Monday, November 14, 2011

At your Age, How Much Exposure is Acceptable?

Nope, not talking about swimwear coverage here.  The topic is insurance.  Last evening, Patti Clement was one of the featured speakers at a Salon Talk that I hosted along with Steve Lerangis of Northern Trust.  Patti is one of the top producers at HUB International, one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the United States.  She captivated a room full of professionals and local Greenwich residents that left saying, “Wow, I better go check my policy!”  So here’s three questions that are just the tip of the iceberg:

1.    When is the last time you updated any insurance appraisals (home, jewelry, wine, art, specialty collections)?
2.    Did you know that if you don’t let your insurance carrier know that you are undergoing renovation work that they can actually financially penalize you later, for not adjusting your coverage during the work period?
3.    Do you have liability coverage for household staff to protect you against sexual harassment, wrongful termination and discrimination?

These are all questions that your insurance broker should be asking as part of an extensive analysis of your personal risk and exposure to small or catastrophic personal or property events.  The kind and amount of insurance that you carry always feels just fine until “something happens”—and then it does not.

“The question you need to ask yourself is if the amount of liability coverage you have is consistent with your net worth,” says Patti, who is known for her ability to craft unique insurance programs for high net worth individuals.  Personal liability is just one of her areas of focus for client protection.  “Many affluent clients that I work with think that $1million of personal liability insurance is sufficient, but it’s not”, she adds.

In just a few minutes of 34 years worth of stories, Patti can make you rethink that number.  Imagine that you, your teenage child, nanny or housekeeper is responsible for a car accident that involves bodily injury to another person.  “A lawsuit for a horrific car accident is a 3 to 5 year minimum to settle”, Patti notes.  “Coverage is from the time of the loss – settlement from the judge is from the date of the courtcase plus interest.  before you can blink.”  - That $1million will be gone.”

Besides personal liability insurance there are a host of other exposures that may exist in your life from personal directors & officers liability to proper flood insurance.  Hope I didn’t ruin your night’s sleep!

Patti Clement is Vice President & Managing Director of HUB International Northeast, and specializes in developing customized insurance programs for high net worth individuals and families throughout North America. You can find out more about her services at

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's Halloween and your house is on the market...


It’s holiday season and your house is on the market.  Feeling the pressure?  Should you call a 72 hour hiatus of house showings during the rockiest time of all—that period when boxes and tissue are everywhere and oodles of Christmas ornaments are lined up (or in scattered piles), waiting for their marching orders as to what spot of this year’s tree they will occupy.

Actually, the holidays can be an enormous opportunity for you to appeal to the sentimental side of buyers.  That is if you handle them in the right way.

--> Last week, I brought buyers to a home that was “decorated” for Halloween.  I am using that term with great artistic license.  It is a home at the high end of the Greenwich market, and a quintessential New England home at that.  Low stone walls and a long tree- lined approach set up a nice sense of anticipation to the front door of the sprawling house.  It was somewhat of a distraction then, to walk into the entrance where small, dime store type Halloween decorations were running up and down the hallways as if to usher in buyers, webs were hanging from light fixtures and strings of blinking orange lights lined the front windows.

From my experience in decoration and design, I am very aware of how quickly fresh flower arrangements and specialty items can add up, dollar-wise.  The tried and true, “Less is More” may be the best guideline for sellers who wish to add the “fest” in festive and decorate their home for one or all of the fall holidays.  I can assure you of one thing, while it may work for diamonds, it’s not true that in decorating, and certainly in holiday decorating that “more is more”.

Take a look at the shots below and ask yourself, “what message is that sending?” to someone who is looking at your home.  If it’s not a positive one, reconsider your approach to preparing your home for the holidays.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Buyers: How Not to Kill a Deal

A Conversation with Fairfield County Real Estate Attorney Robert Murray
Though the latest market statistics show volume sales and average housing prices are solidly gaining in Greenwich for the first quarter in 2011 against year ago, the talk of the town—and for that matter in luxury markets across the country—is that real estate is as soft and unpredictable as the flight of a butterfly. 

