Daily Archives: April 27, 2012

Brave soul

To boldly go where no man has gone before ...

A third condo unit on Sound View Drive has found a buyer, leaving something like fourteen to go, plus the whole second phase which has been a dirt lot for six years now and probably will remain in that state for the foreseeable future. But yes, there’s an accepted offer reported today for Unit 44B. Asking price was $1.995 million, down from $2.975 but I wonder whether that’s enough to compensate for the risk of buying here with so many units unsold and the inconvenience of living on the steepest slope in Greenwich with trucks downshifting 24 hours a day as they pass to and fro from I-95 to the commercial establishments on Route One?

Someone obviously thinks so. But how do you suppose those two other lonely buyers feel, the one who paid $3 million a couple of years ago and the dumb fool whose broker sold him the first one back in 2008 for $3.525 million, over and above the asking price of $3.350?

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Westchester special?

11 Partridge Hill (photo not by EOS)

New listing on the New York border, 11 Partridge Hill Road (didn’t know it existed before now, did you?) off of Lake and even past Mountain Laurel, a contemporary on six very nice acres, priced at $3.339 million. Contemporaries aren’t particularly popular in Greenwich nor is this far northern location but this close to Westchester, where contemporaries and property taxes proliferate, it could be tempting. I don’t have any Westchester clients at the moment so I don’t think I’ll spend the gas to see this next week. Next year, if gas has come down, I’ll go.

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And here’s one that’s not selling, even with Photoshop clouds

3 Ashton Drive, 10,000 square feet of interesting taste, has been dropped to $6.975 million, down from last year’s price of $11.750 million and already below the 1.4 ratio for current assessment. It’s now just 59% of its original price; how low can it go? Tune in next year and find out.

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We were just talking about this

542 Lake Avenue closed, selling for $5.3 million (I’d been guessing $4.9 ish). Started off asking $6.595 million but still managed to sell for about 1.65 X its assessment, more than the 1.4 ratio that’s I’ve seen so many houses sell for. 9,627 sq. ft., if you’re into cost per foot calculations (I’m usually not).

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If people understood this threat, Obummer would go down in a landslide.

So like, listen, I've got these like tickets to an Obama fundraiser that cost my dad like $40,000 each and like, he can't go so I was wondering ...

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s been making noises about banning cellphones for years but now he’s really getting serious about it. And he’s not talking about handhelds, he wants to ban all cellphones, period.  Statistically, he’s right: handhelds and built ins produce exactly the same distraction and there are bound to be more accidents, but are 200 million Americans really ready to give up using them? Of course, the great thing about Obummer and his crowd is that they don’t care whether you’re willing, they just effect the change, and screw you.

Did you know that LaHood is also pushing for mandatory breathalyzer devices in all cars? I’ve heard horror stories of these things – not only are they expensive $200 a month to calibrate, for instance, but they can fail and if they do, you aren’t going anywhere, often for days. That’s fine for drunks – gives them time to sober up, maybe (unless they have a vodka stash in the trunk) but if, just as a for instance, you’re a mother trying to get three young kids to school and the god damned car won’t start, you’ll probably get angry. Too bad for you, says Ray – if it saves the life of just one child, is any inconvenience too great?

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Dumpster diving

82 Buckfield Lane

82 Buckfield Lane is out of foreclosure, title has passed to (one of the) lenders and Capital One is offering it for sale at $1.850 million. Good luck with that. Grossly inconvenient location way up north near the Indian casino (well, way up north, anyway), 2 acres in a four-acre zone and with much of that acreage under water in the form of a pond. Still, it’s a great big house and a decent yard, what there is of it, and probably should have sold before the bank got its claws into it. It’s biggest problem was the mortgage debt: $2.997 placed in 2006 and four more in lesser ($275,000 – $480,000) in the following years. Some of those four may have been refinances of earlier ones but there was at least $3 million and as much as $4.5 million piled on top of this house. That explains its asking price of $4.790 back seven years ago but it didn’t help it sell. And by the time it hit $2.399 in August 2011 it couldn’t sell, because there was no equity.

