Daily Archives: September 16, 2009

Will history repeat itself?

28 Sawmill

28 Sawmill

This house on Sawmill was listed at $2.450 in 2004 and sold via bidding war seven days later for $2.650. It’s back now, listed for $2.895. The listing claims it was renovated in 2009 but this particular agent tends to have a more expansive view of that term than I so I’ll reserve judgement on that. My guess is, because it already had a new kitchen, master bath and such not in 2004, that any changes have been minimal. If so, I don’t think a price war will break out this time. In fact, I’ve yet to see the winner of a price war from those years do well when reselling his trophy this year. Which may give you pause for thought the next time bidding wars reappear.

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The federal government and your mortgage

Article here points out the obvious (obvious to many, but not necessarily the majority of Americans): the housing bubble is being sustained by the federal government, which now owns or guarantees 60% of the mortgages in the U.S. and is underwriting 80% of the new ones. When the music stops, if it ever does, watch out below.

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Gone?

108 Park Avenue

108 Park Avenue

This house on the Greenwich Park Avenue (across from Christ Church) was priced at $5.695 in January 2008 and never sold. It dropped today all the way down to $3.495, which is an excellent price,but a bid sent the way of the sellers was met with the news that a higher offer has been accepted. If so, someone just got a great house for a steal.

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Okay, nothing’s selling but we’re getting some price cuts

Twenty-one today, all pretty insignificant but the cumulative effect of some of these cuts starts making them at least approach attractiveness. I thought 717 Riversville Road was a very nice house, for instance, and thought it might sell for maybe the high $6s in 2007. Its cut today to $9.950 million doesn’t get it there (and 2009 isn’t 2007) but it’s a far sight better than the original price of $14.7.

Similarly, 11 Hycliff, a beautiful seven-acre spread with a nice contemporary on it, may still be high at $2.975 but at least it’s no longer at $4.995.

This keeps up and we may see some sales activity yet.

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Is that a bumper crop in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

Banana_man2Police hunt naked banana man and his sex cult followers.

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Swine Flu: Never mind!

Just the same as ordinary flu in terms of death rates, severity. Now we can go back to worrying about real threats like cellphones, global warming and incivility on MTV. What a world, what a media.

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Blogs get another scalp

ACORN suspends operations. You might think being indicted in various jurisdictions across the land for voter fraud registration might have given them pause but when you’ve just finished helping the first “African American” president, you probably feel pretty confident. Videotapes of helping pimps and hookers set up whore houses turned out to be a tough act to defend, though. Of course they’ll probably be back but the delicious part of all this is that, for the third time in three weeks, the New York Times will again have to explain to readers why they haven’t heard anything about a story that had been so widely covered elsewhere.

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“You want fries with that?” More on McMansions

Turns out that Greenwich has sold 251 houses larger than 9,500 square feet since the beginning of time (well, since 1999). On average, then, our current crop of 72 represents a three-year inventory but unless things improve, we’re looking at a bit longer than that. We have sold 13 of these whoppers this year, compared to 14 in 2008 (same period, Jan. 1- Sept. 16) and 34 in 2007. Going back to the beginning, 1999 saw 12 sold, when huge was still redefining itself. My guess is that the owners of most of these homes can sit back and relax – to quote Bob Dylan, “you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

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McMansions

Did you know that we have 72 houses for sale that are 9,500 sq. ft. or larger (62 of them are larger than 10,000)? I think it would be interesting to check recent sales and see if my suspicion that these monsters are falling from favor is borne out. Even if still popular, though, that’s a lot of timber and stone to unload.

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Hey now, here’s a contract, and from Greenwich Fine Properties!

56 Charles Street

56 Charles Street

This multi-family near the dump, priced in the $600,000s, has found a buyer via GFP. It’s discouraging to think that this is the only contract reported today but it’s nice to know that even the more exclusive agencies will stoop to conquer.

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Do no stupidity

41 Will Merry

41 Will Merry

This older house, right on the Merritt, took four years to sell the last time it was offered, starting at $1.685 in 2003 and finally selling for $1.425 in 2007. So when the buyer got into financial trouble in 2009 and he had to sell, I find it difficult to understand why he listed it for $1.975. Even if he was too panicked to think straight, you’d think his listing agent, Tamar Lurie, would have cautioned him against asking that high a price. But of course, an agent can only advise, not command.

Whatever the story behind that decision, it had a predictable ending: no sale, and now under foreclosure. Say good night, fella.

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Is it because I’m black?

obama“No son, it’s because you be 18-years-old.”

Sorry, old punchline, but it came to mind when the Peanut King claimed we only don’t like Obama because he’s a Negro.

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Doldrums continue

No contracts of note as of 2:00 p.m., no new listings, so substantial price cuts. It feels like late August rather than the third week of September. I don’t want to devote this blog to whacked-out libertarian politics but if you folks don’t get busy buying and selling I may have no choice. You’ve been warned.

