Daily Archives: February 28, 2012

Two sales reported today

25 Stiles Lane, (link includes both houses discussed here) 4 acres and a good looking house, asked $4.495 million and got $4.395. That’s quick work for a house in nosebleed territory (way up Bedford near the Armonk? New Bedford? border) but housing price trackers, take note: this sold for $5.150 in 1999. A client asked me just today whether we were all the way down to 1999 prices and I answered, “only in exceptional circumstances”. I guess this was an exceptional circumstance, although certainly those weren’t financial because the seller is not and never will be in financial difficulties, or we’re now below 1999, at least in those fringe areas I harp on.

On the lower end of the scale, 74 Longmeadow Rd in Riverside’s NOPO area asked $1.675 and got $1.375 million. This was an estate sale so the records don’t go far enough back to know what it sold for last time but I’m sure there was a healthy margin here, especially if one doesn’t adjust for inflation. The house itself is almost irrelevant because this has direct frontage on Mianus Pond. I mentioned this property a few months ago and said I’d love to live here. I still would.


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So, how much is it worth to you to live on a nice street like Ledge?

1900 house, renovated in 2003, at 17 Ledge Road, Old Greenwich, asking $4.199. Seems like a lot to me, what with just a bit over 3,000 square feet in what looks rather like a gate house, but then, I don’t care to live on Ledge Road at 4.2 million dollars.. It’s a popular road, so someone else probably will. Probably.


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Free renovations

Could be a good deal or not; depends, I suppose, on how much was put into those renovations. 9 MacKenzie Glen came up for sale today asking $5.350. The owners paid $5.500 million for it in 2006 and the listing notes “renovations” in 2009. Mackenzie’s a good location, off North Street and across from Clapboard Ridge, and this was, as I remember, a well built house – it won a HOBI award back in 2006 but, while good builders seem to be the consistent winners of that trophy, what do catamaran sailors know about home building? Plus, I’m suspicious of anything passed around by one’s peers – sort of like “Realtor of the Year”.

Asking a tad under a 2006 price seems on its face to be aggressive but that’s what negotiations are for and besides, maybe those renovations add value – at the very least at this price, they’re the homeowner’s gift to you. Beats a box of chocolates.


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Good house, nice price cut

Peek-a-boo, I see you!

538 Round Hill Road cut its price today from $6.250 million to $5.2 (but what’s up with that awful picture? Somebody never read the admonition not to hide your lamp under a bushel, I think). Great location up near Leona’s and Malcolm’s, good views to the west. The east not so much, because this is built on a slope, facing east. A 1953 house showing its age when it sold for $3.750 in 2005, the new owners added on and presumably redid the interior.  Depending on how extensive that renovation was, $6.250 might not have been a ludicrous price in, say, 2006 but in this market, buyers obviously value it for less.


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An oddity returns to the market

Not that odd, but this house at 132 Riverside Avenue has front stairs leading to the second floor. It was built in 1963 and has been a rental most of that time so a string of owners have made out well here. In 1968 or thereabouts I stopped on my walk home from Eastern (kids actually walked to school back then, or rode horses) and asked the man who was building those stairs what was up. He explained that he was the owner/landlord (now lived in California, if I recall) and that potential tenants always complained about having to bring their groceries from the first floor upstairs to the kitchen on the second, so he was redoing things to eliminate that problem.

At fourteen, I wasn’t sure how walking upstairs outside was any different from walking up on the inside, besides being wetter, but the guy’s strategy obviously worked, because it hasn’t been changed in the 44 years since.

Asking price is $1.995. In 2005 the previous owner listed it at $1.780 and almost immediately cut it to $1.645. It sold for that $1.645 right away, for a total time on market of just 48 days. Smart guy, and an object lesson for those sellers who drop their price in tiny slices, leaving their product lingering on the market,.


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Why won’t intelligent people fear “Global Warming?”

Because of stories like this  (from the Guardian, of course).

A changing climate isn’t just about floods, droughts and heatwaves.  It brings erupting volcanoes and catastrophic earthquakes, says Bill McGuire in  London.