In any event, the bank’s got it now and it’ll be ripe for the picking in another six months or so. It will certainly be around at least that long unless the bank’s agent actually looks at what he is selling – right now, he describes it as built in 1968, no doubt confusing the house that was originally there with its replacement erected in 2004. On-line buyers are unlikely to be interested in a 1968 house.

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Large contract on Meadowcroft property

17 Meadowcroft

No, not one of the Mariani houses, the original 1939 mansion, renovated in 2010. Started at $10.795, ended up asking $8.9 million and presumably is selling for something less than that. Assessment is $6.406 so again, multiplying by 1.4, you get $8.968, which is pretty close to the market value as established by this sale.

Three acres surrounding this house were sold off in 2009 for $5.1 million, leaving this one with about four. Newly shorn, the house that same year for $8.7 million so I’d say the new owner will get most of the cost of those 2010 renovations for free and the seller will be losing money.

So it goes.

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So how do you screw up this badly?

So what's a million between friends?

80 Birch Lane, off North Street, is back on the market and asking $2.250 million. That’s probably about right – using the current assessment, you get around $1.9 for market value. What caught my attention was this property’s asking price in 2009, $3.295. By 2009 the real estate market was dead, houses weren’t selling, and this owner and her agent decided to price a tired old house one million dollars more than they now concede it’s worth? Nice work.

UPDATE:  a colleague points out, accurately, that there’s a new agent involved now. I should have made that clear.

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Not unreasonable, at least on the numbers

15 Midbrook Lane, that Old Greenwich neighborhood across from Perot Library, is listed for sale today for $1.395 million. The owners paid $1.350 for it in 2005 and according to the listing, replaced all the baths and did other updating. I’ve yet to see it but I like this area and this price seems like a good one for those not looking at mansions on Clapboard Ridge.

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The bitch is back

Laura Siefert gets goosed

Former Planning & Zoning scourge Laura Siefert has brought her land combination on Riverside’s Meadow Lane and Oak to market: $6.750 million for three building lots on 2.1 acres of swamp. My objection to this project is not limited to the affect it will have on an until-now quiet neighborhood – I also resent seeing Siefert, who spent decades (? a hell of a long time, anyway) tormenting applicants before her commission, whining about preserving the bucolic nature of Greenwich and chastising home owners for their greed, displaying everything she so despised in others, cash in and flee town. Good riddance to her, but I do hope her SUV gets stuck in that swamp.

And from the dream department, here’s another new listing, 49 Dingletown Road, a two acre land deal that was purchased for $1.614 million in July of last year and is now asking $1.850. Didn’t realize the market had improved up there on Dingletown.

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Melrose stays in place

9 Melrose (Avenue, not Place, but give me some room for snappy headlines here) a 2004 home on 0.11 acre and last asking $699,000, had an accepted offer but no longer does so it’s available again. Don’t know what the problem was but perhaps the $640,000 mortgage encumbering it caused difficulty. Interesting example of the housing crash and how it affected all price ranges can be seen here. The current owner paid $800,000 for it when it was new in 2004 (and took out that mortgage), then, under the absolutely insane advice of a local broker, priced it at $1.675 in 2007. I mean come on, are there no license laws?

In any event, no one wanted to pay $1.675 to live on the way to the dump, even in 2007 so the listing expired. The house has since seen a succession of brokers who’ve steadily dropped its price since 2008 from $999,000 to $899,000, to $7999,000 and eventually $649,000 in July, 2011. Nothing worked so this January Weichert Realtors were brought in, made it younger by changing the construction date to 2005 and raised the price back up, all the way to $799,000 – perhaps they thought that a $150,000 price increase on a house that couldn’t sell in five years would inspire buyers to rush in. Or perhaps they didn’t think at all, who can tell?

