Because they’re the gift that keeps on giving. Irving Picard is having a banner year as Trustee for Bernie Madoff’s few remaining assets and now comes word that even as Allen Stanford rots in a Texas holding cell his trustee is seeking $27 million of the $81 million cash left on hand when Stanford was nabbed.
I sympathise with Picard and this other fellow. Madoff and Stanford “investors” were so fucking dumb that they enabled the fraud – they begged for it. Giving them back money would be as silly as returning Stephen Dent’s blackmail money – he’ll just be right back on the Internet dialing for prostitutes and these investors will go out and lose everything again. No, better not to waste the assets on claimants when they can be converted into lawyer’s fees instead. It’s the right thing to do.
Another principal is bailing out while school’s just starting – today it’s the principle of Central Middle School. They’re bringing in (retired) Roger Stenz to fill in and he’s a fabulous guy, so no doubt no one will miss the lady who’s leaving, but what gives here? That’s two in two weeks – I’d have thought that a principal would feel some obligation not to leave her school in the lurch but obviously I am misinformed.
Or in this case, the large things. The guy who strangled his wife and stuffed her in a suitcase before fleeing to Canada (perhaps to seek free medical care for her?) removed her fingertips and teeth but forgot about the VIN label on her breast implants. Now admittedly, I didn’t know that breast implants came with registration numbers, but I’m not currently in the business of strangling women, so that’s not knowledge I need. You’d expect more attention to detail from someone who is.
So you’re a charter boat captain out of Montauk and your livelihood depends of customers paying to catch fish. Faced with a shortage of fish do you (a) control your catch, in the hope that the stocks will replenish themselves or (b) encourage your 150 customers per day to catch, keep and eat undersized fish?
At least two captains were just caught opting for plan B. They no doubt figured it was better to keep current customers happy than bank on the future. These two boats have doubtless been pulling the same stunt day in and day out for years. Multiply that by the thousands of other charter boats doing the same thing and the affect of recreational fishing on vanishing fish stock is probably as significant as that of the Japanese fleet. That’s not good.
The market’s exploding today on news that sales of existing houses were up 5.2%. The end of the recession! Hooray! Okay, but these happy campers aren’t looking at the figures. 30% of the sales were short sales – sales for less than the loans owed on them. 9.24% of all mortgages in this country are delinquent, with an additional 4.3 per cent already in foreclosure. That combination, 13.5%, is the highest rate of delinquency since record keeping of such matters began in 1972.
Foreclosures in Massachusetts were initiated in July at a rate 5X greater than in July 2008. Similarly, foreclosures in Rhode Island are “rampant”. That huge jump in Southern California homes came about from the average price dropping 23% from last year, with foreclosure sales representing over 45% of all sales. Seeking Alpha looks at the huge default rate on prime loans: good credit, 20% down, etc. and fears the future because these are defaults caused by unemployment, not just the inevitability of poor folks who never could afford the home the government urged them to buy:
As you can see, everything is fine, no problems at all. The markets are sure to continue its steepest market rally ever rising 49% since march, outpacing the 1929-1933 44% rally. I guess the new normal of a high unemployment, revenue-less, earnings-less, and growth-less recovery means that the markets can have the greatest percentage gain ever, in only 5 months, and should continue forever. I am kidding of course, this thing looks ugly and makes me question what is really going on.
So take what you want from today’s euphoria. Personally, I have certain amount of respect for Wall Street players to make money, but almost none for their ability to see past the day’s trading horizon. I think someone’s going to be proved a chump here, and soon.
We’re now up to three grievances filed against me for running this blog. Do I detect a concerted action? Probably not, just a bunch of bitter, dispirited home owners who, after years spent trying to sell their homes for a price they “needed”, turn in anger for some reason why it’s not their fault for being greedy and stupid. They find me. Interesting, not one of these grievants has thought it significant to mention that they couldn’t sell their house for years before being mentioned here, yet find it easy to blame their woes on me.
If this keeps up I will draft a standard response and ask the Board of Realtors to keep it on file to use for every complaint.
