Daily Archives: April 16, 2012


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Where is the outrage from the Left?

Provision to strip American citizens of their right to travel passes Senate, heads for the House where it is expected to become law. Persons accused of owing taxes – disputed or not – will lose their passports, just on the say-so of an IRS employee. Imagine the hubbub from Dollar Bill and his crowd if this were to happen to an illegal alien! Democrat-sponsored, naturally.

UPDATE: IRS asserts that Warren Buffet owes a billion in taxes – his secretary will have her passport confiscated long before he ever does.


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Whack a mole

Lose Chavez, another crook takes his place. Argentina nationalizing largest oil producer. Details of what to expect here. Of course, when all these bad things come to pass, the left will blame bad luck,big oil, and Bush.

“I don’t see any upside, especially because this happened at a time when there was growing interest in the potential of unconventional resources,” Daniel Kerner, an analyst at political risk research firm Eurasia Group, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “This is going to make it very hard to attract the investment because you not only changed the rules of the game but took over the assets of the main company.”

The country’s oil reserves fell about 18 percent between 1998 and 2010, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute. Price caps on oil exports also made investments less attractive.


“It’s very difficult to reverse the situation when the problem has been going on for years,” Adrian Mayoral, an analyst and trader at Buenos Aires-based brokerage Mayoral Bursatil, said in a telephone interview yesterday from the Argentine capital. “The government doesn’t have $20 billion every year it can dedicate to exploration and production.”


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Another new tax comes your way via Hartford

Red light traffic cameras pass key legislative committee. I’ve posted about this before – this is a revenue enhancer, not a safety measure, and one that’s been pushed by every major lobbyist in Hartford. The Democrats caved.

Don’t believe that it’s all about revenue? Ask yourself this: why was it even before the Finance Committee today?


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The science is settled: electric cars are a bargain

I think I see a polar bear!

So says the Union of Concerned Scientists, who over the decades have also brought you global warming, phony cancer scares and Alar apples. The UCS announced today that you’ll save $1,200 per year not buying gas for your electric car. These non-partisan, careful researchers brought their usual quality research to this problem  so we know we can trust their numbers. Let’s see how they did:

11,000 miles @27 mpg X $3.5 gal. = $1,425 in gas. So a saving of $1,200 means you’d pay just $225 per year, $20 bucks a month, to charge the car. Is that possible? No data is provided to back up this assertion, but why not accept it, for now?

Ford says its electric car costs $40,000, $23,500 more than the same gas model, the Focus, which sells for $16,000 (and which gets 33, not 27 mpg). Battery life for an electric car is five years, after which the car will be worth scrap value. That’s $8,000 depreciation per year vs whatever a conventional Focus is worth after five years. Even assuming the gas model will also be worthless, a dubious assumption, the electric car will cost $4,700 more per year in depreciation.

So which is the affordable car here? Assuming the car is financed (and assuming most Americans will qualify for such a loan), the extra $23,500 up front at 5% = $1,175 in extra interest charges per year – oops! There goes that gas savings. And if the car will have no residual value after five years, I’d expect the monthly payments to be much larger to reflect that.

Electricity to keep the thing running for just $20 a month? I’d like to see some backup for this claim.

(At least) $4,700 additional depreciation a year.

This sounds like a government project to me, not a practical solution that would be attractive or advantageous to consumers. In fact, it sounds exactly like every other bit of deceitful “science” spewed forth from the UCS and broadcast by the media.


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What I said this morning about managing the massage

can't catch a break

Google “Cartagena hookers” and get this: all Obama, all the time.


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Well why not?

Wasserman does D.C.

DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman, perennial candidate for the hotly contested title of Dumbest Democrat in Washington, called for Mitt Romney to release his tax returns from the finding of the golden tablets to this year. Now Wasserman’s republican opponent has called for her to do the same – turns out that, while she makes 3X more from her salary alone than her average constituent, she’s never disclosed her taxes. Asking her to show where her income comes from and where it goes sounds fair to me.


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Who among us does not love trimarans?

China does seem to have filthy waters, eh?

Okay, my taste runs to sailing tris, not motor boats, but this is pretty sleek. It’s $15 million so I’ll be staying on land for the foreseeable future.


