The silence in the marketplace is a bit deceptive

There’s been little sales activity reported in this week after New Years but I’m not alone in being busy showing houses, and I believe we’ll start seeing the results of that activity (not mine, others, drat) soon. For instance, after scouring the inventory of $1-$2 million homes, my clients and I found six that could possibly fit their needs, but when I called to set up viewing appointments I learned that two already have accepted offers and inspections completed. The others are all enjoying multiple showings, a welcome phenomenon for sellers after a pretty dormant fall.

Higher priced homes aren’t moving that quickly and I don’t expect them to any time soon, but there are certainly buyers ready to go. This much hasn’t changed: buyers still insist on seeing value – I haven’t found one yet who’s ready to fling caution and checkbook to the wind and rush into contract, the way some did in the good old / bad old days. And that’s a good thing.



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22 responses to “The silence in the marketplace is a bit deceptive

  1. Riverside Chick

    It will be interesting to see what happens with all the new construction on Bramble, Druid and Hearthstone. Will It be too much inventory in the same area priced pretty much in the same ball park?

    • I asked that same question last week. There are 4, maybe 5 spec homes going up just on Hearthstone with another 3 on Bramble. The going rate for that size/location new construction is $3.4 million. Are there really eight such buyers for that tiny neighborhood, and not counting the 3 more expensive homes going up down the street on Winthrop? One way to find out, I suppose. Remember when central Greenwich was the hot spot and builders rushed in? Those who came late (2007) are seeing their projects succumb, finally, to the auctioneer’s gavel now.

      • Riverside Chick

        One plus about the location that really might appeal to the foreign buyers is that it is walking distance to EMS and Riverside so the Au Pair can walk.

  2. Bored and Tired

    Really just dont get the appeal of Riverside. OG I get, mid-country I get, downtown G I get, Cos Cob I get, but Riverside and back country G I don’t get. Riveride is either trapped in the 70’s or horrible construction, tear downs and look a likes on little lots or an attempt to be humble when the honey makes a $4M bonus.

    • Guest

      For people who do not work in NY and want a neighborhood feel, Riverside and OG are attractive. I grew up near Larchmont, which is a closer to NY version of OG, also very charming, and the commute is better to Larchmont. Same goes for the area of Rye near Playland – excellent closer neighborhood much like OG. Some areas of Pelham are very nice, and the commute is very good.

      But if you do not commute to NYC, OG and Riverside are nice communities. I live in mid-country and we are commuters, so we never considered OG or Riverside. If we were going to Greenwich, we were going to get at least an acre of land for our troubles with the extra commute, and we looked for months and months many years ago before landing on a less than perfect lot of 1+ acre on a quiet street in midcountry.

      The price was not higher than OG, Riverside or Cos Cob back then by the way. Now it is much higher because we have mansions going up all around us. You can still get buys in midcountry in this soft market, but they will not last forever.

      • GreenITCH

        This is one of those complete fallacies thatd get perpetuated in suburbia and probably around town …” How long is your commute ” … While i can not dispute the ” more train options at rush hour ” , realistically the train from Greenwich during peak is around 42 -52 minutes with most around 47/49 minutes .. while in OG / Riverside peak trains is 50 – 55 minutes …Here is where people get their commute time wrong . i leave my house in Riverside at 5.45am and catch the 5.50. no rush , no prob and even have time to grab a coffee in station … if you commute from ” mid country ” Greenwich you are probably 10 minute ride ,PLUS you need to park and get up to the platform..its a different game and id actually argue that “door to door ” a LONGER commute … I do it every day and have done it for over 20yrs .. There is a reason that the OG / Riverside and even Cos Cob stations are packed at peak hours .. its is as well a more ” freindly ” commute and i know some guys now coming from stamford to use OG station… even with less trains its a nicer commute than the large hubs like stamford and greenwich and fact is Door to Door quicker if not the same as from Greenwich .. with regard to comments about Westchester and Greenwich … u have a choice .. if you have ” X ” budget per month for housing .. taxes are double in Westchester then they are in Greenwich .. so you can either put your money into your house and have some potential upside or give it to the Government , paying exhorbitant Real Estate taxes

