Monthly Archives: October 2011

Thank You

A review of the site statistics indicates that in Chris’ absence, the cursed liberal and the cheerleader have actually increased page views to this humble blog. Go figure.

In any event, thank you. Furthermore, the highest day ever for traffic on this site was December 10, 2010 when 43,000 distinct hits were made. On that, we are nowhere close.

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Baseball Playoffs

I hate the wild card system. Be it baseball or football, the wild card is that team that had to play its head off to just get there, and rolls into the postseason already in playoff mode. The Phillies were the best team in baseball this year, but their success meant they didn’t have a meaningful game since June and it showed when a hyperactive Cardinals team beat them in 5.

I also think it should be mandatory that a team that has been in existence since 1910 is required to be in every World Series. So I’ll take the Cards in there with the expansion Washington Senators (Texas) – not the original Senators (Twins), but not with the Brewers. But the Brewers can send over the sausage races.

Me, I’m all in for Detroit this year. Can I get a miracle?

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Every 13 1/2 years, like clockwork…

The new car....

Gideon Fountain writes:

Every 13 1/2 years, I buy a new car.  After much research into various brands, I picked the one shown here (sitting in the lot, awaiting “dealer prep”, which better not mean “rust-proofing and fabric-protector”).  I was particularly influenced by the Wall Street Journal’s great automotive writer, Dan Neil. You should read his review of the Jaguar XJL .

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Corrections

Sorry, couldn't think of a suitable photo to illustrate "corrections"...

Gideon Fountain writes:

Correction no. 1

Reader “As It Lies” (a golfer, I presume) wrote the following:

“Sealed bids is a good sign of market life? Howso? Sealed bids are just a broker’s ruse to try to get someone to trip on themselves. I took part in one, and was the high bidder on a Sunday. On Tuesday, the broker called back and said that another bidder had emerged, and that they owed it to the seller to show the bid. Pure bs…”

“As It Lies” was right!  That is indeed “pure BS”.  This is how it should have been handled. When a listing broker is confronted with multiple bids, these are the exact words that should be said to each broker with a bid:

“We have multiple bids.  We would like to offer all bidders ONE CHANCE to improve their bid.  If you wish to participate, please submit your highest and best offer to the seller’s lawyer by [Wednesday, 2:00 PM].”

Ideally, that date should be no more than 24 hours later! And never, ever are the bids to be submitted to the listing broker!  Speaking of never, ever…Listing brokers (and sellers) should never, ever go back to the participating bidders for “a little more” after that first round, except in the extremely rare case of two actual identical bids.

And let us not forget: No matter what you do, like it or not, every time you bid on a property, you are potentially competing with other buyers out there. But if you are specifically informed that a “multiple bid” situation has developed and that makes you uneasy? Find another property to bid on.

Correction no. 2

Reader “Cobra” wondered if 11 Club Road (the beautifully restored Victorian featured yesterday) was built by Commodore Tyson.  Turns out, the answer is yes (he later built an even grander place further down the street).

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Dammit, more good news.

Gideon Fountain writes:

The sale of the house pictured, 116 Clapboard Ridge Road, was reported today (Bill Andruss listed, Helene Barre sold).  They asked $4,495,000 and it sold for….$4,495,000.  Would it have sold for about a million more than that 3 years ago?  I think yes, so it was certainly a “deal” for the buyers.  Interestingly, when my firm listed it back in 2003 at $3,795,000, the present owners bought it in a bidding war at $4,105,000. Ah, the good old days…sigh.

In other news, here’s what got reported on the Greenwich MLS today…

Sales:   2

Contracts:   3

Accepted Offers: 4

The price range of today’s deals, by the way, went as follows:

$9,500,000

4,995,000

4,495,000

2,995,000

1,245,000

1,099,000

1,050,000

663,800

525,000

I think that’s a nice range. It suggests that practically everything’s moving.  I like that.

That’s what’s happening in Greenwich, CT; can’t speak the rest of the world, your mileage may vary.