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27 Doverton and Mark Mariani

Against all rumors, this spec house is back up for sale today, asking $8 million instead of its last ask of $8.495 and down considerably from its 2007 asking price of $11.5 million. I had clients who liked it at $6, so perhaps it’s drifting down to their range, or perhaps not. I think the house is alright – decent land, good street off Sabine Farm, etc., but I worry about the speed with which Mr. Mariani builds his houses. He claims it’s kosher but I noticed, when last in this house, that a hardwood floor had warped and buckled – exactly what old school builders predict will result if you lay down oak without letting it adjust to ambient humidity for several weeks and exactly what Mariani denies will occur. The oak speaks more loudly than the builder, in this instance, as does the warped, ruined deck off the master bedroom.

A floor can be fixed, a deck replaced, so there’s nothing fatal here, but even at the new low price of $8 million, I’d expect to see those defects corrected before showing it again. Just my opinion, naturally.

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Subway bombings planned for NYC?

Who the hell knows? This story from the Daily News suggests so, but I’m unaccustomed to getting substantive news from that source. I think one reason I am so angry at The New York Times is that, long ago, I could turn to it for real news, free from rumor. It might have been slanted, but the news was covered. Now, the fact that it is silent on this threat, or possible threat, could mean there’s nothing to the story but is just as likely attributable to its editors’ deliberate choice to keep stories potentially hurtful to Musslemen and their sympathisers out of the paper.

So I’ll go elsewhere on the web and see if I can find out more. The Times usefulness has long been fading but its rapidly approaching uselessness these days.

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Bravo

[From InstaPundit’s link]:  An Allergic Reaction To The Race Card. “While the false accusation of racism is not a new tactic, it has been refined by Obama supporters into a toxic powder which is causing damage to the social fabric of the country by artificially injecting race into every political issue. . . . The effect of these accusations is poisonous. Race is the most sensitive and inflammatory subject in this country. By turning every issue, even a discussion of a health care policy, into an argument about race, liberals have created a politically explosive mixture in which the harder they seek to suppress opposing voices, the harder those voices seek to be heard.”

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Market forces at work

7 Mill Pond

7 Mill Pond

This cottage has a nice location overlooking Mill Pond in Cos Cob but it’s land value only, pretty much. Perfectly good shelter, mind you, but you wouldn’t want to devote much of your purchase dollars toward the existing structure in its present condition. There’s some I-95 noise, but suck it up.

The owner tried selling it earlier this year at $925 and failed, doubtless because he was $200,000 too high. Now he’s back on the market at $739,000, and he’s looking much better. Assessment is $704, so ….

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Sharia meets east

I'll have that iPod back, thanks you

I'll have that iPod back, thank you

Samurai sword-wielding Johns Hopkins student finds thief in garage, whacks off his hand and kills him. Cool. When guns are outlawed, only grad students will have swords!

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Where goes the market?

Darned if I know – I’m a lousy prognosticator. I figured that, with Wall Street being hammered, we’d see a drop in private school enrollments. We did see a surge in new enrollments in our public schools but so did the private schools. So there’s obviously still lots of money around and maybe, maybe, house prices will come back. I don’t think so, but as I’ve just confessed, you shouldn’t listen to me.

But here is my take on the current situation: buyers are determined not to pay the asking prices of our current inventory and sellers are just as determined not to sell at a loss. Indeed, I suspect many sellers can’t afford to sell at a loss, without a great deal of pain because their houses are worth far less than they owe on them.and they’ll have to come up with great gobs of fresh money to close and give clear title. So everyone is treading water, waiting to see what happens.

We’ve seen almost no contracts reported this month but it’s early to say that that is the entire story: mortgages are harder to get today and take longer to approve, so there may be a bumper crop of accepted offers that have not been reported because the mortgage contingencies have yet to be met. I personally don’t believe that, but I’d wait until October 1st before concluding that the fall market busted.

What I think will happen is that the market will prove to be a bust, but sellers will continue to hold on and their houses will not move. Buyers will continue to hover like bass lurking in the weeds, waiting for the occasional bargain to fall from the pack and be snapped up. Which is pretty much what is happening now; the bank short sale, the seller who really has to or wants to get out from his house, brings a house to market at a good price – and I increasingly like the assessed value, of 70% of the 2005 market value, as a benchmark for “value”, and the house sells. Little else does, or will.

So if you’re a buyer, be patient and be ready to move on the rare house that finally hits the right price. You can ignore almost every new listing – they are almost without exception, too high, in my opinion, but watch for those price cuts.

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Here’s a great idea

Realtors press for extension, doubling of new home credit. A long time ago – 2008 or so – the National Association of Realtors  spoke glowingly of its devotion to free enterprise and the indepent nature of “Realtor Professionals”. Now, when almost every mortgage is issued by the federal government, this group turns out to be – surprise! – just like every other greedy band of looters. If one endorses a principle only when things are going well, then I suspect you’re not quite the principle person you claim to be. What infuriates me about this group is that, by the by-laws of the Greenwich Association of realtors, I have to belong to it and contribute to its political efforts. Time for a law suit?

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