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)


19 Old Farm Lane, Darien $6,750,000.

19 Old Farm Road, Darien. New to the market at $6,750,000.
List: Eileen B Hanford

We brokers aren’t supposed to pay attention to furnishings (unless they’re included), but once in a while, I will admit to getting distracted by a well-done job. I suppose I could do without a few of the choices here, the tiresome zebra-skin, the, er, striking raspberry ottoman at the foot of the bed, maybe a bit less of the wallpaper here and there, but overall, we’re talking overall here, the exterior, the interior, the grounds; these owners have created a masterpiece.

(The photography is also good, although a few of the pictures are incorrectly sized for the MLS, consequently you will notice they appear overly enlarged to fit the format)

Take a look for yourself.

Your Real Estate Has Two Prices

A recent sale of Riverside waterfront property saw $3M+ left on the table.

There is the price you can get in the first few weeks of  your listing, and there’s the price you get after sitting on the market for months and years.

A Greenwich seller has left $3,100,000 “on the table”. He was offered $9,600,000 two years ago, turned it down, and ended up accepting approximately $6,500,000 last week. It’s a classic case, not at all unusual in our market. In fact, the next example is likely right around the corner!

Here’s how it works (every single time):

  • Seller over-prices property.
  • Seller turns down early offers.
  • Seller waits months, possibly years, hoping to hear those offers again.

It’s such a common scenario that one can only conclude that this behavior pattern is built into our DNA.

Will you fall into this trap when it’s time to sell? Yes, you will. What about brokers? Surely they are experienced enough to avoid such foolish behavior when they list their own property, no? No. Brokers are even worse!

At any given time, the Greenwich market contains a dozen or so broker-owned properties that are for sale and they are almost always over-priced. And they sit, and they sit, and then? They sit some more. Experienced brokers commit the same error that they (presumably) have warned their clients of.

Remember that book  Freakonomics? It is full of interesting, useful, surprising facts about human behavior, but I had to laugh at the section devoted to real estate. According to the authors, real estate agents deliberately price your property low so it will sell quickly (oh no!), whereas, when they go to sell their own properties, they price them higher (gasp!). This hideous crime was apparently revealed by the authors’ study of real estate sales statistics in the Chicago area.

Maybe there’s a different type of human in Illinois, but here in CT, while it’s certainly true that brokers price their homes higher, it is also true that the market punishes them just as severely.

The corrosive effect of sitting on the market for months and years is so obvious, so proven, it is a wonder to me that professional appraisers still  don’t acknowledge it in their reports.

So here’s my ground-breaking proposal: Every real estate appraisal should come with two prices, the “early” price and the “late” price.

A sample concluding sentence of an appraiser’s report  might look like this:

Based upon recent and similar market transactions in the area, the market value of the subject is estimated to be in the $5,000,000 to $5,300,000 value range. In the event that the subject remains on the market for 6 or more months, the stated value range should be reduced by approximately 20%.*  

This would at least put banks, lawyers, and estates on notice. Heck, it might even end up influencing the behavior of sellers and brokers!


* That 20% drop is only the beginning, of course. After a year or two, your value can easily drop a total of 40-50%!



Are We Getting Ripped Off Down Here?

123 Riding Ridge Road, Monroe, #@$%-ing CT, asked $649K, now has deal.

123 Riding Ridge Road, Monroe, #@$%-ing CT, asked $649K, now has deal.

Ok, I get it that it’s Monroe, Connecticut, and that’s not an easy commute to most places we work, but still, $649,000?? The land appears to have sold for $155,000, which down here in Greenwich is pretty much the price of a decent summer rental, but how does the builder make money with an ask of $649,000?

The house is listed at 2,889 square feet (1,200 unfinished, walk-out basement), land is 2.88 acres and, well, take a look at the photos…is it so bad? Even a snob like me must admit the house appears livable…nice, even!

And the cost to build was what, $150 per foot? No, that’s too much, there would be zero profit at that cost, so… Ok, I’m stumped, either we’re all getting ripped off down here, what with $400-$1,000/foot building costs, or the Monrovians have figured out how to build houses at $100/ft and they’re keeping it a secret.

Here’s what it looked like as a land listing: 123 Riding Ridge building lot.

Virtual Staging

23 Park Place, Fairfield, CT, $2,249,000. Listed by Holly S. Hawes.

23 Park Place, Fairfield, CT, $2,249,000. Listed by Holly S. Hawes.

I’ve seen this done badly and I’ve seen it done well. I think this example works!

Flip through the before/after pictures on this listing, really amazing. The question is, can virtual staging take the place of actual staging, where the movers have to show up and haul the furniture in and set everything up? I mean, virtual’s just fine to get on-line shoppers interested, but eventually, won’t they still end up walking around a big empty house?

23 Park Place, Fairfield (the Halstead website mysteriously labels this as “Darien”)

Listed by Holly S. Hawes

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!

39 Church Street For Sale: $509,900…Really?

39 Church Street, downtown Greenwich multi-family, on sale this week only, $509,900, better hurry!

39 Church Street, downtown Greenwich multi-family, on sale, this week only, $509,900, better hurry! (Dump truck not included)

39 Church Street, Greenwich, CT is for sale (or not) at the bargain price of just $509,900 (or maybe $674,200, depending on which listing you look at).

This happens all the time: A client e-mails you a listing and says, “Hey! Why haven’t you shown me this one?”  They usually find these mystery listings on one of the many alternative MLS systems out there. There’s a legitimate one called the CMLS, but I keep hearing about listings on the “CT MLS“, which supposedly carried this 39 Church Street charade (I eventually found it by Googling the address).

But never mind all that, the fact is, either of those asking prices is hundreds and hundreds of thousands less than the property’s actual value. Add to that the fact that the Gabriele family (of the adjacent Gabriele’s Restaurant) owns practically the whole block, with no plans to sell, and the whole thing sounds fishy, does it not?

So I called fellow broker Lisa Gabriele, and she said she’d never heard of it (and yeah, no, the family isn’t planning on unloading any properties at half price, darn!)

So that leaves the question, what is this? I left a message for the purported listing broker, “Jonathan Grabarz” (of Hamden, CT!) but haven’t heard back. All very weird, but the Internet is absolutely full of stuff like this; properties advertised as seemingly for sale, but aren’t really. So what’s the motive? Who benefits from these faux listings? Inquiring minds want to know!