Tuesday, February 20, 2018

When Loan Rates Rise, Do Greenwich Home Sales Slump?



34 Midwood Rd in Prestigious Deer Park, Greenwich  $7.495 Million 
Many Greenwich homeowners will be planning to list their properties this spring because it’s when future home sales would be expected to peak. Historically, spring is when the highest crush of prospects arrive on the scene. But this year, the upward drift in mortgage interest rates might have would-be sellers worried. After all, it’s common sense that any rise in home loan rates would put a damper on buyers’ enthusiasm.

Sometimes common sense and reality don’t go hand in hand. When we try to estimate the strength of Greenwich’s future home sales, it could be a case in point.  That’s one way to look at the conclusions drawn by a pair of studies released last week. Both were focused on examining how rising interest rates are likely to affect future home sales. 

 John Burns Real Estate Consulting examined the “common sense” idea about the dampening effect of rising mortgage interest rates—and found historical evidence that put the kibosh on it. They looked at ten separate periods since 1975 during which rates rose by 1% or more, and found little or no impact on sales if the underlying economy was strong. Apparently, the public optimism that accompanies a roaring economy offsets the effect of higher monthly mortgage payments.

 Another study by market research journalist Greg McCarriston summarized a late-2017 Redfin-commissioned survey. More than 4,000 people were polled in late 2017 about their own homebuying plans. Surprisingly, only 6% of those quizzed said they would cancel their own homebuying plans if mortgage rates passed 5%. A surprising 46% said that would either have no effect on their plans—or that it would actually increase their urgency to buy since rates might rise further.

Common sense or not, if both studies prove out, the strength of recent economic news could energize this spring’s Greenwich future home sales activity—despite a creeping rise in interest rates. That will be good news for homeowners who decide to sell, and for buyers.  The selection of properties in Greenwich is excellent and none more special than the one featured in today's blog and available for purchase.

Robin Kencel, Associate Broker
The Robin Kencel Group
Top 10 Greenwich Real Estate Agent, 2017
Top Agent, Douglas Elliman Greenwich 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Greenwich SDIRA Investment Avoids Wall Street Gyrations

For many typical Greenwich breadwinners, last week’s stock market gyrations undoubtedly revived feelings that had been largely absent for quite a while: retirement jitters. Nearly a quarter of working Americans own Individual Retirement Accounts—but since most IRAs’ values fluctuate considerably with the ups and downs of Wall Street, when major indexes officially enter correction territory (as the New York Times reported last Thursday), savers’ anxiety levels head toward redline territory. 

That’s too bad because one of the principal purposes of saving for retirement is to create a secure feeling about the future. Even if the financial pundits seem undismayed by all the correction territory chitchat, those feelings can begin to evaporate.

All of this may seem unavoidable, but there is an alternative strategy that Greenwich retirement savers might want to check into. It’s a sort of do-it-yourself option that’s called a Self-Directed IRA (SDIRA). It is structured to allow withdrawals at a specified age—but differs from other IRAs in that it allows investments in a wide variety of diversified investment choices, including Greenwich real estate as well as private market securities and more. The tax advantages are like those enjoyed by traditional and Roth IRA accounts.
Since I am not a financial planner, I’ll refrain from providing much more than a few brief observations about SDIRAs:

They aren’t for everyone. Since they’re subject to more stringent and complex IRS rules than regular IRAs—and since they are actively directed by the beneficiary—they require a good deal more initiative and due diligence.
Although the beneficiary makes the investment decisions, SDIRA accounts are opened, held, and administered by a recognized SDIRA specialist firm which acts as a trustee or “custodian.” 
Custodian firms may allow only some kinds of investment assets, so it’s important to be sure they match the investor’s preferred mix of assets. This is a list of custodian firms.
IRA rules do not allow SDIRA investments to be used for personal use until the targeted withdrawal date—so, for instance, any Greenwich rental property held in an SDIRA could not be used for the investor or family members until then.
I
f this little-publicized alternative sounds intriguing, you should do your own research—and probably an in-depth consultation with a trusted financial adviser. I will be standing by to introduce you to the wide assortment of Greenwich properties that might just become key elements in a more diversified—and more stable—retirement picture.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Super Bowl and Real Estate Misconceptions

Readers who check in here regularly know that every once in a while I’m moved to relate Greenwich real estate matters to various hot issues that are claiming the popular imagination. Such topics used to be called “water cooler talk” (but that was before we all started carrying water bottles around all day). So despite the fact that we may not gather around water coolers anymore, this the odds are that the leading topic of conversation won’t be the State of the Union or the Binney Park dredging project (good news-- it's done and water is back in the pond).  