40 Zaccheus Mead Lane, a huge (15,000 sq.ft) spec house that provided endless fodder for this blog over the years, went to contract July 2nd and finally closed yesterday for $6.450 million. It started, way back in 2007, at $11.2 million and endured a slow death of paper cuts as its price was slashed and slashed again. I’m sure its builders are glad to finally be shed of the thing but they can’t be happy with their loss. Assessed value, by the way, is $6.332 million – I wonder what the tax assessor knew that the builders didn’t?
23 Palmer Lane in Riverside was originally listed at $3.795 million back in May, 2007. Nice creek-front property, with a dock, but various sight-line restrictions severely limited what you could do with it. After a series of deals that fell apart after the purchasers decided the limits were too strict, it is finally under contract today. Last asking price was $2.675 million.
Nationally, the good real estate news is that sales of existing homes rose 7% this past July from July of last year. And even in Greenwich, we at least held our ground: 40 Contracts in July 2009, versus 39 in July 2008 and 40 July 2007. Before you pop that cork on the bottle of Cold Duck you’ve been holding in your otherwise-depleted wine cellar, though, consider whether we’re seeing purchases merely delayed from the traditional springtime market or whether it’s a true recovery. For the year through July, we’ve sold 175 houses, compared to 281 in 2008 and 419 in 2007. The true test, I believe, won’t come until September and October. If sales in those months come back to 2007 levels, we can breath easy. My guess is they won’t unless Greenwich home sellers do what sellers in the rest of the country have already done: cut their prices. What we’re seeing nationally is foreclosed homes and short sales and in Greenwich, the houses that are selling are, for the most part, restricted to those that have slashed their prices. I don’t see enough price cutting going on to give me confidence in the continued vitality of our market so either that will happen, or sales will stagnate again or, as is entirely possible, I’m wrong again, and buyers will go back to paying 2007 prices for houses. I don’t think that’s likely.
Indeed they did and here’s a video of their liar in chief admitting it. But it’s cool, so to speak – you see, people are so stupid that even though the debate is over, some idiots still question the idea that we have to shut down the western world’s economy like, right now, dude. So, as Greenpeace says, they have to “emotionalize” the issue to force the change that will save the planet. But it’s all about scientific fact, dude, not emotion. Really; trust us. This time we really, really mean it!
While I was away ten properties went to contract – giving proof, no doubt, to the deleterious effects of this blog. If these are typical, the only thing increasing in value these days is direct waterfront. Everything else is way down.
429 Taconic, way up near Banksville, started at $12 million in ’08, dropped to $9.440 in July and has gone to contract at an undisclosed price.
32 Ferncliff, in Cos Cob, really nice land and a house that I liked, sold for $1.050 in 2003, was listed again in ’08 for $1.495 and dropped to $1.165 a month or so ago. I wrote then that I thought it was a great deal and someone obviously agreed.
99 Richmond Hill was listed as new construction at $11.9 million in 2005, finally sold in ’06 for $8.4 and came back on this year for $6.995. It dropped to $6.395 and has a buyer.
The exception to this trend is, just like 99 Richmond Hill, a Joe Barieri listing – Joe is having an exceptional year, with sales ail over town, from Old Greenwich to Conyers Farm. He’s also a very nice person, which makes mean people like myself despair at succeeding at this business. But we persevere. Anyway, Joe sold this in 2002 as new construction for $3.929 million ins 2002 and relisted it for his buyers just a month or so ago for $7.195. I expressed doubt that he’d get it but within days there were rumors of bids and now it’s under contract. Lesson, besides not listening to me, is to buy waterfront.
26 Weston Hill Road, new construction awhile back, sold for $2.995 in October, 2004. Sold yesterday for $2.665. Just saying ….
UPDATE: Cos Cob Byram saw a sale, but at the same kind of price reductions we’re seeing everywhere in town except, of course, for that peach-colored beauty at 75 Long Meadow Road, whose owners hold (relatively) steady in the face of mean bloggers and nasty readers’ comments.
100 Mead Avenue
This house was listed at $729,000 and sold yesterday for $545,000. Assessed value: $546,910.
UPDATE: Cos Cobber pointed out my error – I saw “Mead Avenue” and thought of the Cos Cob street, which is a nice street with a convenient location to the shops and school. I forgot that there are two Mead Avenues in town and this one is in Byram. Still a good-looking house, but Mead in Byram is not at all the same as Mead in Cos Cob. My bad.