Category Archives: spec houses

On the other hand, here’s someone who disagrees with the previous post

26 Taconic

26 Taconic

Having failed to sell for $5.495 million in 2010 (it started at $6.495 in 2007), Kaali-Nagy has brought 26 Taconic Road back on the market for $5.950. Much as I like Mr. Kaali-Nagy’s work, and I do; he builds a beautiful home, I’ve never liked this one as much as his others. The land sucks: 2 acres, but much of it is underwater in the form of a pond or found on the hill sloping down to that pond. On the busy, lower end of Taconic. The house itself is, to my taste, too dark, in part because of a porch roof on the east side that blocks the sun.

East wall

East wall

When he couldn’t sell it he rented it, for $17,500 in 2008 and $16,000 in 2010. Now that lease has apparently ended, so he’s spruced it up and offered it for rent at $27,500 or purchase, as noted, at $6 million.

I bet he doesn’t hit either number.

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Mid Country, pricing, spec houses

Abandoned Ridgeview Ave. house finds buyer and (unrelated), the Synagogue expands its Cos Cob footprint


9 Ridgeview Avenue

9 Ridgeview Avenue

9 Ridgeview Avenue, placed on the market by its bank-owner at $2.999, reports a contract. The failed developer paid $2.355 for the land in 2008 and took out a $4.7 million mortgage to build this shell. I assume all of that sum hadn’t been advanced before the project went south, but it’s a fair bet that there was a serious write-off here.

I personally would be wary of a house that has sat empty for so long, but I assume an inspector has signed off on the structural integrity.

88 Orchard Street

88 Orchard Street

In Cos Cob, an Irish realtor, Francis X. Fudrucker, has sold a Scotsman’s house on 88 Orchard Street to a Jewish synagogue; are we a multi-cultural town, or what? 88 looked for $2.355 million in 2011 and dropped as low as $1.795 before its listing expired on Halloween, 2011. The treat finally arrived last Friday, when they sold for $1.6 million.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Cos Cob, Foreclosure, Mid Country, Neighborhoods, spec houses

Slow day for real estate

Three small items to note.

241 Valley Rd

241 Valley Rd

241 Valley Road, asking $895,000, reports a contingent contract. This is a 1924 shack on 0.08 of an acre overlooking, but far uphill from, the Mianus River. But a beautiful view, and no neighbors to the east, at least. I’m sure you can do something interesting here. To keep score, this sold in basically the same condition in 2000 for $515,000.

44 Hunting Ridge

44 Hunting Ridge

44 Hunting Ridge Road has taken another price cut and now asks $5.495 million, which is better than the $7.925 it wanted back when it was first built in 2006.

414 Stanwich

414 Stanwich

And back again, 414 Stanwich is now priced at $1.525. It sold for $2.1 million in 2003, so the owners can (almost) be excused for first pricing this at $2.695 in 2006, but buyers weren’t buying it. A number of rentals, a handful of brokers, and many price cuts and years later, it’s down to this level. I like this house; it’s always been the price that put me off. Perhaps this will do it, but if I were advising my own clients here, I’d suggest that they negotiate, hard.


Filed under Back Country, Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Contracts, Cos Cob, Mid Country, Neighborhoods, spec houses

New Riverside listing and 122 Round Hill Road

7 Hearthstone Drive (representative)

7 Hearthstone Drive (representative)

Tim O’Malley, a Riverside resident who builds very fine homes has listed 7 Hearthstone Drive for $3.795 ,million; he’ll probably get it. Pictures aren’t up as of this writing but it looks great on the outside and the listing sheet shows all the requirements of a new house today, including a nanny room in the basement. Not much of a yard on this 0.3 acre but these days, buyers don’t care.

Tim played this one pretty smart: he bought the parcel for $1.315 in the slow market of 2008, tore down the exiting house to save on taxes and then let the land lie fallow until the market picked up. Earlier this year he obviously decided that that time had come and commenced building. And now it’s done.

122 Round Hill Road

122 Round Hill Road

I did have a chance to see 122 Round Hill Road today, the $16 million, 1923 house that still has 17 of its original 140 acres. The house is fabulous, but needs everything: air conditioning, new wiring, a master bedroom suite, new bathrooms, windows and on and on. But the bones are there, and someone could pour money into this and end up with a spectacular home.

