Well Weston’s a bit of a hike, but still

Weston homesteader’s cabin

Parents choosing Weston because of its excellent schools. Or so says this article (Stamford, by the way, is ranked dead last in the category). The happy home hunter interviewed for the article says she picked Weston for its schools, but then allows that she couldn’t find much in Greenwich for her budget of $1.3 million. No you can’t, honey.

I myself would prefer Weston for its much more rural atmosphere, schools be damned, but this article does illustrate the importance of a town’s educational system to the people who you hope will buy your house. That doesn’t mean more spending is in order – I have no doubt that Greenwich spends more per pupil than Weston does, nor did Mommy Homebuyer mention a $35 million high school auditorium as part of her selection criteria, but we ignore the declining quality of our schools at our property values’ peril.


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27 responses to “Well Weston’s a bit of a hike, but still

  1. greenwich in love with itself

    yes there are places now better than ghs

  2. GreenITCH

    HA agree with your title … what happens to a fragile housing market if Obama and Congress cut a deal that eliminates mortgage tax deduction CF … i guess that would take care of the lower end of Greenwich market ? http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/mortgage-interest-deduction-once-a-sacred-cow-is-seen-as-vulnerable/

    • The lower end particularly is all about monthly payments, so more money spent on taxes will reduce the amount paid to sellers, just as happens already in Westchester and Stamford (but of course prices there would also drop to reflect the new tax bite).

  3. Cos Cobber

    Yeah, but as the lower end falls, so wont the middle and upper…like it already has unless you are in Old Greenwich, Riverside or have waterfront.

    • Yes it will. If you’ve noticed, as the collapse of the $5 million + range pushes those prices into the mid $3’s, high $2’s, houses that were once asking $3 million are looking like poor bargains and they too are lingering. Down we go!

  4. sack

    Considering that Steve Cohen has 1,000 employees, and his Gordon Gekko style of trading has been uncovered, there may be more supply than demand in this area down the road once the feds shut him down. Then maybe one with a $1.3mm budget will be able to buy something in Greenwich

  5. Publius

    It is difficult for Greenwich residents to admit that the town no longer is THE place to live. Surrounding communities make easy fodder for the town folk but consider the fact that according to the CT State Department of Education per pupil spending in Greenwich for the 2009-2010 school year (most recent data posted) was $18,023 while the District ranked 40th (http://www.schooldigger.com/go/CT/districtrank.aspx) in achievement. Compare that to Weston at $17,837 per pupil while ranking 6th in achievment or perhaps much maligned Ridgefield with $14,555 per pupil spending with a 3rd place ranking in achievement. Yes at some point every day math and expensive home prices catch up to you, particulalry in this new era of diminished expectations. People will finally wake up and understand that spending a large percent of their resources on residential real estate is financially untenable and having to place you children in college tuition-like private K-12 to overcome a weak school system is not worth it particulalry when the private school track in no longer the ticket to get into that elite college. Yes, people will always want to live in Greenwich, but the secular trends are against the town and $35 million auditoriums are not going to reverse it. I believe that Mr. Fountain has expressed this view with his ruminations about those back country McMansions being bulldozed and combined into larger parcels.
    Full diclosure: I do not live in Greenwich, Weston or Ridgefield

  6. anon

    “…compared to Greenwich, which is the second-most expensive at $532 per square foot, a buyer like Newell can buy a lot more for a lot less. That could explain why a place like Greenwich — with the shortest commute to New York City and a highly acclaimed school system — finds itself in the bottom half of Fairfield County’s attractive towns for families with 5- to 9-year-olds at No. 15 of 23.”

    Unless your 5-to 9-year old likes to see Daddy once in a while and Daddy would rather commute 45 minutes to his job slinging bonds in midtown than sit in traffic for 2 hours trying to commute to Weston. Funny how those rankings don’t seem to calculate that into their rankings…

  7. Anonymous

    Best ranking is going to be the price of houses. Greenwich is by far the most expensive area for a reason.

  8. Cos Cobber

    I dont disagree with Publius on the broad points, but then the facts on the ground in my neighborhood tell a different story. Manhattanites and other young families from around the US continue to move in to the neighborhood taking the place of not other families – but of vacating seniors.

  9. Anonymous

    Yawn… Let the real estate market speak for itself. Sorry, it has spoken and it disagrees with the citizen of Wilton. Have fun with your commute and community pool.

