Builder Jon Sparks

Jon Spark’s latest triumph: 22 Cornelia Drive (rear view). A really beautiful job, and check out the other pictures of that huge backyard, Jon created that, too.

I try not to litter this column with too much technical jargon, whether real estate related or scientific; you run the risk of confusing the reader, always a bad idea. There is, however, a medical term, highly technical, that I think may be appropriate in the case of builder, Jon Sparks. That term is “balls of steel”.

Why, you ask, because he flies a jet? Nope, that’s hard work, certainly takes nerve. No, it is because Mr. Sparks, in one of the worst markets for high-end real estate in many a year, dared to buy a marginal piece of land (on a decidedly un-marginal street) and build a $6,000,000+ spec house! And he sold it in about one week, with three bidders vying for the place. Luck? No. Great house? Yes.

Like Apple, ol’ Sparks has figured out a way to thrive in a lousy economy.

Here’s the story on 22 Cornelia Drive, off Greenwich’s Husted Lane, down the block from Greenwich Academy:

22 Cornelia Drive, Greenwich, CT



List:  Suzanne Wind

Sell:  Susan Calabrese

Word has it, Cornelia’s buyer had just sold this place, which sold instantly, after going on the market at $14.5M. Crappy market or not, somebody’s out there buyin’.

Accepted Offers, July 6th thru July 25th….

And the answer is…

59 accepted offers, which includes

7 multi-family properties  and…

3 land deals

Meanwhile, I happen to have had two accepted offers in that time period, but they’re not ready for publication quite yet (call me superstitious).

1 Glenville Street, among the recent accepted offers, started at $1.395M in Sept 2011, reduced to $1.249M, now has a deal. This Greenwich landmark has three apartments and a store, so what’s that get you? My guess, around $96,000/year revenue (a guess).

62 Closings! (July 5th -July 24th)

Yes, maties, you read that right, 62 properties have closed, and their actual selling prices  can now be revealed…oh, the excitement!

62 sales  (8 or 9 of these are Stamford, but they looked interesting so I included ’em).

This all happened between Friday, July 6 and Wednesday, July 24, 2012 (yes, I apologize for infrequent posting).

List:  Christopher Finlay

Sell:  Ellen Mosher

55 Otter Rock Drive (Gid Fountain “pick of the week”), asks $10.750M, sells 20 minutes later for $10.250M. Built in 1890, spectacularly renovated in 2005.

55 Otter Rock master bath: Oooh (as the French say) la la! Gid likes.

272 Riverside Avenue: Oops, I guess the market hasn’t declined that much.

One or two readers brought up the subject of

272 Riverside Avenue

As it turns out, this property represents still another example of why it remains impossible to definitively declare the exact percentage that Greenwich real estate prices have  declined…

Statistician Harvey Motulsky* wrote, “Outliers make statistical analysis difficult”.

But it’s worse than that; examples such as this are more than mere “outliers”, there are far too many of them.  So if your goal is an accurate market pronouncement, your only hope is to qualify your judgement based on specific sections and neighborhoods.  Anything else is guesswork and hogwash.

Taking all that into account, what can we say about 272 Riverside Avenue?  Well, here are the last two sale prices…

2008:  $3,850,000.

2012:  $3,700,000.

Price difference = $150,000 or  about a 4% decline since 2008. That’s Riverside, that’s new construction.  What about backcountry neighborhoods like the upper Riversville Road area?  Up there you might very well see evidence of as much as a 25% decline from 2007.

The moral of the story is, if you’re buying now, you won’t get very far if your mindset is some town-wide percentage decline. No such number exists.  It depends on where you’re looking.

How much has the market declined? As the saying goes, it’s all over the map.

272 Riverside Avenue (rear view) recently sold for $3,700,000. Good heavens, that’s a 3.89% decline since 2008….the horrors!

*Author and Medical Doctor Harvey Motulsky wrote Intuitive Biostatistics:  A Nonmathematical Guide To Statistical Thinking

Gid & Chris sell a house

Yep, it finally happened; Chris Fountain sold one of my listings. Did a good job, too. He overcame various obstacles like, other bidders, finicky buyer, very particular seller demands, and worst of all?  A lawyer doing his best to “protect” his client from buying real estate. Chris persevered and did the deal.  Nice.

10 Martin Dale, Greenwich, CT 06830

10 Martin Dale (near the beginning of North Street). Starts at $3.395M, sells for $2.125M.

56 closings: June 25th-July 5th.

Yep, I slacked off, so I’m making up for it here by (finally) reporting 2 weeks’ worth of activity.

56 closings, including this 120 Oneida Drive (Indian Harbor) tear-down that was listed as land.  Lots of facinatin’ stuff there, so be sure and study it.

The most interesting one to me is the tale of 17 Meadowcroft Lane, a beautiful mid-country street off Grahampton Lane. Grahampton, mysteriously pronounced “Gray-hampton”, runs from North Street over to Lake Avenue….got the idea?

Anyway, 17 Meadowcroft started at $10,795,000, getting gradually reduced to $8.9M, only to finally sell 524 days later for….$9,391,000!

List:  Marie Bates

Sell:  Marilynne Stratton

Did someone mention “bidding wars”? Happened right here at 17 Meadowcroft. Asked $8.9M, sells almost $500,000 over, at $9.391M.

P.S.  I threw in a couple of out-of-town examples because, well, I liked them.

The market is down HOW much??

The trouble with giving general estimates of market decline is that you often come across glaring exceptions.  We brokers feel pretty confident as we postulate “The Greenwich market is down overall 22.5% since 2007” or some similar figure.

Then, along comes 1 Ernel Drive (link shows the three recent listings for the property).

Ernel Drive is off Sound Beach Avenue Extension, just a block away from the restaurant Valbella.  This particular Ernel Drive property happens to have sold three times in the last five years.  Here’s how it went:

2006   $889,500.

2010   $827,500.

2011   $815,000.

This is a nice house with a stone front, very well maintained/updated, close to schools, stores, you name it.  It has 1,522 square feet plus another 1,015 in the lower level.  So how much has it declined in those six years since 2006?  A “whopping” 8.37%.

1 Ernel Drive: Shall we judge the market by this example?