Daily Archives: May 11, 2011

Hope and change at the Obummers’ next week

The president of our nation is hosting a poetry party at what used to be this country’s White House and is now some kind of black power center. Two of the honored guests are racists and at least one applauds cop killers. As Lenny Bernstein said, “I absolutely dig it”. Power to the people right on!

“Tell the law my Uzi weighs a ton … I hold up a peace sign but I carry a gun,” raps Common in one appearance that was posted onto YouTube.

“Flyer say Free Mumia on my freezer,” he raps in another. Mumia Abu-Jamal is an incarcerated former member of the Black Panther Party who was convicted in 1981 for killing a Philadelphia police officer. Agitating for his release from prison has become a cause for many leftwing activists.

Common named his daughter after Assata Shakur, a Black Panther who was convicted of first-degree murder 1977. She escaped from prison and exiled to Cuba. The FBI recognizes her as a domestic terrorist.

Common has also been a vocal opponent of mixed race relationships and believes black men and white women should not date. In one rap he says, “I don’t know what it is / but white girls gettin’ ass / I know what it is / It’s cash.”

Interestingly, Jill Scott, who will also join the White House celebration, opposes interracial relationships, as well.


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You can have politics or sound banks, but not both

Obummer to banks: bring back sub-prime mortgages!

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And the climb-down continues

19 Desiree

This  house on Desiree (off of Stanwich) sold new in 2004 for $4.9 million, and was listed for sale again in 2008 for $5.595. After a time out for a rental, it came back on in the $4’s and today dropped to $4.650. It’s a pretty nice house, on two acres with a pool and access to the Mianus River Park in back.

But Desiree has a few handicaps, including a weird, unpronounceable name, a cluster of the street’s original, far more modest homes near its entrance which set a tone inappropriate for the BSDs at the end, and the  neighboring house #21, also new, that got clobbered on pricing – tried for $5.950 in 2006 and finally sold with a whimper in 2010 for $3.715. That kind of success doesn’t inspire confidence in the street.



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So what else are we supposed to do in a coffee house?

California city bans nudity, smoking and gambling in coffee houses. Spoilsports.


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Marginal Ways

19 Riverside Lane

No, I’m not speaking of the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine but rather these two houses., one north, one south of the Post Road in Riverside on a couple of our less desirable streets – they’re selling, and pretty quickly. 19 Riveside Lane, for instance, was listed at $929,000 on April 12 and is reported as under contract today. It was recently renovated and although Riverside Lane is a fairly busy street, this is a perfectly nice house.

Similarly, 75 Summit Road, on the railroad side, listed at $1.389, was also recently spruced up and is also under contract. What both these houses have in common is that they’ve been made over and are in “move-in condition”, at what passes for an affordable price. And so they sell, just like that tiny house on Hendrie Drive in Old Greenwich I wrote about yesterday. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.


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Rogues Hill Road

There were several open houses on Round Hill Road yesterday so I had the opportunity to go up and down its length. What a sad decline I’ve witnessed over the past 57 years. There was a time, long ago, when a drive to the Back Country was almost as enjoyable as a drive to Vermont. And maybe more entertaining, because instead of hard scrabble farms, you could see beautiful meadows sweeping up to grand mansions, each set back far from the road and surrounded by 50, even 100 acres. It’s not that I ever wanted to live in such houses, but they were fun to see.

That’s pretty much all gone now. The grand estates have been chopped up into four – acre lots and filled with some pretty awful examples of builders and architects doing their worst. And, although I’m sure Greenwich attracted some nefarious characters back in the 50’s and 60’s, the past decade has seen just a parade of sad sack crooks: Walter Noel, Dom DeVito, Fred (?) Burke, the Raj, the lawyer for Noel’s Fairfield Group, Leona Helmsley, and on and on. The road, to me, represents all that is sordid in our modern business world, money-grubbing poseurs putting on airs, until the handcuffs are slapped on. There’s little prestige left up there on Round Hill, when it once held co-title with Field Point Circle as the most prestigious address in Greenwich. Now there’s just William Street in Riverside and if I move away, what will be left?


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More on FAR

A reader is still trying to puzzle out our town’s FAR regulations and how it affects a two acre parcel in the four-acre zone. So here:

The R-4 zone has a floor area ratio of 0.065. You calculate the number of square feet in a lot by this ratio and reach the maximum size house you are permitted by Franklin Bloomer, RTM Land Czar, to build. If you have a full four acres (43,560 X 4) you’ll have 174,240 sq. ft and you can build 11,326 sq. ft.

If you have two acres in the two – acre zone, you can build (87,120 X FAR of 0.09) a 7,841 sq. ft.

And if you have 2 acres in the one – acre zone, you can build 11,761 sq. ft.

BUT! If you have two acres in the four-acre zone, the R-4 FAR of 0.0625, rather than the R-2 FAR of 0.09 applies, and you are restricted to just 5,445 sq. ft.

