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


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Homeowners Predicting Gains in Home Values


Greenwich, CT: Extraordinary stone manor home set on 9.4 acres, $8,9 million
More than half of U.S. homeowners expect their home’s value to rise in the coming year. For Greenwich real estate watchers who track public sentiment as a market indicator, the news comes as a welcome addition to other reports of rising consumer optimism regarding the economy as a whole.

The finding comes from a national telephone and online survey conducted earlier this month by the Rasmussen Reports organization. It signals an acceleration in a year-long trend of rising expectations among U.S. homeowners. A year earlier, fewer than 40% had predicted that their own home values would rise in the coming year. In this latest report, that number has increased to 53%—a leap of 12% over the March finding. According to Rasmussen summary, this amounts to “a record high” in optimism about future home values.

Greenwich homeowners who plan to list their own properties in the immediate future have reason to welcome measures of positive expectations. When most people expect Greenwich home values to rise, buyers are apt to view current market prices in terms of their investment potential. This can prove to be important—especially when values have been on the rise for a while.

This latest Rasmussen finding was all the more impressive in that it marked the first time in eight years that a majority of those sampled expressed optimism about future home values. It is in sync with a heavy majority of industry prognosticators who predict home value increases in the coming year.  It’s always good news when there is general agreement that Greenwich home values are expected to continue to rise.  If you would like a complimentary market assessment or are in the market for a home,  contact me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Amazon.com Now Offers Homes?



Amazon has invaded the realm of real estate— in a tiny, but maybe forward-thinking way.
Last week the improbable news arrived that the web’s 400-pound gorilla had made its first foray into the realm of real estate. Since Greenwich real estate (like all real estate) is by definition local, its very nature would seem to preclude the buying and selling of homes as a mail order enterprise. But since Amazon.com has succeeded in other industries where failure had been assumed (high-end fashion, for instance), could local Greenwich real estate soon be monopolized by a tsunami of Amazon Prime home sales?
It turned out that Greenwich real estate was not likely to be overcome anytime soon. The Amazon listings that showed up are hard to find, and not likely to tempt many Greenwich home shoppers. The few listings were only searchable when you entered “tiny homes”—and the few homes being offered were sandwiched in between how-to books about designing and building very small cabins . (Here, a note for Greenwich residents who aren’t familiar with the “tiny homes” phenomenon…they are what the name says: structures smaller than 400 square feet…although some can be as microscopic as 80 square feet, most are in the 300-350 range). 
You may not find too many tiny homes in Greenwich, but the movement is nation-wide. And the concept is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Anyone who has taken weeks-long vacations in campers or lived for any stretch of time on a pleasure boat knows that you can reduce your living space to a slender minimum if you plan carefully.
Back to Amazon. The lead-off listing was a pre-fab tiny home converted from a shipping container. Like any good Greenwich real estate listing, the details pointed out key selling points (in this case, the shipping container was new). Price was a thrifty $36,000, which would be even more thrifty if the “$0.00 estimated tax” turns out to be accurate. The customer reviews were mixed, with one in particular naming a possible sticking point: meeting Connecticut and Greenwich building codes. Additionally, Amazon Prime members who revel in their free delivery perk were bound to be disappointed: the tiny home wasn’t eligible (they’d have to pony up another $3,754 in shipping fees).   Looking for a property a bit bigger than what Amazon offers?  Call!

Robin Kencel, Associate Real Estate Broker and Global Advisor
The Stevens Kencel Group at Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Greenwich, CT  
robin.kencel@elliman.com      203-249-2943



Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Obamas Latest House Buy?


The Obamas are at it again-- house shopping.  

This time, according to the NYPost's page six, they are eyeing 10 Gracie Square.  This upper east side white glove service building has been called home to many illustrious people, including Gloria Vanderbilt, conductor AndrĂ© Kostelanetz and New Yorker critic Alexander Woollcott.  Most important-- and surely on the President's "wish list" is an indoor basketball.  An apartment in the building recently went to contract in the $10 million range.

Message to Mr. and Mrs. President before the Gracie Square deal is consummated: You could have a truly presidential property just 28 miles north of the Big Apple.  