That, alas, is probably not going to happen. I asked another agent, a friend with 40 years in this business and who loves old houses as much as I do, what he estimated it would cost to completely redo: Five million? Nine? “It doesn’t matter,” he said, “this house will never survive – there’s no market for these any more”. I think he’s right, and that’s too bad. Time marches on.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Riverside, spec houses

Sale, contract, price cut

No, no the same property, three different ones

9 Shore Acre

9 Shore Acre

9 Shore Acre Drive, Old Greenwich, asked $3.195, got $3,050,80 (there’s nothing as annoying to an agent then getting caught up in one of these end-stage nickel-and-dime negotiations when the reward for those last coins is so little. Important, no doubt, for the parties, but a 5% commission on eight eighty-bucks, divided four ways, is $1 each. And it may take three weeks to get to that dollar.

9 Paddock Drive

9 Paddock Drive

9 Paddock, up on the Merritt off of Lake, has a contract. Started at $2.695, dropped to $2.495, which is what it was purchased for in 2002. I liked this house very much. Paddock is a nice little dead-end street, this house itself was opened up and expanded and has a great yard, and the highway noise is not too noisy. Compared to what you’d get elsewhere in this price range, it’s a lot of house.

And, of course, convenient to transportation.

12 Shore Rd

12 Shore Rd

And 12 Shore Road, also in Old Greenwich, has suffered another price cut and is now priced at $2.675, q huge improvement over its first price when it was built in 2011, $3.495. I thought the house was great when I saw it back then, with direct frontage on Tomac Cove, but it didn’t strike me, or any buyer, as a $3.5 house. Now, it looks like a relative bargain.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Contracts, current market conditions, Mid Country, Neighborhoods, Old Greenwich, spec houses

Adjusting to the new reality of the Greenwich market

646 Riversville Rd, 2015 - ADA compliant

646 Riversville Rd, 2015 – ADA compliant

646 Riversville Road is back on the market, now offering a 9,000 sq.ft. house to be built for $6.975 million. This five-acre parcel was purchased for $2 million back in 2001 and since then the builder/buyer has been trying to either unload the land (starting at $3.295 in 2003, increased to $4.750 in 2008, reason for increase unknown, then back down, to $3.795, since 2010) or build you a house on it.

That proposed house was originally to be 14,000 sq.ft., priced at $12.9 million, then 11,500 sq. ft. for $8.9 million in 2010 and now, as noted, 9,000 sq.ft for 6.975.

It will be interesting to see how much house they’re offering in 2015.


Filed under Back Country, Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Neighborhoods, pricing, spec houses

Ridgeview Avenue foreclosure hits the market

9 Ridgeview Exterior

9 Ridgeview Exterior (question: if they’ll go to the trouble of photoshopping in clouds, why not make the weeds go away?)

9 Ridgeview Ave is now up for sale by the company that bought its paper, and asking $2.999 million. I’d be in no rush to pay that: the place has sat empty for four years and last time I heard of an inspection done on its carcass, the news was not good. The failed owners paid $2.3555 for this 0.98 parcel (RA-1 zone) in July, 2007 so there’s your land value as of the height of the market. The house itself? I doubt you’d find a builder willing to finish it, because of liability exposure and the uncertainty of what’s happened to the basic structure during its long period of neglect.

n.b.: there’s a $4.7 million mortgage shown on the land records for this place – no telling how much of that was actually advanced before construction was abandoned, but whatever went out won’t be coming back.

Stairway to nowhere

Stairway to nowhere

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 10.34.34 AM

9 Ridgeview

9 Ridgeview


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Foreclosure, Mid Country, spec houses

Two Merritt Parkway homes go begging

A couple of houses on the broker open house today that merit discussion, if not an actual visit, because neither is selling and both are right on the Merritt Parkway. Coincidence? I think not.

329 Riversville: lights on, no one home

329 Riversville: lights on, no one home

329 Riversville Road is literally in the shadow of the parkway, and long ago brought down its builder, who lost it to foreclosure in, I think, 2010. It sat empty for years before the lender sold it off (at a great discount, I hope) to a third party. It’s been unsuccessfully auctioned (no takers), priced at $2.799 million (expired unsold) and now it’s back for a third attempt, at $2.695. Someone’s bound to want this at some price, but between the issue of sitting vacant and unfinished for so long and the looming presence of the Merritt overhead, I don’t know what that price will be.

PorchuckA bit further east, there’s a house on Porchuck that’s been reduced, again, to $5.8 million. It started at $9.5 million in 2012, and I’m sure its listing broker could have profitably read this weekend’s profile of David Ogilvy on the proper selling of a high-end home. He obviously didn’t, so it sits.

UPDATE: checked the tax card for the history of 329 Riversville, and here are some more details: IndyMac bank loaned $2.6 million for it in 2007, foreclosed on it and the successor to the failed IndyMac sold it off to the present owners for $1,489,952 in February, 2012. It’s the current owners who finished it, so it’s been empty for five years now (notwithstanding the listing’s claimed construction date of 2010, it was in fact built in 2008).


