Thursday, November 09, 2006

The third quarter sales statistics are out and they provide some interesting reading (if you lead a very dull life, that is). Sales are down ( -17.8%) for the year (481 vs. 585) and (- 44.6%) this September vs. September 2005 (31 vs.56). Average price is up 11% for the year ($2,716,737 vs. $2,447, 408) and 18% this September. Days on Market were 73 September 2005, 112 September 2006. So, there’s been a significant slowdown, but notice: prices aren’t collapsing nor will they, in my opinion. Many buyers are sitting on the sidelines waiting for what they expect will be bargain basement prices – I think they’ll be disappointed.

Buy a House?
If you’re still awake after reading all those statistics, here are a few more: there are 555 single family homes for sale as of this writing, compared to 488 the same week last year. That’s a 14% increase in inventory but this past August we were facing an inventory 26% greater than the year before so the trend seems to be improving. Those 555 houses range in price, by the way, from $575,000 (123 Henry Street, Byram) to $39,500,000 (65 Meadow Wood Drive, Belle Haven). You should be able to find something you like somewhere between them.

Price it Right
The sales book also revealed an example of the importance of pricing. Two nearly identical houses on Florence Road were sold last quarter. Each was built in 1963 and renovated in 2001, each had 2,202 sq. ft. One was priced at $875,000 and sold 14 days later for $880,000. The other was originally priced at $925,000 and sold 132 days later for $870,000. The lesson here is that stretching to get that last dollar on a sale will make your house look less attractive than its competition and may cause it to sit lifeless on the market. That’s bad, so don’t do it. Look at the statistics above, recognize that we’re in a slow market and price your house accordingly.

If You Want to Get the Big Bucks
You have to put in big bucks. I toured a $5,500,000 house the other day and remembered another builder’s cutting remark: “he built a nice $3,000,000 house but priced it at $5 ½.” I think that’s not quite accurate but certainly there are details that should be in a house this expensive that were not there: custom closets, for instance, instead of pegboard California ones. Trim molding inside those same closets: don’t know what good it does but the top builders do it. Routered trim panels, instead of window frame build ups. This was a perfectly nice house and it sits on a great piece of land but if I were a buyer at that price level, I’d demand more.

160 Bedford Road
I love this house and the eight acres it sits on but it remains unsold. I assume the house’s age (1932) deters buyers but I visited it with an architect and he came up with several great ideas for building new and incorporating the old. With eight acres in the four acre zone, you could finally build that 45,000 sq. ft. house Bitsy and the boys have When I was there last week I didn’t recognize the place with its broad, sweeping views. Turns out that the tornado that swept through town last summer removed 65 trees. Mother nature’s vacuum cleaner” is how the listing agent describes the process.
Overheard on the Golf Course
No, I don’t play golf but my brother Gideon does (why)and says that he heard a builder complain, “you just can’t make a profit in Greenwich if you buy a property from off the Multi List – you’ve got to buy direct.” Now that’s not true, and I can point out many, many profitable land transactions that Realtors were involved in but here’s my point: what the builder was complaining about was he couldn’t get as good a deal if other people knew about the land and competed with him for it. But what’s bad for a builder/buyer is good for an owner/seller so, when a builder knocks on your door you might want to at least consider exposing your home to the full market, rather than accept the builder’s promise that he’s offering you the best possible price. Sometimes they don't, you know.


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