This kind of talk puts buyers in a decidedly Superman feeling mood.  
“The seller should be THANKFUL to even get an offer!” is the sentiment of some would-be buyers.  Capitalizing on financial distress, family unrest or both is a tempting pastime for buyers who are hoping that the past three year decline will hang around just long enough for them to take advantage of it.  For a purchaser who truly wants to buy the home and is not simply engaging in “bottom-fishing” for the lowest possible price, all of this speculating and general “I am buyer/king” posturing during pre-contract negotiations can actually  negatively impact  your relationship with the seller and ultimately cost you the house.

During a recent breakfast, Attorney Bob Murray of Diserio Martin O’Connor & Castiglioni, LLP and I put together a list of the top 5 things that have seemed to be good markers to kill a deal and how NOT to use them.

1.    Understand the Market’s Current Condition.  There are several indicators that can be helpful in coming up with an opening offer.   Knowing the spread of selling to listing prices of houses in your price category is one such indicator.  If you look at the gains and losses of the past few years, Greenwich homes are currently selling at their 2005 price levels (See Market Statistics for this information).  Knowing what “in the market” means, will enable you to come up with an opening strategy to capture the attention of the seller.

2.    Pick Your Battles.  Some buyers are completing house inspections and expecting the seller to handle many more “concerns” than would have ever made the deal killer list in the past.  Know what your priorities are and focus on them.  While underground oil tanks and asbestos could have long and term short consequences and should be addressed, battling over the sconces in the dining room should probably not.

3.    Have Your Financing In Order.  With more stringent requirements and the longer processing time for banks and mortgage companies to approve loans, taking the time to interview and identify the lender you will want to approach can be enormously helpful prior to even having an accepted offer. 

4.    Be Sensitive to the Seller.  You may or may not know the circumstances surrounding the sale and the degree of stress and distress the Seller may be under.  Respect and courtesy to the owner and their property when you are there  (after all, it is still the seller’s home) will probably go a long way.

5.    Don’t Renegotiate the Terms of the Deal.  Doing so wouldn’t probably sit well with you either, if you were the seller. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

American Homes fit for William and Kate - one of them listed with Robin Kencel

Fox are currently featuring 7 homes fit for royalty on this side of the pond -  And to my pleasant surprise the one that tops the list,  is a home located at 190 N Street in Greenwich, CT - which also happens to be listed with Robin Kencel Properties of Distinction.
If Will and Kate would like to get the royal tour I am sure it can be arranged - No appointment necessary.

Get the whole story on the Fox News website by clicking here

Contact Robin Kencel for help locating and acquiring a home or rental.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Simple advice in sprucing up your home and selling it for more

Having made a career of restoring, renovating, building, updating, overhauling and decorating homes in affluent markets, it is crucial from an investment standpoint for me to pay attention to what sells a house and fascinating to watch the decision process that each buyer goes through when looking for their first or next home.  Obviously, the priorities differ by family or individual.  Where land, space and what kind of land a home sits on might be of paramount importance to one person, the next may give it hardly any thought at all.  A NYC resident looking to move to CT recently said visited a friend who had moved “up the line” from Greenwich.  She was amazed at how important it was that her friend feel like they had left the city behind whereas her goal was finding a place that allowed her to walk to the train.

Regardless of what is important to you in finding your dream home, it is likely that that home is going to need some work.  You and your family’s lifestyle needs are probably going to be the driving factor in determining which projects to roll up your sleeves with.  However, I thought it might be interesting to see which projects appear to have the greatest resale return. 

