the UES as anti-Semitic….

  8. “Darien rhymes with Aryan for a reason…”

  9. og too

    My husband is jewish. When we were looking to make the move to the ‘burbs from the city, we did not even consider Darien.

  10. digler

    “Ignorant people in preppy clothes are more dangerous to America than oil embargoes.”

    V. S. Naipaul quotes (Trinidadian writer of Indian descent,Won the Nobel Literature Prize in 2001, 1932)

  11. duff

    If you got lemons you got to sell lemonade, so I would imagine that if Darien ..IS.. anti-Semitic, then all the anti Semites would be flocking there to live and pay a premium? … Could be a good marketing angle, put adds for Darien houses in Dubai, or other hot pockets of anti-Semitism?

  12. GWJW

    Lets be fair, while Greenwich is far more open than the decidedly closed Darien, the doors of the Greenwich Country are squeaking open rather slowly to say nothing of the firmly closed Round Hill and Field Club (let us not forget the Belle Haven which required the courts). Lest we separate a shoulder while patting ourselves on the back a moment of reflection is warranted.

  13. HG

    I think the dominant philosophy on this site is Objectivism. Whether the issue be home prices or exclusive clubs, the goal is to look at reality, what things are worth in the real world (after all, the title is For What it is Worth) and try to get to the right answer. What puzzles me is that some combination of inertia and the influence of worthless 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation family money leeches can succeed in maintaining exclusive clubs and neighborhoods despite very likely being a tiny minority. When I occasionally run across these dinosaurs I just laugh at the effort they have to put in to maintain their antiquated pretensions, which have about the same role in our G550 merit-based culture as top hat & tails…club & neighborhood politics are probably a low priority for the truly accomplished but I am surprised the masters of the universe haven’t made time to overrule the clowns just to avoid embarassment by association (the time when you could have gotten credit for being forward-thinking & principled for inviting a Jewish person into your club I think is long past).

  14. life long resident

    There have been plenty of people in Darien of Jewish background just not in the fore front as is the same for Italians in Darien. Yes you are correct that there are no synagogues and if you noticed only 2 Catholic churches. Growing up in Darien it never seemed to bother me and I spent oodles of time at Ox Ridge and in the immediate area of that house that just sold. I wouldn’t call Darien anti-semitic but I would say that very few people in Darien on the whole ever speak of their ethnic background.

  15. Always interested

    Has your client made an offer or bought any house in any town yet? I’m wondering if he is really a buyer in this marketplace if he turned down such a good value.

    I don’t think prejudice on the part of individual buyers or emanating from the town overall is really affecting the marketplace too much. As powerful and real as those aspects are, there are much more powerful forces especially affecting that price range.

    In about a year if that house is put back on the market it will probably sell for $500,000 more than it will go for when it closes in a couple of days.

    It’s just a bad time to be a seller and a good time to find a nice bargain, especially in the luxury marketplace. That will change too, probably within the next year… or two…actually, who knows.

    One thing that Darien could do to rid itself of its reputation is to invite the establishment of a synagogue in town. That would be great. I wonder if that will ever happen?