Daily Archives: August 26, 2009

Why stop at grey water?

Two design students (in France, of course) have designed a shower/plant base that filters waste water and allows you to enjoy a crisp glass of aqua without soap suds. You’d think that the biggest drawback to its popularity would be having to stand amid 4′ plants and shrubbery while performing your ablutions but you’d be wrong; turns out that, as the French don’t bath, they have no need for any kind of shower at all, let alone an ecologically-friendly one.

But while on the subject of recycling water, it should be noted that (some) Indians advise drinking one’s own urine for health and even the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had a good word to say for swilling camel piss. Drought be damned, we’ve got the solution in hand!

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Now I really have to get cracking on my Noel novel

Dominick Dunne is dead at 84. I’ll certainly miss him more than the other guy who died yesterday. He won a bronze star as a 19-year-old teenager (no mention if swimming was involved in his bravery), graduated from Williams after the war, recovered from alcoholism at age 50 and wrote “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles”, a terrific book. Some of his later stuff didn’t work as well, for me, but all in all, a good productive life. And now I have Greenwich back to exploit all by myself. I’m still puzzling out the plot, but I’m inclined to involve Walter Noel’s story with the Antares – same greed, same era, with maybe a touch of Georgie Lindemann to add an electric touch of evil. Stay tuned.

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Who is John Galt?

I logged onto Seablogger.com to see what he had to say about Tropical Storm Danny (nothing much – it’s going out to sea, if it even holds its form at all, and NYC has nothing to worry about) and found this depressing item:

[T] he US is doomed…in the words of Francisco D’Anconia,

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.

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Here’s a set up

Trick or treat, your honorness!

Trick or treat, your honorness!

AMussleman woman in Michigan has sued a judge for asking her to remove her head covering in court. That’s par for the course these days, as is the participation of the Arab League, but the article says a video of the incident (edited to omit the part where she voluntarily complies with the request) is already up on U Tube. Now unless Michigan has different rules than Connecticut, cameras are barred in court. Why do I suspect that they slipped in a camera/phone specifically to record and complain about this heinous denial of civil rights? Can’t we send these people back to England?

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Breaking News from 1860

Political Wire: Unknown challengers in dead heat with Lincoln

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Oh boy, Danny!

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Shattered windows at Dem headquarters “result of the other side’s stirring up hate”, Dem chairman claims

Trouble is, they stirred up a Democrat party worker’s hate. Will Cheney stop at nothing?

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Will Irvine Road keep going?

Until 2004, Irvine Road in Old Greenwich was a pretty sleepy little street with modest bungalows trading for not a whole lot of money. That changed when a pre-fab fetched in the high $2s and, thus encouraged, builders kept cramming big houses on tiny lots and selling them at ever-higher prices. That process culminated in a sale for $3.750 last year but now there’s still another new house on the market, number 11, asking $3.695. If you use recent comparable sales, that’s an entirely reasonable price, but I’ll be curious to see if they get it.

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Something’s got to give

I have a good selection of clients spread through the bulk of the Greenwich price ranges ($1 – $4.5 million) and I’ve grown as frustrated as they are by the lack of what we perceive to be reasonable prices. For instance, there are houses perfect for my $1, or perhaps $1.2 clients, but they’re all priced at $1.695 and above. Their owners may think that’s an appropriate price but comparing them to houses that have sold for $1.3, for instance, these are clearly worth just around a million. But we won’t bid.

It’s the same situation all the way up the price scale. $4.5 houses still asking $5.9, $2.5 asking $3.75 and on and on. People like Mad Monkey and my brother Gideon are positive that it’s the buyers who are wrong but I disagree. More important, the buyers are the ones with the checkbooks and theydisagree. It’s all reminiscent of the Antares fiasco; many of us saw it coming but they kept staying alive, year after year, proving us wrong, until we were right.

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Central Greenwich optimists losing hope?

127 Havemeyer Place, a nicely renovated house, was listed last year for $2.897 million, a price that seemed to ignore the presence of so many older, far less expensive houses on the same street (it’s curious that sugar baron Havemeyer, a wealthy man, should have his name affixed to two low rent districts in different sections of town, eh?). Today it’s been cut to $2.5 million. At its new low price, perhaps Havemeyer’s most infamous child molester, Patrick Slater, due to be sprung from prison after 14 years, will be able to afford to move back home. I’d suggest that he hit Michael Jackson up for a loan but I hear that Jacko is otherwise occupied.

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A contract, a price reduction

18 Hedgerow, a house that started at $4million and was reduced to $3.6, is reported under contract today. I’m a little surprised, but what the heck, a sale’s a sale. The place does come with an (in-ground) pool.

The builder who paid $1.475 for a tear down on a third of an acre at 44 Park Avenue Old Greenwich last August is not so fortunate. He first gave up trying to sell a $3.2 million new house on the site, then put the land back up for sale for $1.675, assuming, no doubt, that land values increased between August andJanuary. Today it’s back down to $1.475 and I imagine there’s some room for negotiation even at that.

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Greenwich feeder fund hits drought

The major law firms have either quit hiring new lawyers or, at best (Skadden Arps) cut hiring by half. The days when middling lawyers like myself could afford a house in Greenwich passed long ago but hirees at the majors could, assuming they made partner seven years down the road, at least give the hedge funders a run for their money. Many of last year’s hires were paid to take a paid-year off – the firms had no use for them. This year’s crop isn’t being hired at all and if that continues, we’re facing the loss of a small but significant source of buyers down the road.

If you calculate the number of high-paying financial services jobs that are gone forever and add in losses in other lucrative professions, the number of young families able to buy $2 – $5 million houses is clearly shrinking. That’s not good news for people who own houses in that range that they’d like to sell. There just aren’t that many professional athletes in the tri-state area to take up the slack.

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Walter Noel’s woes never end, part II

Quest Magazine, a publication with which I am unfamiliar, has dropped all of the Noels, except Marissa from its list of the top 400. The top 400 what I have no idea, but considering how diligently Monica worked to get her precious children on all the right lists, this probbly hurts. I’m so sorry.

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House Prices and Case-Shiller: a false bottom?

I think so and have said so repeatedly but here’s a genius who thinks so too (the mark of genius in a person being the extent to which he agrees with you). The pessimist’s argument is that the only high end houses currently selling are those bought pre-bubble for, say, $1,000,000. Their owners watched the value soar to $2.5 and then drop to $1.5 but they still have equity they can cash out and use to buy a cheap house in a retirement spot. The C/S index would be really whomped, the argument goes, if it accurately reflected the loss of value of all those houses that aren’t selling.

Of course, Case-Shiller reflects actual sales, not present value of houses still unsold and since they aren’t selling, the index is accurate, as far as it goes. But if the homes with no remaining equity ever do begin to move, either through foreclosure or abandonment (not a problem in Greenwich, yet, but I’m hearing reports of it happening in Stamford, in good neighborhoods), watch out.

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Riverside Sale

45 Wesskum Wood

45 Wesskum Wood

Here’s a house whose first asking price left me scratching my head. It’s a nice old home on 0.4 acre on the busy corner of Wesskum Wood and Owenoke. The owners paid $1.5 million for it in 2003, which was probably reasonable at the time, updated the kitchen but left the baths and pretty much else as they were, I’d guess, in 1955, and re-listed it for $2.695 in April 2007. Even then, at the height of the housing bubble, that wasn’t likely to succeed and it didn’t. So two years and another broker later the price was dropped to $1.695 and it closed yesterday at $1.6 million. I would have (and did) think that was a good asking price in 2007; getting that much today is a lucky deal for the sellers. Assessed va;ue is $1.4, if you follow such things.

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