Is $3.5M Such A Bad Price?

390 Round Hill Road, Greenwich. Started at $5.8M, final ask $4.0M. Sells for $3.5M.
List: Sandy Shaw

Much will be made of the fact that baseball star Bobby Bonilla’s former house on Round Hill Road has today closed at $3,500,000, but really, it’s not such a bad price for a 2003 house in Greenwich’s backcountry, walking distance to the Strain family’s country store.

Mr. & Mrs. Bonilla* paid $1,900,000 for a tear-down on the property way back in 1992, built a new mansion, got divorced, and eventually sold it for $5,000,000 in August, 2011.

Since then, the demand for backcountry has undeniably diminished. There are fewer buyers, certainly, but it is completely inaccurate to say “No one wants to live back there”.

Reduced demand means lower prices, as ol’ Adam Smith would say. Add to that the fact that the house is now 15 years old (well maintained, but not substantially updated) and, by gosh, $3.5M is impressive.  In most towns, that’s a %#@&-load of money!

*Bobby Bonilla fun-fact: The Mets send him a check for $1,193,248 every July 1st, through 2035. Why? Because the owners of the team, the Wilpons, believed that the money they “invested” with Bernie Made-Off would earn them 12% per year until the end of time, so they could easily afford such an extravagant contract. 

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.


$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.

Very Good News For Greenwich Real Estate

6 Plow Lane, Greenwich (off Old Church Rd) closes at $5,155,000, one of 17 such closings in this price category so far this year.
List: Joan Epand
Sell: Bryan Tunney

Let’s consider the price category of $5,000,000 to $6,000,000, shall we? Last year, on this date, we’d had 7 closings. So far this year, it’s 13. You mathematicians will instantly see we’ve almost doubled last year’s result.

For the entire year of 2016, 17 properties priced between $5M and $6M closed. For this year, I predict 30+.

So things are looking good, and yes, I know there are endless reasons why they shouldn’t be, but perhaps, as with the stock market, real estate climbs on a wall of worry? Who knows.

Is This A Zippy Market?

1 Bramble Lane, Riverside, asking $4.295M, now has deal, my guess, closes around $4.150M. Back in June, 2008, the builder unloaded it for $4,050,000, probably thinking he’d made a narrow escape, but Riverside hung in there!. Can any other part of Town promise that kind of hold on value? List: Russ Pruner  Sell: Barbara Wells

Those who know me well, know that I don’t throw words like “zippy” around lightly. No, I understand the significance of the word, and only use it when absolutely justified. Therefore, let me state for the record that we are experiencing a ZIPPY market!

Am I aware that the dominant political party in Hartford has taken us down the road-to-ruin, to the point where our finances now resemble pathetic Puerto Rico and Illinois? Yes, I am aware. If you actually add up all the (un-payable) billions and billions and billions we owe to the municipal-union pension funds, the State of CT is already effectively bankrupt. Not pretty.

And yet… people clearly still want to live in Fairfield County. Why is this? Are they unaware of the impending doom? Do they think a (Republican) savior will emerge?

Who knows. What I do know is that last year, as of this date, we’d had 89 closings. This year, same time period, we’re up to 169 (plus another 73 pending). That’s serious improvement.

The fly-in-the-ointment *? Of course, it’s the super high-end, just 3 sales this year for $8M+. 3 sales! Now we only have to get rid of the other 68 sitting on the market and we’re home free!

So why do Greenwich sales start to dwindle down when you pass the $6M mark? The reason stated above, certainly, but added to our miserable State financial picture, there’s the State’s continuing “war on the rich”, and the very, very rich don’t have to take it. If you’re a poor schlub barely making enough to spend $5,000,000 on a home, your work probably still ties you to the New York area. But I guarantee you that the $20,000,000 buyer is not tied to the New York area. And for now, that’s who’s leaving. You might think of them as canaries in the coal mine…


*how often is this a problem?