So, for  the same identical two acre parcel, Franklin and his FAR boys have decreed three different sized permissible sizes of houses, depending on zone : 11,761 (R-1), 7,841 (R-2) and 5,445 (R-4). Somewhat counter-intuitively, the smaller the acreage in the zone, the bigger the house you can build. This makes no sense to me but then, the RTM land use folks have never asked me my opinion.

The reader also asks ” is small bad? Not to my taste, but I’m not trying to sell my property. If I were, and I owned two acres in the R-4 zone, I would answer differently. By the way, if you really want a taste of the absurd, try this example: a one acre lot in the R-1 zone allows a 5,880 sq. ft. house, while that same acre in the R-4 is restricted to 2,831. Huh?


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Another house available on Round Hill Road

Rajamataz guilty on all 14 counts. Wow. (hat tip, reader Jrlr)

UPDATE: Walt suggests that the headline should have read, “Whale harpooned on Round Hill Road”. Much better.


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Undersized lot for sale on North Street

820 North Street, up near Conyers Farm, is two ares in a four acre zone, which means it gets hammered by our FAR. It asked $2.995 in 2002 but didn’t sell until 2004, when it fetched $2.437. It’s been back on the market since 2009, beginning at $2.735 and slowly dropping – today it was cut to $2.295. I don’t know the value of a lot so severely compromised by the FAR. The town assessed it at $1.325.


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Putting Riverside to the test

87 Winthrop drive was built in 2004 and sold that year for $2.450. It’s back for sale today, unchanged, asking $3.350. Will they get it? Will Riverside defy the market? Stay tuned.

Interesting note: this property was described in 2004 as being 4,200 square feet. The town says 3,900, the new listing says 5,089. How odd.


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Odd pricing

16 Lakeview Drive

This relatively new house on Lakeview Drive (you have to pretend the Mianus River pond is a lake for this name to work for you) in NoPo was placed for sale in 2007 at $3.265 and finally sold for $2.7 in June, 2010. I assume the buyers did some additional work on it because when they put it back up for sale six months later they priced it at $2.995. This kind of demanded appreciation, in this market, seems to annoy buyers and turns them off. Today it’s been dropped a hundred grand to $2.895 but my general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t expect to get back anything you sink into improvements unless it’s a down-to-the-studs renovation. Adding a flat screen television to the powder room won’t do it.

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Two of my favorite properties go to contract

160 Bedford Rd

160 Bedford Road used to be a beautiful house but seems to have been let go during the years it’s been on the market so all that’s really left is its eight acres. But those are great, rolling acres, mostly meadow, and someone can build a great house here.

It sold for $3.3 million in March of ’07 (2005 assessment was $2.075 so assuming that assessment was still representing 70% of market vale, that was about right).  For reasons best known to the new owners, they returned the property to the market in November 2007 priced at $5.295, which was probably an unwise figure. In any event, after four years and many price cuts the price hit $2.2 million eventually and now has a buyer.
8 Dingletown

I liked this house at 8 Dingletown far more than any of my clients did, but that’s what makes a horse race. It sold for $2.2875 in 2002 and in 2007 the new owners did a terrific renovation, making it seem almost brand new. They priced it at $3.295 in March 2010, dropped it to $2.595 this past January and found a buyer this week. 2005 assessment was $2.232 but I don’t know whether that reflected the 2007 improvements. Regardless, I thought this was a pretty good buy.


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Waiting out the rich

88 Conyers Farm

When a seller doesn’t have to sell a house, it can take a loooong time to get him to a reasonable price and sometimes he never does (his estate will probably be more cooperative). This Conyers Farm property has been on and off the market since 2002, starting at $19 million and staying there until 2010, when it dropped to $17 million. The listing expired again yesterday and no doubt we’ll see yet another broker step up to the plate, but I wonder why? The market has had nine years to speak its mind on this place and, clearly, it’s no Jack Kennedy and no $19 or $17 million house.

But its owner doesn’t care what others think, and good for him. Sticking to one’s guns is what made this country great. Sure glad I don’t have this listing, though.


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This probably won’t help our local Greenwich market

Feds: kiss your jumbo mortgage goodbye. Retreating to a $400,000 limit. Buyers of super expensive homes don’t rely on mortgages but, with only 3 such houses (over $8 million) having gone to contract this year, they make up an insignificant portion of the market. It’s the $1-3 million houses that has been recovering, and many of those buyers have been relying on federally – guaranteed loans. No more, or not after September. It will be private lenders only, which this article says charge a full point more and impose much stricter standards.

From a national policy perspective, this probably makes sense, but I suspect it’s going to hit the Greenwich market hard. Sellers and buyers might want to get flexible in a hurry over the next few months because it appears that buying power is going to drop and that, in turn, will drive down prices. My beloved trade group, the National Association of Realtors, is lobbying fiercely to preserve jumbo loans, naturally, but I don’t their position is consistent with the national mood.


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