  10. LAK

    Nice to see you on here Publius…it’s been awhile!

  11. Riverside Dog Walker

    While I’m happy in Riverside, if I was moving to the burbs now instead of 18 years ago, I would take a hard look at Wilton, especially if a NYC commute wasn’t an issue, as it is a great family town. Turns out I only commuted to NYC for 2 years.

    The state of Greenwich schools has declined in my tenure here, and damned if I know what I can do about it. While I do think people take the school system issues too seriously, there is no argument that the physical plant is not maintained and our whole school system is a bit of a cluster f*** given its management and the well meaning idiots on the school board who are supposed to manage it and do not deliver value for budget dollars.

    The only time I had occasion to visit Western Middle School was during my son’s Greenwich Basketball Assn days and I thought I had gone back to the 60’s. I doubt a dime has been spent on that school since I last saw it several years ago. Probably not much on EMS or CMS either. However, lots of money has been spent on superintendent’s, search fees for same, etc.

    If I really get going, I would ask why in this town do we have a police palace, why do we have to build a fire palace because we built a police palace, and why do we have a town funded nursing home? But instead I will do something more productive and work on my plan to be a Florida resident for tax purposes within 3-5 years.

  12. Greenwich Gal

    Hear Hear Riverside Dog Walker!
    If I was doing it all again, I don’t think I would choose Greenwich. But here I am…Where would I go? Mr. GG has a commute and this was as far away from Park Ave. as he wanted to go. I think I would like Westport – a little artier, less “financial” – but I have to say my years here have been entertaining at the very least. I’ve had a ringside seat at the circus.

  13. AndyD

    It’s always amusing to me as a Riverside resident with young kids (pre-K) hear my old friends from NYC tell me how much better the schools are in Westport, Darien, etc. Riverside and Eastern are neck and neck with those towns but GHS brings down the rankings for the town. However, GHS adds some sorely needed diversity to a child’s upbringing that those other towns have absolutely none of. Raising a child in New Canan? You might as well be living in a loaf of wonder bread! That’s no way to raise a child.

  14. Anonymous

    It’s the commute stupid.

  15. Anonymous

    Despite the putrid politics and the rotating superintendents the AP crowd at GHS continue to prosper in terms of college admissions etc. I don’t get the $35MM auditorium deal at all, but if your kid is a motivated self starter and can navigate 650 kids per grade, they can and do very well. Unfortunately many in the middle just get lost and go with the flow. The high school is just better suited to the aspirations of the few rather than the needs of the many.

  16. Anonymous

    Damn brown people sinking our tests scores. Can’t they stick to mowing the yards and picking up the trash? I miss wonder bread white 1970s Greenwich when people were too poor for live in help and private schools. I guess they can still get that n Riverside…

  17. anonymous

    The trick is to get a big old former tycoon’s country place in North Stamford, just over the line, and send the kids to Country Day. Play golf and have lunch at Stanwich. Shop in Bedford. It’s almost like cheating.

  18. armonk

    People move to Weston and Wilton (and Armonk) for the schools. People move to Greenwich for other reasons including the schools. All the minorities in Armonk would fit in a minivan.

  19. Anonymous

    People move to Wilton and Weston because they can’t afford Greenwich.

  20. Publius

    CC et al,

    What you are witnessing in Greenwich is the relative value fallacy that is based on the idea that if you purchase something, in this case a house, in an overvalued market that represents value within that overpriced market you will avoid any negative outcome if and when that overpriced market corrects. Value in this context would be buying a house on the lower end of the price scale closer to town perhaps lower than the town asessment for example. The fallacy is shattered when the higher end of the market drops and prices begin to compress, the home purchased at lower end of the market does not escape because relative value will point the marginal buyer to the $2mm home that used to trade for closer to $3mm. The $1.5mm home owner will not be spared although the purchaser will exhibit the usual denial.
    The argument for Greenwich based on the short(er) commute is less apllicable today because many professions do not require daily attendance at a specific physical location. Translated, you can often work from anywhere. That being the case, why would you pay up for a shorter commute if the commute is not the issue. Greenwich had a competitive advantage when for example the business of Wall Street was located downtown on or near Wall Street. That no longer the predominant case, people can opt to chose to live further away because they no longer have to take the IRT from GCT to downtown. People are allocating scarcer resources, time and money, and in some case are willing to trade some time for money. This is the basis of economics as much as I think it truly is a dismal science (art).