The idea that a changing climate can persuade the ground to shake, volcanoes  to rumble and tsunamis to crash on to unsuspecting coastlines seems, at first,  to be bordering on the insane. …. The fact that  it does reflects a failure of our imagination and a limited understanding of the  manner in which the different physical components of our planet – the  atmosphere, the oceans, and the solid earth, or geosphere – intertwine and  interact.

If we think about climate change at all, most of us do so in a very  simplistic way: so, the weather might get a bit warmer; floods and droughts may  become more of a problem and sea levels will slowly creep upwards. Evidence  reveals, however, that our planet is an almost unimaginably complicated beast,  which reacts to a dramatically changing climate in all manner of different ways;  a few – like the aforementioned – straightforward and predictable; some  surprising and others downright implausible. Into the latter category fall the  manifold responses of the geosphere.

Disagree? You’re a simpleton with limited understanding. That includes every scientist on earth.


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Tom Friedman, call your office

Useless Idiot

The Times’ Mr. Friedman is fond of extolling China’s model as “the way to get things done” but this report from China (and endorsed by China’s next leader) says that the economy is in serious trouble if the country doesn’t introduce more of a free market and dump the corrupt bureaucrats who are enriching themselves and entrapping the masses in continued poverty. If (some) Chinese can see that, why do you suppose Friedman and his employer are so eager for us to emulate their current failed system? Oh, wait a minute …

A joint report by the World Bank and China’s Development Research Centre has   warned that the low-hanging fruit of state-driven industrialization is   largely exhausted.

“As China’s leaders know, the country’s current growth model is   unsustainable,” said Robert Zoellick, the World Bank’s president. “This is   not the time just for muddling through. It’s time to get ahead of events.”

It can no longer rely on imported technology to keep up blistering growth   averaging 9.9pc since Deng Xiaoping began to throw open the economy in 1978   and unleashed the nation’s pent-up commercial energy. “China has reached   another turning point in its development path when a second strategic, and   no less fundamental, shift is called for,” it said.

The report has been seized upon by Politburo reformers battling hardliners and   vested interests. Li Keqiang, groomed to take over as premier this year,   offered his “unwavering support” for the findings.

He faces tenacious resistance from factions within the party, who insist that   the country’s resilience through the global capitalist heart attack of   2008-2009 has vindicated state control of key industries and banks.

The report said China’s growth will slow to 7pc later this decade and 5pc by   the late 2020s even if China embraces deep reform. Stagnation lies in wait   if it clings to the dirigiste model.

“The forces supporting China’s continued rapid progress are gradually fading.   The government’s dominance in key sectors, while earlier an advantage, is in   the future likely to act as a constraint on creativity,” it said.

“The role of the private sector is critical because innovation at the   technology frontier is quite different in nature from catching up   technologically. It is not something that can be achieved through government   planning.”


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Who’s giving up, sellers or their agents?

No mas!

Or both? Yet another barren Open House list today, when this is supposed to be the busy season. Only four showings in the Back Country, all (three of the four, actually) old listings and all still overpriced. “What? Failure to sell and overpriced? Hey, buddy, correlation does not equal causation!” I disagree.

Same story for houses being shown south of the Merritt. Nine houses, ranging mostly under one million and in the west, three in the $2 – $2.9 range, one at $9, all of which have been lingering.

So no burning gas or time today. I may go up to Stamford Superior Court at 11:00, where Judge Mintz is ruling on whether a foreclosing bank’s appraiser has to overrule his employer’s instructions and actually go into the house he’s valuing. A novel idea, what?


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A rising tide and all that?

A reader, commenting on the sky-high sales of new construction in Riverside, proposes that those sales will raise the value of existing housing stock. I’m not so sure it will because there’s been a dearth of new construction until recently and there’s pent-up demand. Over the past six months, 19 houses have sold in the Riverside School district and almost without exception, everything old sold for under $2 million and anything built in 2006 and later began at $3.3 and up to $4.970. There’s a $1 million plus gap between older houses and new and the bulk of those older homes fall in the $1.5 and below range, essentially land value.

Buyers today want new and don’t buy old, so if you don’t have new to offer, better look for a builder to unload your property on. That’s a gross over-simplification, of course and I know, I know, “your house is different”, but it works for me.