What A Week!

16 Chimney Corner Lane, Greenwich, just closed at $8.5M. List: David Ogilvy. Sell: Lindsay Sheehy. Note: These links don’t show pictures on your mobile device. I intend to fix this problem tomorrow!

I’ve said it before, we salesmen live for “comps”. If no one’s buying, how do we convince others to buy? This past week provided a bunch (23 total) of fresh comps so we’re all happy. I should also mention, there are reports of bidding-wars breaking out all over, which, though perfectly normal for this time of year, still comes as a bit of a surprise because of the widely perceived “slow market”.

My favorite sale of the week has to be Lindsay Sheehy’s sale of David Ogilvy’s listing at 16 Chimney Corner Lane, for $8,500,000. I like to see big numbers, of course, and this one is way up there in the high-zone, that’s the good news. My only molecule of concern is that, like almost everything else selling in the upper range, it’s waterfront. Does it always have to be waterfront? Is that still the only big stuff selling these days?

Second favorite sale of the week: my own sale, for $5,600,000, of Rob Johnson’s listing at 25 Willowmere Circle, Riverside. And yes, of course it was waterfront.

Next up, Joe Barbieri, with the help of Barbara O’Shea, has unloaded 30 Northway, Old Greenwich, a waterfront tear-down, for $6,250,000.

46 Grahampton Lane, Greenwich, fetched $4,162,500. List: Leslie McElwreath. Sell: Bryan Tunney. Waterfront, did you ask?  Of course!

So the first four are waterfront, but there were six more of note, all non-waterfront, here they are…

33 Hendrie Avenue, Riverside: $2,710,000.

15 Beechcroft Road, Greenwich: $2,326,000 (ask was $2,195,000)

151 Shore Road, Old Greenwich: $2,283,000.

38 Birch Lane, Greenwich: $2,150,000 (ask was $1,995,000)

320 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich: $1,989,000 (mistakenly shows as “rented”)

139 North Street: $1,900,000.

Add thirteen more, priced below that last one above, to make 23 closings in one week? That’s a good week for Greenwich real estate.




Biggest Sale Of The Year?

60 Oneida Drive (within the Indian Harbor Association neighborhood), asked $21.9M, sells for $19.250M.

60 Oneida Drive (within the Indian Harbor Association neighborhood), asked $21.9M, sells for $19.250M. List: Shelly Tretter Lynch  Sell: Anne Ward

What? It’s January, for heaven’s sake, yer telling me someone can’t top a lousy $19,250,000 sale before December 31, 2017?? Yes, that’s what I’m saying and I base this prediction on my recent conversations with high-end buyers and fellow brokers.

Bloomberg estimates “equities’ global market value has jumped $2 TRILLION since the election”., so our high-end buyers are feeling confident of the future, right? The answer is yes and no. They are confident of the national economy’s continued improvement, but they are uniformly concerned about Connecticut’s economy and its tax picture. Not one buyer or broker I spoke to expects (those idiots in) Hartford to do anything but more harm to Fairfield County.

General Electric’s recent departure is certainly the biggest “canary in the coal mine” so far, but plenty of lower profile financial services companies and hedge-funds have also cleared out, not to mention a gun company or two.

So, as Connecticut’s Governor Malloy and his legislative allies proudly maintain our fair state’s “business unfriendly” atmosphere, most expect it to get worse this year. And let’s not forget our big, fat estate tax, which chases away older zillionaires on a regular basis.

So yeah, it’s great to see such a big land sale, it’s encouraging, by golly. I just wish it was the beginning of a trend.

Note: that address-link for 60 Oneida Drive works better on your desktop than your mobile device.

There’s Such A Thing As Too Many Photos

43 North Street, $4.995M pretty much an "in town" address. Inexplicably sat around for 9 months but now is under contract.

73 North Street, $4.995M. Absolutely stunning/interesting interior (see photos), pretty much an “in town” address. Inexplicably sat around for 9 months but now is under contract.

