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.


Product Review: The O2 Vibe

This is my latest $199 health toy. It’s actually pretty high-tech. I predict Apple will want the iPhone to have this capability, so they’ll need to acquire this company in the near future…

Like me, you occasionally wake up still tired, despite getting your all-important 10 hours of beauty-sleep. What causes this? Who knows? I do know I don’t suffer from sleep apnea, which generally affects the fat, the drunk, and… others. But could it be just simple snoring that ends up disturbing my brain-nap? I decided to find out.

I ordered this $199 “sleep and fitness monitor” from some outfit called BodiMetrics. You wear it on your wrist, along with a little thingy on your thumb. That thumb part has two interior sensors that glow red when it’s on and miraculously tracks your blood-oxygen level! It works the same way as that finger-clip thing they stick on Grandma when she checks into the hospital. This is the home-version of that very sophisticated medical technology.

Here’s what I’ve learned: My oxygen level is almost always fine, way up there at 98% throughout the night, and is particularly good if I’ve done my gym workout that day (duh). My resting heart rate runs low, around 44 beats per minute, and when I dream about real estate deals collapsing, it can jump as high as 70 or more, but I don’t think that’s a problem, either.

Here’s last night’s report, as displayed on my iPhone. Overall, not bad, except two minor drops in oxygen level (but not enough to activate the thumb-buzzer).

The thumb-clip buzzes you to wake you up if your oxygen level drops below 94%. That’s only happened to me once in a month’s use, and it happened when I was sleeping on my back! So that awareness has caused me to stop doing that. I may start out staring at the ceiling, but eventually, I make at least a half turn.

The moral: get sufficient exercise each day, drink lots of water, lay off the cigars past 8 PM, don’t get liquored up! Oh, and consider blowing $199 on this O2 Vibe thing. Overall, I find it helpful.

P.S. In order to read your nightly results, you need to download the app on your mobile device. That part’s free, of course, and easy to do, then you just activate Bluetooth and… Bob’s your uncle!

P.P.S. BodiMetrics makes another device they call a “performance monitor”, basically a home-version of an EKG monitor. You hold the thing for 20 seconds and it tells you what kind of heart-rhythm you’ve got that day. Ever hear about those poor saps that drop dead whilst exercising? This thing prevents that. Truly life-saving. Oh, and the company’s support line is excellent. They have medically-trained people answering the phone, I like that.

Note: As always on this blog,  this is a free plug! I received no compensation, no reduced product cost, no nuthin’!

The House Buyers’ Biggest Mistake

304 Taconic Road closes today at $4,350,000. I’ve already used the phrase “bargain of the century” on some other property, but dammit, this was a STEAL! Started at $15.950M in 2009.  This buyer did well, but lots of other buyers passed it up, even when it was already a bargain (anything below $7M was a great deal).
List: Shelly Tretter Lynch
Sell: Marianne Scipione

The typical buyer’s biggest mistake is not believing it when the broker says, “There’s nothing wrong with this property. The reason it’s been on so long is because  the initial asking price was too high”.

The most alert among you will, after reading my previous post, realize that if over-pricing causes properties to sell for far below their actual market value, then obviously those must be the smartest properties to buy! And you would be right, except for one teensie-weensie little problem: buyers remain convinced that a “stale” property has some hidden defect and there’s a “real” reason it hasn’t sold that the broker won’t disclose.
And of course, this near-universal suspicion causes stale listings to drop even further in price. That’s fine for the buyer who finally gets it, but plenty of other buyers miss their chance as it is drops further and further into the true bargain range.

Here is an example: a $6,000,000 property starts out foolishly priced at $8,000,000. A year later, it is marked down to, say, $6,995,000. Another year goes by, and it’s down to $5,995,000. You could pick it up at this point for $5,500,000 and you would be saving $500,000 from it’s “true” value of $6M.

But of course, no one touches it at this point because, after two years of sitting on the market, it has become stigmatized: “something must be wrong with it”, say the buyers.

So now the sellers have to keep reducing it in order to make the place such an incredible bargain that it overcomes the stigmatization. What price will do the trick? For this example, it will probably have to drop to $4,995,000. At this price, there’ll be a last-minute flurry of activity and possibly multiple offers. It will likely close at that last asking price of $4.995M. Did the buyer get a deal? Unquestionably. But suppose you picked it up 4 months earlier at $5,300,000? Not quite as good a deal, but you could have had it all to yourself back then, with no one competing against you.

Here’s the moral to the story: Don’t wait till the bitter end. If your broker tells you it’s a bargain, buy it  now! If you don’t believe your broker, get a different broker. And finally, when you’re out looking, by all means look at all the new-to-market stuff, but also have your broker put together a package of all the listings in your price-range that have been on the market for one year or more. That is where the bargains are hiding.


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%!



12 Huge Sales In Last 48 Days

116 Oneida Drive, central Greenwich waterfront. Sold for $15M in 2002, now sells again, this time for $20.337M. List: David Ogilvy  Sell: Brian Milton

Broker Brian Milton has yet again provided the buyer for a mega-expensive property, this time for a David Ogilvy listing that just closed at $20,377,000 (an odd figure that suggests last-minute ‘adjustments”?). That’s a very big commitment to Greenwich and, more significantly, the State of CT, by this buyer, and he wasn’t alone; in just the last 48 days, we’ve seen 12 deals in the $7M+ range.