116 Clapboard Ridge: reported sold toady

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Here Come the Bank

On Pins and Needles

Today’s Open House tour shows the creeping presence of “the bank” in our local real estate. 39 Boulder Brook, located at the very end of that fine dead end street with many a’ spec house from the sublime York Development house at #9 to the more mundane house at #33. #39 was the property of, I believe, an acupuncturist/developer from Greenwich who built a number of unsold houses priced in the stratosphere. Many went back to their banks and have reemerged at more reasonable prices. This one is now under $4 million, but I bet if you are enrolled in the Republican Party, or promise to do so, you might get a discount

 

Live With the Power People

56 Orchard Street in Cos Cob is actually being sold directly by the bank, Bank of New York – Mellon. This stonemason’s dream was purchased for $965,000 back in 2005 and is presently being sold post-foreclosure for $765,000 priced most likely by a bank bureaucrat who doesn’t believe that Greenwich real estate should ever result in a loss of money for a lending institution. Fun fact, however – both your Selectmen, D and R, live directly across the street, so you can count on excellent plowing of the street

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Wow!

Gideon Fountain writes:

This 1893 Victorian beauty*, on Riverside’s Club Road,  just came on the market yesterday for $8,500,000 (Listed by Debby Prouty).  The two most recent sales on Club were for $5,300,000 and $4,300,000.  The highest Club Road price so far was $8,675,000, back in Sept. 2008.

So…is this place well-priced?  I’ll check it out tomorrow, but the market, ultimately, will decide, won’t it?

*The part of town called “Belle Haven” has bags of these things, all beautifully restored, Riverside, only a few.

Club Road classic, back on the market after about 20 years...

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Anybody buying this stuff?

Left-wing kook-burger Frankie, and sensible right-winger Giddie, teamed up to sell this for $7.76M

Gideon Fountain writes:

In the past few days I have heard of three different propeties going to “sealed bid”, so that seems to me to be a good sign of market life.  The normal way we brokers get a feel for what’s happening now is to go online and check the (constantly-updated) daily “hot-sheet” from the MLS.  Reports of sales are useful becauase you finally get to see what the actual selling price is, but what’s truly useful are the reports of contracts  and “accepted offers”. That information tells brokers what’s happening right now.

With that in mind, here’s what’s been reported in the last 24 hours:

Sales:  2

Executed contracts:  3

Accepted offers:  6

(Note: I provide a link only for sales, because they’re now public record)

The two sales, one for $16,000,000, the other for $980,000, certainly give you an idea of the broad price-spectrum we have in this town, as do the nine contracts and accepted offers, which run like this:

$4,500,000

4,400,000

3,995,000

2,995,000

840,000

663,800

639,000

485,000

These are all single-family properties located in various parts of Greenwich and, they are all asking prices, so we wait to see what the sellers actually got.

For  24 hours, I think that’s a fair amount of activity, so yes, someone’s buying stuff out there.

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Report From The Trenches

I think the right has their noses out of joint because people who are just pissed off, with no coherent message at all, seem to be galvanizing support – even from people who would normally not be in agreement. As a matter of fact, this statement seems to make the most sense to me:

Our protests and other activities cannot be limited by our outrage at the US Federal government’s recent passage of the Stimulus Bill”. Yup, if you go back in time, all the way to 2009, you will find that the beloved and adored Tea Party didn’t know anything other than they were angry about something that didn’t make specific sense to its adherents. Eventually, they discovered the Republic really needs to repeal direct election of Senators.

Frank this coming Weekend

So, I’ve got my Birkenstocks on, rolling a fat joint, have my pachouli oil at the ready and will affirmitavely not bathe for the next five days, proudly in line with those who know, instinctively, that something is wrong in a country that seems to be in the control of people singularly obsessed with maintaining oligarchical wealth. Someone may inform them shortly that the protest “should not be limited to our outrage over ridiculous imbalances of wealth and privilege”. You might find then that the synergies of angry left and angry right might have a lot more in common than the powers-that-be would believe.

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Taxes

OK, here you go all you tax obsessed people. I have been spending the past three days preparing taxes. Since we here at EBT Central are a New York Corporation, we have three corporate filings (thanks for the late K-1′s, partners) in New York, CT and Federal, three personal filings in the same jurisdictions, plus two allied LLC’s. We did OK in 2010, so I better sell some more houses in this down market to pay for all those welfare queens I’m supporting with the checks I’m writing, as well as my happy new accountant.

Its a great state, and a great country. I’m happy to do my check writing part. Now when are they going to pave my street?

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Real Estate Cry-Babies?

One of Frankie's real estate bear (cubs) reacting to news of Gideon's latest sale.

Gideon Fountain writes:

Last week I sold this place , 767 Lake Avenue, for $3,625,000 (listing broker Amanda Miller).  For that price, my peeps got 5,962 square feet, 2 acres, 4-car garage, no pool.  It started out at $5,175,000 in April 2007. It last sold for $4M in 2003.

