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.

What’s Selling Well In Greenwich Right Now

75 Rock Maple, Greenwich (off Stanwich Road), $5,695,000. Came on May 24th, already has a deal! This was a very smart asking price. We’ll have to wait for the closing, but I won’t be surprised if it had a little bidding war.
List: Helene Barre
Sell: Max Wiesen

You want the truth? You can handle the truth, so here it is: houses priced $5,000,000-6,000,000 are trading quite nicely, thank you. How many? So far this year, we’re up to 11 closings, with 6 more pending. For all of 2016, we had a total of 12, so there, my friends, is another clear indicator of that “zippy” market I talked about..

There is a theory among brokers that these $5M-6M buyers are “yesterday’s $10M buyers” who are now spending less not because they don’t have the dough, but more out of a sense of caution. This could be true, I’m not sure, but as I wrote yesterday, I’m certain some percentage of $10M buyers just aren’t here anymore. They’ve stayed in Manhattan or they’ve gone to places like Florida.

Now consider this: If all the Greenwich property owners with houses on the market for $10M+ (there are 41 of them) suddenly decided they needed to sell RIGHT NOW, they would need to slash their asking prices by millions. That would quickly drive down the price of all these houses presently selling in the 5’s and 6’s.

But guess what? High-end Greenwich property owners almost never really “need” to sell. That’s why we have so many on the market celebrating their 5th anniversary, 6th, 7th, all the way up to a few that have been on for FOURTEEN YEARS. So all you sellers in the $5M+’s? Relax, your market value is safe.





Two More Bellwethers

200 Guards Road, Conyers Farm, Greenwich, closes for $13,500,000. List: Michele Tesei. Sell: BK Bates

These two sales, one at the high-end, one at the low-end, tell you everything you need to know about the state of Greenwich’s real estate market.

Starting with the high-end, a Conyers Farm sale for $13,500,000: this sale dispels the myth that “no one wants these big, backcountry estates anymore”. Yes, they do, and they will buy when the price looks right. It started at $27,895,000 and found no takers for two years, four price reductions, and two brokers.

But when the ask got down to $17,500,000, lo and behold, a buyer appeared! Do you see the message in that last sentence? It’s not that people didn’t want Conyers Farm and the backcountry, it’s just that they don’t value it the way they did 15 years ago. That, too, will change some day, so people buying Conyers now will reap the benefit as surely as those who bought Manhattan co-ops in the 1970’s.

11 Dialstone Lane, Riverside, likely tear-down, comes on for $1,095,000, gets an instant deal. List: Helen Maher. Sell: Danielle Scialpi-Malloy.

Next we have this low-end, Riverside tear-down example. At $1,095,000, this is really about as cheap as it gets in this part of town, south of Route 95. It came on the market Feb. 21st and had a deal about 10 minutes later. Hasn’t closed yet, so we don’t know the price (wouldn’t be surprised to see it went over ask), but the lesson here is buyers are SO ready to buy!

Whether it’s a builder who knows he can easily get high $2M’s, maybe low $3M’s on this site, or a young couple who might actually use the existing house, there is money waiting on the sidelines, ready to jump in when the price looks irresistible.

Despite the self-imposed headwinds coming from the economic illiterates in Hartford, people continue to want to live in Greenwich, and they will buy your real estate. All you have to do is price it right. So simple.

Bellwether Sales

10 Copper Beech Rd has closed at $6,400,000 (but sold for $8,050,000 in 2008.

As every school child knows, a bellwether is a “predictor or indicator of things”, so, as I’ve said before, laziness compels me to look for bellwethers. I want short-cuts to help me assess the state of the market. Why spend hours analyzing dozens and dozens of recent sales when you can just point at one or two and proclaim, “There’s your damned market, right there!”

So here’s one of my bellwethers:

10 Copper Beech, as seen above. What is so painful about this one, besides the $1,650,000 difference between 2008’s and 2017’s price, is that these owners did everything right; the house was absolutely perfect inside, each and every room just beautiful. Even the [flipping] furnace room was a work of art, I kid you not.

Yup, it was perfect, no indication of being nine years old, might as well have been built this year. And the reward for all this perfection? $1.650M less, plus the additional money put into it since purchase. Very unfair and definitely worrisome for the Greenwich high-end sector.

My next bellwether:

20 Gilliam Lane, Riverside, closed at $2,150,000.

Here’s another one where the sellers did everything possible (they even increased the lot size!) and the market nevertheless delivered a swift kick to the @#%. I grew up (so to speak) next to this property, know it well, and always pay special attention to its selling price every time it comes back on the market. Here’s how it’s worked out the last few times:

1995:  $937,100.

2006:  $2,355,000.

2011:  $2,150,000.

2017:  $2,150,000.

Believe you me, each one of those sellers added plenty of value to the property, particularly the most recent ones, who did beautiful decorating and paint work, added a full-house generator, updated baths, and, get this, they had the property re-surveyed and discovered it wasn’t the .24 acres they thought they had bought, but was instead .3661 acres!