Check out 15 Reynwood Manor.  
Located in bucolic, gorgeous, sophisticated Greenwich Ct.   Reynwood Manor is the same era as 10 Gracie Square, way more square footage, no comparison on the land, and boasts indoor and outdoor pools. At $8.9 million, you have plenty of left over money to build a basketball court and a first rate gym.   Think about it-- and call me. 






Monday, October 2, 2017

Is Game Theory Relevant in Real Estate Negotiating?



Game theory is a seriously studied logical field that mathematicians delve into. Interestingly, when you study how to develop successful negotiation tactics—Greenwich real estate negotiations included—you can look at them via game theory.

There is a problem, though. The further you get into the subject, the more it tends to become more and more abstract. It isn't too long until you begin to wonder what the practical application is.   Because Greenwich real estate negotiations are anything but academic exercises, I can’t recommend spending hours studying “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” or any of the other highly touted game theory games.  And you don't need to.  In fact, you can start with one basic pre-condition necessary to develop a winning game plan. It is this precondition that has to exist in order to execute any winning game plan. In game theory, this is called the assumption.

So here it is:

The assumption that’s necessary for developing a successful negotiation strategy is that all the parties must be rational. They have to be trying to make decisions (game moves) that are intended to benefit themselves. In Greenwich real estate negotiations, that usually consists of paying or receiving the least or most money in the most favorable timeframe.
So the takeaway from game theory’s application to Greenwich  real estate negotiations is both simple and useful in the real world: 

1. Remain rational yourself.   In the course of negotiations, if your thoughtful proposal isn’t accepted, don’t get mad—even if it’s maddening. Stay cool; acknowledge that you’ve considered the response, and develop the best counter that is in your interest. 
2.  Foster rationality in the other party.  Even if they fly off the handle for what seems to be no reason, assume there IS a reason—but it may not be one that’s rational or even directly connected to the bargain under discussion. It can even be due to misconstrued communication. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that emotions can block self-interest—but even fiery emotions can be quelled when met with calm and reason. 

Your realtor should be setting a tone of quiet confidence, competence, and ease around the transaction.  The stronger the rational front is that you both extend, the greater the chances that the other party will fall in line with the same manner of thinking and operating.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Latest on Greenwich Mortgage Rates

A couple of weeks back, the ultimate authority on Greenwich mortgage rates hadn’t minced words. That was Freddie Mac, whose opinion about mortgage rates constitutes the final say in the matter. Freddie isn’t modest about its preeminence (Freddie’s trademarked corporate slogan is “We make home possible”). Together with sibling Fannie Mae, the quasi-governmental entities stand behind 60% of U.S. mortgages.

Each week their PMMS survey collects data snapshots from thrifts, credit unions, banks, and mortgage lenders to gauge of the direction of the home loan market. Future Greenwich home hunters and the homeowners whose properties are found in the current listings are constantly affected by those ups and downs.  Naturally, the rate averages vary from lender to lender and state to state—but it’s the direction in which mortgage rates are headed that can be a spur for buyers. Either direction can cause activity. When rates rise quickly, buyers can be incentivized to lock in rates before they get out of hand. When they fall, that inducement disappears—although a shrinking monthly payment number does create an increasingly affordable scenario. Low rates create an encouraging “price is up, but cost is down” situation.

The week before last, Freddie’s headline had been an unequivocal piece of favorable news for Greenwich buyers and sellers:

“30-Year Mortgage Rate Hits Another 2017 Low.”

But last week’s follow-up failed to live up to the expected slight rebound . Freddie’s headline on Thursday was neither fish nor fowl, up nor down. It was the third possibility, where mortgage rates don’t go anywhere: they just sit there, deadpan as a professional poker player, revealing nothing.

The U.S. weekly average was still 3.78%, tying the low for the year. For Greenwich  buyers who may have missed out on locking in the previous week’s home loan bargain rates, the reprieve was welcome news. Whether the expected rebound is on the way remains to be seen.  With rates holding at historic lows, it creates an undeniably auspicious market opportunity in Greenwich.