How many photos should a broker use on a typical listing? My strong opinion on this vital topic is… never ever more than 30, EVER.

“But Gid”, I hear you say, “why? what possible harm can 40 or 50 photos do?”

The answer is boredom, on the part of the viewer. Give the customer (and the brokers you are hoping will show your listing) a nice selection that they can click through in about 60 seconds, tops. More than that and they will move on, possibly missing a few photos that they should have seen!

Some listings have, I kid you not, SIXTY photos, many of them showing empty rooms! No one wants to see those, not even the owners.

Having said all the above, I must now retract a bit because broker Elizabeth Douthit’s listing at 43 North Street has 58 photos attached.  And this is the exception that proves the rule (an expression I’ve never quite understood). I make the exception because in this exceedingly rare case, the house and it’s contents are so fun and interesting that all 58 photos were worth including.

Take a look, see if you agree.

(click on link below photo)


Listing broker: Elizabeth Douthit

How (Was) The Market?

I don't know who this schmoe is, but let's pretend he's a "disappointed Greenwich broker".

(I don’t know who this schmoe is, but let’s pretend he’s a “disappointed Greenwich broker”)

Throughout the year, we brokers are repeatedly asked, “How’s the market?” because residential real estate is apparently endlessly fascinating to the general public. Being the happy-go-lucky, smiling, whistling, optimistic guy you all know and love, I always reply that the market is “Fine”.

Unfortunately, Houlihan manager Haffenreffer has now come along and supplied the actual facts of the case for the full year of 2016, and it’s safe to say that last year was a bit “sucky”, as the young people like to say.

Total House Sales

2016   572

2015   601

Total Condo Sales

2016   154

2015   191

Check out the results for the upper price ranges of $5,000,000+, those continue to be depressed, but keep in mind, as I’ve described in an earlier post, there is quite a bit of new construction going on all over town, much of it custom-building for people who’ve bought a tear-down and then hired a builder to erect their dream-house. This activity is significant yet goes completely unacknowledged in statistics like the ones provided here.

Click on links below to see the full (ugly) story….



P.S. Regarding the fading of the upper price range, perhaps the inescapable conclusion is that Connecticut’s dominant political party (no names mentioned) has gradually chipped away at our once-great state’s biggest advantage over neighboring New York, which was taxes. We are now among the highest taxed states and guess who is the first to get the hell out of here? Did you say “the mega-wealthy”? You’re right! They are leaving because they can.

Builder Jim Gardiner: Another Quick Sale

267 Riverside Avenue has apparently closed this week for $4,490,000. List: Carol Zuckert Sell: Jared Randall

267 Riverside Avenue has apparently closed this week for $4,490,000. List: Carol Zuckert    Sell: Jared Randall

You longtime readers know my feelings about builders. I vented on the subject back in 2013, but briefly, my complaints (about some of them) are as follows:

  • They have no compunction against submitting a phony bid.
  • They overprice their houses and waste years of brokers’ time.
  • They cut corners to save a nickel.
  • They are disloyal to their brokers.

But there are exceptions, and one of them is this fellow Jim Gardiner, who works with broker Carol Zuckert. Gardiner doesn’t submit phony bids, doesn’t cut corners, and remains loyal to broker Zuckert, Best of all, his houses sell quickly!

His latest victory is the quick sale of 267 Riverside Avenue. It didn’t even hit the market before (crafty and swift) broker Jared Randall brought a buyer in and wrapped up the deal with broker Zuckert.

Builder Gardiner paid $2,100,000 for the tear-down and it closed in October, 2015, so a bit over one year from start to finish. Is it any wonder this guy attracts investors?

This is the "before" picture at 267 Riverside Avenue. .54 acres means FAR allowed 7,409 sq.ft.

This is the “before” picture at 267 Riverside Avenue. .54 acres means FAR allowed 7,409 sq.ft.