About Gideon Fountain

I've been selling real estate in Greenwich for 30 years (but not while wearing a bathing suit). During this time I've learned that brokers owe a fiduciary duty to their selling clients, their buying clients, even to people who merely happen to approach them with a real estate question. So there's my method: honest answers, no sleazy tricks, it's worked out well! P.S. Any business that gets a plug in this blog gets it for free, I accept no payments, reduced-price-of-service, nothing, nada, zilch.

How’s The Market?

9 Manor Road, Old Greenwich closes today at $2,772,500, new street record. Note: non-MLS sale, only one photo available.
List: Allen Vetrosky
Sell: Lindsay Sheehy

2018 is a mere three days old, but there are already signs of a promising market. When you see new street price records being set, that is surely a positive sign, no?

Exactly. I was thrilled, therefore, to see 51 Glen Avon, asking price $15,900,000, get signed up in December. The previous record for Glen Avon/Club Road area was $9,500,000 and this new record price is reportedly in the $15Ms (closes in a few weeks).

51 Glen Avon, Riverside. Asked $15,900,000.

2018 RECORD BREAKERS:

9 Manor Road, Old Greenwich (top picture) just closed at $2,772,500. Previous street record was $1,385,000 !

12 Nimitz Place, Old Greenwich just went to contract. Ask is $2,195,000. Previous record for Nimitz? $1,775,000.

12 Nimitz Place, Old Greenwich. Asked $2.195M (builder paid $812K for tear-down)

Despite all of Connecticut’s problems, people still insist on living here. Say Hallelujah!

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Is The Best Deal In Greenwich Really In Stamford?

I Shore Road, Stamford, CT. Unit 13 of the Ardenwood condominiums, gets a deal after about 2 days on the market. Asking $549,500.
List: Ted Thaxter

When brokers buy for themselves, their real estate knowledge would, one hopes, lead them to buy wisely. Such is the case with a 16-unit Stamford condo project called “Ardenwood” where you will find quite a few Greenwich brokers as your neighbors.

What’s the draw? First and foremost, they are mere inches from the border of Old Greenwich, hence perfectly positioned for slipping in and out of Greenwich as needed. I’m told Stamford brokers do not find this location convenient, but obviously, it’s all about where you need to get to every morning.

It’s not just location, however, these units are also of “manageable” size (1,425 – 2,417 sq.ft.), perfect for down-sizers, bargain-hunters, empty-nesters, freshly divorced-ers, you name it. The whole project overlooks the Innis Arden Golf Club, that’s good. They can be somewhat difficult to rent, that’s bad. The association has rules that limit to how many can be rented at one time, so these aren’t suitable for investors.

But they are attractive, well-laid out, well-maintained, and less than half the cost of anything remotely similar in Greenwich.

This is the view from unit 16, the Innis Arden Golf Club in the background.

Sales prices over the last five years:

unit 3    $745,000.

unit 12   $630,000.

unit 7    $566,350

unit 10   $540,000.

unit 9     $549,500.

unit 15   $545,000.

unit 16   $635,000.

(Prices and sizes vary depending on whether the one-car garage has been converted to living space and also quality of view)

Some Make Money, Others Not So Much

19 Doverton Drive, Greenwich has closed at $7,970,000.

I recently sold a new-construction, 6,800 square foot, waterfront house for $6,900,000. The builder swore he was losing money at any price below $7.2M. He paid $3.5M for the land two years ago, so there were carrying costs, plus plenty of added site-development costs associated with the Town’s excessive (insane) regulations for direct-waterfront building.

But how much per square foot does typical luxury construction cost a Greenwich builder? $300 per foot? $400 per foot? At $400/ft., the 6,800 sq.ft. house I sold would have cost the builder $2,720,000. Add land cost of $3,500,000, and you’re up to $6,220,000. That suggests a $680,000 “profit” for two year’s effort. Better than an outright loss, but not by much.

Now we have two new examples to study: backcountry Greenwich’s Doverton Drive, off Round Hill Road, has seen the recent sale of two spec houses, one a likely success, the other, less so

Very nearby, someone has just shelled out $25M for a classic old mansion on almost 20 acres, so let us agree, this is a fine neighborhood. But fine neighborhood or not, even experienced builders can go astray, either by paying too much for the land, or, more typically, by over-pricing at the beginning. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING dooms a project more completely than initial gross over-pricing. Copy and paste that last sentence on parchment paper, get it framed, and hang it in your dressing closet where you will see it every day.

Example 1:  19 Doverton Drive (pictured above)

  • Sold for $7,970,000. (initial asking price $8,800,000)
  • Square footage: 12,117
  • Land cost: $2,525,000
  • Start-to-finish: 2 years
  • $300 per foot X 12,117 = $3,635,100 + (land cost) $2,525,000 = $6,160,100.
  • Possible profit: $1,809,900?

 

1 Doverton Drive, Greenwich just closed at $6,600,000. (For various reasons, I much preferred this one over the other)

Example 2:  1 Doverton Drive (above)

  • Sold for $6,600,000 (initial asking price $10,950,000)
  • Square footage: 10,767
  • Land cost: $2,650,000
  • Start-to-finish: 2 years
  • $300 per foot X $10,767 = $3,230,100 + (land cost) $2,650,000 = $5,880,100.
  • Possible profit: $719,900?

A Review Of The Jaguar XJ, Year Six

JaguarThree

The 2012 Jaguar XJL, with supercharged V-8. It now has 41K miles, still completely reliable.

All you paid-up members of the Gid Fountain Fan Club* know that October 15th marked the 6th anniversary of the day I picked up the new Jaguar. Six years later, I’m still driving it, which is unusual for a Greenwich resident. We tend to swap out cars after two, maximum three years (houses, six to ten years, spouses, ten to twenty), yet here I am with the same ol’ clunker, go figure.

The thing is, it still looks new, smells new, acts new! It has been completely trouble-free all these years, so there is no incentive to trade it away. Do I see possible benefits for a Realtor to own the new Tesla that does zero to sixty in 1.9 seconds? Yes, I do see a possible need for such a clearly practical, real estate show-car. But dammit, the Jaguar is just plain better looking than the Tesla, so that’s that.

Anyway, here’s my brief review of this phenomenal car…

The best parts:

The sheer, over-whelming, airplane-like power. Getting on the highway couldn’t be easier. Those specs in your rear-view mirror? Those are the cars you got on with.

The “feel” of this car is very good. Maybe it’s the seats, perhaps it’s the steering wheel, or  the smoothness of the ride, not sure how to pin it down, but no other car ever felt like this.

The fit and finish are superb. Again, never experienced this high a level before.

The parts that took, er, getting used to:

This is an XJ “L”, the L stands for long-wheelbase., which added about 6 inches of rear leg-room for passengers (real estate show car, remember?). The problem with a long car is getting used to the idea that the back needs to catch up with you. I complete my turn, thinking I’m ready to proceed, but the passenger-side rear wheel bumping the curb reminds me there’s still some car length left out there.

Low-profile tires: Jaguars, Porsches, BMWs, Ferraris, all powerful sports cars come with “low-profile tires”, which means very little sidewall, which means very little protection for your magnificently expensive alloy wheels. I have learned to spot and avoid potholes on pitch-black, rainy nights, at 75 MPH.  New York state, which taxes its residents more than anyone else, has the worst roads of any state I drive in. I see that the new Tesla also comes with %#@&-ing low-profile tires, that’s swell.

Low-profile tires look really cool, but until roads improve (or wheels get tougher), I’d advise against them. But if you insist, then keep your eyes peeled for pot-holes!

The interior: six years later, still a thrill.

Am I glad I bought it? Yes. Would I buy another? Yes. (nearest dealership is Darien)

End of review.

 

 

 

 

 

*Gift rates apply, through December 24th!

Ogilvy Does It Again!

 

25 Lower Cross Road, Greenwich: mansion, outbuildings, 80 acres; the “jewel” of Conyers Farm.
Last Ask: $29M
Sold: $21M
List: David Ogilvy
Sell: David Ogilvy

Broker David Ogilvy has sold his own listing for $21,000,000. The historians among you will quickly recall he did the same thing with this property in 2004! Back then, in a better market for Greenwich’s “Conyers Farm”, 25 Lower Cross fetched $45,000,000. 13 years later and a loss of a paltry $24M, the deal has been done again.

One of the un-heralded skills of brokering is the ability to get your seller to throw in the towel and just let the property sell. In this case, the seller waited two years, which, in the current market, is the mere blink of an eye. There are presently a dozen or two high-end properties (almost all w-a-a-y back country) passing their 10th year on the market, so I’m impressed with what happened here.

But what else happened here? Why is this spectacular place, which the current owner made even more spectacular during his time of ownership, selling for such an enormous loss? It’s not as though market punishment is being spread evenly. No, Conyers Farm for some reason bears the brunt. Other parts of town, particularly waterfront, but even mid-country, have owners showing handsome profits after 10+ years of ownership. For the nonce, Conyers takes the hit, but I truly believe it will rise again.

2017: What A Year!

Here’s a review of this year’s super high-end sales, so far:

  • 9 Sabine Farm: $25M
  • 460 North Street: $22M
  • 25 Lower Cross Rd: $21M
  • 116 Oneida Drive: $20.377M
  • 60 Oneida Drive: $19.250M
  • 7 Cobb Island Drive: $15.250M
  • 200 Guards Road: $13.5M
  • 6 Meadowcroft Lane: $13.065M

Absolutely amazing.

 

When “The Market” Speaks, Will You Listen?

9 Sabine Farm Road, off Greenwich’s Round Hill Road, reports a deal. Last sold for $23M in 2004. Present ask $31.5M.

In the case of Greenwich real estate, “the market” is a collection of un-related, wealthy individuals who make independent decisions about what they will pay for a particular property. Human nature can cause those of us who regularly observe this market to accept or reject sales examples based on whether or not they re-enforce existing beliefs. Certain sales, especially high-priced ones, will often be dismissed as “flukes” by know-it-all brokers and bloggers.

A perfect example of this is the recently reported deal at 9 Sabine Farm Road, asking price $31,500,000. Along with the recent sales of 460 North Street ($22M), 116 Oneida Drive ($20.377M), 60 Oneida Drive ($19.250M), not to mention three other deals in the $13M-$15Ms, the skeptics, the know-it-alls, and the nay-sayers find themselves frustrated and confounded:

“Flukes”!, they cry. “Fools and their money”!, they sneer. Yet, those pesky rich people continue to defy expectations. Sorta reminds me of the way Dr. Seuss’s Who people carried on with their Christmas even after the Grinch stole every Christmas-related thing they had.

No one’s denying that wealth is fleeing the high-tax northeast. This week’s Wall Street Journal published a sad little chart showing just how many multi-millionaires have pulled out of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut The three states have lost a combined $19.7 BILLION dollars worth of income producers over the last few years. And there is no reason to think anything will happen soon to reverse this trend.

And yet… here in Greenwich, we continue to have a decent showing in our ultra-high-end market segment. Notwithstanding the mystery of it all, this fact should not cause you frustration! Obviously, for reasons other than wealth-preservation, a small number of very rich people continue to want to live here. That’s good news, bunky, so go ahead, slap on a happy grin!