So, it’s all but inevitable—here are the Top 7 Things that Greenwich real estate and the Super Bowl have in common:
1. Both are Sunday-centric. Greenwich real estate and the Super Bowl make Sunday a major activity day (at least when the weather is nice).
2. Both do better when their ads are top-notch. The best Super Bowl ads will be replayed on Monday night news shows, but although our best Greenwich real estate ads won’t get that kind of attention, eye-catching ads sell.
3. Both rely on heads-up plays by top notch teams (had to say it!).
4. Both rely on marketing to draw a crowd.
5. Both have a definite banking connection (Sunday’s venue is U.S. Bank Stadium).
6. Both are (mostly) free to enjoy. Open houses and showings are free to the public—only in Minneapolis will admission be charged (and what a charge!).
7. Both are judged to be first rate when fumbles don’t happen.

Now you may be thinking that my Top 7 Things list is offered for no other reason than to try to get Super Bowl fans thinking about Greenwich real estate instead of the game itself. There may be an element of truth in that but I know, this Sunday, it's a useless try.  However, come Monday, it's Spring Season and time to think about the real estate market.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ls Vegas Electronics Show Unveils Real Estate Gadgetry

In Greenwich real estate, it’s the steak—not the sizzle—that draws serious offers.

Even so, every year about this time it can be useful (and great fun) to watch what comes out of Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gathering. This year’s edition of the annual trade extravaganza that grabs headlines for its bounty of new electronic products, unveiled a number of smart home tech debuts. Some were, as commentators noted, “weird and wonderful”—while others were potentially important incremental steps toward what will eventually become everyday household necessities. Among those that caught my eye: 

Echo Plus-connected gadgetry: Amazon’s ubiquitous wifi-connected digital assistant (aka “Alexa”) is getting its/her artificially intelligent mitts into a vast number of home devices, from TVs to toasters. Disneyland-style homes of the future seem ever closer at hand as more and more household appliances and devices become controllable with just a word to your closest Alexa or Google Assistant outlet.
5G: Get familiar with this term, which denotes the technology which soon will enable home wireless speeds 100 times faster than the current technology Greenwich homes use today. In the unlikely event that your own home still lacks wireless connectivity—we should talk!
Smart Rooms: too many to detail, smart bathroom appliances include intelligent showers that save water even as they direct temperature-controlled streams your way; smart kitchens featuring ovens clever enough to shut themselves off when dinner’s ready; and smart driveways that clear themselves of debris. 
Furbo: a treat-tossing camera/speaker that lets owners remotely spoil pets from anywhere in the world.
Robots and More Robots: on hand were a laundry-folding robot; a pair of dancing robots; an owl-like children’s companion robot; and LG’s kitchen helper, a recipe-fetching robot (“Cloi”) that repeatedly stalled (possibly from over-excitement). 

The consumer show also demonstrated what looks like an iPad perched on a roller-mounted monopod: a real estate agent robot! Said to be capable of leading prospective renters or buyers on home tours, it answered prospects’ questions via long-distance connection with an actual agent who managed the tour via remote control. 
For the foreseeable future, I think I’ll be sticking with more personal, in-person showings

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thinking About Retirement ? Four Priorities


Under 4,000 sq. ft and renovated to a "T" with first floor Master. 108 Westover Rd, Stamford, CT
Whenever you set about planning for a move to a new home, particularly if you are an experienced homeowner, you usually don’t need to create a whole new priority list of factors you’ll be looking for.

But by the time you have capped off a full career and retirement is around the bend, you’re well advised to give added weight to factors that weren’t key considerations in previous house hunts. One source of advice for Greenwich residents intent on finding the best retirement property is the NAEBA—a real estate association for exclusive buyer agents. Admittedly, their list of seven “basic considerations for locating the best retirement property” includes some that are hardly limited to future retirees. Two of them (“affordability” and “security”) are prime considerations for Greenwich house hunters of every stripe. But their list of factors that are especially important in retirement includes these four:
Maintenance—Realistically, even the most enthusiastic do-it-yourself putterers will eventually encounter physical limitations. Taking that into account can ultimately “be a literal lifesaver.”
Mobility—If Greenwich homes featuring ground floor master bedroom suites are increasingly in demand, this is one good reason.
Convenience—Your best retirement property is likely to be one with amenities within easy walking distance. Close proximity to golf or tennis facilities, shopping (Greenwich Ave., Glenville center, Cos Cob and Old Greenwich all fit the bill here), and dining will make keeping active a low-stress daily option.
Pets—Not often given a high enough priority, the emotional and physical benefits of life with the right choice of 4-footed or 2-winged friends is a factor worth considering. The best retirement property could well be one that easily accommodates them.  