        • The New Normal

          Train frequency and ride durations

          5:30am to 8:30am, to GCT:
          Greenwich: 13 trains, 42 to 63 mins range, 48.9 mins avg
          Riverside: 10, 48 to 69, 55.7
          OG: 10, 50 to 72, 58.0

          4pm to 7pm, from GCT:
          Greenwich: 13 trains, 37 to 53 mins range, 43.6 mins avg
          Riverside: 10, 47 to 60, 51.1
          OG: 10, 48 to 63, 54.1

          Someone told me they see nicer cars at Greenwich train station vs the other two – that could be a plus or minus depending on your station in life

          Unless one lives within close walking distance to Riverside train station, door to door is probably going to be longer than vs commuting from Greenwich proper below the Merritt

    • Riverside Chick

      If you have kids that do sports , very easy access. Football (Generals) practice down at OG school, soccer Binney Park, Basketball OG civic center,Baseball Riverside or OG school. Dance or Gymnastics (Tumblebugs) St Catherine’s or YWCA. If you have to go to different activities each day , convince is worth a ton of money. A lot of families around here Riverside OG have 4 kids that all do activities. Also , you can’t put a price on walk to town to Garden Catering after school. Great memories for my college age kids.

    • Riverside Chick

      Close proximity to the beach a big plus

    • Anonymust

      the appeal is convenience – although as another reader accurately points out if you have to commute to NYC it is significantly longer (with fewer trains as options) than to the Greenwich train station

      unfortunately the prices make buying there a horrible value

      • Guest

        I don’t understand the value in Scarsdale. Just bought a house in Greenwich for under a million. Not a big house but nice lot in one of the better school districts. In Scarsdale, a similar house would be the same price plus $2500 a month in taxes. where I grew up. My taxes here will be $500 a month or maybe a little more.

        In both places, you need to leave 20 minutes before the train to make the train in the morning and park at the station. The Larchmont train is about 10 -12 minutes less than to Greenwich.

        It is nicer in my house here. Much better lot and prettier neighborhood. Scarsdale High is better than Greenwich High, but not that much better to warrant $2,000 a month more in expenses.

  3. Guest

    Not surprising. It is going to get much busier in Greenwich, at least in the more affordable price ranges and then in the somewhat higher ranges.

    The price for a classic 6 on the upper east side is way north of $2 million, and it is hard to fit two kids into that apartment unless they can share a bedroom. Three bedrooms are well north of $3 million in a good building.

    Taxes are galloping ahead in Westchester so that even a small house has a tax bill of $2500 a month in a good suburb. New Jersey and Long Island can be less costly, but many of those commutes have trains that are not direct to Manhattan, especially at off hours and car commutes where you regularly get stuck in a parking lot getting to and from the city at any hour and over the weekend.. At least Westchester and Connecticut have highways that are usually (not always) not blocked when you are coming and going.

    The truth is that compared to Westchester Greenwich has some really good buys right now, especially in the $1 to $2 million range. This market inefficiency will not last. Granted, you have to go farther to live in Greenwich than Westchester, but in the million plus price range you can get some awfully nice land and a commute of an hour and a quarter or less to midtown. Even the very close Westchester suburbs are going to have commutes of an hour unless one lives on top of the train station, so you are not talking about that much more of a commute to come here than Westchester.

  4. ShedLessToolMan


    1) If there is such a demand at at certain price point (<$2m), for a buyer that is familiar with the area, isn't it a big advantage to not use a buyer's broker? I would think allowing the seller's broker to get a larger commission would incentivize them to share more information and facilitate a better strategy to help you get the property at the right price. . again, this is not always the case.. but, if you are familiar with the area and something is priced such that there might be a bidding war or multiple offers then perhaps this makes sense?

    2) You mention the inventory that sits at the high end of the financial spectrum.. Empirically, it seems to me it is more than just the price.. for some reason proximity to town and style of homes also seem to be a factor.. I do see many home way out in back country (N. greenwich) that just sit for years. As for style, and correct me if I am wrong as I am new to this area.. but, it appears that the citizens of greenwich seem to prefer center hall colonial homes or traditional houses.. There are many fantastic contemporaries and moderns that just so not sell as easy in this area as they seem to be less popular area.. Good examples of this might be 59 Dingletown Rd or 627 Round Hill Road.. and what ever happened to 20 Heronvue Road? did they just give up after all the price drops?

    well.. I hope we seem some decent activity soon..