My clients were very satisfied with this selling price but I’ll bet Fudrucker & Fountain (Chris), collectively stamping their Berkinstock sandals on the floor, would be shouting “Fools! Fools! Greater Fools!”  That’s because Frankie & Christopher (and their Greek chorus of Real Estate Bears) are deeply offended when properties sell for anything but fire-sale prices.

On the other hand, I am not deeply offended when Frankie sells, for instance, a foreclosed upon short-sale, for way below its previous sale price.  Properties like that, often in poor condition and mired in banking/bureaucratic entanglements, take tremendous skill (and patience!) to shepherd through to closing. Good for Frankie, say I !  So why, oh why, does this group (Chrissie/Frankie & Fans) get so scared when regular properties sell for “regular prices”?

Here’s my theory: When a subject that is not normally emotional, like the price of a stock, commodity, or property, nevertheless has a very emotional group arguing one side, the emotional group almost certainly has an agenda. I think in the investment world it’s called “talking your position”; you’re short some particular stock so you endlessly blather on about how bad this company’s prospects are, hoping to get the price down.

So what’s the agenda of all our Greenwich real estate bears? I think there are a couple. Frankie and Chrissie, having honed their foreclosure sale skills to the max, are actually threatened when houses are sold by brokers in the usual manner.  After all, anybody can do that!  Try selling something for 50% off the previous sale price, that takes skill, dammit! But if too many properties sell the conventional way, what’s left for Fud & Fount? Not much, hence their concern.

As for their Greek chorus, I figure this group is made up of renters hoping “some day” to buy, and maybe some folks who want a mansion-by-the-sea for $250,000?  Trouble is, if Greenwich prices really did drop 75%, the last thing any of these people would do is buy some.  They’d be too afraid!

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Riverside/Old Greenwich…Towns within a Town?

Gideon Fountain writes:

I wrote about the sale of 5 Sunset Rd in Old Greenwich for $4.7M and a reader, I think it was “anonymous” (but maybe it was “anonymous”) asked how I would value that same house sitting on 2 acres in mid/back-country.  The reader felt that the “value disconnect” between O.G and Riverside was getting even more pronounced.  So I took a look at 52 recent sales and found this one: 2 Birch Lane. It has only 1.28 acres, not two, but still provides an interesting contrast…

2 Birch, a “mid-country” location off North Street or Parsonage Lane, sold for $4.8M on June 30, 2011.  It has 10,101 square feet and was built in 2008.

5 Sunset, in a very desirable section of Old Greenwich, off Sound Beach Ave, sold for $4.7M Sept. 30, 2011. It, too, was built in 2008 but has only 5,235 square feet on .40 acres.

Conclusion:  Buyers get a lot less for their money in Old Greenwich vs. mid-country Greenwich.

But that’s not the whole story.  When we brokers take new clients out for their first drive around the town,  a fair percentage of them will immediately reject Old Greenwich or Riverside because “the houses are too close together…not enough land!” So we take these folks to mid or back-country and they’re happy.

Meanwhile, the other clients, the Riverside/Old Greenwich types, actually value proximity, actually want neighbors close enough so kids can run to each others’ houses, not to mention the school, the village, etc. But you give up a lot for that; room for a pool (or an actual pool!), a big, spreading lawn, multi-car garage, maybe a guest house. You’re not getting all that for a measly $4.7M in Old Greenwich!

So is the price gap growing?  I say no. Is mid/back-country a better deal? Ehh.  As always, what you buy depends on what you value.

2 Birch (pictured) vs. 5 Sunset: Which is “better”?

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Nancy Barton

Sadly, we lost a good friend, Nancy Barton, after a short illness. Nancy was a strong liberal voice in a conservative town, but no wild-eyed person either. Smart, savvy, both a devoted defender of those with no voice, and a sharp litigator who ran all the legal business for GE Capital. We will all miss her big brain and big heart. Information on services is forthcoming

Frank

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Gideon and Narcotics

Clearly, Gideon has been consuming some of the joy juice doled out at the Old Post Road #456 headquarters of the Greenwich Association of Realtors. It’s true that if one plans to live in a house forever, it doesn’t matter how much you spend because only the kids get the profits. But the folks at Sunset will wind up paying about $140,000 a year if you depreciate over 30 years, so $11,600 a month plus taxes and maintenance is a pretty price, even in this market.