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Two sections of town, two different reactions


Riverside and Old Greenwich residents and merchants are stoic in the face of a ten-year disruption of their lives while the bridges in those areas are replaced.

“We need bridges, don’t we?” Penelope Smithers says. “Then that’s what we have to do. You say three, why not four bridges, to ensure future growth? Want to reroute I-95 to its original proposed path through Tod’s Point? It will be unpleasant, but if it would help Greenwich, bring it on!”

Compare this to the reaction of Cos Cob residents when back in 1983 the Mianus River bridge was temporarily shut down for, what? Two weeks? Three? My God, their wails soared over the traffic noise that the Greenwich Association of Realtors described as “the quiet tinkle of a babbling brook”. “We want reparations!”, they cried. “We want a new school! A grocery store! A library! We want balloons on every corner and free pony rides!”

And they got it all, though the balloons deflated, the ponies wandered off, the grocery store closed when it refused to accept food stamps and the library, to try to meet the needs of residents, stocked its shelves only with pop-up books for adults and coloring books for the children like “My Daddy is a Snowplower”.

We acceded to their every demand yet they are still complaining, twenty-nine years later. The latest “gimme” their politicians Frankie Fudrucker and Peter Tesei insist on is a new pool in Byram so that their neighbors can bathe with their western peers. Give me a break.

The difference between Riverside and Cos Cob? A stiff upper lip and a quivering one.


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The rich were different from you and I

Say goodbye to all that

Yo, Fat Cat! You’ve had a break, until now. WSJ: Slower foreclosures for costly homes. (UPDATE: a reader (okay, “the reader”, Walt points out that I survived the cut and was quoted by the article’s reporter, Shelly Banjo. Not much for a few hours of her time but she’s delightful company and one line is more than you should expect from a reporter – she’s there to do a story, not stroke your ego. Or that’s what I’m told, anyway).

 A new analysis for The Wall Street Journal shows that high-end homeowners are able to remain in their houses, without making payments, for far longer than those with smaller mortgages.

Nationally, borrowers with loans of at least $1 million were in default for an average 792 days last year before banks repossessed their homes, according to an analysis by data provider Lender Processing Services. For loans under $250,000, the wait stood at an average 611 days—a difference of about six months. The numbers are current through November.

The intervals are especially long in states such as Connecticut, New York and Florida, where judges are required to approve foreclosures before banks take back properties.

But enjoy that pool while you can because then there’s this: Million dollar foreclosures rise as rich walk away

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Five years after the housing bubble burst, America’s wealthiest families are now losing their homes to foreclosure at a faster rate than the rest of the country — and many of them are doing so voluntarily.

Over 36,000 homes valued at $1 million or more were foreclosed on — or at least served with a notice of default — in 2011, according to data compiled by RealtyTrac, which tracks foreclosures. While that’s less than 2% of all foreclosures nationwide, it represents a much bigger share of foreclosure activity than in previous years.


Until recently, many homeowners at the high end of the housing market were able to postpone the foreclosure process, Blomquist explained. With other assets and alternatives, “they had more financial means to hold out against default.”

In addition, lenders are typically more amenable to working with homeowners that have other resources, said Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell, a real-estate firm in Miami where homes priced over $1 million represented 9% of all foreclosures last year.

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We were just discussing this

Old Greenwich’s Sound Beach and Tomac Avenue  RR bridges to be shut for up to four years, Lockwood Lane for one. You’ll certainly have a ton of traffic diverted up Lockwood and the northern half of Riverside Avenue, but where will those big semis go? The Riverside bridge can’t accommodate them so I’d guess they’ll have to come down from Stamford and then turn north on either Sound Beach Avenue or Tomac. Won’t that be fun?

And yesterday I wondered (still do)  whether Dunkin Donuts had taken this into consideration when it decided to come into Old Greenwich and open now, rather than four years from now when village life and traffic return to normal. We’ve all known this was coming for years, but did DD’s Realtor warn them of this upcoming goatf**k back in corporate headquarters? Better to lose a sale than have an unhappy customer, right? Of course it is.


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