In Defense Of Realtors

The annual meeting of The Greenwich Association of Realtors. Honored, among others, Bryan Tunney and Paul Pugliese.

The annual meeting of The Greenwich Association of Realtors. Honored, among others, Bryan Tunney and Paul Pugliese.

I attended the Greenwich Association of Realtors annual meeting this morning at the swell Innis Arden Golf Club, and after listening to reports from members serving as heads of various committees, I was reminded once again what an important role real estate agents play in defending citizens from their government.

We’re in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of government power, at every level, always bad news for taxpayers, particularly the sitting-ducks known as “property owners”. Liberal politicians know, if you’ve bought property, and set down roots in a community, you can be taken advantage of with ever higher taxes, of course, but also, and equally alarming, ever more complex regulations designed to limit what you can do with that property.

Real estate agents like the ones honored today are on the front line, serving as watchdogs for the general public, who would otherwise be oblivious to whatever new outrage Hartford or, increasingly, our own Town of Greenwich (!) are proposing. Realtors sell “dirt”, as that knuckle-head Walt would say, but they also involve themselves in the community and state in ways that are hugely important to anyone who actually pays taxes.

One Final Thought

Our profession is a low-barrier-to-entry one; it looks easy and lucrative from the outside, hence the steady flow of folks who drift in and out. No college will ever confer  “legitimacy” on this profession by offering a Degree In Real Estate Sales because, the fact is, you only learn by doing. So the job will always attract a certain amount of scorn from Wall Street geniuses and others, who like to dismiss the value of brokers’ advice.

Remember this: Whether it’s fishing guides, surgeons, or bar fighters, whatever the task, never underestimate the value of actual experience.

Punishing Chris Fountain?

Greenwich brokers have all been switched to a new listing access system, "flexMLS", but did we really need to do this?

Greenwich brokers have all been switched to a new listing access system, “flexMLS”, but did we really need to do this?

If you’re presently working with a Greenwich broker, you’ll have noticed a change in the e-mailed listings the broker sends you. If you can even view them, the e-mailed listings are now harder to decipher, harder to open, and generally less informative. The reason is, the Greenwich Association of Realtors decided to switch all of us to something new called “flexMLS“.

That link back there brings you to the sign-in page we brokers must use to enter this new site, and it is hideous. That’s not just me talking, that’s the verdict of 90+ Sotheby’s Greenwich brokers, who sounded off recently in a long string of frustration-filled e-mails sent back and forth to each other. Everyone hates the new system, particularly our clients!

And that’s the worst part. If our clients liked it, we’d put up with the needless complexity and non-intuitiveness of this new program, but if the client ain’t happy, we ain’t happy. So why did we switch? We were told that the old system was being “phased out”, and would  “no longer be supported by the provider”.

I went along with this excuse until rumors surfaced that Darien brokers were continuing to use the old system. How can this be, I asked myself? So yesterday, I drove up to Darien and visited a few real estate offices and spoke to a few managers, and guess what? The old system, called “CoreLogic MLS” is not being phased out, and it is continuing to be supported!

So what’s this all about? Well, one possibility is that it was a plot to thwart Chris Fountain’s blog. You see, the new system doesn’t allow you to send or attach listing links. Instead, our clients must sign in to something called a “portal”, where they can (theoretically) access listings, but guess what? They aren’t doing it! Not one of my clients has been willing to go through the laborious process of signing in to one these stupid things.

So yes, we’ve succeeded in preventing Chris Fountain from using his blog to link to Greenwich real estate listings, hooray! But we’ve destroyed our capability to communicate with our clients, not-so hooray!

Darien Real Estate Blog

Kim Swift (left), and Abigail Moore, both of Kelly Assoc., Darien. I like their blog.

Kim Swift (left), and Abigail Moore, both of Kelly Assoc., Darien. I like their blog.

I’ve added a new name to that “BLOGROLL” on the right side of my front page, it’s called Real In Darien. Kim Swift and Abigail Moore sell real estate in Darien, CT for Kelly Associates, and their blog provides useful information about the Darien market.

Is it a Chris Fountain-style blog? God, no! It’s not even the mildly sarcastic Gideon Fountain-style blog, although Kim and Abby have been served the usual cease-and-desist letters from a number of little cry-baby real estate offices in Darien (including some Sotheby’s twit married to a builder). That fact absolutely amazes me, since this blog actually compliments and promotes other broker’s listings, oh the outrage!

In Lieu Of Flowers, Cancel Your Subscription To The New York Times

Leonard M. Smith, 1927-2013. Greenwich resident, served in two wars, all-around great guy.

Leonard M. Smith, 1927-2013. Greenwich resident, served in two wars, all-around great guy.

That’s my favorite line, among some great ones, in this Greenwich Time obituary for Leonard M. Smith. Another one is, “He liked just about every dog he ever met”. That reminds me of me, but I can only aspire to live the life this guy did.

He grew up in New Rochelle, New York, went to Iona, graduated from MIT, degree in engineering, joined the army in WW II, then the air force, for the Korean war, then worked for a wide range of companies, solving tough problems. Five kids, same wife for 58 years.

So how did this obviously decent guy end up disliking the New York Times so much? I can guess it wasn’t because he changed, it was the newspaper that changed. It stopped being an honorable purveyor of news, and moved completely into the realm of pro-government propagandist, seeking to “teach” its readers how to think.

I’d say the paper’s demise really began in earnest when the Sulzberger family allowed Arthur Ochs “you-can-call-me-Pinch” Sulzberger to take over the reins as publisher. That was 1992, and it’s been all down hill since then.

Leonard’s wife, Mary Penelope Smith, died in 2012. She sounds wonderful, too.

Greenwich Says No To FEMA

"Storm preparedness", Old Greenwich style. And guess what, it works!

“Storm preparedness”, Old Greenwich-style, and guess what, it works! (photo shows air conditioner compressor, sitting up on its own little 3-foot high platform). This Old Greenwich waterfront house is still standing after 60 years and around four MAJOR hurricanes. No FEMA payments needed, thank you.

Wouldn’t that be great if we actually did? Why, after all, are we bending over backward to adhere to FEMA rules that offer so little reward?

We had insurance guy Steve Shepard in the office today to lecture us on the sorry state of the flood insurance market. Do you know what the maximum payment from FEMA is for a destroyed home? $250,000 for the house, $100,000 for the interior. In many parts of the country, that’s probably quite helpful, but for Greenwich, practically meaningless (particularly with an annual premium of $8,000+/yr.!)

So why are we participating? Because “global warming” is supposedly causing the sea levels to rise. Except, it’s not. But don’t take my word for it, use your own eyes. If you’ve spent any number of years here in Greenwich, CT, you can observe that the same amount of exposed beach sand still exists, the same high-water marks on sea walls are clearly evident, the same waterside property boundaries (trees, fences, etc.) are all in their usual places.

Everything’s the same! Hooray, we’re saved! Now let’s opt out of FEMA’s idiotic agenda, shall we?

Riverside Bidding War (So What Else Is New?)

21 Winthrop Drive, Riverside. Asked $3.450M. Got $3.7M.

21 Winthrop Drive, Riverside. Asked $3.450M. Got $3.7M.

21 Winthrop Drive is only the latest example of the hot, hot Riverside market. This was a 1948 colonial, no updating, on 32,234 square feet of land in the R-12 zone (min. lot size 12,000 sq. ft.) so the buyer, presumably a builder, gets two oversize lots, 16,117 sq.ft., each.

Can you make money on this street, paying $1,850,000 per lot? Well, the last two sales on the street, including this one, and one that just went to contract (both listed by broker Jean Dana) were in the $4M’s, so yes, I think a builder can make money there.

List: Mairead O’Sullivan

Sell: Lisa Gabriele

The New York Times Discovers…Chris Fountain!

Times research department, busy as usual...

Times research department, busy as usual…

In an amazing display of journalistic dexterity, the New York Times has finally broken the news to its (dwindling number of) readers that there’s this crazy Fountain guy who pokes fun at crooked hedge-fund boys, suspicious real estate developers, and other miscreants attracted to our fair town. Here’s the link, and prepare to be shocked.

(Word has it, the Times is working on a story about a new phenomenon called “social media”. The article will feature an in-depth look at something called “FaceBook”, and its creator, Mark Zukerberg. Way to go, Times! Cutting-edge stuff!)

Round Hill’s Rising

558 Round Hill Road, 8.2 acre building site. Amy & Gideon (plus Martha Jeffrey) get it sold Aug., 2013 for $3.5M. It's now been sold again, this time for $4.75M. Rumor has it, brokers were involved!

558 Round Hill Road, 8.04 acre building site. Amy & Gideon (plus Martha Jeffrey) get it sold Aug., 2013 for $3.5M. It’s now been sold again, this time for $4.75M. Rumor has it, broker Jeffrey made another commission!

558 Round Hill Road, a listing I shared with fellow broker Amy Balducci, has been “flipped”, in a mere five months, for a profit of $1,250,000; same tear-down house, same 8.04 acres. Amazing.

This is further evidence of the market’s resurgence, so if you’re a buyer, you now have a second chance to dillydally, under-bid, hold out, and finally rent…. in a rising market!

Here’s the link to the story on GreenwichPatch.

Two New Spec Houses

These two were on the broker open house list today…

751 Lake Avenue, on for $8,295,000.

751 Lake Avenue, on for $8,295,000.

7 Oakwood Lane, $7,195,000.

7 Oakwood Lane, $7,195,000.

What with the Town of Greenwich’s (and FEMA’s) “war on property owners”, it amazes me that somehow there are still brave builders around who can get big jobs like this done, yet, here they are, two big, beautiful new houses, ready to move in.

Here’s what these properties looked like before development:

7 Oakwood Lane, before

751 Lake Avenue, before

Finally, A “Real” Scandal!

(Above, Casablanca”s Capt. Renault, playing the part of an incredulous American media: Shocked, shocked, to discover a politician using his powers to punish political enemies!)

Meanwhile, the media bends over backwards to ignore these obviously phony scandals:

Using the IRS to persecute political enemies….yawn.

Mysterious order to Benghazi rescue party to “stand down”…ho hum.

Justice Dept. running guns to Mexican drug cartels….sigh/groan

NSA data-mining every single American’s phone line…blah, blah, blah

E-mail evidence White House knew all along you wouldn’t be able to “keep your insurance plan”…z-z-z-z-z-z-z

But finally:

Traffic cones placed on the George Washington bridge, causing 4-day traffic jam?…Stop the presses! Start the investigations! Divert all media resources to Fort Lee, New Jersey, until further notice!

The only good part of this story may be the lesson finally taught to liberal Republicans: The media absolutely love you “mavericks” until the day comes when you are thrown under the bus because, no matter how liberal you may be, ultimately, you will never be forgiven the sin of being Republican. Sorry!