Filed under Back Country, Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Foreclosure, Neighborhoods, pricing, Real estate agents, spec houses

Here’s one that should be around for awhile

I previously wrote about 128 Butternut Hollow but didn’t identify its address. Now that it’s on the market, I figure it’s fair game. Soooeee! Built in a swamp by a local builder, Richard Harris (not the electrician Rick Harris) who went bust, this house is offered by the bank that holds the mortgage. You drive past fields of skunk cabbage to get to it. It’s flanked by a bungalow on one side and a neighbor’s garbage dump on the other side and  the combination of swamp, trash, squatter’s shack and the merry burbling sound of Merritt Parkway traffic gives the whole place a hardscrabble, Tobbacco Road kind of ambiance. If you see a third generation harelip carrying a musket or a banjo, watch out.

The house was bent and twisted to conform to the small area of dry land on the site and nothing in its flow makes sense to me. Until recently, I’d have told you that I’d never seen a post and beam house I didn’t like but this makes the third time in a row Harris has proved me wrong. Wonder why he went broke, eh?

Looking past the location, architectural style and design, I would pause before buying a house from a builder who went belly-up during construction. The cynic in me whispers that whoever finished the job was more concerned with getting a c.o. and putting the place on the market than he was in adding those nice, final touches a quality builder might.

But heck, that’s all just my opinion – and this might be just the place for you. It’s asking $3.9 million, which is less than the $25 million asked for 223 Round Hill Road. So at least they’re not asking that.


Filed under spec houses

What are they going to do with this inventory?

Driving around in the snow today (my theory about mounting snows on my car keeping storms away let me down, this time) I was struck by the number of new houses still under construction, many of which are spec projects (as an aside, my guide to all things real estate related, Frank Farricker, tells me that those two new houses on the Merritt, one on North Street the other on Riversville, are both owner built. How odd.). I understand that, once you’ve started construction you can’t just stop because market conditions have changed but the last thing we need right now are more new houses on more bad lots and most of these are on bad lots.

So what happens to all these houses no one wants? Some are bound to be bought, eventually, by lucky homeowners who will get something originally priced at $5 million for $1.5 million and live there happily. Others will be tied up in litigation for years as lenders, builders and limited partners duke it out and fight over who should take the loss and some will, I think, never sell. Would you pay $1 million for a house if, as an article I read recently suggested, it was going to cost you $500,000 to heat it and maintain the landscaping? I think not, if you have a $1 million house type of income. And those few remaining rich individuals who are undaunted by that size of bill will insist on, and will be able to get, a house on better land. I think a number of these houses are going down, eventually.


Filed under spec houses

Second thoughts on 11 Lindsay Drive

When I mentioned this house yesterday I didn’t remember seeing it and so I was – reserved – in my opinion of value. A commentator who obviously had seen the place took me to task for my mild tone so today I drove by and sure enough, I realized that I had taken did a tour of the house when it first came on. I agree with my reader.

It’s not an awful house by any means, and Lindsay Drive is a good address so this house has some value. I don’t think it’s going to sell for anything close to $13 million, though, and that’s why I didn’t remember it – when confronted with a wildly optimistically priced house I tend to dismiss it and assume I’ll give it fresh attention when the seller gets real. So what should this go for? I don’t know, but I might start at $5 million and see what happens (I’d put that offer in long distance, just in case the builder has a violent reaction). Remember, the seller has another project on Davis Avenue Ridge Street that is “locationally challenged” (the best idea I’ve heard for it’s ultimate disposal? Chop it into four separate units, because it’s already in the R-6 zone) and that financial millstone should, eventually, affect Lindsay Drive’s price too. 

Or not – God looks after drunks, fools and builders with solid fiances, so perhaps He’ll send someone out from the city who perceives a higher value here than I do.


Filed under spec houses

I know, let’s put on a show!

andy-hardy A reader informs me that the builder of 45 Upland Drive hosted an antique show/wine party there the other night, hoping, one supposes, to draw potential buyers. A house on Cognewaugh tried the same thing last Sunday. These events draw people, but are those people buyers? It’s possible, I suppose, and it certainly enables the listing agent to show that he’s doing something to move the damn thing but my personal advice is, if you can’t sell your property in two years, lower the price.


Filed under spec houses

Here’s a poser

5-meadow-wood-drive5 Meadow Wood Drive is a relatively new renovation on a back lot in Belle Haven. Unfortunately for its developer, that back lot backs all the way up to I-95 and the backyard is pretty much a green, pressure-treated wall of sound barrier. That no doubt contributed to its failure to reach its asking price of $7.950 million when it came up for sale in September 2006 and in the months since.