According to Homegain, a real estate marketing firm, a survey of real estate professionals say these six projects give the greatest return when selling a home:

1.    CLEANING AND DECLUTTERING:  From closets to bookshelves, showing a home that has not run amuk with “stuff” pays back .
2.    LIGHTENING AND BRIGHTENING:  Windows that sparkle, adequate light from both natural sources and fixtures create a welcoming and uplifting mood.  Get rid of those heavy velvet draperies and replace burned out bulbs is the name of the game.
3.    ALL THE WORLD—OR AT LEAST A HOME ON THE MARKET—IS A STAGE!  Look at your house with a critical eye.  Is the furniture laid out in the best way possible, is it inviting and welcoming?  Is there a mood created the minute a potential buyer walks through the door that makes them say, “I can see myself living here.”  A decorator or stager that can update or at least rearrange your furniture and things to their best advantage is worth their weight.
4.    HOW’S THE OUTSIDE LOOK?  How do the driveway, terraces/patios and grounds look after the snow season?  Having a thorough spring and fall clean up and being sure that flowers, bushes, trees and even driveways are looked after sets the right tone from the moment a car pulls in to view your home.
5.    ARE THE GUTS OF THE HOUSE—THE MECHANICALS—UP TO SNUFF?  Bringing an electrician, plumber and HVAC company through to replace filters, repair drips and handle any other maintenance issues will tell buyers that the home is well cared for.
6.    HOW ARE THE CONDITION OF YOUR CARPETS?  Carpets and rugs that are worn or soiled should be cleaned, removed or replaced.  There is nothing worse than walking in and stepping on a carpet that makes you wonder what could be living in it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Giving You More Than You Expect

The Federal Express truck was turning into my driveway just before I pulled in, on a very rainy morning recently.  A little moral battle sprung up in me, knowing it would be nicest to save him the trip up my drive and preventing his getting wet to deliver whatever it was that he had for me.  On the other hand, I was not looking forward to myself going out in the cold, damp air to receive the package.  I was still in silent debate as the Fed Ex man stopped his truck and hopped out to retrieve the two morning  newspapers lying on the driveway.

“Here ya go!” he said reaching out to hand me the papers.  With his free hand he was sliding the soppy plastic wrappers off of them.

“You don’t want these soggy covers on them.  You’ll get yourself all wet.”  And with that he handed me the morning rags and my package.

Now that’s what I call exceeding customer expectation. 

One of the driving principles of my real estate practice is this idea of going beyond what a client expects or hopes for.  I don’t hold it as a value for any other reason but that if I can go beyond what they expect, it would probably mean that I scored a “10” on listening and understanding what their needs were and did whatever it took to satisfy them in a way that they were delighted by. 

Realtors, decorators or anyone in a personal service profession, can best serve you the more we know you.  Taking the time to think through what your priorities are, what trade offs you are willing to make, how you live and what is important in your home life, will give us important information to best find the property most suited to you.

Contact Robin Kencel for help locating and acquiring a home or rental.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do home price reductions lead to lower prices? Depends who you ask.

I had an interesting debate with one of the top brokers in town the other day.  The topic at hand was whether properties at the top end of the market should entertain a price reduction if the dance card is sitting empty for too long.  The underlying question it seems is, “How can I capture buyers’ attention when the property isn’t the newest kid on the block?”

“Reduction!” cried my colleague, sporting sheets of For Sale properties, many of  who’s listing history looked like a thermometer on a winter day—down and down again until SOLD ended the movement.  Indeed, if you look at the price history of the 6 properties over $10million that have sold in the last 6 months, 1/3 of them took at least one price reduction before they sold.  “Exactly my point!” said the self-satisfied rogue.

Enter Opinion #2.  Do price reductions just drive the market prices down?  On the other hand, if there is little traffic why lower the price?  You need warm bodies to generate an offer and at the high end does a 5 or 10% price reduction really do anything other than make you wish you hadn’t put the heated driveways or custom heat control panels in?    Unless a price reduction puts you into a new price category where you are convinced those buyers haven’t yet seen you—and makes you clearly the favored child vs. the others in that new price bracket—you may want to think twice about messing with the price.

There is no easy answer to the question about when, if ever, is the right time to take a price reduction.  The best way to evaluate your pricing is to take an honest look at the market.  How does your property stack up against those that have recently sold in your price range?  Looking at your home’s price per square foot vs. others in your price category that are comparable in location, condition and land size, can give you important information in determining how the market is viewing your property at the price it is being offered at.    The more you understand the market in your price range the better you can determine if a price reduction is the right thing for you.

Contact Robin Kencel for help locating and acquiring a home or rental.