Daily Archives: December 1, 2009

Chris Matthews is a news reader with little knowledge

He refers to Obama’s appearance tonight at West Point as “going to the enemy camp.” If Matthews doesn’t understand that the president is also our Commander in Chief then he doesn’t deserve to enjoy tingles down his leg when he gazes upon the Messiah. Or does he truly believe that our armed forces have staged a coup and are now in rebellion against our civilian government? What a load.


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Big Fire at Old Greenwich Gables

That’s what a reader and my brother Gideon report. If no one is hurt, this could be a real boon for the complex. It was built to Arthur Collins’ usual shoddy standards and a nice fat insurance check could correct a lot of deficiencies without another big assessment to the owners.


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On second look

Megan McArdle rethinks her dismissive attitude on ClimaGate and figures out that trashing 150 years of temperature data so that the global warmists “predictions” can’t be verified is a bad thing. Welcome back to the fight, Rick.


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Goldman boys whoop it up down town

The Blankfein Kid

Goldman pahdnahs packing heat in New York City. Ordinarily, I believe that the more gun-totting citizens the safer the city, but the thought of a mob of scurrying little nervous investment bankers with itchy trigger fingers makes me think I’ll stay here in the suburbs for a while. Can’t these guys carry assault rifles like their Swiss counterparts do? Then we’d know who to watch.


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Round Hill Road renaming contest, continued

Celebrating the name change at the RHC Christmas Ball (photo, NY Social Diary)

Over Thanksgiving I mentioned Round Hill Road’s new-found notoriety to my cousin Ed Fountain and told him we were trying to come up with a new name that would reflect Round Hill’s present status as the address of Walter Noel, Raj Man, Ric the Bourke, Dom DeVito and half the other white-collar criminals in town. Ed suggested Round’em Up Road, which I like very much.


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17 Thornhill update

This NoPo property was reported under contract yesterday but in fact, the contract date was 11/02/09. It closed yesterday for $530,000, a far cry from its asking price of $845,000 but pretty much spot-on its assessment of $525,000. You may recalculate your NoPo property’s value accordingly.


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Has Ralph’s sprung a leak?

I drove down the Avenue a little while ago and noticed that the new Lauren store is festooned with scaffolding and blue tarpaulins. Were these there when it opened last week or is the roof leaking? Just curious.


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More contract statistics

A reader asked how this September’s contract numbers compared to past years so here goes:


 ’09: 49

’08: 28

’07: 43

’06: 50

With November now closed we can provide those numbers too:


’08: 13

’07: 47

’06: 76

One could make the argument that we are back on track and selling houses like the good old days, albeit at much lower prices, but I think you have to consider how many of the past few months’ sales represent pent-up demand stretching back to January. Contracts for the period of January – August are as follows:

2009: 276

2008: 401

2007 600

2006: 581

So I can’t give a conclusive answer to whether we’ve weathered the storm and are coming back or not – my gut tells me we’re still in trouble here.



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A Chieftans sale (!) and a timely sale of a Havemeyer Lane condominium

Not necessarily a home run – the seller paid $5.625 million for it in 2007 and had been trying to sell it for $5.975 for the past fourteen months, but a sale nonetheless, at the astonishing price of $4.5 million. Buyer must be one of those frequent flyer types.

And over in Stamford, we have a sale of one of the Havemeyer units, for $935,895. As my pal Fudrucker pointed out to me awhile ago, these sales come each quarter, like clockwork, one per quarter. Do you suppose the loan instruments demands a sale each quarter or is this just an amazing coincidence? I’m baffled.


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Chasing the money

Temperatures' going $traight up! Trust me.

Here’s your chance to fly to Copenhagen and actually shake the hand of the Junior Messiah for a mere 5,999 Danish kroner or $2,039. Price does not include jet fare or carbon offsets, both of which are available from GlobalwarmingprofitsRus.com, a wholly-owned subsidiary of OwlGore, Inc.


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NAR playing with numbers, again

NAR: Pending sales contracts for October mark largest increase ever.

Here’s how to produce that same result in Greenwich: compare 2009 to 2008. Just don’t use any other years, or the whole story wilts.

Greenwich October Contracts, single family homes

2009: 32

2008: 12

Wow! A 266% increase! Happy days are here again, as I’m sure we’ll be reading in some of the real estate columns printed locally.

On the other hand, the market curled into a ball and died last October after Lehman and the rest of Wall Street went kerplunk. If we look at earlier years, we see:

2007: 33

2006: 35

So you could say that we’re back to normal, which is a nice enough change let alone trying to drum up exciting increased activity statistics, but given our inventory, the lack of sales earlier this year and the rather dismal prospects for next, I remain cautious.


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Global Warming Bunkum

The NYT’s sole libertarian, John Tierney, explains why it’s a bad thing to doctor data.

If you have not delved into the thousands of e-mail messages and files hacked from the computers of British climate scientists, let me give you the closest thing to an executive summary. It is taken from a file slugged HARRY_READ_ME, which is the log of a computer expert’s long struggle to make sense of a database of historical temperatures. Here is Harry’s summary of the situation:


That cry, in various spellings, is a motif throughout the log as Harry tries to fight off despair. “OH [EXPLETIVE] THIS!” he writes after struggling to reconcile readings from weather stations around the world. “It’s Sunday evening, I’ve worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done I’m hitting yet another problem that’s based on the hopeless state of our databases. There is no uniform data integrity. …”

Harry, whoever he may be, comes off as the most sympathetic figure in the pilfered computer annals of East Anglia University, the British keeper of global temperature records. While Harry’s log shows him worrying about the integrity of the database, the climate scientists are e-mailing one another with strategies for blocking outsiders’ legal requests to see their data.