A youthful outlook is worth adopting throughout life—but realistic accommodation to advancing age is actually a shrewd way to maintain exactly that. If retirement will factor into the choice for your next Greenwich home, give me a call.  

Saturday, December 2, 2017

What Your Real Estate Agent Should Be Telling You

New to the Market, Contemporary in Greenwich $3.6 Million


The dual nature of Greenwich real estate agents is unlike most other professions. A medical doctor who is a family physician in the morning doesn’t switch hats and become a surgeon in the afternoon—any more than a lawyer who pleads in court for a defendant can decide to become a prosecuting attorney that afternoon.
On the other hand, Greenwich Realtors® may begin any single day in negotiations representing a seller, then spend the afternoon escorting a buyer client through a series of Greenwich home showings. I’m happy to say this isn’t evidence of a split personality disorder. It’s perfectly normal: the Connecticut real estate agent’s license I carry specifically permits me to perform as either a buyer’s or a seller’s agent. That’s noteworthy because each of the agencies carries distinct professional obligations.
The subject of the duality of being a real estate agent came to mind this week when I happened across an article on the topic of the 3 things a buyer shouldn’t talk about with a seller’s agent. Namely: how much you like (or dislike) a house; the size of your budget; and (well, the last one wasn’t specifically what not to talk about)—the advice to buyers to “let your agent do the talking.”
I can vouch for all three, and would add: the same real estate agent advice works for sellers, too. Your agent is there to expertly gather and dispense relevant information, at the same time not doing anything that might weaken your side of the coming bargain. Doing so-- while maintaining a positive, upbeat tenor,  is an art, and one that sharpens with practice. For sure it’s one place where there is no substitute for experience.
There are end of the year opportunities in play and the spring market is almost ready for it's early January jump.  A good time to begin to think about any chances in your real estate world.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What They Never Told Us About Thanksgiving Turkeys

If ever your Greenwich Thanksgiving preparations cause you to go online seeking some Thanksgiving-related recipe, it will be hard to resist one of the sites that will probably pop up: the Smithsonian Institute’s “14 Fun Facts About Turkeys.” 

There are several new turkey insights among the 14. And when it comes to one assumption about the first Thanksgiving that’s probably shared by most everyone in Greenwich, Fun Fact #4 is there to correct the record.  Most of the details of that first Thanksgiving aren’t in question. The Pilgrims had survived the ordeal of the journey and had bonded with the helpful native Americans. So after the first successful harvest, everybody thought it was time for a joint celebration as a neighborhood kind of thing. The most bounteous crop had been corn (which the Indians had shown them how to grow). Dried corn was on the menu which included venison, clams, pumpkin, squash, etc..

And, of course, turkeys—which are native to the Americas—which would have been brought to the feast by the Indians.  Not!

It is entirely likely that the most noteworthy turkeys to grace the first Thanksgiving table were ones that had been brought by the Pilgrims. From Europe.  If that possibility causes many Greenwich heads to do double-takes, it may be because we haven’t given much consideration to the length of time between Christopher Columbus’ voyage and the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock.  Between 1492 and 1621, there had been 129 years of discovery, settlement, and back-and-forth between the Americas and Europe. They may not have had jets to speed the trips, but after 129 years, there had been quite a lot of those back-and-forths. That was why it was possible for the first Indian to greet the Pilgrims in English. (Squanto had spent five years in Spain and sailed twice to England). But back to the turkeys: 

Yes, the estimable bird is actually native to North America, but the subspecies (Fun Fact #3) that is most successfully domesticated is a variety the Aztecs developed in southern Mexico. The Spaniards brought those turkeys back to Europe, and by the early 1600s, they had become gastronomic hits. My guess is that they probably graced many an English baron’s table. Quoting the Smithsonian, “The Pilgrims then brought several of these domestic turkeys back to North America.”

So the rest is Thanksgiving history. Both the Indians and Pilgrims would have hunted and brought to table the eastern wild turkey—but they don’t taste nearly as good. So it’s probable that the Pilgrims were able to impress their native American guests with some European turkey one-upmanship. 

While all this turkey fun fact talk is interesting, what the holiday is really all about (as we know) is gratitude.  For more on how to increase the gratitude quotient in your life, take a look at this 2015 NY Times article on gratitude.


Photo Credit: Pexels