Poring over the land records this AM, 102 lis pendens filings currently on the land records for 2011 (this includes about 20 divorces) and 26 foreclosures. Looking over the ones I am familiar with, it seems that there is about an 18 month lag between the first missed payment and when a filing gets made. And when there are 30-40 of these homes available in the same price range as Gideon’s Summit, it makes it more seem that it was a total anomaly, and not a sign of the times

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Sometimes the fish, he don’t mind getting caught….

Gideon Fountain writes:

Maybe this  is where Chris gets his swell pictures…

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Fools, fools, and “greater fools”!

Gideon Fountain writes:

I love it when Fudrucker (or my brother Chris) calls anyone who buys real estate around here that is priced over $1,000,000 “greater fools”. I’ve just checked the latest statistics from the Greenwich MLS, and in the last 90 days, 86 properties have sold or gone to contract in Greenwich, priced $1M+.

They range from $955,000 for 15 Pierce Road in Riverside (asking price was $1.035M) all the way up to the previously-mentioned 14 Meadow Lane, which got $32,500,000.

Another good example is the one pictured here, number 5 Sunset Road, Old Greenwich, that was reported sold Friday for $4,700,000.  The Town assessment was $1,936,550 so, to Fudrucker and Fountain (Chris), this was another example of a greater fool.

I have even seen Frankie riding up and down various streets on his tricycle, waving his fists and shouting at recent buyers “Fools!  Fools!” yet these folks just shrug their shoulders and continue enjoying their new houses! Poor Frank. It must be so annoying.

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Nerve, chutspah, temerity? $32,500,000!

Gideon Fountain writes:

“Balls of steel” is a cruder expression, but how better to describe the investor-builder of this spectacular house at 14 Meadow Lane, formerly the site of actor George C. Scott’s old, moldering stone mansion?  Back in March 2005, this fellow, who lives fairly nearby, ponied up $8,725,000 (about $100,000 more than the highest offer I got when I was listing broker) for the tear-down on its 14.48 acres.

Five years later, a beautiful 14,131 square foot main-house, plus pool-house, plus “gate-house”, came on the market at $36,500,000.  And a year after that, it fetched $32,500,000* on July 26, 2011.  Building any “spec” house is a risk, but a $30M+ spec house?? Amazing.

* Not sure if Fudrucker was bidding, but if he had, he would have insisted his buyer go not one penny over $20M! And, sure enough, his buyer would now be living somewhere else. Funny how that works…

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Chris Fountain: Quo vadis? Ut mos vos reverto?

Gideon Fountain writes:

Chris Fountain’s (much-needed) return should be around October 22nd.  In the meantime,  you have me occasionally, and Frank Farricker, seemingly always. Fudrucker reminds me of radical attorney* and some-time talk-show host Ron Kuby.  Kuby is often asked to stand in for vacationing conservative talk-show hosts, much to the disappointment of regular listeners.  Like Frankie, Attorney Kuby is mysteriously likeable, but does that mean you want to hear from him every day?

(The two Latin phrases are “Whither goest thou?” And “When will you return?”)

* A “radical attorney” is one who makes millions of dollars defending mob figures but whose real passion is reserved for defending an assortment of terrorists, leftists, and other anti-Americans.

Chris Fountain: The writer everyone wants to read.

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Open House Tour

29 Pecksland

Open houses today divided into two types. Type one: the previously referenced “shelter”. 11 houses under $1 million, most or them can be purchased with a 20% down, and an FHA or Fannie or VA insured mortgage. Its like the old days, you can buy based on how much you pay a month, and nobody is at risk except the guarantor, which is of course the US Treasury. Predict brisk sales.

 
Type two, houses like 29 Pecksland (left). There are 11 houses on the market in excess of $5 million. All are far from town, with Baldwin Farms being the closest. Nice places all, but if you’re sitting on $5 – $6 million in cash these days do you a) pay retail and b) buy boring. Pecksland is close to town and what appears to be a thoroughly remodeled 1700′s house. So this I give a fighting chance but some of the others may be searching for a rapidly dwindling pool of greater fools.

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Foxy Knoxy

That was then

So was this

So now, as the networks, Barbara Walters, and the rest of the vultures descend on the “EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW”, how much do you bet that the Knox handlers insist she be portrayed as Saint Amanda.

Regardless, this woman is the smokin’ star of the whole show  – not the Today folks, but the real star, Praxilla Trabattoni. What a name. And she plays polo

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