It’s been withdrawn as a sale and is now offered for rent, originally $25,000 per month ($300,000 per year, if your calculator isn’t handy) and, as of today, $15,000 ($180,000). That still seems stiff to me.

So here’s the question, or two questions: is it not offered for sale any longer because more is owed on the place than can reasonably be expected to be produced by a sale?; and how large is that building loan, and what does it cost to service it every month? I don’t know the answers but this house does seem to be one of the ill-advised projects begun in the go-go years and now coming back to haunt the participants.


Filed under Belle Haven, spec houses

Don’t they know

It’s  The End of the World? (click)

Picture this:

“So many hedge funds have moved to Greenwich in the past five years (mostly from Manhattan) that they now occupy about a third of the town’s relatively scarce office space. Another third is occupied by companies that work with hedge-fund companies, according to commercial-real-estate brokers….

“One day in January, shivering in the cold, I found myself staring at the skeleton of a mammoth, 19,000-square-foot house rising on [40] Zaccheus Meade Lane. Like so many big new houses in Greenwich, it was a spec house—financed in this case by two retired Goldman Sachs partners.

“Only a few months earlier, the lot had featured a gigantic granite boulder, 135 feet long and 35 feet high, and deeply embedded. It’s gone now, that massive rock; in its place we find an ordinary driveway and terrain that’s nearly flat. “We only blasted for three days,” boasted Frank Spoto, the spec builder who, backed by the men from Goldman Sachs, is putting up the house with his business partners, Steve LoParco and Frank Napolitano.

“In the old days, no one would have bothered to destroy that rock; financially it wouldn’t have made sense, for one thing. But these days, even the least desirable piece of land in Greenwich can attract a speculator who, if he knows what he’s doing, can make a quick fortune. For example: Mark Mariani, one spec builder I interviewed for this story, has done so well for himself he owns a Gulfstream IV and a Falcon 900.

“For their two irregular acres of land on Zaccheus Meade Lane, Spoto and his partners, or their backers, paid $2.5 million. After spending about $5 million to build the 19,000-square-foot house (and dynamite the rock), they anticipate selling it for around $12 million. Who will buy this big-ticket house? I asked. “A lot of people think this is a home for the hedge-fund guys,” replied LoParco. “That’s probably a good guess.”

Both quotes, of course, are taken from the now infamous 2006 article on Greenwich in Vanity Fair and, for 2006, I think the author did a credible, if venomous job of depicting the current condition of our fair town. But that was then, this is now. If we really are going to lose 1/3 of the hedge funds, what will that do to the commercial space in town, 2/3 of which is filled by hedge funds or related companies? Nothing good, I shouldn’t think. 

And we’re already seeing the affects of Wall Street’s retrenchment on our residential real estate market (duh). That Zaccheus Mead house that Steve LoParco and his ex-Goldman partners spent $7.5 million building is a (huge) white elephant that remains unsold. Instead of the anticipated price of $12.0 million (they actually put it on for more than that) it has dropped to $7.9 million and still no one wants it. That’s not entirely the fault of the market; the author states that “even the least desirable piece of land …can attract a speculator who, if he knows what he’s doing, can make a quick fortune”. [emphasis added]

40 Zaccheus Mead was and remains an undesirable lot that no one would ever pay $12 million to live on – LoParco’s “good guess” was just dead wrong. But the house might have found a buyer by now, at some price, if the market were better. It isn’t, so it hasn’t, and I wonder if it ever will.

There are plenty of other unsold spec houses sitting on equally undesirable pieces of land, all erected by builders who were convinced that some hedge funder with more money than brains would come along and snap up. The builders’ estimation of their would-be customers’ brain power may have been accurate – or at least, the last 12 months haven’t proved it wrong – but selling gullible people over-priced items requires that those people have money. It’s beginning to look as though that essential ingredient may have gone missing. At least until the next bubble, which may not arise for some little time. Hang on.




Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, current market conditions, spec houses

See, I got this theory …

39 Boulder Brook, the house we all love to hate, or at least love to follow its progess, has bounced around the market since April, starting at $8 million something, dropping dropping dropping until it hit $4.998 and finally withdrawn from the market last week. But now it’s back, better and more expensive than before. That’s right, the builder has raised the price back to $5.498, the same price it wouldn’t sell for all summer. Why? Well, the stress could have gotten to him and that was the only number he could scratch out with a crayon before they hauled him away or, perhaps, he felt that his own effort looked shabby when the two other new houses on the street are asking $6.5 million. “What’s wrong with yours?” buyers might have asked, “that it’s so much cheaper?”

The answer, according to some people, is,”plenty”, but rather than address that issue, why not close the gap a little?

That’s just my guess and you are free to come up with your own theory. I will point out that, although they are asking $6.5 million, the other two houses haven’t sold. Nor has this one, come to that, even at its old price. This is getting to be fun in a horrified bystander kind of fashion. Soooee!

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, current market conditions, Mid Country, pricing, spec houses

Condos on Valley Road

340 Valley Road is a project of 10 units built in 2007. They’re nice enough, but they aren’t doing so well. One, unit 3, sold for $2.3 million back in July – the buyer must be feeling lonely by now because with the exception of Unit 8 which has been rented, he has no neighbors. I can only sympathise with that buyer – it is no doubt a crummy feeling to look around and realize that, probably unwittingly, you’ve become a pioneer. I hope his contract had a price protection clause because otherwise, unless this developer is remarkably well financed, I’d expect some dramatic price drops in the coming months. Nothing’s happened yet but then again, “nothing” is a broad term – these condos don’t seem to be going anywhere.

UPDATE:  The same builder put up what I thought a teriffic house on 83 Howard Road but it, too never sold. I blame that on trying to sell a house in Northeastern Greenwich, always a tough sell, on 0.5 acres in a 4 acre zone. Not even room for a pool and this was a weekend house, in my opinion. You come out to the country for the weekend, you want a pool. The asking price of $4.2 million didn’t help matters an, either. Too bad – nice house.



Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Cos Cob, current market conditions, pricing, spec houses

Hardly surprising news

From a WSJ “news alert” :

Meanwhile, housing starts decreased 18.9% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted 625,000 annual rate, after dropping 6.4% in October. The November decrease was much bigger than expected.

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Filed under current market conditions, spec houses

Here’s what I’m talking about

I mentioned a new house on Circle Drive yesterday that’s asking $2.195. It’s a nice enough house but I noticed a number of similar houses going up on both Circle and the adjoining street, Morningside and suggested that there might be a bargaining opportunity here.

24-morningside-drive24 Morningside, for instance, looks about the same as the Circle Drive house to me, although the two builders would surely disagree. Both are priced at $2.195 and right next door is another house, 20 Morningside, a little bit larger but four years older, asking $2.295. There are other houses nearby that aren’t on the market yet but, judging from their progress, will be within the month. So if I were interested in this area I’d either wait until everyone’s finished and clamoring for my business or stop by now and try to strike a direct deal with a nervous builder. That’s what I’d do, anyway.

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Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, spec houses

Circle Drive

26-circle-drive26 Circle Drive has an interesting history. Marshall Heaven, a good builder here in town, owned the land in 2006 but must have changed his mind about building on it because he offered it for sale for $850,000 in November ’06. In July, ’07 the present builder bought it for $712,000 and then he, too must have gotten cold feet because he put it back on in January of this year for $890,000. No third builder could be found so construction on the house began early this year. And now it’s finished.

I toured it today. It’s, okay, as  spec houses in this price range ($2.1 million) go, and has a very large back yard (with a drain smack in the middle of it, suggesting the presence of water – then again, drains are supposed to take care of that sort of thing). I think it’s a pre-fab but I don’t have a problem with that. Nice trim work and floors, a cheesy, to my taste, Palladium window in front and a fair bit of noise from I-95; Circle Drive is, as they say, “convenient to transportation”. I wish the builder had spent the extra money to run some steel I-beams in the basement instead of using pillars which break up what would otherwise be a ton of usable space and I have a prejudice against acrylic bathtubs – no particular reason, I just prefer porcelain. All that said, the biggest impression I took away from this house was how the market has changed. Its price just a year ago or maybe two, wouldn’t have seemed outrageous. But as I drove around the neighborhood I noticed at least four more houses under construction all or most of which, I imagine, are spec houses. If so, then there is a lot of competition to this house about to come on the market and a careful shopper can probably find the one builder in the most trouble and get a house here for a really low price. And if that happens, just to reopen the debate we’ve all so enjoyed here on these pages, the other 4 house’s prices will have to chase it downward.

Or that’s what I think. Your opinion may differ.


Filed under spec houses

More on 33 Highview

So I stopped by the place today during the open house tour – nicely done, with decent hardware and trim, but like most houses on that street, not much of a yard, especially with half the rear yard devoted to driveway. I know that south of the Village is always desirable but I do wonder whether it’s desirable enough to induce someone to pay this much. That may prove a challenge.

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Filed under Old Greenwich, spec houses