    • A seller’s agent is prohibited by the law of agency from disclosing anything to a buyer that could work against the seller’s interest so no, even the lure of a double commission will not get you the dirt – or if it does, then you’re dealing with an unprincipled crook who will undoubtedly tell you anything, true or not, if it will convince you to buy her listing.
      Location and style will always trump price, but it is possible to price a home so high that the even its location is of no avail – at least half the listings in Greenwich fall in that category,at least when they first come on the market.

    • Mickster

      I read in some research years ago that buyers who buy through the listing agent generally pay 1-2% higher prices than those who have their own buyers agent. The listing agent’s fiduciary duty is to the seller – period.

    • Hey

      Nearly everyone prefers traditional homes over “contemporary” ones.

      Contemporary homes are expressions of ideology and fashion over practicality. Not to mention that they have frequently prided themselves on using new materials in new ways. This typically leads to problems as they are not construction projects but science experiments. Not good things.

      Traditional forms and styles have many years and hundreds of thousands of iterations to learn from. They evolve to incorporate the best of new products and technology (more light, larger unsupported volumes, indoor plumbing, etc) while not making idiotic mistakes. Even then they can still screw up, but in ways that are most often fixable.

      All of the people working on a house bring their experience, skills, and practices. For traditional designs this is good – they know how to properly handle and install materials and can fix things easily. For contemporary houses, they don’t have the experience or skill and their practices will likely cause problems. A flat roof needs to be handled very delicately (and not actually be flat) while one with a steep pitch is less likely to develop problems and doesn’t the same gentleness. Wood behaves very differently from steel or concrete when exposed.

      Chris’ remarks over Tudors falling out of favor shows how market decisions can apply to some traditional forms as well. There are almost always good reasons behind these judgments.

  5. With respect to the sell side brokers. I see it as a gray area, more of a moral/ethical issue than legal issue. Let’s face it, there are plenty of Walts in this world and only one has the last name Disney. The degree of the advantage may be ever so slight and not a giant illegal arrangement. I am not suggesting it is a good idea… But, for a small set of people with a very particular set of characteristics it may possibly help.. I do appreciate your opinions on the matter though as I do see brokers adding tremendous value..

    • I say “legal” because of the law of agency, codified and adopted by every state (maybe not Louisiana, which has its own Napoleonic code), which demands absolute loyalty to his principal by the agent – a fiduciary duty, that bars doing any act, including the disclosure of privileged information (“the sellers are getting divorced and need to sell”, e.g.) that works against the interest of that principle. I’ve been told information by other agents that I’m astonished to learn but hey – my loyalties and duties go to the buyer, so I pass it on, “legally”.

  6. Guest

    As a long-time Greenwich resident, I just bought through the seller’s agent, an agent for both of us. I know the market in the area where I bought and do not need a broker to represent me. In fact, I was afraid of a bidding war, so using the seller’s agent, who got a double commission, helped to smooth the deal to closing. If I had not signed when I did, who knows if the price would have gone up.

  7. GreenITCH

    While legally and in principal an agent has a fiduciary responsiblity to person listing their house .. fact is financially their two goals are not 100% aligned …as if the 5 % listing fee gets split between agents and then agent has to pay their firm , the take home is 1.25 % …it would appear that an agent might be happy advise on a ” quick sale ” where the difference of soem ” real ” money , say $ 100,000 between buyer and seller and forgo their $1250 portion of commission ? IMO ..That said CF you have often said a person needs to work with the ” right agent ” and i take that to mean someone more than a ” part time ” agent or someone doing it as a hobby , sort to speak

  8. Guest

    In a bidding war, it may help to be with the buyer’s agent. There is a financial incentive to the broker for a double commission to give the home to the buyer who does not have his/her own agent.

    Not sure what the rules are for bidding wars. We actually allowed everyone to make a second bid over a weekend and took the highest when we sold in 5 days (through only an ad that ran 3 days in the NY Times starting on Wednesday – not using a broker) a 2 bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side in a red brick building with doorman many years ago. We got above the asking but set what we thought were fair bidding rules. The guy who already lived in the building who we had just met won out.

    If the agent sets fair rules, everyone has the same chance. if not, the buyer paying the broker the double commission may have an edge.

    Right now there are bidding wars in some price ranges in Greenwich.