You mathematicians in the audience will perceive that is over FIFTY PERCENT more property! It went from having zero FAR remaining, to being able to add more than 500 square feet, a significant improvement. Oh, and did I mention that they piped the stream, and filled the gulley in the rear, creating a new, flat back yard? Huge improvement.

The market’s reaction? Ho-hum…what have you done for us lately? Sorry, we’ll pay you exactly what you paid 6 years ago.

And that, my friends, sums up this market: Our buyers are feeling optimistic, their jobs are secure, their stock portfolio way up, but for real estate purchases, they are cautious. They will buy, but they do so almost reluctantly, and if they have their way, they will pay you less than whatever you paid.

Riverside Spec-House Glut Called Off!

145 Riverside Avenue, nearing completion, NOT a spec-house!

A builder-reader has brought it to my attention that many of the on-going Riverside construction projects that I thought were specs are in fact custom homes. I investigated a bit and sure enough, at least four, maybe more, are being built for specific customers who ordered them.

So instead of the thirteen I predicted, we may see seven or eight new ones hit the market in the coming months, probably not an un-absorbable number.

All this custom-building got me to thinking…these projects are a clear indication of a thriving, active market, yet they go completely unrecognized in our market statistics!

For simplification, let’s imagine a scenario where, in 2016 Riverside records a total of just 20 house sales, priced between $1.5M and $2.5M. All of them get torn down by the buyers who then hire builders to build new ones. Riverside stats would therefore indicate the following: 20 sales, average price $2,000,000.

But where’s the statistic showing all that additional economic activity? A year later, there are 20 new houses worth $4.5M+, but no recognition of that fact.

This, my friends, is what I would call “invisible prosperity”.

P.S. By the way, the sales history of 145 Riverside Avenue provides a nice, neat little picture of Riverside’s price performance in the last decade or so. Here’s how 145 Riverside Avenue’s price changed since 2004:

2004   sells for $1,285,000.

2005   sells for $1,320,000.

2015   sells for $1,500,000.

During that eleven year history, not one red cent was invested in this house! The 2004 people lived in it for a short time, but the next couple of owners had it mostly on the rental market, getting a lousy $4,000/month, so the price increase is solely attributable to increased land value.

Now compare that experience to the typical back-country Greenwich property’s since 2004. Remarkable, is it not?

145 Riverside, before! Back in 1955, a charming cape, owned by the local window-washer, Mr. Meany. But by 2005, it was time to go.

145 Riverside, before! Back in 1955, a charming cape owned by the local window-washer, Mr. Meany. But by 2005, pretty much a run-down dump.

Russ Pruner Does It Again!

107 Indian Head Road, Riverside, closed today at $16.250M. Interior was largely finished, landscaping, no so much. List: Tamar Lurie Sell: Russ (who else?) Pruner

107 Indian Head Road, Riverside, closed today at $16.250M. Interior/exterior was largely finished, landscaping, not so much.
List: Tamar Lurie  Sell: Russ (who else?) Pruner
(original ask: $28,000,000)

Are you sitting down? If you’re driving, please pull over before reading further…(I’ll wait)

Settled? Here it is: As of today, the record selling price for the Town of Greenwich in 2016 is $16,250,000 and the selling broker was none other than Russ Pruner, who, you will recall, set last year’s record of $35,000,000!

Who will stop this man? Obviously, no one, and if it’s your listing he’s decided to sell, you count yourself lucky. I certainly did in 2014 when he sold my Field Point Circle tear-down for $10,250,000. Yep, when ol’ Russ is on the case, expect to make a deal.

P.S. If you see the fellow standing at the bar, make him buy you a drink.

When Good Specs Go Bad

74 Park Avenue, Old Greenwich, ask $4.850M, got a deal in about a week. This is how it's done. List: Steve Archino Sell: Fran Ehrlich

74 Park Avenue, Old Greenwich, ask $4.850M, got a deal in about a week. This is how it’s done.
List: Steve Archino
Sell: Fran Ehrlich

Because this is me, Gideon Fountain, I won’t shame and embarrass two particular builders who have built three seemingly unsalable houses, couple in Riverside, one in Old Greenwich, but those are the facts.

“But Gid”, I hear you say, “give the chaps a break, it’s a tough market!”. Oh really? Then how do you explain all these easy sales of specs in the last six months? And they’re all in the vicinity of the three that won’t sell!

74 Park Avenue, Old Greenwich $4,850,000 ask, deal is  pending

105 Shore Road, Old Greenwich  closed $4,825,000.

12 Long View Avenue, Riverside closed $3,900,000.

25 Lockwood Avenue, Old Greenwich closed $4,150,000.

11 Potter Drive, Old Greenwich  $2,895,000 ask, deal is pending

6 Lockwood Drive, Old Greenwich closed $3,697,000.

9 Crescent Road, Riverside closed $3,140,000.

29 Winthrop Drive, Riverside closed $4,075,000.

Conclusion: if your spec house won’t sell in this market, guess whose fault it is!