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Worth repeating

Those Raveis statistics I mentioned earlier are eye-opening and well worth browsing through. But aside from the dismal numbers for Greenwich proper, the most impressive number, to me, is the discrepancy between the average sales price in Greenwich: $2,901,681 ($2,025,000 median) and the average listing price: $4,824,535. Listing prices in Riverside, Old Greenwich and even Cos Cob are much closer to reality than the rest of Greenwich, which probably explains why Old Greenwich and Riverside, (not Cos Cob, alas) are enjoying increases in sale prices – about 30% – while Greenwich has seen prices drop 15.8% and keeps falling: 25.5% this past March.


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Here may be another FAR casualty

4 Dogwood Lane (off of Parsonage) is now for sale, asking $2.560 million. Looks like a nice, albeit dated house,in a great location and on 1.16 of an acre, more than enough land to have a good yard. But it’s in the RA-2 acre zone so FAR regulations prohibit a house/garage to 4,548 square feet. The house is already 4,369 and with its garage’s square footage it’s already oversized so no additions for you, not even a sun room.

Consider this irony: FAR was imposed on homeowners to preserve the existing streetscape, it is said, and to ensure that no house exceed what the Planning and Zoning Commission has deemed to be the ideal size for a given space. using their FAR calculations, this same-sized lot, were it in a one-acre zone, could have 6,822 square feet. If nearly 7,000 square feet is acceptable on a 1.16 acre lot in the RA-1 zone, why must it be 2,000 feet smaller if it’s in the RA-2 zone? And why it has become the business of the P&Z how someone uses the interior of his attic? The logic behind both these bits of lunacy escapes me so you’ll have to ask Peter,  “We know that the towns that have the strictest zoning regulations have the highest property values,” Berg for an explanation.

In the meantime, although I haven’t taken the time to run the statistics (perhaps I will during the summer dormant season), be assured that owning a house that can’t be expanded by even one square inch is costing you money – far more money than whatever value Peter Berg* may have promised to put in your pocket when FAR was enacted.
* Poor Peter – since Franklin Bloomer retired, I’ve had to shift my ire about FAR and all matters zoning over to the new Chairman


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Riverside euphoria?

Is any price too dear for Precious?

I think prices may be getting out of hand in Riverside – then again, a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, and all that so ….

In any event, 24 Meadow Road in Riverside is now for sale at a price of $2.450 million. The house is a 1960’s colonial so it’s safe to say the bulk of its value lies in the land it sits on and not the house itself. And therein lies the problem. This lot is 0.20 of an acre – 8,712 square feet, in the RA-12 zone, which requires 12,000 square feet or punishes you accordingly.

The house is 2,558 sq. feet and that probably doesn’t count the detached one-car garage. Under FAR rules, the maximum sized house, including a garage, should you want one, is 2,744. That’s enough for a tipi and a tarpaulin for your Land Rover but that’s about it. If you like the present house, calculate in the garage square footage and it’s obvious that, to quote the Poet, “you ain’t going nowhere”. Build new and you hit the same size restrictions which, in Riverside, new construction, would seem too small for modern tastes. So, $2,450,000? I have my doubts.


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If Valley Road is driving average sales prices down, this ought to boost them back up

12 Indian Drive, Old Greenwich direct waterfront, came up for sale today asking $14.5 million. They might well get it, too, because it’s a gorgeous piece of real estate. It sold in 2004 in a bidding war for $7.7 million on an ask of $7.2, and that was before it was renovated. Whatever it ends up selling for, I’d be nervous if I were the owner of that house down at the end of Meadowbank who’s asking $10 million for his because this one isn’t side-by-side with Rocky Point Swim Club.

UPDATE: Full listing here


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Say goodbye to the Mustang, say goodbye to us – we’re rolling off the stage

Off to the Early Bird Special

Ford’s getting rid of its old-style Mustang as people my age fade into irrelevance.

The change is part of a bid to make the Mustang appeal to Generation Y, the roughly 80 million people who were born between 1980 and 1999. This demographic group is entering its peak car-buying years. Cars that their parents drive—and hark back to the days of Woodstock, 20 years before they were born—don’t really interest them.

Here’s the worst part: between stricter DUI laws, mandatory, no passengers until 21, no driving after sunset and helicopter parents, bombing around town with your buddies is no longer possible or fun. You don’t know what you have ’til it’s gone.

For Ford, Gen Y may prove a difficult target. For many in this group, cars and driving just aren’t that cool in an era of iPads and Facebook. A 2011 study by the University of Michigan found that just two-thirds of all 18-year-olds had driver’s licenses in 2008, down from 80% in 1983.


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The fog creeps out on little cat feet

39 Angus Lane, that asked $2.295 in 2005 and later dropped to $1.800 million in 2011, has dropped to $1.099.

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Driving those average prices down

198 Valley Road, Cos Cob, reported as sold for $725,000. Original asking price in April, 2011 was $987,000.

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Fun with numbers

Using the William Raveis numbers, it appears that Riverside is as hot as I’ve been reporting. For March, average sales price up 17.9% from a year ago, median up 21.8%. For the quarter, average is up 16.8%, median +44%.

Location is everything.


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Bogus numbers? (After looking, maybe not – a post in progress)

Business Insider is out with a post that claims Greenwich single family home prices, measured by square feet, dropped to $481 per foot this past February, a 34% drop, the author claims, from February 2011. Regular readers of this blog know that I am hardly a cheerleader for the Greenwich Realtor group-think that proclaims everything is rosy, everything is going up up up! But I do question these numbers, as indeed I question everything in BusinessInsider, which goes for headlines more than accuracy.

My skepticism arises from the difficulty in actually getting any usable numbers from the Greenwich MLS. First, the MLS summary just shows listing price, not final sales price – the sales price would surely drive the numbers down, not up, but they aren’t readily accessible, and I doubt the author examined each listing individually, so how’d he get the number? UPDATE: He says they’re from Wm. Raveis’s website. Raveis has good numbers, so let me go look there.

Second, Greenwich plays fast and loose with square footage figures – some listings include the basement, some do not, so a 5,000 square foot house and an 8,000 sq, foot house could in fact be the same size.

Third, I just don’t see sales prices down as low as this guy says they are, and I’m following and reporting on sales every day during the day as they are reported. Sales if homes are definitely down for the January – April 15th period: 17%, by my math (103 vs. 124) although February was no worse this year than last, so the decline in activity occurred in other months. While there are exceptions, we seem to be seeing most sales coming in at 2003 levels and that’s been the bottom guide since, I believe, 2010.

I’ll ask my friend John Cook, over at Prudential (I think John’s with Prudential) what his statistics show but I’m fairly confident the BusinessInsider article is wrong. Now ask me about what I think is going to happen to the market, and that’s another story, but one based on my fears for the macro-economy, not local.

UPDATE II: Here are the Raveis numbers and they bear out most of what he says, though …

According to Raveis, average sale price march, 2012, was $1.829 vs. $2.588 March 2011 (29.3%); median was $1,000,000, vs $2,000,000

But price per square foot supposedly increased 6.1 % to $605 vs. $570.

For the year to date, Raveis says average is down 17.7%, median down 27.6%, per sq. ft up 1.5%.

The number I definitely recognize as true is the average list price, which has increased 4%. Sellers are dreamers.


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The luxury of not having to sell

29 Beechcroft has taken its annual price cut today and now asks $7.125 million. This 5,000 sq.ft house started at $7.950 in August, 2010, dropped to $7.4 in August ’11 and now rests just above the $7 mark.

The highest price ever achieved on this street was for No. 16, new construction, 9,000 sq. ft., which sold in ’08 for $6.150. It too started at $8 million.


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Wasted trip


Where'd everybody go?

Did you know that Obummer was in South America this weekend for some kind of summit meeting? No kidding – he went there to do a little Romney bashing and show his Hispanic base that, throttling free trade notwithstanding, he really, really wants the relatives of US illegals to like him, and hopes they don’t mind being gunned down by the weapons his administration has been exporting. But the entire trip was buried by news of those horny Secret Servicemen and their playful antics. How much did we pay for this diversion?


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Is this like “pink slime”?

(Former) sushi lover

Tuna meat scraped from bones and served up as sushi recalled for salmonella bacteria.

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