    The last issue is demographics that impacts the Northeast broadly including Connecticut. The proportion of the US population in the Northeast is shrinking as again highlighted by the 2010 census. Connecticut in particular has had basically a flat population count for 20+ years. People are leaving the Northeast to go elsewhere. Ultimately you end up with an older and less affluent population that will furthere strain our already bloated state government. Greenwich is a nice town, no question, but one would be a fool to ignore the shifts that are occuring right in front of our collective eyes

  21. Anonymous

    Publius–I think you’re missing one important point in your economic analysis (well-reasoned as it is): many of us under 40 would go outta our friggin’ minds and commit hari kari if living in Wilton or wherever the heck those other places are. At least Greenwich has the allure of being 35-42 min.via train into NYC on a whim, which means dinner and a nice evening somewhere other than Applebee’s or Oliva Garden or whatever the heck Wilton features. I’ve never been past Fairfield, and even up there I feel like I might as well be in Rhode Island. Big night on the town in Fairfield is shopping at Trader Joe’s–and the damned place doesn’t even sell wine, what kind of Trader Joe’s is that? Trader Joke’s is what that is. Well go ahead and shoot me now or at least stick a fork in my eye if having to live up yonder. I’ll take Greenwich–any part of Greenwich–anytime over that hell.

  22. Cos Cobber

    Publius, so now you are expanding the discussion to cover the greater northeast region? Well yes, I think many of us are well aware of these demographic trends as they are relatively easy to see. What I find interesting and it certainly explains my course in life, is that while many can work remotely, working remotely cannot start a career or move one to the middle of a career. Furthermore, working remotely ultimately can put someone is a serious economic bind when that remote job goes kaput. I have seen it for myself, when right sizing a firm, the remote employees are often dismissed first.

    Within Fairfield County, all the towns have a great deal to offer and have obvious trade offs. Its not clear to me that any particular town is better than another when comparing the suburban towns. The market is already pretty accurate reflecting the appropriate trade offs for price and location.

    Greenwich may have peeked in the early 2000s under the hedge fund golden age…but it still has plenty of luster and surprises. When the young affluent families stop moving in, then I’ll know the music has stopped.

  23. Publius

    Anon @ 9:37

    Sir or Madam,

    I do not disagree with your take on the suburban lifestyle, however that is a choice made freely to live in the suburbs versus living in NYC. There is still a healthy trend of couples remaining in NYC to raise their families. Those couples have made that choice to stay. Look at it from a numbers perspective, let’s say you decide to live in Wilton as opposed to Greenwich and you buy a similar house and property in Wilton for $1mm less than Greenwich. If you assume a 50% financing rate, with a 30 year mortgage @ 3.5% over 30 years you will incur about $308k in interest expense for the luxury of a short trip to NYC. If that number does not move the needle for you, God Bless. I love NYC (born, raised and educated in). There is no city I know that has as much narcissism and nuerosis that provides rich fodder for the observer of the human condidtion. By all means Greenwich is a fine place to live, but there is a cost that many will no longer bear and if that is the case to whom do you sell your house to when the time comes? Perhaps fewer than in the past.

  24. Cos Cobber

    Btw Publius, sure Gwich is overvalued, just like Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, Westchester and all the glittery suburbs of SF and LA. I agree, the long run demographics, federal and state tax policies and the direction & business cycle of the financial industry all point to – at best – no real estate appreciation going forward for many highend areas, particularly Gwich. The market has already recognized this situation by the anemic sales performance of 5MM+ homes as continually documented by CF.

    And yes, Palm Beach, Denver, Seattle, any city in TX, DC/northern VA stand to gain.

  25. Georgie

    Of course we all want great schools, however, since the 1970’s when costs exponentially grew to where we are today—even honest liberals accept that all that spending hasnt helped student achievement.

    Its time to put responsibility on the parent of these kids that graduate so ill prepared and a major cost to society. Our property taxes primarily fund the schools. If we are looking to tax people—how about taxing the parents of kids that let their kids fail and have no prospect to a decent job or role in the world.

    Take personal responsibility! After a certain threshhold everytime the kid shows up late, not having done their homework, absent, bullying and disruptive etc etc….a fine is placed on the family. That will straighten up those families quick enough.