Today is Sunday, October 8th, so this is the 281st day of 2017. Since the start of the year, we’ve had 25 $7M+ deals in Greenwich. The fact that almost half of those occurred in the last 48 days tells me we are in an up-swing. But why? Doesn’t the news about CT’s Puerto Rico-style financial mis-management continue to be bad? Doesn’t the State continue to be tied to ruinous state-worker-union contract benefits that eat up almost half of the State’s annual revenue? Won’t taxes, therefore, soon be doubled?

Or is there political change coming which will pull us back from the brink? That’s what these presumably savvy wealthy people appear to be betting on. Even Gideon Fountain, noted real estate sage, joined these “betters” recently by buying additional Greenwich property. Oh, the excitement of it all!

Additional examples of recent mega-sales:

460 North Street fetches the nice, round sum of $22M. List: Helene Barre   Sell: Fran Ehrlich

50 Byram Drive, Belle Haven waterfront, a steal at $12.650M. List: Ginger DeSimone   Sell: Shelly Tretter Lynch

24 Hendrie Drive Extension (off OG’s Edgewater Drive) gets $9M even. List: Sheila Goggin   Sell: Carolyn Petersen.

11 Cove Road, OG waterfront, new-construction, gets $6.9M. List: Mark O’Brien   Sell: Gideon Fountain (yay!)

Note to mobile device users: For now, photos on those links above can only be seen using your desktop computer (you do own one of those don’t you? Over there by your land-line phone?). I will continue to pester (those geniuses at) Houlihan Lawrence World-Headquarters to fix this once ‘n for all!




$2,000,000 Over The Asking Price

460 North Street, just closed at $22M. Five owners over twenty years, none did better than this one! List: Helene Barre. Sell: Fran Ehrlich.

As I mentioned earlier, way back in June, 1997, I sold this place for the pocket-change amount of $4,700,000. Besides the 2.5% sell-side commission, listing broker Ogilvy had arranged for a selling bonus of $40,000, so I celebrate that June 16th closing date each year with a fine cigar.

Twenty years, and five owners later, 460 North Street has closed again, this time for the somewhat more impressive price of $22,000,000. The ask was $20M, so was there a bidding war? My guess is no. I think that extra $2M was for furnishings, possibly even a few pieces of art (see photos)?

Each of the previous owners of 460 North Street put their “stamp” on it, lavishing millions in renovations, decorations, and expansions. Some made money, some did not. This most recent owner paid $7,987,250 in 2012, so I suspect money was made this time.

107 Meadow Road: Bargain Of The Century?

107 Meadow Road, Riverside. Started at $6.995M, just closed at $3.7M. List: Monie Sullivan. Sell: Ann Simpson. Note: if the damned Houlihan link doesn’t show photos, try this one, from (the idiots at) Zillow: https://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/107-Meadow-Rd,-Riverside,-CT-06878_rb/?fromHomePage=true&shouldFireSellPageImplicitClaimGA=false&fromHomePageTab=buy

A century’s a long time, a lot can happen in a hundred years, but I’m prepared to bestow the title of “Bargain Of The Century” upon this (heavily deed-restricted*) spectacular house and property right now.

107 Meadow  Road, former home of Mrs. Donna Brace Ogilvy, closed this week for $3,700,000. To give you an idea how cheap that is, consider the sale of 70 Meadow Road, a few doors away, which fetched $6,350,000, back in 2012. For that, you got a, um, imposing, classic old Tudor mansion on 2.1 acres in the R-20 zone. Naturally, the Tudor was torn down faster than you can say Jack Robinson, and THREE building lots were created. Each now has a spanking-new mansion sitting on it (one sold last month for $6,2000,000).

70 Meadow Road sold in 2012 for $6.350M. It quickly became three building lots.

Beginning to get the picture? That 2.1-acre parcel yielded three building lots. How many lots could you have carved out of Mrs. Ogilvy’s? With 3.21 acres in the R-20 zone, you’re about an inch short of SEVEN BUILDING LOTS, so, to be conservative, let’s say the Town allowed five lots. Properly configured, all of those lots, measuring around 28,000 sq. ft each, would have had great, high-elevation views of Tod’s Point and Long Island beyond.

So what would five 28,000 square foot lots, with beautiful water views, at the end of hyper-valuable Meadow Road be worth? A bare minimum of $2,500,000 each. Would a builder have paid $12,500,000 for the whole thing? Who knows. But surely $10,000,000 would have been a no-brainer. The difference, therefore, between true market value and the value after Mrs. Ogilvy laid down those restrictive covenants was at least $6,300,000!

When you have bought one of the most impressive properties in Riverside, that includes a classic, high-ceilinged mansion, the inside of which you can improve any way you see fit, and you save yourself $6,300,000 in the process, you have gotten a bargain.


* The actual deed restrictions run 7+ pages or so, but here’s the gist of it:

“Only the existing residential dwelling, for single family use and occupancy, with all improvements related thereto, shall be maintained upon the Property…”

And here is the entire list of restrictions, if you feel like plowing through it: