“Halloween Alley” needs a break

Cute? Sure, they're cute, but imagine what it's like when 1,500 show up in the space of 4+ hours!

Cute? Sure, they’re cute. Now  imagine what it’s like when 1,500 show up in the space of 4+ hours!

Susie and I took the dawg over to our old neighborhood this morning and hung out at Brunswick Field for a bit. Whilst lighting my cigar, I happened upon a group of my ex-neighbors, standing around complaining about an advertisement in the Friday Greenwich Time real estate section. It’s an ad from one of those real estate “groups” and, in highlighting their knowledge of Greenwich, mentions that [street name omitted] is “the best for trick or treating in Greenwich”.

The real estate group is not the first to promote this idea. As I recall, some twenty years ago, a curmudgeonly old chap * who had his own little real estate column in the Greenwich Post, or Greenwich News, or something, announced to his readers that this particular street was “the place” to bring the kids to on Halloween!

As the neighbors reminded me, trick-or-treating on this, or any other street, is not some sort of Town-sponsored event or public fair. Trick-or-treating exists solely because of the kindly, voluntary cooperation of countless homeowners who willingly stay home that night and hand out sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of candy to all comers.

The general idea, you see, is that neighborhood children, living within walking distance, will visit you and show off their costumes in return for a candy bar. Does anyone mind if some of those kids come from adjacent Port Chester or Stamford? Heck no, but what seems to irk the neighbors on this (besieged) street is when lines of $120,000 SUVs descend from the backcountry and disgorge additional dozens and dozens of kids.

How many are we talking about? Friends of ours on the street attempted to take a careful count one year of how many children showed up at their front door. They gave up counting when they reached 1,500!

ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED KIDS. Is that a lot to ask of each resident of one particular street? Yes, it is.

Do we blame the kids? Nope, we blame dopey parents who don’t have enough imagination to come up with perfectly good alternative streets to visit. Greenwich is loaded with ’em, so spread out, people, spread out!


  • This guy’s column actually pre-dates Chris Fountain!

More red meat for the base

At long, long, last, 12 Byfield Lane finally finds a buyer at $4.475M

At long, long, last, 12 Byfield Lane finally finds a buyer at $4.475M

I hesitate to post this one because it will fire up all the doomsayers, but…oh, what the heck!

Ok, so what we have here is one of the very last of the leftovers, a perfect example of the exuberant, happy days of the late 2000’s, just before the US Government’s 25-year policy of forcing mortgage lenders to first loosen, then finally abandon altogether, any credit standards whatsoever, all in the name of “equal opportunity”, caused a horrible, cataclysmic economic catastrophe in the fall of 2008.

I actually met this particular builder, seemed like a nice enough chap, although his apparent permanent costume of Hawaiian shirts, jeans and cowboy boots gave me pause (so did the bright red Dodge Viper sports car). Yep, I said to myself, too many people getting into this mansion-building business, can’t be a good sign.

The house pictured above hit the market August 20, 2009, at a price of $11,999,999. I can just imagine the conversation among the principals…”If we keep it under twelve million, we should do ok here”. But  the writing was on the wall by then, in big, bold letters: YOU MISSED THE MARKET, IT’S OVER!

Eventually, some poor bank ended up with it, and now, six long, agonizing years later, it has sold for $4,475,000. Truth is, that’s not a bad price. Had they put it on way back then at, say, $6.995M, they probably could have picked up a couple extra million, but either way, I’m sure the bank is happy it’s over.

12 Byfield Lane, Greenwich, CT (honestly, it’s not a bad house!)

Note: the link above takes you to the second-to-last listing because I wanted you to see the photos, which are not included on the very last listing.





Stamford’s waterfront bargains

421 Ocean Drive West, Stamford, CT: so cool! Sells for $1.575M.

421 Ocean Drive West, Stamford, CT: so cool! Sells for $1.575M.

Of course, only to a Greenwich resident do these prices look cheap, but still, check out this recent sale on the tip of Stamford’s West Ocean Drive. This is real waterfront, the type that, with a similar house and land size (1/2 acre), might easily fetch $4,000,000+  in Greenwich.

Be sure and look at the interiors, last updated in the 1990’s, but it’s a tribute to the designer that, all these years later, it is still a very cool pad.

421 Ocean Drive West, Stamford, CT

Listing agent: Charles Nedder

Selling agent: Barbara Ryan

Outrageous Fortune

Charming but humble, former headquarters of the great Betteridge Jewelers, the building recently fetched $7.150M.

Charming but humble, former headquarters of the great Betteridge Jewelers, the building recently fetched $7.150M. (Terry’s moved down the block to larger, nicer quarters)

UPDATE: I neglected an obvious cause for this building’s high selling price, namely the prestigious inhabitant of 60+ years. Had it been, say, “Josh’s Used Furniture” during that entire time period, I doubt the value would have reached this level.