After dropping the price to $699,000, again, they did have a buyer, sort of, but now that deal is dead. So hurry over – as the worst of my peers like to proclaim, “this one won’t last!”

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Home buyers in trouble again and guess who’s to blame (besides themselves)?

Land rush

The government! I know, dog bites man, but over 1,000,000 people who bought houses from 2010 to date are already underwater, owing more than their houses are worth. Housing prices keep falling but the real culprit here is the FHA which is still issuing guaranteed loans requiring just a 3.5% down payment. That’s a pretty thin margin against a price decline. I’ll bet you thought the government had stopped doing this, huh? It hasn’t.

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A beautiful house but …

56 Clapboard Ridge

56 Clapboard Ridge has cut its price again, this time to $9.950 million. It started at $12 million 692 days ago in June, 2010 and they way things look, it may well still be for sale a year from this coming June.

Or maybe not – this is a grand house, originally built in 1840, updated over the years and a lot of money was put into it in 2009. “Only” 4 1/2 acres – must have been magnificent when it was surrounded by fields – and it has a nice pool, and a good location. But $10 million? If you take the current assessment of $5.662 and multiply it by 1.4 to get the town’s opinion of market value you arrive at $7.920. Assessments aren’t everything and many times they’re wrong but I was pulling some price comparisons for a client yesterday evening and was (somewhat) surprised to see how many recent sales are tracking their assessment.

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Coming to America

Zoot alors, who moved my cheese?

Actually, it’s already here and metastasizing. But in France, candidates refuse to even mention job-killing regulations.

“The cost of labor isn’t the main problem, it’s the rigidities,” Haan said in an interview. “If you make a mistake in your hiring plans, you can’t correct it.”

While polls show job creation and the economic crisis are the top issues for French voters in next month’s second-round election, neither President Nicolas Sarkozy nor Socialist Francois Hollande are focusing on Haan’s concern. Companies say the biggest obstacle to hiring is the “Code du Travail,” a 3,200-page labor rulebook that dictates everything from job classifications to leave for training to the ability to fire.

The difficulty of complying results in minimal hiring, economists say. There are now 2.9 million people out of work in France, almost 10 percent of the workforce and the most in 12 years. France has lost more industrial jobs than any European country over the past decade and risks falling further behind as countries including Italy and Spain loosen their own rules.

Exorbitant Costs

“For the 100 employees we have in France, we have 10 employee representatives, for whom we have to organize weekly meetings even when there is nothing to discuss,” Haan said. “Every time a social security contribution changes, which is frequently, we have to update software and send our HR people for training. We can’t fire anyone without exorbitant costs and procedures.”

The code sets hurdles for any company that seeks to shed jobs when it’s turning a profit, dictates the terms of parental leave and forces employers with more than 50 workers to organize worker committees, provide lunch subsidies and organize annual medical check-ups. It also offers judges scope to reverse staff cuts years after they’re initiated if they don’t meet the rules and makes some violations a criminal offense that could put executives in jail.

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Bidding wars are back

Who wants gum?

So reports the Wall Street Journal. We’ve seen a few break out here in Greenwich and for the same reason the Journal gives for the national scene: lack of inventory. Not that we don’t have plenty of houses still available in town, but well priced ones? Few and far between.

For instance, I spoke yesterday with Leslie McElwreath, listing agent for 145 Parsonage Road which she listed at $4.995, well below comparable, even inferior homes priced in the $6’s. The owners received four offers in about four days and had their house sold within a week. Some owners will view this quick sale as evidence that the house was underpriced – some owners’ houses remain unsold.

UPDATE: Here’s a cautionary note from the Journal that Greenwich sellers might heed:

Even though bidding wars are pushing prices higher, many homes are still selling for prices far lower than a few years ago. Increased demand is “entirely affordability driven, which tells me there will be strong resistance to price increases” by buyers, says Jeffrey Otteau, president of Otteau Valuation Group, an East Brunswick, N.J., appraisal firm.

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