While Harry is puzzling over temperatures — “I have that familiar Twilight Zone sensation” — the scientists are confidently making proclamations to journalists, jetting to conferences and plotting revenge against those who question the dangers of global warming. When a journal publishes a skeptic’s paper, the scientists e-mail one another to ignore it. They focus instead on retaliation against the journal and the editor, a project that is breezily added to the agenda of their next meeting: “Another thing to discuss in Nice!”

As the scientists denigrate their critics in the e-mail messages, they seem oblivious to one of the greatest dangers in the climate-change debate: smug groupthink. These researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude — and ultimately undermine their own cause.

If you’re wondering how scientists could engage in this duplicitous behavior, I recommend reading the WSJ article, “Climategate: Follow the Money”.

And for a nice, if somewhat difficult discussion of why the science just isn’t there to support this nonsense I suggest another Journal article by MIT professor of meteorology, Richard Lindgren, “The Climate Science Isn’t Settled”.

It’s entirely possible, I suppose, that we’re going to see sea levels rise 4 1/2 feet in the next 90 years, as disclosed on NPR this morning. On the other hand, maybe not, or maybe as the real science suggests, man has nothing to do with that rise and can do nothing to stop it, not even by destroying the world’s economy.

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Well at least he tried this in Port Chester

Photo by Liebowitz

Greenwich man threatens to throw acid in girl’s face. I know this man and I’m pretty sure he’s harmless but absolutely sure that he’s – to use a term in its strictest medical sense – off his rocker. I’m glad for everyone’s sake he’s off the street but this guy should be in a mental institution, not a prison. Unfortunately, most cases like this start in the criminal system and stay there.

All that said, the police photographer does seem to have captured the essence of the man – my compliments to the Port Chester authorities for having an artist in their ranks.


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A sale in Old Greenwich

9 Roosevelt Ave

This do-it-yourself renovation started off at $1.850 million and after 2 1/2 years and three brokers the third, Julianne Ward, got the price down low enough to attract offers, $1.195. It sold yesterday for $1.175. My own clients and I had some history with this place but we’ll leave it that we found a better place and the seller received exactly the price he deserved. So everybody won, in the end.


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Now we’re getting serious

357 Stanwich Rd

This is a great older house sitting on an acre-and-a-half at the corner of Stanwich and Cognewaugh. It was originally priced at $2.850 but today it’s down to $1.795, which makes it look pretty attractive to me. It’s assessment is just $1.2 million but I’m guessing the 2004 renovation wasn’t picked up for that valuation. Nice house, nice yard and now, a nice price.


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Dinosaur lumbers off the stage

65 Patterson Avenue

This is a nifty old (1900) house right between Brunswick and Greenwich Academy that has been for sale for  long time and has finally gone to contract. It started at $3.595 million and only dropped to $2.7 million as the seasons passed (even if its picture failed to reflect it) and those students graduated, grew up and had families. Perhaps one of them has fond memories of passing this home and has returned to town to raise her own family there.

The assessment is $2,000,000. The owner sits on the tax appeals board, so I wonder if he’ll argue that he’s been under-taxed all this time? Probably not.


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Ban alcohol – there; you can disband your task force and return the money to the treasury

State task force seeks solutions to domestic violence.


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Realtor Retirement Act – new short sale program

Friend Shoeless sends along this link to a discussion of the Administrations new short sale program that, unlike its first failed attempt, might actually work. Read the whole article, but here are some highlights:

Foreclosure Alternatives
The HAFA program simplifies and streamlines the use of short sale and DIL options by incorporating the following unique features:

Complements HAMP by providing viable alternatives for borrowers who
are HAMP eligible. In other words, borrowers who are eligible for HAMP but smart enough to realize it isn’t in their best interest.

Utilizes borrower financial and hardship information collected in conjunction with HAMP, eliminating the need for additional eligibility analysis.

Allows the borrower to receive pre-approved short sale terms prior to the property listing. Extremely important point, this turns short sales from the nightmare they are now into a smooth transaction. Short sale prices will improve as a result and transaction volume should go up.

Prohibits the servicer from requiring, as a condition of approving the short sale, a reduction in the real estate commission agreed upon in the listing agreement. Clearly a win by the NAR, the max commission is set at 6%. In many places in California 5% is pretty much max. Investors will be getting 1% less in California as agents will be sure to be smart enough to be asking for 6%. The listing agent will probably get that particular bonus right now with inventory so low there is no reason to up the selling office commission.

Requires that borrowers be fully released from future liability for the debt. A clear win for borrowers, especially in many of the recourse states or who refinanced in places like California which allows recourse on refinances. Borrowers will be much more likely to participate if they realize after the sale is done they are out from under their massive debt. Like the commission deal point this one comes at a cost to investors.

Provides financial incentives to borrowers, servicers, and investors. Borrowers get $1,500 for completing a short sale, Servicers get $1,000, investors only get money for settling junior liens, up to $1,000.

Right now we have a huge shadow inventory in Greenwich – houses that owe more than they’re worth, with owners just sitting on them because they’re unable to come up with the cash to provide clear title at closing and unable to realistically hope to sell them for what they paid for them. Fudrucker and I have been nosing through this slag heap, approaching individual owners with offers to see what we can negotiate with the lenders, but it’s a slow, laborious process and the inventory keeps growing. This program should help, a lot.

If you’re in that situation, ask your agent. Or, better yet, have her call Frankie or me (commercial plug). We have buyers, you’re a seller, it could be the beginning of a brief, but beautiful friendship. Best of all, and god bless the NAR, notice the provision in there that requires banks to pay a 6% commission, something unseen in these parts since Tommy Hilfiger was married to his first wife. Plenty of room for your agent and Fudrucker/Fontanski Discount Realty to feed at the trough.

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