The next time you’re strolling down Greenwich Avenue, I want you to pause a moment at number 117 Greenwich Avenue, former home of Betteridge Jewelers. Gaze respectfully at this narrow, ordinary little three-story building because it sold this year for $7,150,000.

It sits on a vast .0631 acres (about 2,750 square feet), and interior finished space measures around 3,000 square feet. Word of the sale leaked out before the closing and commercial brokers I spoke with had guesses ranging from $5.5 to 6 million. They were quite wrong.

So why did it get so much? It’s Greenwich, Connecticut, first and foremost. And Greenwich Avenue has long been a “must have” trophy for some commercial real estate investors. There’s also the story that this sale is a “fluke” because the particular investor had “run out of time on a planned 1031 exchange *, and just had to get this deal done at any price”.

I must say that, throughout my career, every single time any property sold for a surprisingly high price, all of us experts would dismiss it as a fluke…

…Until the place next door sold for even more.

* As every school child knows, a 1031 exchange, named after a United States Internal Revenue tax code provision, is a popular, somewhat complex method of deferring taxation of capital gains, normally due upon the sale of a property. You do it by swapping the property for another, but you must designate which property you are swapping it for within 45 days of the sale of the first property. Got all that? No? Ok, so google “1031 tax exchange” and learn all there is to know..

Gideon droning on….

Click on the link below the photo and you’ll see my first ever use of a drone for real estate marketing purposes.

Is it just another gimmick, like those dreadful videos of an earnest young couple, talking about how much they’ve loved living in the house they’re now trying to unload? Maybe. (heck, sometimes I think half the stuff we brokers do has no serious purpose other than to keep the owner happy).

But this may be a different story. Drone videos might actually be a genuinely useful addition to the marketing arsenal, we shall see.

By the way, these things are lethal, even without a Hellfire missile! Pilot Sam told me those fast-spinning propellers “will easily take off a finger”.

Drone "pilot", the brave and talented Sam Gifford, of Osprey Imaging

Drone “pilot”, the brave and talented Sam Gifford, of Osprey Imaging (OspreyImaging.com) Click on link below to watch short video of this operation.

Gideon’s first drone flight

Stamford Is Booming

James Bond's arch-enemy, Spector Group plans this exciting building for downtown Stamford.

James Bond’s arch-enemy, Spector (SpectorGroup.com)  plans this exciting building for downtown Stamford.

I was at a “business breakfast” Wednesday at Riverside Yacht Club and listened to Thomas Madden, Director of Economic Development for the City of Stamford talk about how well Stamford is doing. Could he be accused of having a bias? Sure, that’s his %#@&-ing job, after all, but still, he makes a convincing case.

Among other startling facts, I learned that within the next year, Stamford developers (like FD Rich) will have added over 8,000 apartments and hotel rooms. The town is positively packed with high-earning young people (average income $108,000) and loads of companies are moving here from all over the globe.

You’d never know any of this from reading the dear old Stamford Advocate because, like our own Greenwich Time, the Advocate views its home town as the enemy. So there’s no one place to turn to get the full picture, but hell, drive around Stamford’s waterfront districts and look for yourself, it’s amazing.

How can this be happening in a state with such a virulently anti-business environment? Because for years now, even when now-governor Malloy was mayor,  Stamford was pro-business, actively encouraging downtown development. More recently, under it’s current mayor, David Martin, the city’s taken steps to make it easier and easier to open a business here (goodness, what a radical concept, someone run and tell Professor Obama!)

Mayor David Martin * appears to be truly exceptional. For those of you impressed by college degrees, how’s this: He’s an MIT grad, where he earned degrees in biology and economics. He then went and got an M.B.A at Stanford.

All of that counts for exactly nothing in my book, but there’s something else. He has, I am told, a “private sector mentality”, or at least, he actually understands the private sector. Imagine if we had a guy like this as President of the United States! (but no, we’ll settle for Hillary)


  • are you sitting down? he’s a Democrat!


Attention Real Estate Contrarians!

A spec story gone bad. 170 Old Mill Road fetched $8.850M, 2006. Closed today for $4.9M.

A spec story gone bad. 170 Old Mill Road fetched $8.850M, 2006. Closed today for $4.9M.

“Honestly”, you’re saying to yourself, “enough about spec houses, surely!”

I agree. After this, no more, but I couldn’t resist this particular example from today’s Greenwich Board of Realtors sales report: It is precisely examples such as this that cause all the confusion about buying a spec house…

170 Old Mill Road just closed at $4,900,000. The owners paid $8,850,000 in 2006 (you mathematicians will quickly calculate that decline at a hefty 44.6%). Why did this happen? Did the house smell like a cat box? Ugly wallpaper? Bus station built next door?

Nope, the explanation is that things got a bit “frothy” in Greenwich’s backcountry during those years. I guarantee that if the buyers had taken their $8,850,000 and bought a brand new mansion on, say, Riverside’s Club Road, the house would be worth at least that today.

The point is, it’s not the fact that it was a spec house, it’s the location of the spec house. Get it?